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Judy and students

En-yi and local students in Singapore

Judys residence

Residences at the National University of Singapore

En-yi Lin

Victoria University of wellington

En-yi is working towards a PhD in Psychology. Her thesis will examine the effects of cross-cultural transitions on Chinese migrants and soujourners by comparing the phenomenon of "identity conflict" among Chinese students in New Zealand and Singapore. She spent a month in Singapore in May-June 2004 to conduct a survey among secondary and tertiary students from Mainland China, and was attached to the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore during that time.

The Cross-cultural Experience of Chinese Sojourners

Fieldwork in Singapore, May - June 2004

I am comparing and analysing the cross-cultural experience of Chinese adolescent immigrants and sojourners in two culturally different host societies – New Zealand (a predominantly European bicultural society) and Singapore (a predominantly Chinese multicultural society). Emphasis is placed on the construction of a predictive model of identity conflict with reference to two groups of variables. The first group consists of family-related variables, such as: level of family cohesion, satisfaction of parent-child relationship, effect of studying abroad on family relationship, and attitude towards filial piety. The second group consists of intergroup variables, such as: quantity and quality of contact with host and co-nationals, perceived differences between host and home country, perceived permeability of intergroup boundaries, and perceived discrimination. In addition to the above-mentioned predictor variables, two outcome variables of identity conflict are also examined They are: (1) level of psychological adjustment and (2) level of socio-cultural adaptation.

During my one month stay in Singapore (from mid-May to mid-June 2004), I distributed two hundred and eighty-five surveys to students from People’s Republic of China who were, at the time, studying at the National University of Singapore or Nanyang Technology University. The survey consisted of five self-descriptive sections which measured (a) intrapersonal variables, (b) family-related variables, (c) intergroup variables, (e) identity conflict, and (f) socio-cultural and psychological adaptations. A covering letter describing the objectives of the study and its possible application was also provided.

Of the 280 questionnaires that I distributed, 270 were completed and returned to me. I also approached students in university canteens, libraries, students’ common areas, and student dormitories. Some were contacted through informal networks such as friends, flatmates, and other students. When giving out the questionnaire, a second meeting was arranged for questionnaire collection. When this was not possible, self-addressed pre-paid envelopes were given for the student to return their completed questionnaire.

Most of the students I approached were very keen to take part in the study and were willing to share their experiences of studying in Singapore. During my stay, I made friends with a number of students and they introduced me to the local cuisines and attractions. More importantly, this trip helped me to understand more fully about the experiences of Chinese students studying overseas and the level of identity conflict experienced by those adolescents. Compared to Chinese students in New Zealand, Chinese students in Singapore experienced much less identity conflict, less difficulties in performing day-to-day activities, were less depressed, and experienced lower level of discrimination. Also, the results of my findings suggest that regardless of which host societies they are in, the level of perceived discrimination, level of ethnic identification, sense of cultural continuity in the host society, level of changes to one’s family, and level of permeability of intercultural boundaries all highly predicted the level of identity conflict Chinese students experienced in their host society. Furthermore, the results suggest that individuals who experienced greater identity conflict tend to experience more difficulties in performing everyday activities in their host society and have higher level of depression. In other words, individuals who experience higher identity conflict were more poorly adjusted.

On the whole, my fieldwork in Singapore contributed significantly towards my overall doctoral research project (which is to be completed towards the end of this year). Without the grant from Asia:NZ – NZASIA, I would probably be restricted to surveying Chinese students in New Zealand and unable to make cross-cultural comparisons. I am very grateful for the grant awarded to me and deeply appreciate the support.