Intercultural Relations

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This is the author’s version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source: Smith, Rachel & Khawaja, Nigar (2011) A review of the acculturation experiences of international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35 (6), pp. 699-713.

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c Copyright 2011 Elsevier
NOTICE: This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in International Journal of Intercultural Relations. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Volume 35, Issue 6, November 2011, Pages 699–713, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.08.004

Notice: Changes introduced as a result of publishing processes such as copy-editing and formatting may not be reflected in this document. For a definitive version of this work, please refer to the published source:


A Review of the Acculturation Experiences of International Students Rachel A. Smith and Nigar G. Khawaja
School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology.

Author Note
This research was submitted by Rachel A. Smith (email: and Nigar G. Khawaja, School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Nigar Gohar Khawaja, Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology & Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Level 5, O Block, B Wing, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, 4059, Australia. Fax: 61 7 3864 4660. Phone: 61 7 3138 4540. Email:


Universities in Western countries host a substantial number of international students. These students bring a range of benefits to the host country and in return the students gain higher education. However, the choice to study overseas in Western countries may present many challenges for the international student including the experience of acculturative stress and difficulties with adjustment to the environment of the host country. The present paper provides a review of current acculturation models as applied to international students. Given that these models have typically been empirically tested on migrant and refugee populations only, the review aims to determine the extent to which these models characterise the acculturation experience of international students. Literature pertaining to salient variables from acculturation models was explored including acculturative stressors encountered frequently by international students (e.g., language barriers, educational difficulties, loneliness, discrimination, and practical problems associated with changing environments). Further discussed was the subsequent impact of social support and coping strategies on acculturative stress experienced by international students, and the psychological and sociocultural adaptation of this student group. This review found that the international student literature provides support for some aspects of the acculturation models discussed, however, further investigation of these models is needed to determine their accuracy in describing the acculturation of international students. Additionally, prominent acculturation models portray the host society as an important factor influencing international students’ acculturation, which suggests the need for future intervention. Keywords: Acculturation models; International student; Coping


1. Introduction
In 2008, there were more than 3.3 million tertiary international students worldwide (see OECD, 2010). Over half of all tertiary...
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