The author investigates what challenges four international students (Vietnamese, Filipino, Brazilian, and Chinese) faced and how they coped with these dilemmas in a Japanese language program during the first semester in 2014. Multiple apparatuses (e.g., field notes, face-to-face oral interviews, focal group conversations, and semi-structured written interviews) were employed to triangulate the data. The findings show four major challenges: Personal psychological issues, general living issues, sociocultural issues, and Japanese language issues. Additionally, supporting group, positive attitude, interaction with Japanese friends, financial assistance, and useful learning strategies are identified as coping strategies. The results will provide implications for international students as well as language instructors and program coordinators in a higher education institution to better assist the international students.
Keywords: Ethnographic research, International students in a Japanese university, challenges during the first semester
In recent years, the population of international students who study abroad has dramatically increased. According to World Education Services (2012), the number of the international students reached more than 3.5 million around the world in 2010, an increase of almost 50 percent from the figure (of 2.1 million) in 2002. More recently, World Education News and Review (2013) released a report that the percentage of international undergraduate enrollment in the four leading countries in 2009 has significantly increased in comparison to the figures of 2002 (e.g., 67% in Canada, 62% in the United Kingdom, 43% in Australia, and 13% in the United States). As the higher education system is increasingly becoming more internationalized and a degree from prestigious foreign countries hold comparative advantages (e.g., higher social status, better professional career, networking opportunities), the number of international students is expected to continuously increase for years to come (Ghazarian, 2014; Lee & Brinton, 1996; Varghese, 2008; Wenhua & Zhe, 2013).
As the number of international students is on the rise, a variety of problems and challenges involved in overseas study also occurs (Andrade, 2006; Gebhard, 2012; Huang, 2004; Huang & Brown, 2009; Li et al., 2014; Lin & Scherz, 2014; Marui & Lee, 1995; Murphy-Shigematsu & Lee, 1999; Murphy-Shigematsu & Shiratsuchi, 2001; Murphy-Shigematsu, 2002; Roy, 2013; Wenhua & Zhe, 2013). Based on the documentary analysis, for instance, Wenhua and Zhe (2013) identify five major adjustment problems international students face in foreign countries: personal psychological issues, academic issues, sociocultural issues, general living issues, and language proficiency.
According to University World News (2012), the most popular destination with the number of international students was the United States (19%), followed by the United Kingdom (11%), Australia (8%), France (7%), Germany (6%) and Japan (4%). Therefore, it may seem plausible that a majority of the research on the challenges facing international students is concentrated on the top three destinations, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia (Andrade, 2006; Gebhard, 2012; Huang, 2004; Huang & Brown, 2009; Li et al., 2014; Lin & Scherz, 2014; Marui & Lee, 1995; Roy, 2013; Wenhua & Zhe, 2013). However, several scholars have also maintained that the research on the challenges of international students in non-English...