Role of computer-mediated communication technologies in international students' cross-cultural transition

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Date

2003

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Cemalcilar, Zeynep

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Abstract

The present study investigates the role of CMC in international students’ adjustment to the U.S. It is divided into two parts. The first part tests a structural equation model (SEM) in which international students’ adaptation to the new culture during is predicted by CMC use, home and host national identification, and perceived social support. Psychological, socio-cultural, and academic adaptations are measured as the outcomes of acculturation. Two-hundred-eighty first year international students attending the University of Texas at Austin responded to a web survey after they had moved to the U.S. The results of the SEM analysis confirm that the model developed and tested in this study is plausible in explaining adaptation of the international students. The findings suggested that international students frequently use computers as tools for sustaining contact with family and friends at home as well as the native social and culture life. Continuous contact with home affects the sojourning individuals’ maintenance of home identity and the acquisition of host identity, and their perceptions of available social support. All of these factors combine to affect the students’ adaptation to the new culture. Further comparisons of high and low CMC users indicated that CMC use has diverse effects on the adaptation of the international students. Likewise, the acculturation strategy adopted by students influences the three adaptation processes differently. Biculturalism and integration emerged to be more effective acculturation strategies than separationalism and marginalism. The second part of the study makes comparisons between prearrival and post-arrival measures to detect the changes students go through during the initial phase of cross-cultural transition. Ninety international students from the same population responded to a series of questionnaires first before their move and again two months after their arrival to the U.S. Results of repeated measures of analyses of variance tests supported the notion that cross-cultural transitions result in behavioral and psychological changes in international students. In the post arrival phase, international students’ frequency of CMC use significantly increases whereas their psychological well-being significantly diminishes relative to the pre-arrival phase. The findings of this study are also supported by the qualitative data collected from another group of international students of the University of Texas at Austin in a pilot study.

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