Jeanne E. Manes, William E. Sedlacek & Frederick T.L. Leong


Research Report 10-84


This report was done in cooperation with the Office of International Student Services, UMCP, Valerie Woolston, Director.


Computer time for this research was furnished by the Computer Science Center, University of Mayland College Park.








Joanne E. Manese, William E. Sedlacek and Frederick T.L. Leong,


Research Report 10-84




Ninety-six incoming international undergraduate students attending a required fall orientation at the university  of Maryland, College Park, completed a questionnaire on their background, perceptions and needs. Results indicated that females expected to have a harder time than most students at the University and they were more easily discouraged than were males while males were more likely to see themselves as leaders than were females. Males also viewed themselves as acting more strongly on things they believed in than did females. Females expressed a greater need to talk to a counselor for career planning, and indicated greater needs for improving note taking and classroom speaking than males did.

            Implications of the results for program planning and research concerning international students are discussed.

International Undergraduate



Research interest in international students has been increasingly evident among faculty, administrator, and student personnel professionals. This greater attention probably can be linked to the dramatically growing numbers of international students on American college campuses. According to the annual census by the Institute of International Education (IIE), more than 325,000 persons holding foreign student visas were enrolled in U.S. post-secondary institutions in the academic year 1981-82 (Boyan, Julian, & Rew, 1982). It has been projected that by the end of the century there may be more than one million international students in the United States (Goodwin & Nacht, 1983).

            Much of the research has investigated international students in general, has been descriptive, and has focused on their problems in areas such as academic performance, adjustment to the U.S., and non-return to the home country (Lee, Abd-Ella & Burks, 1981; Perkins, Perkins Guglieimine, & Reiff, 1977). According to the literature, top ranking problems commonly cited include lack of English proficiency, inadequate financial resources, social life adjustment, problems in daily, living and loneliness/home sickness (Lee, et. al, 1981).

            However, while the studies conducted on international students' problems have undoubtedly provided important information, several research short-comings have been cited. Lee et al. (1981), in their comprehensive review of the literature and research, suggested that research can the needs and perceptions of international students was lacking. Furthermore, the results of their research suggested the importance of investigating subgroups, e.g. by sex, class standing, regional origin, etc. within the diverse international student population. Perkins et al. (1977) asserted there was a need for more sophisticated statistical analysis in research concerning international

International undergraduate



students. While these authors agreed that descriptive studies using percentages were helpful, they pointed out that the use of percentages alone could result in misleading conclusions when comparisons were made between groups.

            Published studies on sex differences among international students are very limited and show mixed results. Porter (cited in Lee et al., 1981) found that females reported having more problem than males, but Collins (cited in Lee et al., 1981) found just the opposite. Sex was not shown to be relevant in predicting attitudes about seeking professional psychological help (Dadfar & Freidlander, 1982), and Lather (cited in Lee et al,. 1981), found no sex differences in perceptions of educational experiences Lee et al. (1981 ), found that female international students attached a greater importance to needs regarding academic planning, facilitating coursework, goals beyond the degree, and anticipated post-return needs for material rewards (i.e., jobs, salaries and housing upon returning home).

            The purpose of the present study was to explore differences in needs and perceptions between  male and female undergraduate international students.


            All incoming undergraduate international  students (N=96; 52% male, 48% female) attending a required fall orientation completed a written questionnaire. The sample included Kudrnn from South East Asia (54%), the Middle East (20%), Europe (10%), Latin America (5%), Africa (4%), and other (6%). In order to investigate sex differences, 43 items related to perceptions and 25 items related to career and academic needs were analyzed using multivariate analysis (MANOVA) at the .05 level of significance.

Undergraduate International




            Sex differences were found on several items related to self perceptions and career and academic needs. Table 1 summarizes the significant results of the MANOVA and gives items, means and standard deviations for both groups.

            In terms of self perceptions, females compared to males, expected to have a harder time adjusting, to the University of Maryland, College Park, indicated they were more easily discouraged when things did not work out, saw themselves less likely to act on strong beliefs, and were less likely to feel they are viewed as leaders. No significant sex differences were found on items related to perceptions of the University, perceptions of family and friends, and perceptions of sex roles. Both male and female international undergraduates had a generally positive view of the University, and both groups felt they received support from family and friends for being at school and adjusting to the University. Results further suggested that the international  undergraduate males and females hold similar views regarding sex roles; views which appeared to be neither obviously conservative or liberal positions.

            The results indicated a career need difference between males and females. Females indicated a greater need to talk to a counselor about career plans than did males. No other significant differences were found in the items assessing needs for career exploration, work experience self-exploration, or job seeking skills, although both groups indicated moderate needs in these areas.

            Significant differences were found in two academic needs items. Females, expressed a greater need to become more comfortable in speaking up in class and taking better class notes than did males. Males and females were similar in expressing moderate needs in the areas of general study skills, writing skills, and academic advising. Additionally, no significant sex differences were found


undergraduate students

5 .

on needs concerning test anxiety, library use, math skills and math anxiety, and school activities with both males and females indicating weak needs in these areas.


            The  results of this study indicate there are differences in perceptions and needs of male and female international undergraduate students. Looking first at perceptions, differences were found in the way female and male international students see themselves. Overall, results suggest that females as a group question their self-efficacy, while males do not. While a possible explanation for female international undergraduates expecting to have a harder time at school, being morn easily discouraged not acting on beliefs, and not seeing themselves viewed as leaders might be attributed to lack of self confidence, it is also possible that these perceptions stem from a realistic assessment of the fit between the university environment and females. That is, it may well be that the university setting is not "naturally” geared to provide conditions in which female international students can feel efficacions.

            As Story (1982) points out, values such as autonomy and self-assertiveness inherent in the theories of college student development may be in conflict with the values of certain international students. Thus, while the academic community may be pushing the international student in a way considered facilitative of growth, the female student may feel as though she is having to swim upstream against a current of opposing values, new ideas, and differing goals. And the farther the student is from holding the values of till mainstream the harder the swim; which may he the cast for tile female international under­graduate.

International Undergraduate



            The finding that male international undergraduates did not evidence the same perceptions of more limited self-efficacy on the university campus suggests that, in some areas, sex may be a more powerful influencing variable than being a "foreign" student It has been pointed out in the literature on U.S. students that females show less self-efficacy and self-assertion than males, and the present study suggests that the socialization process based on sex may be world-wide. One implication from these findings in that it may be useful to consider research and programming which includes both female students from the United States and female international undergraduates.

            The sex differences in needs which were found supported the findings of Lee, et. al. (1981), who found that females expressed a higher level of needs. Considering the differences found in self  perceptions, this difference in needs it not surprising. One would expect, and perhaps even hope , that the person expecting to have a harder time in school would also express a greater number of needs.

            Overall, the findings suggest that while all international undergraduate indicated a need for assistance in some areas of study skills and in career development, females were particularly interested in career counseling. However, as noted by Sue & Sue (1977), international students tend to be reluctant to initiate a counseling relationship. This may be particularly critical to meeting the needs of international undergraduate as counseling centers are often the major vehicle for study ski skills and career services. Therefore, as previously suggested (Manese, Leong  & Sedlacek , (1985), an introduction to counseling services   and continual staff outreach may be particularly important for international students. Prime ways for reaching International students could be at their initial orienta-

International undergraduate



tion to school, through groups and organizations in which they may be involved, or through the student center(s) in which international students congregate most frequently.

            The greater interest in career counseling expressed by female inter­national students is compatible with several  trends noted in the literature on female students in general. Mason-Sowell and Sedlacek (1984) found an increase in vocational orientation of female freshmen over thirteen years, but no corresponding increase for male freshmen.

            Boulle’- Lauria, Sedlacek and Waldo (1985) have shown that more women are entering college with majors which are nontraditional for women, and they are persisting in those major. However, Martinez, Sedlacek and Bachhuber (1984) report that about three-quarters of women baccalaureate level graduates are still finding employment in traditional areas, and these same female graduates express more interest in post-graduation career counsel counseling than do males.

            The picture that presents itself is one of change in orientation, but some confusion, and possibly thwarted ambitions among women in college these days. Female international students are likely caught up in this process, which is further exacerbated by their being from another country.

            In conclusion, a few points are highlighted. First, although international students in general share some commonalities, there appear to be differences among subgroups of these students. Thus, investigating international students more specifically, taking into account other variables such as sex and standing (undergraduate vs. graduate) is important for a more complete knowledge and

International undergraduate



understanding of these students. Second, if those concerned with student development are to be effective when working with international students, it appears necessary to keep well informed of the research findings and literature concerning international students, and to modify and develop approaches and programs for working with this diverse group of students. Thus we need to know a great deal more about international students; and further research, particularly that which explores subgroup differences among international students, should prove useful.

International undergraduate





Boulee'-Lauria E., Sedlacek, W.E. & Waldo, M. (1985). A longitudinal comparison of students' traditional and nontraditional career choice by sex., Collie and University, 60, 253- 56.


Boyan, D.R., Julian, A.C., & Rew, J. (Eds.) (1982). Own, doors: 1981-82, New York: Institute of International Education.


Dadfar, S. & Friedlander, M.L. (1982). Differential attitudes of international students toward seeking professional psychological help. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 29, 335-338.


Goodwin, C.D. & Nacht, M. (1983), Absence of decision (Research Report # 1). New York: Institute of International Education.


Lee, M.Y., Abd-Ella, M., & Burke, L. (1981). Needs of foreign students from developing nations at U.S. colleges and universities. Washington, D.C.: National Association for Foreign Student Affairs.


Maneso, J.E., Leong, F.T.L. & Sedlacek, W.E. (1985). Background, attitudes and needs of undergraduate international students The College Student Affairs Journal, VI, # 1 , 19-28.


Martinez, A.C., Sedlacek, W.E. & Bachhuber T.D. (1084). Male and female college= graduates: Seven months later. Counseling Center Research Report # 6-84. College Park, Maryland: University of Maryland.


Mason-Sowell., M. and Sedlacek, W.E. (1984). Change: in campus subcultures by sex over 13 years. College and University, 60, # 1 , 63-67.


Perkins, C.S., Perkins, M.L., Guglieimino, L.M., & Reiff, R.F. (1977). A comparison of the adjustment problems of three international student groups. Journal of College Student Personnel 18, 382-388.


International undergraduate






Story, K.E. (1982). The student development profession and the foreign student: A conflict of values? Journal of College Student Personnel, 23, 66-70.


Sue, D.W. & Sue, D. (1977). Barriers to effective cross-cultural counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 24, 420-429.



International undergraduate





Table 1: Differences* between Female and Male Undergraduate International Students









1. I get discouraged easily when I try to do something and it doesn't work out.





2. In a group where I am comfortable, often I am looked to as a leader.





3. I expect to have a harder time than most students at UMCP.





4. When I believe strongly in something, I act on it.





5. I need to talk to a counselor about my career plans.





6. I need to become more comfortable in speaking up in class.





7. I need to take better notes in class.







* Significant at .05 , using MANOVA


** For items 1 to 4: 1 = Strongly agree, 5 = Strongly disagree;

     for items 5-7: 1 = No need, 4 = Strong need.