This case is about Jun, an international student from China, who came to Australia with the aim of completing a course in International Trade. Although he was excited to be in Australia at first, he now misses his home very much. His studies have not been particularly successful, and at the end of his first semester he failed his fourth subject. Everything feels difficult and although he knows his parents want him to complete his studies in Australia, he is considering quitting and going back home. In this case study report, the cause of Jun’s difficulties will be identified and analysed. Then three possible solutions and an evaluation of these will be presented. Finally, a recommendation will be made about the best solution for Jun.
Problem identification and analysis
An analysis of the case reveals that Jun’s symptoms can be attributed to culture shock. Culture shock is a phenomenon that can affect any traveller to a new or foreign country or cultural environment (Samson 2006, p. 4), and is defined as ‘a psychological reaction to the unknown rules and cultural mores of a new social environment’ (Hopp 2002, p.15). Jun’s homesickness, lack of energy and failed assignments all seem to point towards this phenomenon.
Jun’s symptoms can be divided into two types. According to Hopp (2002, p. 15) culture shock can manifest itself in mental as well as physiological symptoms. In relation to Jun it can be said that his feelings of frustration and annoyance toward the public transport system and shop opening hours is evidence of mental symptoms. Brick (1991, p. 15) states that feelings of irritation and negativity towards locals is a reaction to the difficulties of dealing with a new environment. Jun’s falling energy levels, on the other hand, can be seen as evidence of physiological symptoms. Symptoms such as ‘headaches, stomach-aches, diarrhoea, fatigue, problems with sleep and general feelings of discomfort’, (Brick 1991, p.15) are all common physical culture shock symptoms.
Jun’s difficulties seem to stem not only from dealing with the everyday life of a new culture, but also the new academic culture. According to Samson (2006, p.5), a different academic culture can be challenging for overseas students. In regards to Australia’s and China’ s educational systems, Zhang (2004, p.12), states that there are several key differences. Whereas in Australia, students are expected to engage in a more independent style of learning, where critical thinking and independent analysis are valued, in many Asian cultures, material is presented mainly for rote learning (Zhang 2004, p. 19). This difference could help to explain why Jun had trouble with his assignments, which required a lot of independent research. Furthermore, in Australia lecturers expect students to take responsibility for their own learning and ask questions if they do not understand something. In contrast, Zhang (2004, p.19) states that in many Asian cultures it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that students learn and understand. Hence, this could explain why Jun was hesitant in approaching his lecturer about his failed assignments.
Possible solutions and evaluation
One solution is that Jun could continue as he has been doing and hope that the situation will improve. An advantage of this is that he would not have to expend energy in changing his routine. It is likely that he is in the second stage of culture shock, referred to by Brick (1991, p. 16) as the “depression” stage, and he does not realise that the next stage, “adjustment”, could occur quite soon. Thus, if he does nothing, there is a good chance things will improve. However, it is also possible that the “adjustment stage” does not happen for some time, as according to Brick (1991, p.11), the time it takes different people to go through the various stages of culture shock can vary. Thus, if Jun does not proceed to the adjustment stage soon, his health and mental state may