Sociology Assignment Paper on Factors behind the Difference in Lifestyles between the American and the International Students

Factors behind the Difference in Lifestyles between the American and the International Students


International students are among the important sources of diversity in the United States. They are the main source of campus diversity. However, studies have shown that these students do not find it comfortable when settling in their new environment. In fact, there is relatively little information known about the experiences of the various international students in the campuses. However, the truth is that these students suffer cultural shock. This research was carried out with an aim of establishing some factors contributing to the differences in the lifestyle between the international and the American students. The research included 33 student participants from the university. The survey was conducted using questionnaires as the method of collecting data. From the results, some of the factors that cause the differences in the lifestyles included education background, religion and economical reasons. The research also mentions the family, language, and cultural background, political stance of their countries, friends, and environment as other factors that contributed to the difference.


Factors behind the Difference in Lifestyles between the American and the International Students


  1. Background

International education has been gaining significance in most countries with time. The number of students, which are travelling abroad for studies, has been increasing every year. These students travel in search of skills and knowledge from foreign learning institutions. With the advancements in technology, it is now possible for some students to study and obtain their degrees and other certificates through the internet (Cardon, 2011). However, most cases of international education involve travelling of students from their mother countries to the host countries.

Governments of various countries have been supporting the international education through investing in activities that encourage international education. In most cases, students tend to travel from the countries that are less developed to study in the developed nations that have adequate and advanced education facilities. In addition, students will travel abroad to attend lessons for education programs that are not in their country.

The US has been one of the major recipients of foreign students. It started receiving foreign students as early as 1960s. However, a rapid growth in the number of international students has been recorded in the recent years (Sherry, 2010). This has resulted from the attempts of the government of the United States to encourage the international education within the country. In fact, the universities and colleges in the United States are enrolling more foreign students other countries in the world. The government has many programs, which aim at encouraging the foreign students to interact freely and learn together with students from the United States (Cardon, 2011). An example of those programs is the Community College Initiative (CCI). The government has also been organizing and supporting activities such as the International Education Week and other activities relating to the international education. The purpose of these programs is providing both students with the opportunities of gaining insights into the subject of the global market place. This also enables students to appreciate the diverse perspectives as well as the different methods used in solving complex problems.

International education has been encouraged by the fact that most of the companies in the world prefer hiring employees that are globally competent. Today, the community has become more international (Pauline, 2013). Multinational business organizations have grown in number. Issues of cultural clashes have been affecting most of these businesses. International education has moved into eliminate this problem. It enables students to appreciate the idea of cultural diversity before joining the employment fraternity. The experience of studying abroad is currently being recognized widely in the senior management. They argue that this has the potential of cultivating valuable skills as well as desirable personal traits among the new recruits. Recent studies have reported that about 90 percent of the senior managers that studied abroad duding their career development prefer hiring or using a promotion strategy that recognizes and rewards the experience of studying abroad (Pauline, 2013). Moreover, the appreciation of the experience of studying abroad in the recruitment section is not only limited to the managers that have an international experience. In fact, studies show that about 60 percent of company managers would prefer hiring and promotion strategies that recognize the significance of the experience of studying abroad. This has in turn encouraged and promoted the practice of international education.

 In addition, international education has contributed greatly on the United States’ economic development (Sherry, 2010). To begin with, the international students pay fees when they enroll in the universities or colleges. The students also pay for other upkeep services while staying in the U.S. Moreover, some students choose to remain in the United States after completing their studies. They are employed in the country and contribute to the economic growth.

  1. Problem statement

When the international students join the American education system, they are exposed to similar learning conditions as their American counterparts. They share same classes, engage in similar peer-pairing programs as well as sharing the same halls of residence. However, the degree to which these international students are engaged in successful educational practices is quite different compared to that of their American counterparts. This includes their academic performance, and social interactions among other issues relating to lifestyles. Generally, these groups end up practicing a lifestyle that differs significantly from that of the American students. There is fear that due to these differences, the main objective of international education may not be realized. Even though the international students are encouraged to direct their efforts toward academic activities in an attempt to compensate for their less satisfaction in their social life, the available literature is that most of the time students are silent on the limit to which they may engage in other educational practices that may be effective in their new environment (Pauline, 2013).

  1. Significance of the research

This study is significant in the field of international education. This is because it addresses the key issues, which are associated with the international education. This research focused on the extent to which the American students as well as the international students get involved in educational practices that are effective. The research compares the activities undertaken by the international students with the American students. The research will mainly focus on activities that relate to the way of life of the students. It will focus in only a few selected areas of activities involving these two groups of student. These will include activities that relate to student learning, satisfaction with the college, personal development, and other relevant activities. The research will furthermore examine the gains of the two groups in the personal as well as social development, their general development, and in their gains in the job-related skills.

Most of the previous research projects have always focused on the interaction between the foreign or international students and their new environment (Ellis-Bosold, 2013). The research has failed to address the effect of international education on the domestic students. In fact, most of these researches have indicated that the international students have little or no effect on practices of the domestic students. This study will seek to clarify this issue.

  1. The research questions

There were some main questions, which guided this study. Starting from the literature review up to the discussions and conclusions, the research focused on answering the following three questions:

  1. To what limit do the international students get involved in effective activities in their new environments? For example, how good are these students when compared with the domestic students in their participation in educational practices? How do they read, write, study, or participate in other activities?
  2. Does the culture or ethnic background of foreign students play in shaping the lifestyles of these students in the campuses? Are they affected by the American culture? Are there other factors that affect the way of life of these students? How do those factors affect their lifestyles?
  1.  Research Objective

This research was done with an objective of establishing the factor that contributed most to the different lifestyles between the international students and the American students. The factors that were under the study included the economic reasons, educational background, and religion.

  1. Research Hypothesis

Economic factor is the may reason behind the difference I lifestyle between the international students and the American students. This is because it is the main cause of the international education. One of the reasons that support this hypothesis is that there is little competition in the developed countries compared to the developing countries. The other reason is that there are many educational chances in the United States. Lastly, the developing countries need students with an international experience to assist in the development activities.

  • Literature Review

Currently, the American society is one of the most diverse cultures in the world (Ellis-Bosold, 2013). Because of this, there have been arguments by knowledgeable observers from both the outside and inside the academy about the relationship between culture and education. These observers say that the most important purpose of higher education is preparing individuals to be culturally competent. This enables these students to work effectively and efficiently with people of diverse backgrounds. Some of the promising approaches include the creation of learning environments, which value and promote diversity. There is also the intention of purposely exposing the American students multiple competing perspectives, which will challenge previously unexamined assumptions. In case these challenges are imbedded in suitable pedagogy, they can help in promoting high intellectual levels and personal development. Therefore, the diversity present in the American colleges and university campuses is not an idealistic or unjustified goal. It is necessary that the college students learn on how to live as well as work successfully with others, especially those that differ from themselves (Huang, 2012).

The international students form an important source of diversity in university and college campuses. It is becoming advantageous to attend a school that is enrolling high number of international students. This is because it is likely to increase the cultural sensitivity of the American students. In addition, these students will develop more skills that will guarantee them an advantage in the marketplace. They will acquire skills, which will enable them to work with people of different background. With the rise in the number of foreign students in the United States, many American students are now benefiting from these opportunities. From statistics, the number of foreign students in the United States has increased exorbitantly. In 2001, the number of these international students enrolled in the universities and colleges within the U.S. was about 550,000 (Sherry, 2010). This represents an increase of 6.4 percent from the value of the year 2000. In fact, the international students are currently representing about five percent of the total number of students in the United States.

Even though the colleges and universities in the United States are enrolling more foreign students than other countries in the world, the experience of these students in their new environment is rarely reported in the literature. The available literature mostly emphasizes on the transition challenges, which these students face when adapting to the new environment, where they have to live as they learn. However, many international students have reported some degree of culture shock, especially when they arrive in the U.S and begin their studies. This is usually manifested as anxiety, stress, feelings of rejection, powerlessness, as well as isolation (Ying, 2013). Exposing these students to new attitudes, behavior patterns, and values are not essentially debilitating. However, this experience can indeed be transformative. Some research has indicated that some of the international students tend to be capable of relatively coping well in case they are faced with stressful life events.

Studies have shown that friendship networks tend to be vital factors that determine how well the international students can deal with the issue of stress (Huang, 2012). According to these studies, students with a strong social support always have an advantage. These students seem to adjust to the campus life within the host country more quickly and in an effective way. It is clear that the international students prefer making friends with students that come from their same home country to the American students. In fact, they tend to make more friendship with students from other countries than with students from the host country. In addition, the international students that make friendship with the American students usually tend to adjust and adapt more easily to their new environment.

Usually, it is much more difficult to become accepted into an affinity group that can provide social support. This is a common problem, which face the international students. The problem is even worse in case the number of students that came from their home country or global region is very small, or there is no student at all (Ying, 2013). In addition, it is difficult for the international students to the customs as well as the mores of the American society and the new campus life. This is because the new practices may be conflicting with the aspects of the cultural and personal identities of the international students. This is likely to lead to cases of feeling loneliness among these students, and eventually result to depression. In turn, this may result to a dampening effect on the ability of such students to participate in activities that may contribute to essential learning as well as personal developments when in the campus. One of the most general coping mechanisms involves focusing on the academic achievements (Huang, 2012).

Even though the international students are encouraged to direct their efforts toward academic activities in an attempt to compensate for their less satisfaction in their social life, the available literature is most of the time silent on the limit to which these students may engage in other educational practices that may be effective in their new environment. Most of the activities based on research done for decades are only linked with high personal development and learning levels. In fact, there is relatively little information that is known about the limit to which most international students are contented with their experience, their interaction with the peers as well as other faculty members, and their participation in various educationally purposeful activities at the campus (Huang, 2012). The faculty members, the academic as well as the student life administrators, and the institutional researcher require more knowledge concerning what is done by most international students in the campus. This will help in knowing whether, where, and when to intervene in order to improve their experience. In turn, this process will help in enhancing the quality of the American undergraduate education for both the American and the international students.

 The available literature reviews have paid little attention to the effect of the international to the domestic student (Sherry, 2010). Most of the studies have indicated that the effects of these students on the culture of the host country. However, these students have a significant influence on the lives of the domestic students. This should also be addressed when intervening into matters involving the international education. 

  • Research Methodology

This research paper employed an Observational Research Design method. This involved conducting a survey about effects of international education. The survey was conducted on thirty three (33) students from within this university. The research considered both the international and the American students. The survey entailed extensive notes that were based on observing as well as interviewing the international and the American students concerning their lifestyles. The aim of the study was to determine the cause of the differences in the lifestyles of the American and the international students. The lifestyles of the two groups were first observed and found to be significantly different. A survey was then conducted to establish the factors behind the difference in the lifestyles.

  • Preparation for the Study

To achieve the main objective of the research, adequate preparations were done. Preparation involved reading the relevant books and previous literature reviews on the topic. The preparation also involved reading about methods of data collection in order to determine the methods to be employed during the research.

  • Methods of Data Collection

Data on this research topic was collected mainly using a questionnaire. There was also use of observation in order to distinguish the various lifestyles of the students. Moreover, interviews were used to obtain more information that could not be included in the questionnaire. The questionnaires were the main data collection tool for this study. The questions were prepared in a way that ensured all the required information was collected. Any information left out was collected using interviews or observation. The questionnaire had eight questions in total.


Hallo, nowadays various students from different countries interact in American higher learning institutions; an issue that sometimes generates social matrix and confusion owing to the difference in cultural orientation among these students. The objective of this survey is to determine the why the international students have such different lifestyles compare to the American students. Thank you for your time.

  1. How old are you? (Less than 18 years, 18-21 years, 22-30 years, Over 30 years)
  2. What is your gender? (Male, Female)
  3. What is your class rank? (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Grad Student )
  4. Are you an International Student or an American Student?
  5. If you are an international student, what country are you coming from?
  6.  Please rank the following factors from 0 to 10, based on its contribution to the different lifestyles between International students and American students. ( Take 0 as the lowest and 10 as the highest)

(1) Economics (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10)

(2) Religion (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10)

(3) Educational Background (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10)

       7. Please explain about your ranking standard

  8. What else do you think are the important factors that make the international students have a different lifestyle compared to American Students?

  • Ethical considerations

It is essential to note that the survey was done in a university that enjoys cultural diversity. However, the research topic largely focused on culture. Therefore, it was vital to ensure that the ethical code of conduct is observed to the latter. In fact, the researcher started by asking permission from the respondent before administering the questionnaire. He then stated clearly the intended purpose of the research. He also avoided asking questions that would be detrimental to the respondents’ self-interest, among other ethical issues. The respondents were also assured of confidentiality as well as the anonymity of their responses. Finally, the researcher thanked each of the individuals that participated in the survey.

  • The Sampling Method

During the research, a quantitative survey of 33 third year students, both international and the American, was conducted. Similar questionnaires were administered to this selected sample. To determine the stability in the response of the selected sample, the questionnaires were distributed at different points. This also encouraged the reliability of the data obtained.

 The study employed a stratified probability sampling method to arrive at the 33 sample students from the whole population of the university. Here, the total population of the university was separated into different groups based on the year of study. The characteristics of each group were then analyzed, and one favorable group picked for the study. The group that was selected was mainly composed of the third year students as in the discussion. A systematic sampling approach was then used to arrive at the 33 students. This involved grouping them into various groups according to age bracket and an equal number of students from each age group. Finally, equal numbers of students were picked from the age groups and the questionnaires administered accordingly.

  • Results and Analysis

There were 33 participants in this survey. The survey was not limited in terms of age. However, the mean age of the participants was 20 year old. Most of these students were third years as far as class rank was concerned. There number of female students who participated in the survey was 13 while the male were 17.

Out of the surveyed subjects, 21 were American students, and 12 were International students. There were 6 Chinese students, 3 Japanese students, 1 Swedish student, and 2 African students among the surveys as shown in the chart below.

According to the data, 17 students ranked the Educational background higher than the other two factors in considering its contribution to the different lifestyles between the international students and the American students. These were composed of 13 American students and 4 International students. In addition, there were 8 that students ranked the religion as the second important factor. These included 5 American students and 3 International students. Moreover, there were 6 students that ranked the Economic issues as the least important factor. This group was composed of 1 American student and 5 International students. However, there were 2 American students that remained neutral. 

The surveyed subjects also mentioned other important factors such as the family, cultural background, Language, political stance of the countries, environment, and friends to be among the factors, which contribute to the different lifestyles between the American and the international students.

The results are summarized in the bar charts below.

  • Research limitations

There are some factors, which limited the effectiveness of this research. To begin with, the research used a very small sample population. The 33 students used in this survey represent less than 0.5 % of the total population of this university. Therefore, it may be ineffective to draw a concrete conclusion from the research results. Future surveys should involve at least 200 students in order to be more effective.

Another limitation was use of an ineffective sampling technique. The technique used resulted to a large percentage of the participants coming from third year. In contrary, most participants should come from the first and final year students for better comparison. In addition, the technique had a larger number of domestic students participating in the research than the international students. For a better analysis, the survey should involve more international students than domestic students.

There was a limitation in the content of the questionnaire. The questions used were limited in that they appeared to be close-ended. This limited the participants from giving their views about the matter of study. In fact, the questionnaire had already put more emphasis on economic, religion, and educational background as the main research factors. Even though question 8 provided the participants with an opportunity to list their factor, this question was to come before question 6 and 7.

  • Discussion and Conclusion
    • Discussion

Students within the same university or college campus always tend to lead a similar way of life just like people who live within the same culture. This is because these students will always spend most of their time together and, therefore, they end up sharing their cultural practices. However, all previous researches done on this topic have always shown that there is usually a big difference in the lifestyles of the between the American students and the international students (Huang, 2012). These differences are more significant during the first year of study, but they may reduce by some proportion as these students continue studying together.

According to this research, there exist differences in the lifestyles between the two groups of students. Most of the foreign students tend to interact with the university or college environment in a different was as compared to the American students. This includes issues such as academics, religion, and other socialization activities, for example, participation in recreational activities. These students tend to possess overriding cultural behavior patterns, values, and norms. They tend to adapt to the new culture within their colleges.

According to this research, there are a number of factors resulting to these differences in lifestyles among these students. The research revealed that education background is the main factor that has caused the difference in the way of living of the domestic and the foreign students. Each of the groups always tends to practice what they were taught and always believe it the right way of doing things. They always tend to resist adapting to new practices, especially if they are contrary to what they were taught and they have always known to be correct while growing up.

Religion is another significant factor that is responsible for the problem of differences in the way of life of the students. Religion is always related to the culture of the people. It defines how people treat each other in a community in relation to a supernatural being. Religion is one of the cultural practices, which a person may be willing to change. It determines our way of life and, therefore our lifestyle.

Economic factors determine the people’s way of life. The poor and the rich always live different lifestyles due to economic factors. Some of the international students live cheaper life due to economic reasons. The research also mentioned other factors such as cultural background, Language, political stance of the countries, environment, and friends to be among the factors that contribute to the different lifestyles between the American and the international students.

  • Conclusion

Concisely,the result the results of this research showed that for the American students, the Educational background is the most important factor, which contributes to the differences in the lifestyles. In contrary, the international students believed that the economic factor is responsible for the difference. Therefore, we can conclude that these two factors are the most important factors, which contribute the different lifestyles between the international students and American students.


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