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Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Jones, Jennifer B

Second Advisor

Friedensen, Rachel

Third Advisor

Chen, Jim Q

Fourth Advisor

Fang, Qiang

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Chinese International Undergraduate Students, Acculturation, Adaptation


The rapid economic development in China has enabled an increasing number of Chinese students to pursue higher education in countries abroad. Since 2009, the largest group of international students in the United States has been Chinese students (Open Doors, 2020). Chinese international undergraduate students face various challenges during their cross-cultural adjustment in American universities, such as a language barrier, a lack of learning skill, an unfamiliarity with American educational systems and school facilities, a lack of ability to interact with native instructors and students, and psychological adaptation (Sun & Chen, 1999). These changes can create multiple acculturation stressors for Chinese students. Moreover, there is limited research focused on Chinese international undergraduate students studying at American colleges and universities (Yuan, 2010). Very few efforts have been devoted to understanding Chinese undergraduate students’ difficulties, specifically to their intercultural adaptation experience and some particular challenges which arise in their first year studying at the United States colleges and universities.

This study investigated Chinese undergraduate students’ attitudes toward cross-cultural adaptation, what challenges were most critical for Chinese undergraduate students, and how they coped with these challenges in order to help them to better understand acculturation and overcome challenges in their transition. At the same time, it was hoped that this study could help colleges and universities in the United States to better understand Chinese undergraduate students’ experience in their transition, and to provide better services for them.

The setting for this study was selected from typical public state universities in Minnesota. As a representative group, twelve Chinese international undergraduate students from this university participated in this study. A qualitative research method of this study was used to help deeply understand this group’s experiences in cross-cultural adjustment.

In this study the researcher found that culture is center of cross-cultural adjustment, and central to the adaptation process is communication. The findings shows that a long distance culture, English writing, lack of knowledge of American culture, class involvement and interpersonal communication are critical challenges for Chinese international undergraduate students. Furthermore, preferred acculturation strategies among Chinese participants are integration, followed by assimilation. Additionally, it is significant to find out Chinese students’ ability to solve problems and adapt to uncertainties was improved significantly during COVID-19.


First and most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, Yongping Zhang, for all of her support, understanding, encouragement, and help through this dissertation process. I could not do it without you and appreciate your help. She corrected my spelling and grammar while I was working on my Ed.D. I appreciated it then and I appreciate it now.

I would like to thank many of my friends who have supported me in this process. I would like to thank Dr. Xingcai Liu for providing a lot of valuable suggestions for my proposal of dissertation. Thank you to Teresa Milligan for her assistance with editing my proposal. Likewise, I am thankful for Brenna Richardson for her assistance with editing my final dissertation.

I would like to thanks Dr. Michael Mills who leads me to this doctor program.I would like to thank Dr. Rachel E. Friedensen, Dr. Jim Q Chen, and Dr. Qiang Fang for serving on my committee and working with me through this process.

A special acknowledgement to my adviser, dissertation committee chair, Dr. Jennifer B.Jones, for her constant advices and encouragement during this dissertation process.



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