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Qualitative study of Japanese students' motivations, expectations and experiences at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

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Hartung, Beth A.
Bakkum, Chris; Gushiken, Thomas; Miyamoto, Mick
MS, Education--College Student Development and Administration
May 2002
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse -- Students -- Attitudes; Japanese students -- Wisconsin -- La Crosse -- Attitudes
This case study was designed using interviews and a positioned subject approach to investigate the niotivations, expectations, and experiences of Japanese students at the University ofWisconsin-La Crosse (UW-La Crosse). The study explored the following questions: (1) What is the educational background of Ryugakusei, Japanese study abroad students, before attending university in the U.S.? (2) What motivates Ryugakusei to come to UW-La Crosse? (3) What are their expectations prior to arriving on campus? (4) What difficulties do they face during the process of acculturation? (5) Who do they go to for help? (6) Are they able to communicate their needs to faculty, academic staff, and peers? (7) Do cultural barriers prevent them from truly acclimatizing themselves to campus and the La Crosse community? Utilizing the qualitative posture of participant observation, a purposive sample was selected consisting of four male and five female Ryugakusei. The participants were tracked, observed, and interviewed during the fall of 2001. Throughout the data collection period, the investigator used the constant comparative method of data analysis to assist and discern emerging themes and phenomena. This emergent design enabled the investigator to pursue relevant themes, persons, or settings to help clarify the participants' perceptions. This design utilized participant observation, in-depth interviews, and collection of other relevant documents in the form of field notes, journal notes, and audio taped interviews. Because data were collected related to the intended focus of inquiry, the variables were not predetermined and thereby the themes emerged from the data. The investigator then identified units of meaning. The units of meaning used in this study were: educational background of participants, participants' motivations for study in the United States, participants' expectations of study in the United States, and the participants' experiences at UW-La Crosse. Findings supported that acculturalization and acclimatization were related to expectations and cultural factors as well as language barriers and academic concerns. Overall, participants' academic experiences were positive with professionals. However, communication patterns within the classroom and while working in small groups proved to cause several adjustment issues with Ryugakusei. Social and personal support from other Ryugakusei, from other international students, from American students and from professionals on campus varied extensively. Recommendations were made for additional, longitudinal studies centered on these issues as well as the future experiences of the participants after they return to Japan. Continual assessment of the academic and social needs of Ryugakusei, and further research on the Asian identity development of Ryugakusei, with particular emphasis on their group communication and behavioral patterns was also suggested.
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