A recent study by the University of Buffalo concludes that self-esteem is a key factor that helps undergraduate international students socialize with their domestic counterparts.

“Self-esteem affords confidence, so people higher in self-esteem have more belief in themselves and their abilities, and that is particularly helpful when trying to initiate contact with people from the host culture,” said Wendy Quinton, study author and clinical associate professor of psychology at UB’s College of Arts and Sciences, in a press release.

In the study, the researchers identified self-esteem as a factor that contributes to socialization with specific groups. The results demonstrated the need to examine individual differences to better understand how international students adapt to their stay abroad. 

Self-esteem could be used as a coping mechanism for them when they interact with domestic students, the study noted. Quinton also identified university identity and perceived discrimination as factors affecting socialization with domestic students.

Although not as much as self-esteem, a stronger university identity – or the extent to which students feel connected to their campus community – was associated with increased socialization among both groups of students. On the other hand, perceived discrimination, the feeling of being a target of prejudice, appeared to have no connection with socialization. 

These predictors of socialization set the difference between Quinton’s new study from previous research. Past studies also failed to explore the differences between the two groups, something that Quinton was able to control in order to study the socialization with one group using the other.


The study focused on East and Southeast Asian students, the largest international demographic attending American universities. She also selected them because of the wide cultural gap, with Western students following a more individualistic culture as opposed to the collectivistic culture in Asia.

Socialization is one of the main struggles that international students face when studying abroad, but universities can play a part in alleviating it. Quinton suggested activities and programs that can create shared experiences between foreign and domestic students, warning that both groups of students could massively miss out on important interactions.

According to her, it’s not just international students who suffer a loss from the missed interactions – domestic student populations are also “losing out” and getting deprived of the benefits of entering a global community and interacting with people from different backgrounds. 

The findings were published in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations


Other current research studies on international education also explore the relationship of foreign students with their domestic counterparts and new environments amid their growing numbers and diversifying campuses worldwide. In Canada alone, there were more than 572,000 foreign students in 2018. Groups like the Chinese and Indians are driving much of the growth, with Bangladesh, Colombia, Vietnam, and Iran as other leading growth markets. 

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