Under the worldwide trend of internationalization of higher education, the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. has increased dramatically in the past ten years. In some American universities, such as a large research university in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. where this research was conducted, Chinese students are the largest segment among all the international students.
Through the lens of poststructuralist conceptualization of identity (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2008; Hall, 1996), communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger,1998), investment (Norton Peirce, 1995) and imagined communities (Kanno & Norton, 2003), this research focused on Chinese undergraduate students’ academic socialization experiences in the U.S., especially concerning their proficiency in English and academic knowledge, their interactions with professors, TAs and classmates, and their understandings of their identities over time. This study offered opportunities for Chinese undergraduate students’ to have their voices heard and their stories shared. Through mixed qualitative methods with ethnographic characteristics, such as interviews and observations, the research interpreted experiences of six student participants, found differences and commonalities among them, and factors that influenced their experiences.
By triangulating data from multiple sources and carefully analyzing data, this study has found that there are many differences among the six Chinese undergraduate students, and no major generalized behavior of Chinese undergraduate students could be identified. In some ways, Chinese undergraduate student participants in this study are not that different from their American peers, in the sense that there are discrepancies in students’ frequency of visiting instructor’s office hours and speaking up in class no matter where students are from. Factors such as students’ personality and students’ previous experience helped explain their behaviors. On the other hand, these Chinese international student participants showed some common tendencies and challenges caused by language and cultural differences, which distinguish them from American students. One should be cautious in viewing Chinese students as a homogeneous group or stereotyping their academic behaviors.
Additionally, the researcher’s reflections on the findings are presented along with suggestions to smooth the process of academic socialization for future Chinese undergraduate students. Suggestions were given by current Chinese international students, and their professors and TAs. Implications of the study for current and future Chinese international students, their instructors, as well as future researchers studying international students’ learning are proposed. I propose that a joint effort should be made by international students themselves, their American peers, professors, TAs and university administrators to together ease international students’ process of academic socialization.