Upshot of peer-programs on International Students

By Radhika Retnam

Peer Programs are conducted for improving student experience on academics, careers, and personal development. They offer a great space and opportunity to build their own skills and experience through training and program implementation. International Students who enroll for higher education make valuable educational and economic contributions. For such benefits to continue without fail, it is necessary that the universities initiate peer-programs that will positively influence the adjustment and academic achievement of international students.

In the article ‘  International students in English-speaking universities’ by Maureen Snow Andrade, the author discusses about issues on student adjustment and its global implications for inter-cultural education.

In a research article ‘International students’ reported English fluency, social support satisfaction, and social connectedness as predictors of acculturative stress’ published by Christine J Yeh & Mayuko Inose , the age, gender, english fluency, social support satisfaction and social connectedness as predictors of acculturative stress  was collected among a sample of 359 international students. Incidentally, the results did indicate that international students from Europe experienced less acculturative stress than their counterparts from Asia, Central/Latin America, and Africa. Since this article did not have much data concerned with peer-programs, more discussion about it is avoided.

In ‘The social and cultural life of non-native English speaking international graduate students at a Canadian university’ by   Johanne Myles, it was found that student experiences are varied and the adaptation process depends on both internal and external factors. These students seemed to have learned about the host culture mostly through a network of students with similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds which happens as a direct impact of peer programs. The research had addressed the social and cultural life of 12 non-native English speaking international graduate students in the aspects such as relationships with supervisors and instructors, experiences as teaching assistants, communication with colleagues and friends and social life.

The research theses ‘Effects of a Peer Program on International Student Adjustment’  submitted by Jin Abe Donna, M. Talbot and Robyn J. Geelhoed explains that Colleges and universities have tried to enhance international students’ adjustment experiences through the implementation of peer programs, that is, the pairing of international and U.S. students for significant interactions.  The research found that the International students who participated in a peer program demonstrated significantly higher academic achievement and lower drop-out rates than did the non-participants. A similar study reported that use of some campus services was significantly higher among inter-national students in a peer program whereas their academic achievement did not differ from non-participants. The data of Newly admitted international graduate and undergraduate students (mostly Asian) who participated in an International Peer Program (IPP) was collected. Of these students, 28 IPP participants’ campus resource use and Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ) scores were compared to those of 32 international students who did not participate in the peer program. Results suggested that the IPP participants showed significantly higher social adjustment scores than the non-participants. Additionally, the research showcased that students from Asian countries had more difficulty adjusting to campus life than international students from non-Asian countries.

‘Peer helping programs in the colleges and universities of Québec and Ontario.’ by Lawson was a discussion on a review of the research associated with peer helping is summarized, and the various roles played by peer helpers at the postsecondary level. The article was a study on peer helping/tutoring/counseling in 19 colleges and universities in Ontario and Quebec. Since the topic is only scarcely related to the impact of peer programs, further details was not looked into.

‘Academic achievement and social adaptation among international students: A comparison groups study of the peer-pairing program’ by Marvin J. Westwood and Michelle Barker was an investigation on the possible relationship of academic achievement, drop-out rates, and aspects of social adjustment among international students who have participated in a peer-pairing program compared to matched samples who did not. The study was conducted over a four-year period in two countries in order to increase level of confidence in the findings. The results revealed that overall achievement rates are higher and drop-out rates lower for those who participated in this matching program of first-year students with host national students.

‘Social support and demographic correlates of acculturative stress in international students’ by Senel Poyrazli, Philip R. Kavanaugh, Adria Baker, and Nada Al-Timimi, examined the way in which English language ability and social support may interact to better predict acculturative stress, and the differential influence ethnicity may exert on students’ levels of acculturative stress. Since the article did not convey much about peer-programs, further detailing was conveniently neglected.

Despite these few articles on the potential positive influence of peer programs, very little research has been published on peer program participation and its relationship to international students’ overall adjustment. Even less information is available on the relationship between peer program participation and changes in host students’ attitudes toward international students and cultures. Although some studies used academic performance or use of campus services as indicators of adjustment, questions remain about the adequacy of these factors in measuring the construct of adjustment.


About The Author

Radhika RatnamRadhika Retnam

Radhika Retnam is currently pursuing Post-graduation in Journalism at the Press club Institute in Trivandrum. She is an active volunteer at MAD ( Make a Difference), an NGO that takes care of the education and overall growth of kids at Shelter homes. She is an occasional creative writer and has published poems in ‘Kavya Bharathi’ (a journal published by The American College, Madras). She has also won the challenge memorial award for poetry in 2012. She is planning to conduct an exhibition of her abstract paintings later this year. She is also a researcher for a project on media studies conducted in collaboration with ICSSR and JNU.