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Transitioning to a U.S. university: Case studies of Chinese students and an intensive English program

Jill M Fox, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The number of international students studying in the U.S. is increasing (Banks, 2004). Currently more than 30% of international students come from China, and more than 5% are enrolled in a pre-sessional Intensive English Program (IEP). Both subgroups show an upward trend in enrollment, as well (Institute of International Education: Open Doors, 2016). However, much of the research regarding the adjustment of international students focuses on international students as a single population, regardless of home region, and either does not include IEP students, or does not distinguish between them and other direct-entry international students. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of former intensive English program (IEP) Chinese students as they transitioned to a U.S. university program of study. To achieve this objective, the following questions framed this study: How do these Chinese students describe their adjustment to the university? a. Do the participants refer to aspects related to social networks or cultural knowledge in their descriptions of the transition? If so, how? b. Do the participants’ descriptions of the transition process differ from those of other international students? If so, how? For this case study, four participants at a large Midwest university were interviewed and observed, and written documents were analyzed to provide insight into the research questions. The themes that emerged from the data include: (1) participants’ background in English and expectations of the United States; (2) participants’ sociocultural transition experiences; (3) participants’ academic transition experiences; (4) reflections on the IEP; and (5) advice for other international students. The findings from this study have implications for IEP and university recruitment, admissions, instruction, student support, and programming. Based on the findings, the results of this study suggest that the Intensive English Program at UGP offers advantages to students regarding students’ academic and sociocultural transition processes, but improvements can be made to these and other university programs to further enhance students’ experiences during and after their time in the IEP.

Subject Area

English as a Second Language

Recommended Citation

Fox, Jill M, "Transitioning to a U.S. university: Case studies of Chinese students and an intensive English program" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10272997.