A Study on Chinese Students' Academic Adaptation at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


An increasing number of students from China participate in the global educational market nowadays. However, due to the large cultural disparity between Western and Asian countries, their adaptation is particularly challenging. As there is a lack of research exploring Confucian-heritage students' academic adaptation, especially Chinese Ph. D. students in Europe. Focusing on Chinese Ph. D. students' adaptation to new academic challenging experience, this study reflects the experience of a number of them in a particular new environment: at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), in Spain. It attempts to investigate the significant challenges in their interpersonal relations and coping strategies for a better academic and social adaptation during their stay. Additionally, this study also aims to explore what adaptation strategies have been applied to the new academic environment by the Chinese students. Twenty Chinese Ph. D. students were voluntarily involved in this study. Based on the critical incidents methodology, qualitative and quantitative methods were applied. The data were collected through Questionnaires and interviews, regarding specific critical incidents, with brief descriptions of vivid events and selected coping strategies that students remember as being meaningful in their academic, psychological and social experience. The questionnaires designed were based on bibliography about factors and strategies related to critical incidents. The interview thereafter developed focused on the most relevant aspects of questionnaire, encouraging participants to reflect on their unique experience and efforts to adjust their behavior to the academic and social demands of the UAB, during their stay. For the data analyses, the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 19. 0 and ATLAS. Ti Qualitative Data Analysis Software 6. 2 were used. Data analysis has indicated many factors that have influenced their immersion and individual, personal experience in the UAB. The most important ones covered the critical incidents from the academic, sociocultural and psychological dimension. These factors intertwined and influenced Chinese Ph. D. student's participation into the Catalan life. Results highlight that the biggest challenges for Chinese Ph. D. students are in the academic dimension and related to language abilities, teacher and teaching relationship and adaptation / getting used to the new education system at the UAB. In addition, for this group, the teacher and teaching relationship became extremely important situation during adaptation to the new academic environment. It may influence Chinese Ph. D. students' abilities for coping due to teacher and teaching relationship in academic dimension. Moreover, the analysis also highlights that the interaction with host nationals was found the root of problems influencing Chinese students in the sociocultural and psychological dimension. It may also influence their abilities for coping due to interpersonal connectedness and emotional interdependence in Catalan culture. Based on these findings, the study suggests some meaningful implications for both educators and students
Date of Award11 Nov 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCrista Weise (Director) & Ibis Marlene Alvarez Valdivia (Director)

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