International students’ academic satisfaction and turnover intentions. Testing a model of arrival, adjustment, and adaptation variables

Publication Date14 October 2019
Date14 October 2019
AuthorNeena Gopalan,Nicholas J. Beutell,Wendy Middlemiss
SubjectEducation,Educational evaluation/assessment
International students
academic satisfaction and
turnover intentions
Testing a model of arrival, adjustment, and
adaptation variables
Neena Gopalan
School of Business, University of Redlands, Redlands, California, USA
Nicholas J. Beutell
School of Business, Iona College, New Rochelle, New York, USA, and
Wendy Middlemiss
Department of Educational Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton,
Texas, USA
Purpose This study aimsto investigate international studentsculturaladjustment, academic satisfaction
and turnover intentions using ecological systems perspective and explores factors that affect academic
success and turnoverby exploring three stages: arrival, adjustment and adaptation.
Design/methodology/approach The sample consists of 208 internationalstudents enrolled at a mid-
Western university in the USA. Conrmatoryfactor analysis, structural equation modeling and mediational
analyseswere used to test hypotheses.
Findings Findings indicatethat self-efcacy, as a pre-sojourn characteristic, affects adjustmentvariables
inclusive of cultural adjustment, affecting academic satisfaction and turnover intentions. Adjustment
variables (coping, cultural adjustment and organizational support) mediated relationships between self-
efcacyand turnover intentions.
Research limitations/implications The proposed model moves the research forward by examining
an ecological systems framework describing how individual, social, academic, cultural and institutional
factors function in supportinginternational studentstransitions. Results maybe generalizable to otherlarge
US universitieswith varying dynamics and resourcesavailable (or not) for international students.
Originality/value Given the challenges internationalstudents face in the USA in adapting to both new
culture and academic setting, it is imperative to identify what elements of their transition and academic
environment predict academic success.This is one of the rst studies testing the propositions derived from
Schartnerand Youngs (2016) model.
Keywords Self-efcacy, Turnover intentions, International students, Academic satisfaction,
Cultural adjustment
Paper type Research paper
According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), the number of international
students attending college in the USA is growing steadily, making the USA a leader in
international education (IIE, 2016). International students in the USA are full-time students
admitted by American academic institutions with an F-1 visa [US Citizenship and
Immigration Services, USCIS (2017)]. Through their attendance, international students
Received3 January 2019
Revised20 April 2019
Accepted8 August 2019
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.27 No. 4, 2019
pp. 533-548
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-01-2019-0001
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
enhance host country studentsand facultys mindfulness of other cultures and cultural
differences (Lee and Rice,2007).
The number of international students enrolled at US universities has increased from
567,039 in 2007-2008 to 903,127 in 2016-2017 (IIE, 2018). In 2016-2017 alone, nearly 115,841
international studentsenrolled for different undergraduate programs,while another 124,888
enrolled in the US institutions for graduate degrees. Nearly, 12 per cent of international
students receive some form of funding from their home country (Farrugia and Bhandari,
2016). In general, undergraduate students are likely to pay for their tuition from family
resources (Fischer, 2015),whereas international graduate students tend to receivesome form
of assistantshipin their departments that involve teaching or researchduties (Redden, 2013).
Despite this growth innumber of international students, the nature of their transition and
challenges they face in studyinginternationally are not fully understood (Ragab et al.,2017).
Often, when international studentsarrive, they live alone initially, leaving them to adapt to
the new culture on their own.They become a new individual either through getting a degree
or through engagement in a newer culture (Marginson, 2013). The challenges faced by
international students as related to the foreign academic setting and socialcultural
differences can result in acculturation issues leading to physical, academic and social
stresses (Lee et al.,2004). Some of the most salient challenges are related to initial stressors,
including personal and interpersonal adjustments issues (Gebhard,2012;Wang et al.,2015)
and cultural shock upon arrival. The longer-term acculturation experiences and difculties
in accessing assistanceavailable or underutilizing student counseling services(Hwang et al.,
2014), stem from difculties encountered upon arrival into the USA (Komiya and Eells,
2001). Further, international students were more likely to receive assistance from other
internationalpeople than Americans (Chavajay, 2013).
Research suggests that these stressors lead to problems involving social and
psychological well-being, including lack of knowledge on how to adapt to a new culture
(Morrell et al., 2013)nancial, academic, personal challenges, lack of adequate participation
in social and leisure activities (Glass et al.,2014), difculties in establishing/maintaining
friendships with domestic students (Williams and Johnson, 2011) and anxieties about
maintaining ones status in the country post-graduation (Khoshlessan and Das, 2017). Other
contributing factors affecting transitions include [lack of] social support received (Gebhard,
2012), studentsEnglish prociency, length of residence in the US prior to academic work,
acculturation, personality traits, country of origin, gender and physical symptoms (Zhang
and Goodson, 2011). These stressors may be attenuated in the absence of social support or
when students become homesick, experience emotional or academics issues including
listening prociency required for academic performance (Kuo, 2011), are confronted with
racial discrimination (Lowinger et al., 2014) or face academic and nancial issues (Mesidor
and Sly, 2016).
Given both social and nancial cost for the international student and often the host
institution, supporting international studentstransitionand identifying what specic areas
of support place students in the best position to successfully transition to their new
academic settingis essential. There is a need for international students to adjustin their new
environment, as such adjustmentinuence their success in studies (Ryder et al.,2013). Thus,
host institutions supporting international studentstransitions need to identify specic
aspects of personal and institutionalsupport.
Existing research on student characteristics as related to their successful transition to
international study lacks adequate focus on personality traits, coping strategies and
problem-solving approaches(Zhang and Goodson, 2011). This absence of research resultsin
deciency of understanding of what may be most supportive for international students in

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