The increasing numbers of Chinese learners studying at American universities and the high mobility across borders have recently challenged prevailing stereotypes of Asians in education. While studies of Chinese students are abundant, there has been scant research on how intercultural learning unfolds in these students’ adjustment to both academic and social settings. To address this research gap, I center my case study around six of my former students from China and examine their progress at different U.S. institutions. Data from their journals were coded and analyzed qualitatively. In tracing my participants’ first semester trajectory and their strategies to adapt to the new environments, I draw on critical approaches to the established models of ICC (Byram, 1997; Deardorff, 2006; Dervin, 2016). Through investigating my students’ previous exposure to Western education and its role in their adjustment, their intercultural encounters in the U.S., and the learning that emerges from such encounters, this project offers insights into how previous linguistic and educational experiences can be mobilized and optimized to enhance intercultural learning and what frictions can occur in the process of adaptation. I also delineate characteristics of a new type of students from China, namely individuals who move fluidly between cultures in hybridized ways. I conclude by providing pedagogical implications for language educators who work with multicultural learners.


intercultural learning, Chinese students abroad, intercultural encounters, ESL, inductive case study

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Karolina Achirri earned her doctorate degree in Second Language Studies from Michigan State University, where she also taught future TESOL and K-12 teaching courses on Pedagogical Grammar, Teaching Methods and Second Language Learning. Dr. Achirri advocates for international students in the United States. Her research focuses on intercultural communication in ESL settings, pedagogy of kindness, teacher and student identities, and translanguaging. She is currently working as an assistant professor of ESL at Divine Word College, IA, USA. Please direct correspondence to karolinaachirri@gmail.com.

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