International Students' Adjustment to American Higher Education Institutions in Northeast Texas


Jiashi Zhao

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Higher Edu and Learning Technology

Date of Award

Summer 2013


The rising number of international students studying in the United States makes the country a diverse educational region. Students from other countries who choose to study in the United States experience different learning systems, different social values, and different lifestyles from their home countries. According to Hofstede (1997), 'different value patterns in the cultures from which the teacher and the students have come are one source of a problem. The national cultural differences usually affect the relationships between teacher and students, among students, and between teacher and parents' (p. 216). International students studying at American universities report that their adjustment to life is difficult and slow. They experience various difficulties in adjusting to the American style of learning and life (Zhang & Brunton, 2007). The problem of this study was an examination of international students' experiences and difficulties in adjusting to American higher education institutions in Northeast Texas. The study sought to examine international students' adjustment processes from the academic, social, and cultural perspectives; to identify the coping strategies this group of students utilizes in their adjustment processes; and to determine the knowledge skills they need in order to assist them in their transition to American higher education institutions. A survey instrument, a revised version of John W. Porter's Michigan International Students Problem Inventory (MISPI), was used to collect data. The instrument was developed by John W. Porter and A. D. Haller in 1962 and revised in 1977 (Porter & Haller, 1977). The instrument consists of 132 problem statements that international students reported most frequently. A total of 563 responses were collected from the surveyed institutions. However, some of these responses were not complete. Only 327 students answered most or all of the items. The responses with incomplete required items were disregarded. A total of 327 (58.1%) responses were complete and usable. The study found that the most challenging issues international students identified were Religious Service Problems, and the least were Admission Selection Problems. The findings showed that international students ask for help from fellow students from their home country, first; from an international student advisor or university administration, second; and from their own department, third. The findings also showed that, from an academic and social perspective, international students need oral English language skills and social skills to assist them in academic areas and in daily life and social areas; and from a cultural perspective, international students need more knowledge about religious practices in the United States. The study concluded that the problem areas of Religious Service, Student Activity, and Living Dining tend to be perceived by international students as a challenge due to social, cultural, academic system, and economic development differences between their home country and the United States.


Jon Travis

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Technology