Coping skills patterns of international college students

Jacinta P Leavell, Tennessee State University


Previous studies have indicated that studying in a foreign country often creates a considerable level of stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, a significant body of research demonstrates that international students often experience moderate to severe clinical depression and loneliness. The present study examined how international students differ in their response to the novelty and ambiguity inherent in the experience of adapting to a new culture. For the purpose of this study, the international student population at a southern university was examined. International students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities form a substantial proportion of the student population. The majority of these students come from Asia, and more often they pursue degrees in business, management and engineering. The international student population has special educational, social, and cultural needs. Several studies have found that international students face many difficulties in the adjustment to higher education in the United States. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the literature on international students' coping skills patterns when experiencing the novelty and ambiguity associated with differences in three coping skills patterns (problem-solving, seeking social support, and avoidance), which were identified and examined. The study also investigated whether the following demographic attributes—(a) gender, (b) length of residency, (c) communication, (d) discussion when experiencing a problem, and (e) level of adjustment—affected international students in the process of coping with life at the university. Subjects in the study were enrolled at a predominantly black Southern university. A convenient sample of 160 respondents, 62 males and 98 females, ranging between 18 and 50 years of age were recruited from various sectors of the university. Students took approximately 45 minutes to answer questions in the Likert format on the Coping Strategy Indicator (CSI) designed to measure the degrees of coping available to each person. Additionally, students provided demographic information on a student questionnaire, which was devised by the researcher. Results of the study indicated significant differences in the scores of U.S. females and international females in the seeking social support category. Pearson Correlation Coefficients analysis on avoidance and Length of Residency suggested a significant relationship between the U.S. and international students. Other significant findings include a higher degree of association between citizenship and fluency in another language, and communication problems and citizenship.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Jacinta P Leavell, "Coping skills patterns of international college students" (2001). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3024626.