Basic cross-cultural adjustment issues can unnerve a Chinese student. Learning how to find an apartment, dealing with roommates (the good, the bad, and the ugly), learning where to find the things needed, transportation, campus life, etc. can take a while for students to adjust to. Coming here from a large city in China or a rural context makes a difference also.
Language is another big adjustment for Chinese students. Speaking English all day is tiring! Learning to speak directly about an issue is difficult while seeking to maintain a humble posture. Speaking directly feels so rude. Finding people with whom to practice conversation in English is a blessing.
Chinese classroom decorum is very different than in the U.S. In China, you show honor by not speaking to a professor. In the U.S., speaking to a professor by asking questions and participating in dialog with him or her is part of your grade or part of the level of relationship you have with the professor. This is especially critical in a Ph.D. program.
Learning that the U.S. follows the rule of law creates many issues. Chinese students struggle with U.S. perspectives on plagiarism. In China, your ability to find good material penned by others and submit it as your own is praised. In U.S. universities, it can get you kicked out. Driving is another rule of law issue. In the U.S. you stop at all stop signs even if no one else is there.
Boy-girl relationships are so different in the U.S. Even hanging out with other Chinese students on campus, the new student notices a very different set of values now govern male-female relationships.
New Chinese students quickly learn that they are being watched and reported on back to authorities in China. Recently, a new student got a call from their parent in China to say that what a professor in their class the day before was not true. Chinese authorities had called the parents and asked them to contact their child and let the student know. Another Chinese student in the new student’s class had reported back to authorities in China, and they took action. The government at home was watching.
In these situations and in many more, ISI staff and volunteers can be a great help to new students. I Cor. 10:31 NLT reminds us that “Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God.”
Principles cited in this blog: New Chinese students face many adjustment issues to life in the U.S.; ISI staff and volunteers can help.
Application for ISI ministry: We have many points of intervention to help new Chinese students if they ask us to do so. Making our desires to help is a significant first step.
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Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson