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Expectations, Challenges, and Strategies for Developing Global Competence: Experiences of Chinese International Graduate Students in the United States


Global competence is a combination of openness attitudes and mutual understanding skills that facilitate social interaction behaviors among students from different backgrounds (Colvin & Edwards, 2018). Global competence has been promoted as the key to reduce inter-group conflicts and increase student satisfaction, retention, and campus climate at universities. Although global competence has been studied extensively within the US context, there are few studies that focus on international students. As individuals from foreign cultures, international students encounter cultural shocks and challenges. Their cultural negotiation strategies and experiences offer important insights to build global competence for all students in diverse and globalized societies.

Drawing from a series of semi-structured in-depth interviews, this dissertation explores the relationship between cultural negotiation and global competence development for twenty-two Chinese International Graduate Students (CIGS) at a major research university in the United States. This study is based on an adapted bi-cultural model (Spitzberg & Changnon, 2009) which outlines individual and institutional factors for career and civic-oriented global competence development. The study contextualizes non-linear processes of how CIGS develop global competence in a negotiation with the multicultural environments provided by the educational programs in the US. The findings suggest that many CIGS’ diverse career and civic expectations are related to their learning-about or learning-with approaches to global learning (De Wit et al., 2013). However, institutional challenges, including American centered knowledge in classrooms, and limited social and career resources at the university, have negatively affected many CIGS’ abilities to cope with cultural differences, worsened their cultural shocks, confusions and disorientation in their behaviors and thinking when they experience and negotiate cultural differences. Based on strategies mentioned by CIGS that helped them to develop global competence in academic and social lives, this study provides tangible recommendations to improve US higher education promoting global competence. Recommendations include developing culturally relevant pedagogy and holistic supports for international students in career, cultural, and civic aspects.

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