A Social Network perspective on ABC of international and host-national students

Rienties, Bart and Jindal-Snape, Divya (2016). A Social Network perspective on ABC of international and host-national students. In: Jindal-Snape, Divya and Rienties, Bart eds. Multi-dimensional transitions of international students to higher education. New Perspectives on Learning and Instruction. London: Routledge.


While internationalisation in higher education has become increasingly common, research and the various chapters of internationalisation experiences across the globe in this book indicate that international students continue to face a number of challenges while studying abroad (De Vita, 2001; Kondakci, Broeck, & Yildirim, 2008; Rienties, Heliot, & Jindal-Snape, 2013; Zhou, Jindal-Snape, Topping, & Todman, 2008). In Chapter 1, we argue that international students experience triple transitions: moving to a new country, moving to a new educational system and moving to higher educational degree programmes. Within these triple transitions, international students experience differences in the social and organisational cultures, dealing with daily life issues, languages, academic as well as interpersonal expectations and realities (Jindal-Snape & Ingram, 2013; Rienties, Beausaert, Grohnert, Niemantsverdriet, & Kommers, 2012; Rienties, Hernandez Nanclares, Jindal-Snape, & Alcott, 2013). Research suggests that any mismatch between expectations and realities for instance, can be stressful (Zhou, Topping, & Jindal-Snape, 2011).

The bulk of research on internationalisation has focussed on determining how “individual” characteristics, such as affective, behavioural and cognitive (ABC) factors, influence international students’ learning and adjustment to the host-institution and host-country (De Vita, 2001; Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001; Ward, Okura, Kennedy, & Kojima, 1998; Wilson, Ward, & Fischer, 2013; Zhou et al., 2008). However, in line with the theoretical work by Bethel, Szabo and Ward in Chapter 2, a limited number of studies (e.g., Hendrickson, Rosen, & Aune, 2011; Rienties, Hernandez Nanclares, et al., 2013) have moved beyond individual characteristics of international students and focussed on how social relations of international and host-national students influence students’ abilities to interact both in- and outside the university settings. In addition, we and other researchers (Hendrickson et al., 2011; Kimmel & Volet, 2012; Montgomery & McDowell, 2009; Rienties, Heliot, et al., 2013; Rienties, Hernandez Nanclares, et al., 2013; Rienties & Nolan, 2014; Zhou et al., 2011) have found that support networks are of particular importance to international students. For example, Mittelmeier and Kennedy discuss (see Chapter 10) how co-national networks helped Chinese international students to feel supported and more in control in a US setting, which explains why students often turn to co-national friends when their family and home friends are far away.

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