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Themes Caribbean overseas students perceive influence their levels of culture shock.

This study investigated whether or not Caribbean overseas students, attending universities in the United States, perceived that they experienced culture shock and what themes emerged explaining their experiences. Thirty-eight participants indicated having experienced culture shock, and 20 did not. Five major themes (loneliness and feelings of not fitting in, anxiety and depression, value system and cultural differences, cultural identity, and environmental factors) emerged from the students who experienced culture shock. One major theme (sense of community) emerged from the students who did not experience culture shock. Recommendations for counselors and areas for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Caribbean students, culture shock, international students


Transitioning from home to university is historically regarded as a positive experience (Fisher & Hood, 1987). Attending college is a time of identity exploration, and moving into adulthood with more expectations of responsibility (Zunker, 2006). However, the college experience brings a number of academic, social/interpersonal, and personal stressors that could create an increase of mental/emotional suffering (Fisher & Hood, 1987). For international students, these stressors are compounded by pressure to assimilate. They must quickly learn to navigate through the demands of their day-to-day activities and adjust to new ways of communicating and behaving (Johnson & Sandhu, 2007). In fact the most challenging time of an international student's journey to the U.S. most likely happens during the first days of being in a different country with unfamiliar surroundings. Culture shock is undoubtedly going to set in (Coppi, 2007). With this culture shock, self-doubt and fear may replace the pre-arrival excitement (Coppi, 2007). Given these stressors, it is not surprising that members of this population suffer more psychosocial distress than their U.S. colleagues (Popadiuk & Authur, 2004). Therefore, as the international student population in the U.S. continues to grow, there has been increased attention placed on the educational and mental health issues of these students if they are to perform as expected academically (Mori, 2000).

International students are differentiated from other immigrants who travel from their home countries to work and live in other cultures. The differentiation between international students and other immigrants is due to their distinct status as temporary sojourners (Martin & Harrell, 1996). Therefore, this distinction creates a unique condition for their cross-cultural experience, often attributed to their being in transition; they are challenged to manage the transition away from their home country, the transition to living and learning in a new country and in some cases manage the transition back home (Arthur, 2004).

The tendency is to treat these transitional immigrants as members of a homogenous group of learners (Arthur, 2004). However, the remarkable variability in academic and personal preparation makes exploring within group differences important. One reason for further exploration is the fact that the lack of international standards for educational programs in many countries leads to variability in the knowledge base of students (Arthur). Arthur believes that the one size fits all expectations about academic performance may be unrealistic.

Currently, most of the research studies in the professional literature about foreign students regarding their psychosocial and academic needs in the United States refer to Asian students (e.g., India, China, Korea, and Japan). This is not surprising since, according to The Open Doors, 2010 fact sheet, published by the Institute of International Education, in January 2010, there were 435,667 international students from the Asian region attending various universities throughout the United States. The region having the second highest number of students, 85,084, is Europe with a 350,583 difference in student attendance from those coming from the Asian region. The region with the smallest number of students attending universities in the U.S. is the Oceania region, with only 5,086 a 430,581 difference in student attendance from those coming from the Asian region. Although the research data regarding Asian international students are helpful, these data are not always applicable to international students from other regions of the world. Therefore, there is a need to further explore issues that may be affecting other populations. Hence, the intent of the present study was to further explore whether Caribbean overseas students in the U.S. perceived that they did or did not experience culture shock. The discovery process was also to have participants discuss their reasons for why they thought they had or had not experienced culture shock.

Caribbean People and Migration

There is a body of literature about other Caribbean immigrants in the U.S., their migration patterns, their social capital manifested by the types of networks and communities that they build, as well as their levels of social mobility. Additionally, there have been varying perspectives regarding the acculturative stress, including culture shock, that Caribbean people experience after migration. One perspective is that historically Caribbean people come to the U.S. as a result of what is called the "pull" factor; therefore, they tend to experience less acculturative stress (Gopaul-McNicol, 1993).

The "pull" factor refers to people who leave home voluntarily for personal growth orto study abroad. Therefore, if Caribbean people actually do leave voluntarily for a better life, it may be inferred that these immigrants may have less culture shock. Additionally, it is believed that the cultural stereotype of successful migration by Caribbean immigrants overstates many of the differences between Caribbean people and African Americans; yet, there is still evidence of an edge for Caribbean people in a few areas (Waters, 1999). They are often said to represent a "model minority", a group which, despite their black skin and sometimes humble backgrounds, triumphed over adversity with a strong work ethic and commitment to education (Sowell, 1978). Conversely, another perspective is that like most immigrants, Caribbean immigrants do experience acculturative stress and culture shock. In fact, Caribbean immigrants may experience some acculturation difficulty because of the feelings and immense pressure they sometimes experience in the U.S. to identify only as "Black" (Waters, 1994).

Caribbean immigrants have been referred to as "invisible immigrants" because, rather than being contrasted with other immigrants, they have been compared to and at times assumed to be Black Americans. Based on the comparison with Black Americans and not with other immigrants, it is possible to infer that these immigrants may not have their specific psychosocial needs, such as culture shock, addressed like other immigrants do. It could also be inferred that Caribbean overseas students may not have their psychosocial needs, including culture shock, adequately addressed.

Caribbean Overseas Students

For the present study, Caribbean overseas students (the population of interest for the study) will be defined as individuals from that region who are in the United States to engage in academic activities. This group included students from the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and some South American islands that are considered to be a part of the Caribbean geopolitically (Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana). Additionally, any student who grew up in the region, but may have been born elsewhere, including the United States, was also considered as Caribbean overseas student.

Although there is considerable information in the literature about Caribbean immigrants in the U.S., there is little in the professional literature regarding Caribbean overseas students. Consequently, much of the information about this population is anecdotal, impressionistic, or perceptual. One popular perception is that members of this population have positive experiences, including the acculturation process and level of culture shock. These students are often thought to be generally successful. However, since there is little empirical evidence of this, there needs to be more research about the adjustment experiences of these students. The considerable gap in the literature needs to be filled if the unique psychosocial needs of these students are to be met in order to ensure academic success and transition to the U.S. education system.

Theoretical Framework

Berry, Kim and Mok (1987) proposed five stages of acculturation: (a) physical changes, (b) biological changes, (c) cultural changes, (d) new set of relationships, and (e) psychological and behavioral changes. The fifth stage was used to inform the present study. This stage describes how culture shock affects individuals as they attempt to adapt to their environment.

Culture shock is a psychological concern, characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, fatigue, irritability, loneliness, forgetfulness, nostalgia, and feelings of not fitting in (Pedersen, 2004). It results from external changes and differences in the physical environment such as climate, food, transportation (Pedersen, 1995). Oberg (1972), believed to be the pioneer of the concept of culture shock, listed five stages of culture shock regarding immigrants: "(1) the immigrants feel euphoria about the exciting new culture, (2) failure to succeed leads to extreme dissatisfaction with the host culture. This is the period of psychological transition from back-home values to host-home values, (3) persons begin to understand the host culture and feel more in touch with themselves, (4) the host culture is viewed as offering both positive and negative alternatives, and (5) the immigrants return home and experience reverse culture shock" (Gopaul-McNicol 1993, p. 16). Culture shock is a pervasive disorientation that does not strike suddenly (Oberg, 1972). Rather, it is cumulative, building up slowly from a sequence of small events that are hard to identify.

Sometime later, Pedersen (1995) provided several potential explanations for culture shock: (a) culture shock as the consequence of an encounter to a new environment or situation, (b) as caused by ineffectiveness of intercultural or interpersonal communication, (c) as a threat to the emotional well-being of the sojourner, (d) as inappropriate behaviors that are caused by needs and wants, and (e) as a growth and learning experience. Some years later, Ward, Bochner, and Furnham (2001) stated that culture shock is the period of adjustment between home and host cultures. It is important to note that although coming from differing theoretical origins these explanations do not stand alone and they each have their own limitations. Components of each can be used to further explain the adjustment of immigrants in a new environment.

The goals of the present study were to discover whether or not a sample of Caribbean overseas students had experienced culture shock in the U.S., gather information about the most common themes associated with those experiences, and provide recommendations for counseling practice and further research.


Research Design

For the current study, a modified grounded theory approach was utilized to analyze the data. Only the participants' main concerns regarding their levels of culture shock were sought. Participants were not asked to report how they sought to resolve their experiences of culture shock, which is a construct of the grounded theoretical approach. Additionally, the intent of the study was to gather preliminary data about their perceptions of factors that affected their levels of culture shock. It was not the intent to generate a theory about Caribbean overseas students and their experiences with culture shock. Not seeking to develop a theory is another example of how the grounded theory approach was modified.


Seventy-two Caribbean overseas college students who grew up in the Caribbean participated in the study. Caribbean overseas students were chosen as opposed to Caribbean international students in order to include students who were born U.S. citizens but lived in the Caribbean and students who grew up in U.S. Caribbean countries. The rationale for including U.S. citizens was the assumption that their experiences were different from their Caribbean counterparts.

There were 44 women and 28 men (61.1% women and 38.9% men) who participated in the study. Their ages ranged from 18 to 41. The various islands where participant grew up were: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. Croix). Three participants reported having lived on multiple islands and two did not report where they grew up. Some participants were citizens of the U.S. The participants attended 25 different universities in 13 different states throughout the U.S. Most of the participants attended universities in Texas. Forty-eight of the participants were pursuing undergraduate degrees, 15 pursued master's degrees, and nine pursued doctorate degrees. Forty-seven of the participants had non-immigrant visas, four were permanent residents, eight were U.S. citizens and 13 did not report their immigration classification. Most, 46, of the participants had been in the U.S. for five years or less. Ten participants were in the U.S. between six and ten years and five had been in the U.S. for more than 10 years.

To recruit participants several convenience sampling strategies were used, Caribbean student associations (CSAs),, and searches. A list of names of the presidents and/or public relations officers of CSAs was compiled based on information gathered through searches and by acquaintances and friends of the primary investigator. An email was then sent to the presidents or public relations officers; they were asked to forward an email with an embedded link to the survey to their constituents. In some cases, because the e-mail addresses of members were public, e-mails were sent directly to the individuals. Other participants were also recruited through referrals from individuals who knew Caribbean students who may not have been on a listserv or part of an organization. These individuals were then sent an email with the link embedded. The study was approved by the institutional review board of the university where the study originated.


A 22 question demographic questionnaire, consisting of multiple choice questions, Likert scale questions, and open questions was designed by the principal investigator for the purpose of the study. Participants were asked to provide information such as: gender, age, educational level, islands where they grew up, visa type/residency status, and length of time in the U.S. Additionally, as part of this demographic questionnaire, participants were asked to complete a qualitative, short answer question. A working definition of culture shock was provided to the participants: "Culture shock is characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, fatigue, irritability, loneliness, forgetfulness, nostalgia, and feelings of not fitting in" (Pedersen 2004). They were then asked the following question: Do you think you have experienced culture shock here in the U.S.? Briefly explain your answer whether YES or NO.

It is estimated that almost 200 prospective participants received an invitation to participate in the study. This is based on the number of members that the various Caribbean Students Associations had on their roster and the number of individual invitations sent by the researcher. Therefore, it appears that approximately 36% of individuals who received invitations participated in the study


Data collection. The prospective participants received the link to the Web-based survey via email, either from the principal investigator or through one of the previously mentioned avenues. They were asked to follow the link to the survey website and to read an informed consent statement prior to deciding whether or not they wished to participate. One week after the initial invitation, a follow up e-mail was sent to participants as a reminder

Data analysis. The responses were downloaded from as a data set rather than as individual responses and converted to a Microsoft Word document for analysis. The constant comparative method of simultaneously coding and analyzing the data was then employed (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Working from the transcripts, the primary researcher read the downloaded data multiple times in order to refine the concepts, identify the properties, explore relationships and enhance trustworthiness and authenticity. The data were sorted and coded, and the codes were combined to identify themes (Basit, 2003).

Validity in its traditional sense is not an issue in grounded theory, which instead should be judged by fit, relevance, workability, and modifiability (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Glaser, 1978; Glaser, 1998). For this study, as a modification of the grounded theory, only fit and relevance were utilized. Only factors that influenced participants' levels of culture shock were sought; how the participants resolved their issues related to their levels of culture shock were not investigated. Relevance of a study refers to the real concern of participants, captures the attention, and is not only of academic interest. Additionally, since there were no existing data to compare the current data to, modifiability was not utilized for the study. In the current study the intent was not to generate a theory about Caribbean overseas students and relationship between other factors and their level of culture shock. Rather, the intent was to gather preliminary data about their perceptions of factors that affected their level of culture shock.

An auditor reviewed the codes and themes determined by the primary researcher in order to ensure fit, relevance, workability, and modifiability (Glaser, 1978, 1998; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The auditor had prior experience using qualitative data analyses. She was an African American woman from a rural community in the Southeastern U.S. who was not acquainted with the participants or with the study. The background of the study and a description of the data collection method were presented to the auditor prior to her participation. The auditor reviewed the raw data and the primary researcher's analysis of the data, including the coding and the major themes the researcher had identified. The final themes were a result of discussions between the auditor and primary researcher following the auditor's analysis.

After the data analysis was completed, an auditor reviewed the researcher's codes and themes to ensure fit, relevance, workability, and modifiability (Glaser & Strauss 1967; Glaser 1978; Glaser 1998). The auditor had prior experience using qualitative data analysis. She was not directly involved with participants or with the study. She was not specifically trained for the current study but was given the background for the study and data collection method.

The auditor did not receive monetary compensation for her services. The auditor kept the data in a locked filing cabinet to ensure confidentiality. The auditor was provided with additional information to help her get a better understanding of the study. Additionally, the auditor was given a copy of the raw data as well as the researcher's analysis of the data; she was given the coding and the major categories of themes discussed in the researcher's analysis. After the auditor's analysis, the researcher and the auditor discussed the auditor's analysis of the data and provided recommendations. From this discussion the two in generated the final major categories. These categories included the emerging themes that both the researcher and the auditor thought would aptly represent the data.


Thirty eight participants reported having experienced symptoms of culture shock while in the U.S. and 20 reported not experiencing symptoms. One participant reported some uncertainty about symptoms, stating, "yes and no", while another's response could not be determined as yes or no. Through coding and analysis of the data, the following five major themes emerged for participants who experienced culture shock: loneliness and feelings of not fitting in, anxiety and depression, value system and cultural differences, cultural identity, and environmental factors. One theme emerged from the participants who reported not experiencing culture shock, that is, sense of Caribbean community. Resoundingly, these participants stated the reason they did not experience culture shock was the fact that they were surrounded by other Caribbean people, both when they first arrived in the U.S. and currently.

Themes from Students Who Reported Culture Shock

Loneliness and feelings of not fitting in. Many participants experienced loneliness as a symptom of culture shock. They attributed this loneliness to the fact that no members of their immediate family and close friends were in the U.S. One individual stated that, "I craved the voices of the members of my family constantly." Another reported that despite the fact that she/he had friends in the U.S., there was still a sense of loneliness being away from family and not having anyone from the family to speak to. Additionally, the realization that the possibilities of returning home to visit with family and friends may not be an option for a while added to the sense of longing for the closeness they left behind.

Although from a U.S. territory, individuals from the U.S. Virgin Islands also reported culture shock. They stated that when they first arrived in the U.S., they were not prepared to feel so alienated. One individual reported feeling angry at the perceived treatment received from U.S. mainland students. This perception, the individual stated, created a "feeling of not fitting in" not because there is nobody around but because there was difficulty relating to the people around them.

Another reason stated as a contributor to symptoms of culture shock was the difference in age and maturity of some classmates in American U.S. classrooms. Older participants stated that they had difficulty relating to their adolescent classmates and having to take classes with them. One stated, "being older I can't relate to a lot adolescent stuff." Another stated that, "it was difficult to get used to the behavior of the young ones. I was used to being the boss and respected by people their age and they seldom acknowledge me, and they are rude to the professors. I am not used to that."

The lack of a sense of general community and the togetherness normally experienced in their home countries was reported by participants as a factor contributing to their symptoms of culture shock. The lack of a sense of community, some stated, was compounded by the fact that it took a while for them to find a group to which they could belong. Some reported that they withdrew and hardly spoke to anyone. Others reported that they found it difficult to make friends, and that caused a sense of loneliness. However, a few stated that once they found a Caribbean community to be a part of, the symptoms lessened.

Anxiety and depression. Another manifestation of symptoms of culture shock participants reported was feelings of anxiousness and depression. The anxiety and depression resulted from various issues they faced as overseas students in the U.S. Similar to the feelings of loneliness, some participants reported that their anxiety was as a result of feeling like they did not fit in. One person reported mild depression and anxiety after talking to friends back home and therefore eventually stopped calling home. Some attributed their anxiety to the fact that they did not feel secure in their new environment. Participants also reported that they experienced anxiety about their grades and felt pressured to perform well above normal expectations in an effort to overcompensate and to prove themselves even more to professors because of their differences in accent and culture.

Finances were listed as a source of anxiety for some participants. They reported that needing to establish credit and using credit cards was difficult since they came from a culture where cash is often used as the primary source of payment for goods and services. They were anxious about the new financial system and learning how to adapt to it.

Many reported that their depression and anxiety was manifested through abnormal sleeping patterns that they were not accustomed to at home. One person reported that it took an hour or more to get to sleep at times. Additionally, as mentioned previously, there were some participants who did not feel secure and as a result had a hard time sleeping in their new environment; this insecurity, as reported by one person, caused sleep deprivation and led to irritability. Others reported that they had sleepless nights because of feelings of homesickness.

Value system and cultural differences. Many participants agreed with the words of another participant who said, "The U.S. is very different, and it has taken a while to get used to some characteristics" and another who said, "This country's values are different." One example of the difference in values, according to some participants, is the fact that the U.S. stresses independence and individualism whereas most of the Caribbean culture is based on collectivism. An individual stated, "at home you can get a taxi ride home for free out of kindness and I always got lunch free by just dropping in on a friend,"

U.S. ideologies were listed as a value system difference that caused culture shock. One participant actually stated, "a lot of the ideologies here are different from back home;" for example, "the respect for time. The people at home are more leisurely and being an hour late is not a disrespectful thing." Another example demonstrating the difference in ideology is what a few individuals deemed as a, "lack of respect for resources and wastefulness." Some of the disrespected and wasted resources listed, were food (being thrown away everyday), money, and credit cards.

A cultural difference reported, that created symptoms of culture shock, was language. Several participants, mainly in Texas, stated that the accents of the people around them took some time to understand. One stated, "their language is different, so I have to listen carefully to what they are saying and I can't use terms or certain words among them. For example, using 'fat' is commonly used at home."

Cultural identity. Identity was reported as a source of culture shock. Participants reported being ambivalent about whom they could or would link themselves to as it related to race. One stated that Caribbean people seemed more connected to the White Americans than to Black Americans. The reason given for connection to Whites more than Blacks was that Caribbean people had a stronger heritage that taught them to be proud and how to survive. However, there was no explanation about what the participant meant by heritage or survival. Additionally, some participants were concerned that Caribbean people were categorized as "Black" or "ethnic". Again, no further explanation was given.

Environmental factors. A few participants reported that the weather was a contributing factor to their culture shock. One student reported being enthusiastic about seeing snow prior to moving to the U.S. However, upon arriving in the U.S., the constant snow was something that exacerbated the sense of culture shock. The weather difference, according to the individual, caused even more homesickness.

The state where the individual resided was not reported. Conversely, participants who moved to a southern state reported that coming to the U.S. during the summer months contributed their culture shock. It was reported that the temperature being over 100 degrees may have contributed to symptoms of culture shock. Missing the beach and the river baths was also stated as a possible cause for symptoms of culture shock.

Theme from Students who Reported not Experiencing Culture Shock: Sense of Community

Participants who reported not experiencing culture shock attributed it to being surrounded by other Caribbean people when they arrived in the U.S. and at the time of this study. It was stated that having a Caribbean network helped individuals "acclimatize". One participant stated, "It felt like I was in the Caribbean although I really wasn't. There are differences in the culture but we are made aware [through this network] of what to expect so it is not a major shock." Participants, from the university where most of the participants in the study attended, repeatedly mentioned that they are a part of an organization of over 250 Caribbean students. Someone stated, "Because of this dynamic organization I cannot remember experiencing any of the symptoms [of culture shock]." This organization allowed them to interact with Caribbean students on a daily basis. One individual reported, "One does not get to experience the culture shock much when the people [Caribbean people] are around you." "Our predecessors," one stated, "took me under their wings and helped me to settle in the new environment. There were several activities planned for my group which helped to take our minds off home." It was also stated that in addition to having other Caribbean students around, having a significant other in the U.S. as well as having friends from the same home country, at the same school, or in the same city, helped to prevent experiencing symptoms of culture shock.

Though it was not an emerging theme, one individual attributed not experiencing culture shock to appreciating the opportunity to be in college in the U.S. The individual stated, "I was able to cope with being away from home since, I knew it was a chance that few people get."

Ancillary Themes

Although participants were not asked to report how they dealt with culture shock, a few reported having developed ways of dealing with their culture shock. Faith and spiritual backgrounds were credited for shortened periods of culture shock. Additionally, trying to be positive and making efforts to keep smiling was used to reduce symptoms of culture shock.


The findings support Johnson and Sandhu's (2007) position that the transition from home to a university is compounded for international students by the need to assimilate, Coppi's (2007) conclusion that culture shock undoubtedly can set in and cause self-doubt and fear, and Popadiuk and Arthur's (2004) contention that international students, including Caribbean overseas students, experience more psychosocial stress than their American counterparts were supported. Sixty-five percent of the participants in the present study indicated that they had experienced culture shock, and several themes associated with their culture shock surfaced from the analysis of the interviews.

Generally, much of what was experienced by the participants as they attempted to assimilate was different than the way things were back home in their Caribbean settings. Several sources of culture shock were mentioned, including not fitting in with younger American students, different views on the importance of time and on wastefulness, varieties in American language dialects, financial challenges, confusion over whether to identify with Black or White Americans, hotter and colder weather extremes in the U.S., and general cultural differences (e.g., American individualism versus Caribbean collectivism). Reported symptoms of culture shock, such as loneliness, anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness, were typical of those reported for other immigrant populations.

The primary shield against culture shock appeared to be access to an existing Caribbean sub-community while attempting to acclimate to the new environment. Therefore, one recommendation for preventing culture shock seems to be matriculating at a university in the U.S. that already has a viable community of Caribbean overseas students enrolled. Other resources mentioned by participants were being able to draw upon one's spiritual background and faith and determining to think positively rather than negatively about the circumstances, a form of cognitive restructuring. These resources tend to be individual and situation specific.

The findings clearly indicate that some Caribbean overseas students do experience culture shock and that the causes vary. The variety of causes supports Arthur's (2004) position that these transitional immigrants are not a homogeneous group and it is unrealistic to try to respond to all of them in similar manner. Consequently, the findings recommend a multi-faceted approach to attempting to prevent and respond to culture shock that will be experienced by overseas Caribbean students.

Limitations of the present study included an unbalanced sample and there being one coder and auditor rather than a more consensual approach. Thirty-three of the participants were enrolled in one Texas university. Purposeful sampling is very challenging when prospective participants are scattered around the U.S. and one is attempting to recruit via sources from which the output is unpredictable.

Given that the present study established the existence of culture shock among Caribbean overseas students, several additional research questions seem important to consider. Information from students who have experienced and overcome culture shock would provide helpful information for determining useful interventions to help prepare them prior to leaving home and to address culture shock symptoms in the U.S. Focus groups may be a rich source for this information. Studies comparing Caribbean overseas students and other Caribbean immigrants may also provide helpful information about important similarities and differences. When ideas are culled from future descriptive research efforts and translated into intervention strategies designed to prevent or combat culture shock, experimental and quasi-experimental studies will help to determine the effectiveness of the interventions.

Chen (1999) stated that stressors such as culture shock could affect students and their academic performance. Therefore, it is important for professionals working with Caribbean overseas students to be cognizant of ways to help them with their general adjustment concerns as well as dealing with symptoms of culture shock. Social support through, interpersonal relationships, seemingly protect people from the harmful effects of stress (Kessler, Price, & Wortman, 1985). Social relationships assist individuals, directly or indirectly, to find social associations that would be perceived as loving, caring, and readily available (Ibanez et. al, 2003). Social relationships may provide either formal or informal support. Counselors would be considered as sources of formal support. Social organizations such as Caribbean students associations (CSA), on the other hand, would be categorized as informal support.

When working with these students, counselors can assist them to reduce symptoms of culture shock by helping them to be proactive in seeking out informal support systems. These support systems could include organizations at their university or in the community. Additionally, helping them to identify individuals from the Caribbean or from similar cultural backgrounds, who could become a part of a social network, could also be helpful to these students. This suggestion is supported by the findings which indicated that students in this study, who reported being actively involved in CSAs, and living with other groups of students, reported having fewer symptoms of culture shock.

This is not to say, however, that these students can only find social support with people from similar Caribbean backgrounds. In fact, Arthur (2004) believes that it should not be assumed that foreign students naturally gravitate towards people of similar ethnic backgrounds. She stated that differences in temperament, personality and interests impact the degree of compatibility between students. She continued that for this reason, it is important for professionals working with international students to have a general understanding of the cultural background of the students. Therefore, counselors working with some Caribbean students should be aware that they may not be comfortable with or have no interest in spending time with other Caribbean students. This may require counselors to help students to find other sources of social support, such as other student organizations on campus or religious organizations.

Finally, counselors should be aware of the inclination to associate Caribbean overseas students with the U.S. ethnic group they most resemble. This inclination could cause the unique needs of these students to go underserved. Just like working with other international students, it is important for counselors to familiarize themselves with the differences in culture. This is not only for the Caribbean region as a whole, but the differences in cultures between islands.

Multiculturalism and diversity are products that have become so important in the counseling profession. Interest in helping individuals acculturate while experiencing as little culture shock as possible is reflective the continued strides of globalization and postmodernist thinking. The findings of this study provide insights about the challenges facing one of the many identified cultural groups who now reside either permanently or temporarily in the United States. Therefore, it behooves us as professional counselors and counselor educators to use information in studies such as the present one to construct frameworks for serving Caribbean overseas students and those many other individuals who experience similar challenges.


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Author:Edwards-Joseph, Arline; Baker, Stanley B.
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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