Supporting the unique needs of international transfer students
O'Connor, Jane Christine
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Transfer students face many challenges when transitioning from one institution to another. International transfer students face additional difficulties. The purpose of this action research (AR) study was to explore and deeply understand the difficulties and unique adjustments faced by transfer students, academically, socially, emotionally, and administratively/practically, as they transition to College T from their old institution and implement interventions to smooth this transition. In particular, the experiences of international transfer students, coming from institutions both within and from outside the United States, who speak English as a second language, were examined. This was done through the lenses of Bridges’ (1980, 1991) and Schlossberg’s (1981, 1984, 1989, 1995, 2011) theories of transition as well as Oberg’s (1960) theory of culture shock. Data were gathered over two and a half years from ten international transfer students at three different times during their first year at College T. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with AR team members as well as staff and graduate/undergraduate students working with transfer students. In addition, survey data were gathered from three different groups of transfer students in spring 2016, fall 2016, and fall 2017. The AR team followed two cycles of AR, which involved assessing the situation, planning action, taking action, and evaluating action (Coghlan & Brannick, 2014). The findings from this study affirm much of the literature related to the challenges of transfer students - that they do experience academic, social, emotional and administrative/practical struggles. In addition, international transfer students have additional challenges stemming from language proficiency, cultural knowledge and culture shock. The major findings drawn from the study were: (1) issues related to language and culture make the transfer and integration experience of international transfer students uniquely challenging; (2) institutions need to be open to making necessary structural changes to provide ongoing, sustained support for transfer students, especially international transfer students, to help them become an integral part of the college community and successful students and Alumni. Implications for future research and practice are offered.