A study of the effects of demographic and institutional factors on the cross-cultural experiences of foreign students: attending selected state-supported universities in Texas

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1979

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The study examined the effects of selected socio-demographic and institutional factors on the cross-cultural experiences of a representative sample of foreign students. The scope of the study was confined to state-supported institutions in Texas. Several pertinent questions were considered: What effects, if any, do social or demographic and institutional factors have on cross-cultural relationships between foreign students and Americans? What factors appear to enhance or inhibit meaningful cross-cultural interaction? What are the attitudes and perceptions of foreign students concerning the kind of institutional support provided by American collegiate society in general? How do administrators and/or foreign student advisers perceive the international dimensions of their institutions? How compatible are the goals of international education and perceived institutional policies and practices? What is the nature of institutional support for international education and exchange? A survey was conducted with a random sample of two hundred twenty-six (226) foreign students attending state-supported universities in Texas and a subsample of thirty-three (33) administrators and thirty-five (35) foreign student advisers. Measures of interaction included indicators of social participation, association-mindedness, the opportunity for contact or interaction-potential, leisure-time activities, and spatial proximity. The dependent variable was cross- cultural interaction. Independent variables included size, type of community setting (metropolitan versus non-metropolitan), predominant racial composition of the university, and perceived nature of institutional support services. The basic statistical techniques employed in the study were frequency and percentage distribution, the Chi-Square test, Kendall's tau. Gamma, and Pearson's Product-Moment correlation. Findings. The major findings of the study included the following: -Foreign students associate more with each other than with American students, and the strong personal bonds and ties expected to accrue from their presence on university campuses have not materialized. -Cross-cultural interaction between foreign students and Americans is limited. This limited contact appears to adversely affect efforts to achieve the goals of cross-cultural education. Where contact takes place, it is varied and infrequent, generally involving those foreign students who perceive of themselves as highly association- minded or friendly. -No significant differences were found to exist between the degree of interpersonal relations and patterns of friendships between African students attending predominantly white universities and those found in predominantly black universities. The African students' perceptions of their sojourn experience and of Americans, positively and negatively, closely approximate the perceptual patterns of the total foreign student population in the study. -A significant finding was the degree of interpersonal relations between African students and Americans on predominantly black university campuses. Cross-cultural relationships have not developed between these groups to the point that such relations are sufficient to generate a strong sense of personal and cultural identity. These findings are supportive of Becker's (1973) findings which suggested that mutual attraction based on racial affinity between groups with similar physical characteristics may be negated by extraneous factors such as the desire to maintain a separate identity, particularly when the racial group with whom there is strong physical resemblance is not the dominant group in the host society. This finding is substantiated further when data are observed relative to the relationships between Europeans and Americans on predominantly white university campuses. In the latter case, the reverse is true. -There is a higher degree of social interaction between Europeans and Americans in predominantly white universities than with non-Europeans on the campus. -There is a significant relationship between selected personal factors (maturity, intelligence, fluency in English, artistic appreciation) and cross-cultural interaction (p<.Ol). -Greater contact occurs on small, predominantly black university campuses, but the nature of the relationships are less enduring, having little influence upon affect. This finding is consistent with Selltiz, Cook, and others (1955). -Specialized institutional support services for foreign students were found to be inadequate in selected state-supported universities in Texas. These apparent inadequacies, combined with low levels of cross- cultural interaction, suggest that institutional efforts fall short of those apparently needed to achieve the goals on international education and cultural exchange. -Institutional support services, perceived goals and policies are inconsistent with the full range of goals on international education. (p<.01). Further research is needed to isolate those components which have both an immediate and long-range impact on cross-cultural education.

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