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International Students’ Acculturative Stress and Challenges

International Students’ Acculturative Stress and Challenges

Generally, the experience of studying abroad can be an enriching experience, but not always an easy endeavor (Human, Ruane, Timm, & Ndala-Magoro, 2014).  The transition usually happens in three stages.  First the honeymoon stage, in which students experience excitement about the new academic endeavor.  Second the crisis stage, when students find their personal and cultural values being incongruent and incompatible with the host country’s values.  Third the recovery stage, which involves appreciation for the host culture, adjusting to the host culture, and making friends to avoid isolation and loneliness (Boafo-Arthur, 2014; Human et al., 2014).  The literature on international students often focuses on the initial adjustment and acculturation process with little attention paid to additional stages and their subsequent effects on career development (Arthur & Flynn, 2011).

Acculturation is a complicated process that is affected by many variables and is a significant predictor for psychological stress in adjustment to the U.S. culture (Wadsworth et al., 2008; Wang & Mallinckrodt, 2006).  In some cases, acculturation can be manifested by changes in areas such as dressing, eating habits, language usage, consumption of popular culture in attempts to assimilate, and the degree of contact with others from the host and home cultures (Berry, 2003; Zimmerman, 1995).  Acculturation is a process of cultural change which results from repeated, direct contact between two or more cultural groups (Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok, 1987).  International students are likely to have fewer resources upon arrival to the host country and experience greater difficulty acculturating when compared to already established ethnic groups (Poyrazli et al., 2004).  Overall, it is understood that acculturation impacts daily functioning.  This section will address research focused on acculturative stress and its impact on the psychological and career development of international students.

Acculturative stress was a predictor of depressive symptoms for 320 international students from 33 countries (Constantine et al., 2004).  The study investigated self-concealment behaviors and social self-efficacy in relationship to acculturative stress and depression.  The findings of the study indicated that social self-concealment, not sharing distressing information, and social-efficacy skills did not mitigate the depressive symptoms of African, Asian, and Latin American international students in the face of acculturative stress (Constantine, et al., 2004).  The authors suggested that future research should focus on specific contextual factors such as access to cultural networks, and connections with other international students that are more likely to affect the levels of acculturative stress in international students (Constantine et al., 2004).

International students often experience racial discrimination and prejudice.  Racism exists in schools and universities in the U.S and negatively influences the healthy acculturation process of international students (Pedersen, 1995).  Experiences of cultural, institutional and personal forms of racism and prejudice increase the likelihood of negatively impacting an individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence sometimes leading to internalized and externalized, helplessness and anger (Chen, 1999).  Perceived discrimination has shown to be a particular impediment in the psychosocial adjustment of international students (Chen, 1999; Duru & Poyrazli, 2011).

Given the pervasive trends of prejudice and discrimination towards international students, one may also look at specific research to help gain a better understanding.  Students’ resilience to adjustment has highlighted that students’ ability to adjust does not only depend on the individual alone but also on the physical and social contexts (Burkholder, 2014; Lee & Rice, 2007). International students from Asia, Africa, India, Middle East, and Latin America reported significant perceived discrimination as compared to domestic students or European counterparts.  The experiences reported were feelings of inferiority, direct verbal insults, discrimination when seeking employment, and overt acts of discrimination (Hanassab, 2006; Lee & Rice, 2007).

The effects of discrimination have been studied in relation to students from specific countries.  A qualitative study, explored the experiences of six international students from Turkey.  Findings indicated prejudicial references to religious groups and groups of terror, which led to students feeling disconnected and isolated from the social surrounding in the in the host country (Burkholder, 2014).  Similar discrimination was reported by Black-African international students (Boafo-Arthur, 2014).  The common adjustment issues experienced by Black-African international students were prejudice and discrimination, social isolation, separation from family and friends, and financial concerns.  They are likely to be evaluated with the same stereotypes that are ascribed to African-Americans by the dominant culture and are sometimes also stereotyped negatively as less civilized by African-Americans (Boafo-Arthur).

More recently, the racial microaggressions experienced by 12 Asian international students in Canada were investigated by Houshmand, Spanierman, & Tafarodi (2014).  Findings highlighted a common theme of feeling excluded and avoided.  Often students cope by engaging with their own racial cultural groups and withdraw from academic activities/spheres.  Language barriers, being ridiculed for accent, and disregarding international values and needs were concerns reported by students in this study.

Recent tragic incidents in Australia where Indian students were assaulted and attacked by members of the host community is one such example of prejudices and hostility experienced by international students (O’Loughlin, 2010).  Such events highlight that discrimination can take severe forms and result in fear amongst international students.  The above mentioned studies highlight harmful effects of acculturative stress, discrimination on psychological and emotional levels with relation to specific populations.  Despite evidence of several such negative student experiences of subtle forms of racism and perceived discrimination, the relationship of these to career development is under-researched and under-represented.

Acculturation impacts career decision-making processes and therefore cross-cultural adjustment may similarly impact career decision-making (Zhou & Santos, 2007).  International students expressed fears about cultural barriers to their successful integration into the workplace and general living (Arthur & Flynn, 2001).  Perspectives regarding cultural difference related to career decision-making were examined, and it was found that Asian American students perceived more decision making difficulties than other groups, while white American students perceived the fewest difficulties (Mau, 2004).  Taiwanese international students (n = 112) who maintained an Asian identity (low acculturation) were more likely to have higher vocational identity and a clearer understanding of his/her vocational interests and abilities (Shih & Brown, 2000).  The conclusions of this study found an inverse relationship between acculturation and vocational identity with relation to Taiwanese international students.  Those who reported a more Asian identity were more likely to experience higher vocational identity, clearer interests, abilities, and aspirations.  Not quickly adopting the behaviors and values of the host culture may allow Taiwanese international students to feel a greater sense of maturity and confidence, especially in career interests and goals.  This cohesive identity in case of the Taiwanese international students in the study may allow a supportive and encouraging environment in understanding one’s career interests and aspirations.  These findings may assist in understanding the level of acculturation, duration of stay in the U.S., their effects on stressors and barriers, and shed some light onto the career development processes of a specific sample of international students (Shih & Brown, 2000).

Available research focusing on acculturation and career beliefs of 341 international students (Indians, Chinese, and Koreans) indicated that approval from others, influence of others, and comparison with others play important roles, underlining the emphasis on collectivist values in Asian cultures (Mahadevan, 2010).  Low correlations existed between acculturation levels and career beliefs of Chinese and Indian international students, which could be a result of the lack of cultural appropriateness of the measure implemented in the study (Mahadevan, 2010).  Inherent in the correlational study, Mahadevan reported that causal relationships of the variables could not be established.  Research on a convenience sample of 264 Chinese international students at three public universities investigated acculturation difficulties, academic self-efficacy, language abilities, and procrastination behaviors (Lowinger et al., 2014).  For the male participants, perceived discrimination and homesickness were significant predictors of procrastination. Whereas, for the female participants, English language ability, academic self-efficacy, and culture shock and/or stress were significant predictors of procrastination (Lowinger et al., 2014). From this finding, it is possible to conclude that there may be a relationship between levels of support and language difficulties, which in turn may affect academic performance.  Limitations to these studies were the use of a convenience sample, which is not randomized (Mahadevan, 2010) and not representative of the larger Chinese student population demographic or a specific university, making the results difficult to generalize (Houshmand et al., 2014; Lowinger et al., 2014).

Language-related stress is consistently marked in existing research regarding international students and is listed as a primary concern affecting the interpersonal communication and educational success of international students (Arthur & Flynn, 2012; Chen, 1999; Pederson, 1991).  Language-related difficulties can lead to psychological harm and have strong, sometimes permanent effects on an international students’ self-concept and related cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects which amplify difficulties in the adjustment processes to the new host culture.  Though language proficiency is a necessary requirement for daily living, there is also a complex technical aspect for academic activities (Chen, 1999; Redmond & Bunyi, 1993).  These difficulties in daily life can inhibit social interaction and lead to feelings of inferiority, insecurity, confusion, and a decreased willingness to communicate with others (Ishiyama, 1989).  Frustrations are commonly experienced when employers are intolerant of language differences, especially accents (Nunes & Arthur, 2013).

Career Development of International Students

The facilitation of career development can be divided into three phases for international students: the first phase entails the exploration of studying in a foreign country, the second phase focuses on studying in a foreign country, and the third phase emphasizes the importance of transferring acquired skills into the work context (Human et al., 2014; Shen & Herr, 2004).

International students’ barriers do not end with the completion of the degree.  The barriers and challenges are also present in career development (Nunes & Arthur, 2013).  After graduating international students could decide to stay in the U.S., return to their home country or another country for job search and employment (Nunes & Arthur, 2013; Shen & Herr, 2004).  International students often take huge educational loans to pursue education in the U.S., therefore financial stressors and salary estimates are often a major deciding factor in job and location selection (Musumba et al., 2011; Smith & Khawaja, 2011).  International graduate students constitute highly educated individuals; therefore, their decision to stay and where to start their professional careers have socio-economic impacts on both the U.S. and their home countries (Musumba et al.).  These diverse factors stimulate various career plans (Shen & Herr, 2004).  It is important that international students make informed academic and career choices so as to maximize the opportunity of studying and working in a foreign country (Human et al., 2014).

Language barriers, job application and networking factors, and visa status were considered to be barriers to career development in a semi-structured interview employing a critical incident technique of 19 undergraduate and graduate students (Arthur & Flynn, 2011). These students reported fear related to the presence of cultural barriers for their successful integration into the workplace (Arthur & Flynn, 2011).  Struggles and discrimination were experienced when students had to explain and discuss visa sponsorship with human resources at workplace.  There was a lack of knowledge about immigrant problems and employers did not value international experience (Arthur & Flynn, 2011; Nunes & Arthur, 2013).

Discrimination based on language, ethnicity, race, religion, country of origin appears to be the most common experiences and frequently researched areas.  Barriers can be internal conflicts or external frustrations which affect educational and vocational plans (Metz, Fouad, &           Ihle-Helledy, 2009).  Ethnic minorities expected fewer career opportunities and more career barriers than nonminority counterparts resulting in greater work and occupational inequity (Metz et al., 2009) as a result of such discrimination.  As revealed by research, focus groups consisting of 15 international students revealed experiences of multiple barriers in participation in their academic and social communities.  Initially, concerns focused on housing, transportation, and getting the required documents to stay.  With time, the nature of barriers changed and academic and social relationship concerns were experienced.  Students of color experienced discriminatory treatment due to after effects of 9/11 (Poyrazli & Grahame, 2007).

Perceptions of discrimination may influence self-concept and career aspirations (Evans & Herr, 1994).  Career development study of Asian international, non-Asian international, and domestic students attributed the lack of difference between career certainty to the small sample size (n = 144 international and 70 domestic students) (Singaravelu, White, & Bringaze, 2005). Economic development of the countries has an effect on the career exploration of international students.  Their study also provides information indicating that there is more family influence among non-Asian international students than among Asian international students.  However, the authors in the study emphasized that sample and the country of origin of the Asian international students (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia), could have affected the results as, these countries have greater economic development and resemble U.S.A. than other Asian countries and non-Asian students.  The study points to the prominent family influence in career preference for non-Asian countries; such as Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East where economic development is at a slower rate.  It highlighted that Asian international students were more satisfied with the college experience than non-Asian international students, perhaps due to more career certainty.  Non-Asian international students reported that the faculty and staff had no interest in their welfare suggesting the lack of support and connection in this particular study (Singaravelu et al., 2005).  International medical graduates (n = 1890) reported statistically significantly less career satisfaction than U.S. medical graduates, were likely to report lower income and less likely to be board certified (Chen et al., 2012).  Overall dissatisfaction with career development was apparent in international students’ experiences.

Instead of using career services students use help sources that were primarily from their own academic fields and personal sources (Shen & Herr, 2004).  Through 18 interviews, it was clear that international students made their career decision to stay in the host culture by discussing and consulting with people in both home and host culture, preferring the relational decision-making process.  Findings emphasized support from the professor, from advanced international peers and valued career discussion and planning.  Support from advanced international peers who were already in the field was also necessary support.  The availability of mentors, such as faculty members and academic supervisors, to facilitate contact with employers appears as a key relational support for international student success (Popadiuk & Arthur, 2014). Qualitative inquiry with 16 undergraduate and graduate international students suggested that career services must be proactive and help students market themselves and meet prospective employers, and acquire pre-graduation work experience or internships (Nunes & Arthur, 2013)

Given that support, mentoring, and family influence were common findings in decision making variables for international students, it is important to focus on cultural variables in international students concerns and counseling.  Some of the limitations to these studies highlighted a lack of appropriate tools to study international students’ concerns, small sample size, and region specific studies reducing generalizability.  The measures used were not substantial, and more sensitive instruments could be used in future studies (Lowinger et al., 2014; Mahadevan, 2010).  Other aspects of career development such as career self-efficacy, career maturity, and career attitudes can be studied with relation to multi-ethnic samples of international students (Mahadevan, 2010).  More studies that include multi-ethnic samples need to be conducted (Mahadevan) and studying undergraduate and graduate students separately will contribute more information about the educational experiences of these students (Wadsworth et al., 2008).  An investigation of undergraduate students is deemed necessary as they were underrepresented and may share different or unexamined influences than students pursuing graduate studies (Arthur & Flynn, 2013).  The sample sizes are small and representative of a few countries (Nunes & Arthur, 2013).  Studies have also focused on the diversity and generalizability issue of present research (Arthur & Flynn, 2013).  A need to investigate the ways to assist international students’ in bridging the gap between their career desires and actual experiences is considered the next step in understanding the career development of these students (Arthur & Flynn, 2013).

International students bring diversity and multilingual ability to the workplace, contributing to today’s competitive job market (Sangganjanavanich et al., 2011).  With an increase in the multicultural nature of the U.S. workforce, it is imperative to effectively address the unique career development needs of clients from different ethnicities (Mahadevan, 2010).  It is critical to understand the literature focusing on discrimination in international students learning experiences as aforementioned studies report its high presence in the everyday life of international students.

Hope Theory and Work Hope

Hope has been studied across disciplines and has been demonstrated to be relevant to a number of outcomes, such as academic achievement (e.g. Onwuegbuzie, 1998; Snyder, et al., 2000), athletic performance (Curry, Snyder, Cook, Ruby, & Rehm, 1997), social competence and adjustment (Barnum, Snyder, Rapoff, Mani, & Thompson, 1998), and psychological adjustment (Chang & DeSimone, 2001).  Hope is related to health and work outcomes, where, hopeful people are able to cope with more difficult life events and are less vulnerable (Santilli et al., 2014).  Systemic inequities can negatively affect student learning by decreasing motivation. Thus, students who experience inequality in educational and other opportunities may not believe that their efforts will pay off or that school achievement matters to themselves or others (Kenny, et al., 2010).

Goals will be unimportant if the necessity to meet them is not clear.  People create usable routes to approach these goals, often thinking about ways to travel from point A to point B (Snyder, 2002).  A high-hope person is likely to have established a plausible route towards the goal, with a concomitant sense of confidence in the route.  High-hope individuals as compared to those with low-hope, are likely to be more decisive and certain in the pathways to their goals, a premise that has been suggested for career goals as well.  The pathways thinking of a low hope person is more tenuous and the route is not well articulated.  Laboratory experiments including listening preferences, memory tasks, self-report and self-talk measures have supported the process affirming positive internal pathways messages for high-hope as compared to low-hope persons (Snyder, Lapointe, Crowson, & Early, 1998).  A high-hope person is also likely to provide an alternate route, describe themselves as being flexible thinkers as compared to low-hope persons.  Pathway thinking should become more precise as the goal pursuit sequence progresses towards attainment.

Use of a hope centered approach to career development creates positive momentum in the career self-management process, which is especially useful in the current context of increased stress and challenges.  It plays a crucial role for international students as well, especially due to the already present challenges of acculturation, discrimination, and work permit related stressors. Developing literature suggests that work hope may be an important factor in achievement motivation, especially for minority populations (Park-Taylor & Vargas, 2012).  Given the early state of research on hope as it relates to the career development of college students, the present study will explore work hope as a career outcome.

Being hopeful is important to one’s career development (Niles, Yoon, Balm, & Amundson, 2010).  It relates to being able to envision a meaningful goal and believing in the positive outcomes are likely to follow if specific action is taken.  A sense of hope allows the person to take into consideration the possibilities or options in a situation and drives the person to act (Niles et al., 2010).  Various types of hope specific to career are: Role specific goals explain the belief that goals specific to one role are more likely achievable as compared to another life role.  Global hope believers are often individuals that sense that they can achieve his or her goals.  Goal-specific hope is the belief of an individual about the specific goal and whether it can be achieved (Niles et al.).  Hope is a positive motivational state where people see a sense of willpower to meet the goals (Santilli et al., 2014).

The vocational hope construct integrates activities that encourage youth not only to explore career options, but also to gather an understanding of the process of reaching the occupations and then setting long or short term goals (Park-Taylor & Vargas, 2012).  Hope correlates reliably with superior academic performance, higher test scores, and overall GPA (Snyder, 2002).  It appears that agency, but not pathway thinking, significantly related to past, current, and future feelings of hope (Tong, Fredrickson, Chang, & Lin, 2010).  College students with a high agency component of hope, had higher levels of educational and career development skills and outcomes (Sung, Turner, & Kaewchinda, 2011). High hope scores correlate significantly with scales measuring teacher encouragement focusing on the need for support and mentoring to increase hope and goal attainment for students (Snyder et al., 2002).  Students with a higher level of hope were less likely to postpose and procrastinate school related tasks such as writing papers, studying, and completing assignments as compared to students with lower levels of hope (Alexander & Onwuegbuzie, 2007).  These studies are a reminder of the pervasive importance of hope in all aspects of career development.

Research on college athletes (n = 370) examined the role of hope on academic achievement and goal-oriented behavior.  Hope correlated positively with self-worth and with grades (Curry, et al., 1997).  The Integrative contextual model (ICM) of career development was examined with relation to undergraduate college students (Sung et al., 2011).  A combination of ICM skills such as career exploration, goal setting, work readiness, and utilization of support was studied to predict outcomes such as: academic achievement, self-efficacy, positive self-attributions, vocational identity, interests, and proactivity.  Findings suggested that the agency component of hope is a motivational, contextual variable surrounding the career development of college students.  Individuals with higher agency had higher levels of educational and career development skills and outcomes.  Pathways were not predictive of ICM skills and outcomes (Sung et al., 2011).

Work hope refers to a positive motivational state that is directed at work and work-related goals and is composed of the presence of work related goals and both the agency and pathways for achieving pre-decided goals (Juntunen & Wetterson, 2006).  College students from underrepresented backgrounds were studied to explore the relationships among personal and environmental variables and work hope.  Results indicated that increased levels of reported psychological distress, experience with classism and racism related negatively to work hope and perceived social support related positively to work hope.  This indicated that a higher level of stress and more experience with racism relates to the lower work hope.  These results demonstrate that psychological symptomology related negatively to measures of hope.  They also explain that individuals from diverse backgrounds experience more discrimination that acts as a barrier to pursuit of educational and career-related goals/outcomes (Thompson et al., 2014).  Work-based and career experiences may enhance the development of hope by encouraging the identification of work goals, increasing and expanding the understanding of how to meet work goals, and increasing confidence in one’s ability to achieve goals.  Within a sample of urban high school students who were enrolled in a work-based learning program, it was studied that work hope, career planning, and autonomy accounted for 37.5% of the variance in achievement-related beliefs (Kenny et al., 2010).

Career Adaptability

Due to the changing employment environment, proactive career-related behaviors (e.g., exploring options, setting goals, developing skills) serve as important antecedents for important career outcomes, promotions, and salary growth (Guan et al., 2014; Rottinghaus, et al., 2012).  Career adaptability refers to work tasks, challenges, and transitions that an individual has to manage the available resources (Santilli et al., 2014).  It includes career optimism, coping with developmental tasks, participating in work, coping with unemployment, and adapting to the expectations of the job market (Santilli et al., 2014).  It is composed of four resources.  The first resource, career concerns, represents a future orientation.  Students who display a higher level of concern are likely to be more ready for tasks related to job search and may have a better chance of becoming employed.  Individuals who lack career concern are likely to exhibit career indifference.  The second resource, career control, denotes intrapersonal processes that foster self-regulation, being deliberate, organized, conscientious, decisive, and an approach to see the future as manageable and not give up.  Absence of career control leads to career indecision.  The third resource, career curiosity, refers to persons’ strength of exploring various situations, environments, and roles to gather information about self and others.  Inaccurate self-understanding often results from a lack of career curiosity.  The final resource, career confidence, represents individuals, stronger efficacy beliefs to exert efforts and show persistence in situations that are difficult, and ability to handle barriers and challenges (Duffy, 2010).  Lack of career confidence may result in career inhibition and compromises towards goals (Guan et al., 2013; Santilli et al., 2014; Savickas, 2005; Savickas & Porfeli, 2012).  All these factors together are likely to relate positively to international students’ employment status (Guan et al., 2013) therefore, future research of these will help to inform career interventions to support these students.

In today’s economy, being able to adapt to the working world is a necessary skill (Duffy, 2010).  Despite the importance of this construct, very little research has been done, particularly with college students (Duffy, 2010).  Career adaptability has been studied in relation to employees’ well-being and its propensity to can mediate the relationship between job insecurity and job strain and satisfaction for a sample of Swiss employed and unemployed adults (Maggiori, Johnston, Krings, Massoudi, & Rossier, 2013.  Research showed higher levels of optimism, hope, and life satisfaction for young unemployed adults (Santili et al., 2014).  Research suggests that career adaptability mediated the future work self and job search self-efficacy for those with higher levels of career adaptability in a sample of 270 Chinese university graduates (Guan et al., 2014).  These findings carry implications for job search behavior and career counseling.

Career adaptability is an important variable related to the readiness to cope and adjust to unpredictable work related tasks (Duffy, 2010).  It also addresses the sense of control individuals experience in their vocational development.  However, many people do not always have the privilege of working within their area of interest and may not feel able to adapt to their career due to little control in their lives (Blustein, 2006; Duffy, 2010).  In light of the importance of career adaptability, it is essential to gain further knowledge of the construct through continued empirical inquiry.  Understanding the role of career adaptability for international students, who are often in a disadvantaged position due to aforementioned barriers, represents a key step toward developing precise career interventions to support employment success.  Despite our knowledge of career adaptability as an important resource, many gaps exist.

Career Aspirations

Vocational behavior, including the development of career aspirations occurs within a cultural context, and therefore may be influenced by gender, age, race, ethnicity, SES, and other factors (Metz et al., 2009).  Research suggests that ethnicity influences the development of career aspirations, and ethnic minorities are likely to face higher barriers in career development (Watts, et al., 2015).  Ethnic identity influences the ways in which individuals develop career interest and respond to barriers in career development (Kirton, 2009).  Studies focusing on the cultural context impacting career aspirations, report that some Asian Americans focus on considering occupational alternatives that could give them the greatest survival in the U.S. social structure and avoid occupations that could bring racial and cultural discrimination (Leung, Ivey, Suzuki, 1994).  For Black and minority business graduates, a sense of self-worth and social status was associated with career aspirations (Kirton, 2009).  With research highlighting the cultural and ethnic role on career aspirations, it is essential to understand how these factors, relate to the career development of international students.

Language difficulties, fewer supports and friendships, visa concerns and sponsorship were barriers to career- related decision making for international students in Canada (Arthur & Flynn, 2013).  Factors that impact career aspirations could also be self-efficacy beliefs, support, perception of available opportunities, and barriers due to societal influence (Metz et al., 2009; Rojewski, 2005).  Studies have also focused on cultural adjustment difficulties and the career development of internationals students.  One such study, focused on career aspirations and outcome expectations of students in relation to adjustment difficulties and intercultural competence concerns.  In the sample of 261 international college students (African, Asian, and Latin American), distress and difficulties of acculturative stress distracted the students from focusing on career development and planning.  International students face difficulties in prioritizing career development, thus inadequately focusing on career aspirations and plans.  The authors also found that the concerns students face about their competence in social, academic, and career contexts were foretelling of the hardships and difficulties in determining career aspirations and positive career outcomes (Reynolds and Constantine, 2007).  This emphasizes the deep effects on the future career goals, as a result of a lack of confidence and insecurity international students may experience.  Because international students experience more anxiety in a new and unfamiliar cultural environment, their ability to succeed socially is limited, often affecting academic and career growth (Hayes & Lin, 1994).  Findings emphasized the need for more research examining the career attitudes, values and behaviors of international students in order to build clearer meaning and values of career constructs for international students (Reynolds and Constantine, 2007).  Their study also focused on one region of the U.S., which may affect the generalizability of the results for international students (Reynolds and Constantine, 2007).

Despite this understanding, there are few studies that consider the relationship of race and immigration status to career aspirations with international students (Kirton, 2009).  An understanding of career aspirations would help in identifying factors related to individuals compromising or take action to fully realize their aspirations (Metz et al., 2009).

Job Search Self-efficacy

Job search self-efficacy refers to the belief that one can successfully perform specific job search behaviors and obtain work (Saks & Ashforth, 1999).  Job search self-efficacy is a predictor of job search intention, behavior, and outcomes and therefore an important variable in job search interventions (Saks et al., 2015).  Employment exploration involves the investigation of career options by collecting information on jobs and making informed career decisions.  Self-exploration includes exploring one’s interests, values, and experiences to understand oneself better.  With more knowledge of self, and environment, job search self-efficacy will be strengthened (Saks et al., 2015).

Job search goals are performance goals or behaviors such as number of applications sent each week, and hours spent searching for a job (Fort et al., 2011).  Job search self-efficacy has direct effects on such behaviors, thus effecting career planning (Fort et al., 2011).  Barriers to international students’ job search process include language proficiency, poor networking and interview expectations, and doubts of one’s value in the workplace (Arthur & Flynn, 2011; Nunes & Arthur, 2013; Sangganjanavanich et al., 2011).

Financial strain is one of the many stressors and barriers experienced by international students (Smith & Khawaja, 2011).  It is the perception that one’s financial resources are diminished and threatened (Dahling, Melloy, & Thompson, 2013).  Research with individuals who were unemployed suggested that financial hardship was negatively associated with job search efficacy (Wanberg, Kanfer, & Rotundo, 1999).  Financial strain also serves as a barrier as it creates pressure and strain to find employment, and may reduce engagement in the job search process, and result in less time to prepare for job search and interview (Dahling et al., 2013).

The job search process varies between countries and occupations (Nunes & Arthur, 2013).  Career goals and steps towards those goals are an integral part of educational experience (Nunes & Arthur, 2013).  Cultural habits and differences can present in job search processes.  For example, bowing to show respect in certain cultures is not a part of the American culture. Students have to refrain from engaging in behaviors that are not specific to the host culture (Sangganjanavanich et al., 2011), thus being more self-critical and cautious.

Changes in major selection also impact job search related behaviors.  Previously, international students often choose mathematics and science fields; however, the data reveals that international students also choose liberal arts, business, and mass communication as career majors.  The shift in the data is consistent with changes in economic trends (Singaravelu, et al., 2005).  A specific area of study/job search would need different job search activities.  Job search self-efficacy research will help shed light on the self-efficacy of several majors studied by international students.  Job search is an important factor in the present day economy as compared to previous years especially due to the instability in careers and increased periods of unemployment impacting physical and mental health (Saks et al., 2015).

During the employment seeking process internationals students report a lack of help or resources available to assist them in the job search process, they note poor knowledge of employment rules, regulations, restrictions, and public policies (Sangganjanavanich et al., 2011) increasing the difficulties and barriers in job search.  Spencer-Rodgers (2000) assessed the career development needs of 227 non-immigrant international students nationwide.  Their study pointed to the career needs of international students focusing on learning about Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) rules that regulate international student employment, preparing an American-style resume and reduce interview barriers, and obtaining work experience in the U.S.A.  The highest ranked career planning needs centered on learning about the INS rules that regulate international student employment, the need to speak to an advisor about career plans, and to learn about the American job market.  This study does not shed light into the process of developing support, approaching others for help, and effects of acculturation process on the needs of career development.  The present study will help bridge the gap between the two.

Job search clubs are a rarely researched with international student populations (Bikos & Furry, 1999).  Jobs search clubs were introduced by Azrin (1975) to assist individuals in gaining access into the workforce.  Due to the complexity of the issues including concerns such as will the student work after graduation, return to his/her home country, students’ lack of readiness to approach counseling services, work experience needs of international students are unclear and are not met.  The program including 15 international students met for 90 minutes and participated in job search pertinent topics, practiced and devoted time to the topic, and shared personal experiences and ideas.  Participants who completed the program showed an increase in the job search behaviors and activities.  Participants discussed the increase in confidence, skill level and tangible progress in the job search.  This highlights the importance of support from the university, cultural appropriate formulation of the program and implementation for the success of international students.  An evaluation of the job-search self-efficacy of international students will help create better, comprehensive programs for international students.

More recently, job search self-efficacy for 86 East Asian international students identified the critical antecedents of job-search behaviors (Lin & Flores, 2013).  In their study, Lin and Flores found that participants who possessed more experiences in job search-related tasks and received more verbal encouragement from their family, friends, faculty, and colleagues regarding their capacity to find a job in the U.S. were more likely to report higher confidence in their capabilities to perform job-search related activities.  These findings highlight the importance of support in job-search and career outcomes for international students.  Performance accomplishments have been found to be a significant predictor of self-efficacy in their study.  When East Asian international students possessed a higher sense of mastery of job search tasks, they are more likely to develop high levels of job search self-efficacy.  Another important predictor was verbal persuasion by family, faculty, and colleagues/friends.  Job search self-efficacy is an important variable to explore as it relates not only to job search behaviors but also to the judgment one holds about oneself (Lin & Flores, 2013).  For international students in the U.S., job search self-efficacy and behaviors hold higher significance due to the timeline of OPT application and the need to secure a job within the timeline.  As job search self-efficacy positively contributes to career planning and job search behaviors, it is important to focus on interventions for international students.

The purpose of the present study is to assess the relationship between acculturative stress and career outcomes for international students.  Specifically, it is hypothesized that acculturative stress will be negatively related to work hope, career adaptability, career aspirations, and job search self-efficacy.

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