A study of adjustment problems of Turkish students studying in dual diploma engineering programs in the U.S.A.: The effects of English language, education differences and academic program structure
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The concept of "dual diploma program" is one of the current trends in international education, and the dual diploma partnership between the State University of New York System and Turkish universities is the pioneer of this concept. The purpose of this study was to determine the level and types of adjustment problems experienced by Turkish dual diploma students studying in the United States with respect to variables such as English-related difficulties, perceived and measured language proficiency, satisfaction with the program, year in the program, geographical region of origin in Turkey, gender, and major. It was hoped that the study would contribute to the current body of knowledge by increasing the understanding of adjustment problems faced by international dual diploma students in the United States. This study is one of the first studies which specifically focus on the adjustment problems of dual diploma students. Therefore, it is hoped that the study would make a significant contribution to the literature because dual diploma programs are quite new to American and Turkish institutions of higher education and there is a lot to be discovered about these programs. The study involved both quantitative and qualitative means of data collection and analyses. The participants of the study were a group of undergraduate Turkish students studying in the Environmental Engineering and Civil Engineering dual diploma programs at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. The data for the study came from two sources: an anonymous survey and individual and focus group interviews. Fifty-three participants responded to the anonymous survey. Eighteen students participated in the interviews. The results of the study indicated that (a) Turkish students studying in dual diploma engineering programs in the U.S.A. experience a moderate level of adjustment problems in their new academic and social environments; (b) differences related to academic cultures and preferences of two participating universities of the dual diploma programs are among the most important factors which affect the dual diploma students' adjustment problems; (c) English proficiency is another very important factor which has a considerable effect on the dual diploma students' adjustment; writing appears to be the most problematic language skill in academic settings, students also have some difficulties with listening and speaking in social settings; (d) the unique design of the dual diploma programs (spending first and third years in Turkey and second and forth years in the United States) causes some problems as the students are required to go back and forth between the United States and Turkey throughout their college lives; (e) differences between the Turkish and American cultures have some important effects on the dual diploma students' adjustment problems, especially in academic environments; (f) some students spend most of their time in the United States in a small group of dual diploma students, which leads to speaking relatively no English and establishing limited social relationships with American students and other international students; and (g) pre-departure orientation provided to the students in Turkey is not comprehensive enough in terms of preparing them for the challenges of the new social and academic settings they are about to enter, arrival orientation sessions provided to the students in the United States is very comprehensive and beneficial; however, many students do not attend those sessions. Suggestions for current and future dual diploma program designers, administrators, professors, and students are provided, and implications for further research are discussed in the light of the findings of the study. Although the focus of this study was to investigate the adjustment problems of the dual diploma students studying at U.S. universities, many of its findings may also apply to the general international student population studying in U.S. institutions of higher education.