The Determinants of life satisfaction among Chinese students in Finland and Russia

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Title: The Determinants of life satisfaction among Chinese students in Finland and Russia
Author: Svergun, Irina
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2016
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Social Psychology
Abstract: The studies of international students’ well-being are of growing significance nowadays, as they are directly aligned with fundamental strategic goals of colleges and universities accepting continuously increasing amount of international students. It is also important for the societies investing money in attracting and retaining young talented professionals, as people believe that recruiting young professionals is essential for sustainable economic development of their countries. International students experience extensive challenges while adapting to the new educational and cultural environment. The subjective well-being of students is an important indicator of satisfaction with their academic and socio-cultural experience in a host country and university, which is highly connected with their educational capacity and the degree of integration into new cultural environment. This study is a quantitative investigation of the interconnections between socio-economic and cultural factors and international students’ psychological adaptation. In particular we are studying the influence of intrinsic (‘openness to change’ values) and extrinsic (HDI) factors on Chinese students’ life satisfaction. Data collection included in-class and on-line surveying of 239 Chinese students living in Finland or Russia for 2-4 years. Correlation and regression analysis was conducted at the data analysis stage. The data were interpreted based on the Self-Determination (Ryan & Deci, 2000), Cross-Cultural Adaptation (Berry, 1997; Searle and Ward, 1990) and Cultural Values (Schwartz, 1992) theories. ‘Cultural fit’ and ‘healthy values’ approaches were discussed to understand the impact of values on adaptation of sojourners. Based on the results of our study, we can conclude that both intrinsic (healthy values) and extrinsic (HDI) factors impact subjective well-being of sojourners. The level of sojourners’ life satisfaction in Finland is higher than in Russia, which is caused by the difference in levels of economic development and social support indicated by HDI. ‘Openness to change’ values, described as a part of 'healthy value system', facilitate successful adaptation of Chinese students in both Russia and Finland, with no interaction between values factor and country or HDI factor. This means, that while adapting in host countries (Finland and Russia), international students experience successful transformation of lifestyle and are more satisfied with their lives, if they have previously possessed or accepted while adapting values’ patterns of ‘openness to change’. This confirms the concept of ‘healthy values’ and contradicts, at least partly, with the theory of ‘cultural fit’. The results of this research can help to predict successful adaptation of international students to host culture of accepting university. It can be used for identifying whether the changes to educational system are necessary for better attracting and engaging international students. It can also help to address the needs of diverse student population by initiating specific programs of psychological and coaching support of cross-cultural adaptation aimed for accomplishing the expected levels of educational capacity and life satisfaction of sojourners. It is useful for evaluating whether the improvements of academic and psycho-social support services for international students are required. Furthermore, our results can assist individuals by supporting life decisions related to their choice of host country, university and educational program, as well as they can be used by educational professionals while designing and delivering effective orientation and coaching programs for successful cross-cultural adaptation of international students and exchange programs’ participants.

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