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Studies in Higher Education Vol. 33, No. 1, February 2008, 63–75

in Higher Education Vol. 33, No. 1, February 2008, 63–75 Theoretical models of culture shock and

Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education

Yuefang Zhou, Divya Jindal-Snape, Keith Topping* and John Todman

University of Dundee, Scotland, UK

TaylorCSHE_A_279523.sgm10.1080/03075070701794833Studies0307-5079Original2008Society331000000FebruaryProfessork.j.topping@dundee.ac.ukandinforArticleKeithToppingHigher(print)/1470-174XFrancisResearch2008Educationinto Higher(online)Education

Theoretical concepts of culture shock and adaptation are reviewed, as applied to the pedagogical adaptation of student sojourners in an unfamiliar culture. The historical development of ‘traditional’ theories of culture shock led to the emergence of contemporary theoretical approaches, such as ‘culture learning’, ‘stress and coping’ and ‘social identification’. These approaches can be accommodated within a broad theoretical framework based on the affective, behavioural and cognitive (ABC) aspects of shock and adaptation. This ‘cultural synergy’ framework offers a more comprehensive understanding of the processes involved. Implications for future research, policy and practice are explored.

Introduction Students attending universities in a culture different from their own have to contend with novel social and educational organisations, behaviours and expectations – as well as dealing with the problems of adjustment common to students in general. This is difficult enough when the newcomer is aware of the differences in advance, but even more difficult when the newcomer is unaware and falsely assumes that the new society operates like their home country. Newcomers easily become ‘lost in translation’. The collective impact of such unfamiliar experiences on cultural travellers in general has been termed ‘culture shock’. Student sojourners are an example of such travellers, increasing in numbers in many English-speaking countries. There are estimated to be more than a million students and scholars attending institutions of higher education abroad (Hayes 1998; Taylor 2005). The quality of the psychological, sociocul- tural and educational experiences of this large group of people is important, not least in promoting global intercultural understanding. It is no surprise that the literature has been concerned with students’ adaptation problems. Student sojourners are probably the best-researched group of cross-cultural travellers, as they tend to be easily accessed as research participants. Many studies have explored social and friendship networks (related to culture learning theory), social skill acquisition (connected to stress and coping theory), and inter-group perceptions and relations (linked with social identification theories). This article reviews the development of theories of culture shock, considers their relevance to the process of adaptation in student sojourners, and seeks to clarify and extend them in relation to this group.

Historical perspectives on culture shock The long established literature on migration includes many large-scale (mainly epidemiological) cross-national studies concerned with mental health. More recent studies on student sojourners

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tend to be smaller. Systematic research on overseas students only appeared after the 1950s, when there was a flood of research on their social and psychological problems (Ward, Bochner, and Furnham 2001). In describing and analysing students’ adaptation problems, researchers have been influenced by the traditional perspectives on migration and mental health. In the past, two general explana- tions were proposed to account for the association between migration and psychological prob- lems. The first argued that there were predisposing factors that could lead to selective migration, such as various characteristics of individuals, grief and bereavement (movement as response to loss and possibly resulting in further loss), fatalism (abandonment of control or, in contrast, a reactive attempt to seize control), and selective expectations of enhancement of life quality (that might be more or less realistic). The second argued that mental health changes might be a conse- quence of migration experiences, including negative life events, lack of social support networks and the impact of value differences. Theoretical components of these two generalities (illustrating the differences in origins and conceptual formulation) are listed in Table 1. This also includes reference to a further formulation (’social skills and culture learning’), which goes beyond culture shock and can be viewed as an intermediate approach with strong connections to contemporary theories. Many studies in the migration literature highlighted the negative aspects of exposure to another culture, and this was perpetuated in much of the student sojourner literature. Ward, Bochner and Furnham (2001: 36) observed that ‘the early theories applied to the study of inter- national students were clinically oriented and strongly related to medical models of sojourner adjustment’. There followed a gradual movement away from medical models, and researchers started to question the implicit assumption that cross-cultural contact is so stressful as to necessi- tate medical treatment (e.g. Bochner 1986). By the 1980s, a different view had emerged that regarded sojourning as a learning experience rather than a medical nuisance. It followed that appropriate positive action would include prepa- ration and orientation, and the acquisition of skills relevant to the new culture (Bochner 1982;

Table 1.

Traditional theoretical approaches to culture shock.

 

Theory

Epistemological origin

Originator

Conceptual formulation

Grief and bereavement Locus of control

Psychoanalytic tradition

Applied social psychology

Bowlby 1969

Sees migration as experience of loss Control beliefs predict migration Individual fitness predicts adaptation Expectancy-values relate to adjustment Migration involves life changes, and adaptation to change is stressful Social skill offers a buffering effect between life-events and depression Value differences lead to poor adaptation Lacking social skills may cause cross-cultural problems

Rotter 1966

Selective

Socio-biology (Neo-

e.g. Wells 1907

migration

Expectations

Darwinism) Applied social psychology

Feather 1982

Negative life-

Clinical psychology

Holmes and Rahe 1967

events

Social support

Clinical

psychology

e.g. Brown, Bhrolchain, and Harris 1975

Value difference

Social

psychology

Merton 1938

Social skills and culture learning

Social psychology

Argyle & Kendon 1967

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Klineberg 1982). This new perspective viewed sojourning as a dynamic experience, both for students and members of the host culture. The social skills and culture learning perspective began to lay the foundation for the development of the culture learning model, which is explored below.

Contemporary perspectives on intercultural contact The study of ‘culture shock’ has come to draw more from social psychology and education than medicine. ‘Culture learning’ and ‘stress and coping’ models have become well established (Furnham and Bochner 1986), and ‘social identification’ theories have become more prominent. These three contemporary theories are more comprehensive, considering the different components of response – affect, behaviour and cognition (ABC) – when people are exposed to a new culture. Table 2 summarises their differences in theoretical origin, conceptual structure, factors that affect adjustment and implications for intervention. People in cultural transit are seen as proactively responding to and resolving problems stemming from change, rather than being passive victims of trauma stemming from a noxious event. The notion of ‘culture shock’ has been transformed into contact-induced stress accompanied by skill deficits that can be managed and ameliorated, and terms such as ‘adaptation’ and ‘acculturation’ have been increasingly used instead.

Culture learning Furnham and Bochner (1986) strongly advocated the social skills/culture learning model, for its theoretical robustness and because it also led to training methods. This approach developed into contemporary ‘culture learning’ theory. It has its origin in social psychology, focusing primarily on behavioural aspects of intercultural contact and regarding social interaction as a skilled and mutually organised performance (Argyle 1969). ‘Shock’ is understood as the stimulus for acqui- sition of culture-specific skills that are required to engage in new social interactions. The process of adaptation is influenced by a number of variables, including: general knowledge about a new culture (Ward and Searle 1991); length of residence in the host culture (Ward et al. 1998); language or communication competence (Furnham 1993); quantity and quality of contact with host nationals (Bochner 1982); friendship networks (Bochner, McLeod, and Lin 1977); previous experience abroad (Klineberg and Hull 1979); cultural distance (Ward and Kennedy 1993a, b); cultural identity (Ward and Searle 1991); acculturation modes (Ward and Kennedy 1994); temporary versus permanent residence in a new country (Ward and Kennedy 1993c); and cross-cultural training (Deshpande and Viswesvaran 1992). This model leads to practical guidelines for intervention in preparation, orientation and (especially) behavioural social skills training.

Stress, coping and adjustment The ‘stress and coping’ approach derives from early psychological models of the impact of life events (e.g. Holmes and Rahe 1967; Lazarus and Folkman 1984). ‘Shock’ stems from inherently stressful life changes, so people engaging in cross-cultural encounters need to be resilient, adapt, and develop coping strategies and tactics. Adjustment is regarded as an active process of manag- ing stress at different systemic levels – both individual and situational. Relevant variables include degree of life change (Lin, Tazuma, and Masuda 1979), personality factors (e.g. Ward and Kennedy 1992) and situational factors such as social support (Adelman 1988). Whereas the culture learning approach considers the behavioural component, stress and coping focuses more on psychological well-being – the affective component. Intervention methods are likely to include stress management strategy training.

Preparation, orientation and culture learning, especially behavioural-based social skill training Enhancingself-esteem, overcoming barriers to inter-group harmony, emphasising inter- group similarities

Training people to develop stress- management skills

Intervention

guidelines

Culture-specific variables such as: knowledge about a new culture, language or communication competence, cultural distance Cognitive variables such as:

Factors affecting adjustment

Adjustment factors involving both personal (e.g. life change, personality) and situational (e.g. social support)

knowledge of the host culture, mutual attitude between hosts and sojourners, cultural similarity, cultural identity

Social interaction is a mutually organised and skilled performance Identity is a fundamental issue for the cross-cultural travellers

Life changes are inherently stressful

Theoretical

premise

Cross-cultural travellers need to learn culturally relevant social skills to survive and thrive in their new settings Cross-cultural transition may involve changes in cultural identity and inter-group relations

Conceptual framework

Cross-cultural travellers need to develop coping strategies to deal with stress

Three contemporary theories of intercultural contact.

Social psychology – stress, appraisal and coping (Lazarus & Folkman 1984); life events (Holmes and Rahe 1967) Social and experimental psychology – social skills and interpersonal behaviour (Argyle 1969)

Ethnic, cross-cultural and social psychology – self (Deaux 1996; Social Identity Theory, e.g. Phinney 1990)

Theoretical origin

Social Identification

Stress and Coping (Affect)

Culture Learning

(Behaviour)

(Cognition)

Theory

Table 2.

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Social identification theories Social identification theories focus on the cognitive components of the adaptation process. During cross-cultural contact, people perceive themselves in a much broader context – ‘little fish in bigger ponds’. This can lead to anxiety-provoking change in perceptions of self and identity, especially where identity was previously constructed largely from local social interaction. Perceptions of and relations with in-groups and out-groups can change radically (Deaux 1996). Two major conceptual approaches are used in social identification. The first is ‘acculturation’, and the second is ‘social identity theory’ (Phinney 1990).

Acculturation and identity Early approaches to identity and acculturation came mainly from ethnic and cross-cultural psychology, where most of the studies were concerned with defining and measuring acculturation (e.g. Cuéllar, Harris, and Jasso 1980), and regarded acculturation as a state rather than a process. There are three models of acculturation: uni-dimensional, bi-dimensional and categorical. The uni-dimensional conceptualisation of acculturation implied assimilation – immigrants grad- ually give up identification with the culture of origin and move towards identification with the culture of contact (Olmeda 1979). This model sees home and host cultures as opposing rather than counterbalancing. By contrast, the bi-dimensional approach is a balanced model of acculturation and identity – immigrants and sojourner and refugee groups develop bicultural identity (e.g. Ramirez 1984). ‘Cultural mediation’ (Bochner 1982) is the process through which some sojourn- ers can synthesise both cultures and acquire bicultural or multicultural personalities. This is not the same as ‘marginality’ (Park 1928), in which they vacillate between the two cultures. Berry’s (1994, 1997) more complex categorical model specifies four acculturation disposi- tions or strategies of how people conceptualise home and host identities – integration, separation, assimilation and marginalisation. Integration means that sojourners perceive themselves as high in both host and home culture identifications; separation implies that they perceive themselves as high in home culture identification but low in host culture identification; assimilation means that they see themselves as high in host culture identification but low in home culture identification; and marginalisation suggests that they perceive themselves as low in both home and host culture identifications. Identity is affected by a wide range of factors, such as individual characteristics (e.g. age, gender and education), group characteristics (e.g. permanence of cross-cultural relocation, motivation for migration) and the broad social context (e.g. cultural pluralism, prejudice and discrimination). These variables are correlates of acculturation and identity changes, but causation is neither linear nor simple, and some factors may have recursive effects.

Social identity theory The second conceptual framework – ‘social identity theory’ (Tajfel 1981) – emerged from social psychology. It considers how group membership affects individual identity and highlights two aspects. One is the role of social categorisation and social comparison in relation to self-esteem, coupled with in-group favouritism and out-group derogation (Tajfel and Turner 1986). The other is the varied effects of specific cross-cultural diversity (e.g. individualism-collectivism) on group membership, perceptions and interactions (cf. Brown et al. 1992). Associated research includes work on uncertainty avoidance or reduction (Gudykunst and Hammer 1988), which requires the ability to predict and explain one’s own behaviour and that of others during interactions. This highlights the role of knowledge of the host culture (Gudykunst and Kim 1984), attitudes toward hosts and host attitudes toward sojourners (Gudykunst 1983a), and degree of cultural similarity (Gudykunst 1983b). Strategies that cross-cultural travellers may

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use to enhance self-esteem and overcome barriers to inter-group harmony include raising awareness of the potentially negative aspects of the process, emphasising inter-group similarities rather than differences, and getting people to imagine themselves in the role or identity of other persons – ‘walk a mile in their shoes’. Overall, the cognitive (C) perspective of the social identification theories complements the behavioural (B) analysis provided by the culture learning approach and the affective (A) aspect in the stress and coping framework. These three perspectives together offer a foundation for a comprehensive model of cultural adaptation.

Evaluation and synthesis of traditional and contemporary approaches So, how different are contemporary approaches from the early explanations? Below we summarise the main strengths of the ABC model and explore the connections between the eight traditional explanations (Table 1) and the three contemporary theories (Table 2). Four aspects of the ABC model have contributed to its usefulness. First, it is more comprehensive than previous models. Second, it considers acculturation as a process that occurs over time, rather than at one time. Third, it proposes an active process, rather than passive reactions to a noxious event. Fourth, it addresses the characteristics of the person and the situation, rather than only those within the individual, taking culture shock from the medical/clinical field into education and learning, with implications for intervention (including self-help) that do not necessitate scarce and costly professional exper- tise. Thus the ABC model is comprehensive, longitudinal, dynamic, systemic and pragmatic. In contrast, none of the early explanations offered a comprehensive theoretical formulation predicting culture shock, although some could explain some aspects of culture shock post hoc. Nonetheless, most of the early explanations can be incorporated into the contemporary models. For example, early studies on attitudes and values (e.g. Chang 1973), and expectations (e.g. Feather 1982) all influenced social identification theories. Another example is Oberg’s (1960) description of ‘culture shock’, which outlined a number of affective consequences of psycholog- ical reactions to situational stress, such as surprise, anxiety, strain, feelings of loss and deprivation. However, contemporary theories are not without problems. First, the ABC model is complex, and it is difficult to research and separate out the relative effects of individual components. Second, theories and research on the psychology of intercultural contact have not been well inte- grated with respect to different groups of cultural travellers. It seems that efforts are still needed to synthesise theories into a coherent framework.

Acculturation and student sojourners As was described above, the contemporary theories are particularly concerned with adaptation and adjustment. They are situated within a broader framework of acculturation theory (Ward, Bochner, and Furnham 2001). First, the process of acculturation is described, and then consider- ation is given to how it applies to student sojourners.

Acculturation model Acculturation refers to the process of intercultural adaptation, though the definition of intercul- tural adaptation is controversial (e.g. Mumford 1998). However, Ward and his colleagues finally proposed that intercultural adaptation can be broadly divided into two categories: psychological, mainly situated in a stress and coping framework, and sociocultural adaptation, situated within the culture learning framework (Searle and Ward 1990; Ward and Kennedy 1992). The acculturation model presented in Figure 1 (adapted from Ward, Bochner, and Furnham 2001)

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Studies in Higher Education 69 Figure 1. The acculturation process (adapted from Ward, Bochner and Furnham

Figure 1.

The acculturation process (adapted from Ward, Bochner and Furnham 2001).

links the stress and coping perspective with the culture learning perspective, and distinguishes psychological, sociocultural and cognitive outcomes while emphasising their interaction. This is why we have adapted Ward, Bochner and Furnham’s model to include arrows from cognition in the responses domain to both ‘psychological’ and ‘sociocultural’ in the outcome box. This interactive and dynamic model sees cross-cultural transition as a significant life event that involves adaptive change. The major task facing individuals in cultural transition is the devel- opment of stress-coping strategies and culturally relevant social skills. This will involve responses in affect, behaviour and cognition for both stress-management and social skill acquisi- tion, and should result in psychological adjustment and sociocultural adaptation. The model incorporates a wide range of micro and macro level variables, with implications for future research. At the micro-level, characteristics of both person and situation may be important. Indi- vidual variables such as personality, language competence and cultural identity, and situational factors such as length of cultural contact, cultural distance and social support are all relevant. At the macro-level, society of origin and society of settlement are also important, and social, political, economic and cultural factors are included. This model is quite efficient in explaining the acculturation process. However, the relation- ship between psychological adjustment and sociocultural adaptation is still not very clear. For

Figure 1.

The acculturation process (adapted from Ward, Bochner and Furnham 2001).

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example, how does this model explain a student who fits successfully into a different system of teaching and learning, but still feels bad about the transition? Furthermore, within Ward, Bochner and Furnham’s model the cognitive aspects of acculturation seem not well integrated with the whole acculturation process. Finally, the relationship between students’ pedagogical adaptation and their psychological and sociocultural adaptation requires further clarification.

Application of the acculturation model to international students As we have seen, the affective, behavioural and cognitive aspects of adaptation are very much interrelated, but they are explored in sequence below, with particular reference to the literature on international students.

Social and behavioural adaptation Bochner’s functional model of friendship networks (Bochner, McLeod, and Lin 1977; Ward, Bochner, and Furnham 2001) is still influential in contemporary studies of intercultural contact for student sojourners. Bochner suggests that such students tend to belong to three distinctive social networks, and each serves a particular psychological function. Through connections with their compatriots in the host country and, with increasing ease of long-distance communication, those remaining in the home country, international students might maintain their original cultural behaviour and values – this is the primary network. They also have interactions with host nation- als, such as home-based students, teachers and counsellors, through which they might learn a series of culturally relevant skills to facilitate their academic success. Thirdly, they might also have friendships with other non-compatriot foreign students, from which they derive mutual social support and enjoy some social recreational activities. These three are classified as mono- cultural, bi-cultural and multi-cultural friendship networks (Furnham 2004). Overseas students can benefit from interaction with host nationals socially, psychologically and academically. For example, a greater amount of interaction with host nationals has been asso- ciated with fewer academic problems (Pruitt 1978), fewer social difficulties (Ward and Kennedy 1993b), improved communication competency, and better general adaptation to life overseas (Zimmerman 1995). Overseas students participating in structured peer-pairing programmes (Westwood and Barker 1990; Abe, Talbot, and Geelhoed 1998), and spending more informal leisure time with their local peers (Pruitt 1978), have been found to have better social adjustment than those who did not. Additionally, contact and friendships with local students is associated with emotional benefits such as sojourner satisfaction (Rohrlich and Martin 1991) and lower levels of stress (Redmond and Bunyi 1993), and predicts better psychological adjustment (Searle and Ward 1990). Despite the benefits of host–sojourner interaction, the extent of this interaction is often limited (e.g. Nowack and Weiland 1998). Overseas students are generally most likely to report that their best friend is from the same culture (e.g. Bochner, McLeod, and Lin 1977). A number of research- ers use the concept of cultural distance (e.g. Furnham and Alibhai 1985) to interpret weak host– sojourner interaction. For example, Redmond and Bunyi’s (1993) study in a midwestern American university found that, among 644 international students, British, European and South American students were the best integrated, while Korean, Taiwanese and South-east Asian students were the least integrated. Fortunately, positive outcomes also stem from compatriot rela- tionships and links with non-compatriot foreign students. Greater co-national interaction is linked with stronger cultural identity (e.g. Ward and Searle 1991), and quantity and quality of interaction with non-compatriot foreign students is associated with perceived quality of social support (Kennedy 1999).

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Affective adaptation Social support also impacts on affective outcomes, although research on friendship networks places greater emphasis on the quantity and quality of actual support than the mere number of networks. Social support from both host and co-nationals can contribute to enhancement of student psychological well-being (e.g. Tanaka et al. 1997). Social support also alleviates ‘home- sickness’ (Hannigan 1997). However, the relationship between psychological adjustment and academic adaptation is not very clear. For example, how much do communication skills learned in friendly interactions with host students contribute to effective formal communication with host teachers, where patterns of affect might be quite different? Further research into how the psychological well-being and sociocultural adaptation of international students impede or enhance their academic success is needed.

Cognitive adaptation The literature on cognitive aspects of acculturation in student sojourners has concentrated on inter-group perceptions and relations. Many international students perceive prejudice and discrimination during their interaction with host nationals (e.g. Sodowsky and Plake 1992). Some studies have even indicated that increased contact can in some cases lead to a sharpening of nega- tive inter-group stereotypes over time (e.g. Stroebe, Lenkert, and Jonas 1988). This is a reminder that contact theory, which hypothesises that increased contact improves inter-group perceptions and relations, might only work under certain circumstances. Bond’s (1986) study of local Chinese and American exchange students in Hong Kong revealed comparatively positive inter-group perceptions. His analysis included consideration of auto-stereotypes (in-group perceptions), hetero-stereotypes (out-group perceptions) and reflected stereotypes (how the out-group is perceived to view the in-group). Bond argued that the stereo- types accurately reflected significant differences in the behavioural characteristics of the two groups. Both Chinese and Americans perceived Chinese students as conservative and obedient, while both also perceived American students as questioning and independent. Such stereotypes might consistently influence interactions. Pratt (1991) commented that in America teachers are regarded as facilitators who promote learner autonomy, while in China students see teachers as authority figures, and are used to accepting academic assertions without questioning them. It seems that cross-cultural stereotypes, that is, cognitive aspects of the acculturation process for students, may have particularly important effects on the culture of learning, a concept proposed by Cortazzi and Jin (1997). The concept includes cultural beliefs and values about teaching and learning, and expectations about classroom behaviours. These ideas lead on to consideration of issues specifically concerned with what is going on in intercultural educational settings, and issues about student sojourners’ pedagogical adaptation.

Culture synergy and pedagogical adaptation Cortazzi and Jin (1997) argued that Chinese and British students are likely to have different assumptions about student and teacher roles. In the view of Chinese students, a good teacher should be a knowledge model who teaches students what and how to learn with clear guidance, and even a moral model who sets an example for students to follow and takes good care of students. Correspondingly, a good student in China should respect teachers and learn by receiving instead of criticising what teachers say. However, from the perspective of British teachers, a good teacher should be a facilitator and an organiser, helping students to develop creativity and independence. Students are expected to participate and engage in dialogue, and engage in critical analysis instead of just absorbing what the teachers say. Cortazzi and Jin (1997) argued against

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simply expecting sojourning students to assimilate host nation ways, because these aspects of culture were deep-rooted, and change could be seen as a profound threat to identity. Instead, they proposed a process of ‘culture synergy’, asking for mutual efforts from both (host) teachers and (sojourning) students to understand one another’s culture. The proposed concept of culture synergy has clear advantages. First, many learning-related problems in intercultural classrooms might result from mismatched expectations between teach- ers and students. Second, the introduction of the concept of culture synergy suggests a mutual and reciprocal process – teachers may learn from students by understanding the students’ cultural traditions. However, merely asking for mutual understanding is not enough without understanding the processes involved. Recently, as a result of the rapid increase in the number of international students, both students and host teachers have been becoming more aware of pedagogical differences in one another’s culture. Further research is, therefore, needed to clarify current teacher and student expectations in order to learn how mismatches occur, and to begin to explore how they might be resolved. Figure 2 illustrates one way in which we suggest future research on the relevant processes might be extended, using the example of Chinese students studying in the UK. In Figure 2, the terms ‘match’ and ‘mismatch’ should be understood as implying approximate, not exact, matching. The process of mutual adjustment by both teachers and students towards a maximised academic outcome will not necessarily occur to the same degree in both directions. In some cases, Chinese students might adapt more to the host way of teaching and learning, and in other cases it might be the other way round. This process of adaptation might be influenced by a number of factors, such as individual differences in both teachers and students, and situational factors such as Chinese students coming as a group or as individuals. The focus here is on the interaction between teacher and student perspectives and reciprocal adaptations. One implication

Figure 2.

Relationships between the educational expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students.

expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational
expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational
expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational

expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational
expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational
expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational

expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational
expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational
expectations of UK teachers and Chinese students. Figure 2. Relationships between the educational

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of this approach is that it suggests the possibility of preparations by teachers and students to facil- itate mutual adaptations both before and after departure.

Conclusion The pedagogical adaptation of international students in higher education is a subset of the ‘culture shock’ experienced by a wide range of cultural travellers. Early models of ‘culture shock’ were often based on medical perspectives and focused on mental health issues, including both predis- posing factors and consequences of migration. Later models were based on wider social, psycho- logical and educational theories, and regarded the traveller as an active agent rather than the victim of pathology. Component variables and interactive processes within ‘culture learning’, ‘stress and coping’ and ‘social identification’ aspects were identified from many research studies. These addressed the affective, behavioural and cognitive (ABC) aspects of adaptation. Together, they offered a more complex but more robust and predictively powerful model, and suggested practical action that was actually deliverable on a large scale. Indeed, interventions developed from this model were researched and found to be effective. The current article adapted the culture synergy model to focus on the pedagogical adaptation of international students in higher education. Our focus on the match/mismatch of pedagogical expectations has the merit of leading not only to interesting research possibilities, but also to implications for the pre- and post-depar- ture preparation of both teachers and students that may lead to more fruitful adaptations by each. The many variables identified suggest pathways for helping international students and their teachers to enhance the quality of their overall experiences. It follows that institution-wide poli- cies for awareness-raising, guiding and supporting international students and their teachers should be comprehensive, easily accessible and actually put into practice. Are these issues the same for all source cultures and all host cultures? We have focused partic- ularly on Chinese students coming to the UK. It seems possible that the experiences of students from other cultures and/or with different destinations will differ. However, there is some evidence (e.g. Redmond and Bunyi 1993) that Asian students sojourning in the UK and USA experience the greatest differences in cultural expectations. For that reason they may constitute a useful ‘extreme case’ for research purposes in relation to student sojourners in general.

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