The Role of Ethnic Factor in Adaptation of Students in Saint Petersburg

The Role of Ethnic Factor in Adaptation of Students in Saint Petersburg


V.A. Dolgopolov, associate professor, Ph.D.
St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg
L.A. Yasyukova, associate professor, Ph.D.
St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg

Key words: adaptation, foreign students, ethnic factor, cultural differences, personality traits.  

Relevance. The problems of socio-psychological adaptation of young people to university studies began to be developed most intensively in the 90s of the last century. According to researches, the full personal enhancement of a student and his learning activity largely depend on how successful his adaptation to the new social environment, the student community, will be. It turned out that various complications in the adaptation period increase neuropsychiatric loads, impair health, reduce the potential for personal enhancement, inhibit the development of professional abilities. In the emerging new socio-economic situation, such qualities as personal mobility, emotional stability, steadiness, self-confidence and communicability were proved to be of primary importance for the optimization of the process of adaptation [4, 6].

In the last decade something has changed in the area of researches of adaptation of young students. The issues of adaptation of foreign students to learning in Russian universities [3, 5, 7] as well as adaptation of migrant students mostly from the North Caucasus and rural youth to learning at the universities of Central Russia became the objects of research [1, 2]. The reason was the frequent national, ethnic or religious conflicts among young people. The qualities which help young people to make their interaction relatively conflict-free are specified in the above mentioned researches, these are: tolerance, diplomacy, conformity, self-criticism and steadiness. However, there are still not enough researches in this area to make adequate conclusions on the causes of tension and to develop the recommendations on optimizing the process of adaptation of young people in multicultural student environment.

In 2011-12 the study of adaptation of foreign students to learning in St. Petersburg was conducted at the department of physical culture and adaptation of St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in collaboration with the laboratory of social psychology of the department of sociology of St. Petersburg State University.

The purpose of the study was to clarify the nature of the influence of socio-cultural and ethnic differences on the course of adaptation of foreign students to studying in the St. Petersburg technical university. The obtained data are assumed to be used to develop programs aimed at optimizing the process of adaptation of young people to university learning conditions.

Materials and methods. The study involved 136 persons in total (boys - 60,6%, girls - 39,4%). Young people from the south-eastern region of Asia (China, Vietnam, Mongolia, etc.) - 77,7%, from Africa - 13%, from Europe - 9,3%. A questionnaire was designed in which the respondents described their health at the moment of their arrival in St. Petersburg and at the end of the first year. A scale made of five gradations: optimistic, calm, irritated, anxious and depressed, was suggested to assess their own general state. The questionnaire contained questions the answers to which characterize the process of introducing a young man into the student community and into Russian culture in general. The questionnaire also included the Cattell Personality Factors test (Form A), the Fiedler-Yasyukova technique (social intelligence, communication and self-esteem) and the Yasyukova's tests of tolerance and legal consciousness. The questionnaire was in Russian and English languages and the survey was conducted by trained professionals who knew Russian, English and Chinese. It was combined with the pilot study on the influence of sports on the process of adaptation of foreign students to learning in SPbPU. We hypothesized that sports exercises help a young men to improve his energy potential, develop the communicative and leadership skills, assert himself and therefore it is an effective way of adaptation. The survey results were processed using standard statistical software.

Results and discussion. According to the survey, 74% of young people were in good mood when they arrived in Russia and now 81% of young people also feel good. Despite the overall positive trend the changes in the mood of students from different regions are different. The emotional state of the students from Southeast Asia has clearly improved (19% of the students were in anxious and depressed mood - now it’s only 7% of people; 76% of the students were calm and optimistic  - now it’s 88%, and both now and then 5% of people are irritated). The mood of European students changed for the worse. Anxiety and depressed mood were typical for 25% of the students - now it is 75%, calm and optimistic mood was typical for 75% of the students - and now it is 25%). The mood of the students from Africa hasn’t changed. The absolute majority of foreign students feel safe both in the classrooms and in the dorm of SPbPU (90% and 81% respectively). However, only 20% of Europeans and 40% of students from Asia and Africa feel calm and confident in the streets and in public transport.

The ethnic factor affects the social and psychological adaptation. The vast majority of the students from Europe and Africa (80% and 71%) made friends with Russian students, but for young people from Asia this indicator was less than a half (47%). Also, most of the students from Europe and Africa (80% and 71%) are actively involved in youth leisure, they often go to parties and discos. While the young people from the Asian region have more secluded life and 67% of them did not go anywhere at all, except for the dorm. Perhaps this way of life is determined by the typological personality traits which are characteristic for young people from different regions. The comparative analysis according to the Cattell's test showed the following. The Asian students were the most conservative and rigid (Q1¯), conformal, oriented at stable group communication (Q2¯), pragmatic (M¯) and they were not responsible enough (G¯). The young people from Europe were the most independent, apt for leadership (E­), independent-minded, ready for changes (Q1­), characterized by spread of interests (M­), the least conformal (Q2­) and most responsible ones (G­). African students were the most compliant, not tended to lead (E¯), but less conformal and rigid than the Asian students, and on the level of responsibility and the spread of interests they were close to European students. African students were also the most tolerant ones (4,9 versus 3,8 and 4,4 for European and Asian students respectively), they were ready for dialogue with representatives of different cultures and nationalities. The African students had the most developed legal consciousness in everyday life: 6,7 versus 4,4 and 4,8 of the European and Asian students, respectively, i.e. the differences were highly statistically significant. Perhaps, that is what helps the African students to actively participate in student life. The analysis of the results of the Fiedler-Yasyukova test showed that Asian students were the friendliest in the process of interpersonal communication (MPC­), but they were friendly mainly only within their inner circle, i.e. they optimized contacts within their ethnic group. European students were self-critical (CO¯), read people well (ASO¯), but treated them skeptically (MPC¯). African students had inflated self-concept (CO­), most of them were not self-critical and they were friendly with other people.

In general, legal consciousness was more developed among the European students (18,4) due to its significance in business sphere (4,8) and students' civic maturity (6,4) that also increased the possibilities for their individual activity. The European students were the most active in learning Russian culture - 80% of them constantly watched movies and TV in Russian and 20% - did it from time to time. The students from Africa and Asia were less active that may be due to more significant cultural differences. Only 14% of the Africans and 29% of the Asians constantly watched TV and movies in Russian, 71% and 49% - did it occasionally, and 14% and 22% - never. The Europeans more actively integrated into Russian culture. After graduation 60% of the European students and 50% of the Asians wanted to live and work in Russia, but none of the Africans wanted to do that.

Due to the significance of the detected cultural and typological differences in behavior of the students from various regions, the correlation analysis was carried out not only in the total sample, but also separately in three distinguished groups. According to the correlation analysis, the adaptation of the Asian students to learning in St. Petersburg and their emotional well-being depended on their ability to join the group, i.e. on their conformism (Q2¯), but at the same time on their activity, on the lack of conservatism and rigidity (Q1­) that explained the inconsistency and the relative difficulties in adaptation for these students. The success of the adaptation of the African students, in contrast, depended on non-conformism, self-sufficiency (Q2­) and the ability to read people well (ASO¯). The adaptation of the European students was also related to the ability to read people well (ASO¯), social maturity (PG­), responsibility (G­) and self-confidence (P­). Tolerance, steadiness and an adequate self-esteem were the most statistically significant in the total sample and positively related with good emotional state, i.e. the most important qualities for adaptation.

The present pilot study of the influence of sports classes on the process of adaptation of the students showed that their most favorable impact was in optimizing the general state of the students of the Asian region, increasing their cohesion, self-esteem and self-confidence. There was no identified impact of sports classes on the social well-being of the European students.

Conclusions. The study has generally proved that when planning social activities to optimize the adaptation of foreign young people to educational conditions in Russia ethnic identity should be considered that sets specific standards of communication, which can improve or worsen the process of integration of an individual into a different culture.


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