Facilitating Recovery through Building an Interconnected Community: From Awareness to Action


  • Kyunghee Ma University of South Carolina


Asian international students, mental health, cross-cultural adjustment, community building


This essay describes stress that many Asian international students experience during their adjustment to United States (U.S.) universities. Reflecting on personal experiences that contributed to deeper self-understanding, the author explains cultural incompatibilities that cause this stress, the negative impact that the stress has on mental health, and the lack of support systems that exacerbate mental health complications. In highlighting the prioritization of the mental health in Asian international students and initiating community outreach programs, the author demonstrates that when Asian international students participate in creating an interconnected community, they have the potential to thrive despite the stressful adjustment period.

Author Biography

Kyunghee Ma, University of South Carolina

Kyunghee Ma, PhD, is an independent researcher and community mental health advocate. Her research interests lie in the area of mental health, multiculturalism, and spirituality in higher education. Email: kyunghee@email.sc.edu


Bedford, O., & Hwang, K.-K. (2003). Guilt and shame in Chinese culture: A cross-cultural framework from the perspective of morality and identity. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 33(2), 127–144. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5914.00210

Berry, J. W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29, 697–712. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2005.07.013

Berry, J. W., Kim, U., Minde, T., & Mok, D. (1987). Comparative study of acculturative stress. The International Migration Review, 21(3), 491–511. https://doi.org/10.1177/019791838702100303

Brown, R. (2012). The power of vulnerability: Teachings on authenticity, connection, and courage. Sounds True.

Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Turtleback Books.

Covarrubias, R., Valle, I., Laiduc, G., & Azmitia, M. (2019). “You never become fully independent”: Family roles and independence in first-generation college students. Journal of Adolescent Research, 34(4), 381–410. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558418788402

Davis, T. M. (1997). Open doors 1995–1996: Report on international educational exchange. Institute of International Education.

Fryberg, S. A., Covarrubias, R., & Burack, J. A. (2013). Cultural models of education and academic performance for Native American and European American students. School Psychology International, 34(4), 439–452. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034312446892

Gudykunst, W. B. (2005). An anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory of strangers’ intercultural adjustment. In W. B. Gudykunst (Ed.), Theorizing about intercultural communication (pp. 419–457). Sage Publications.

Institute of International Education. (2020). International student and U.S. higher education enrollment, 1948/49–2019/20. https://opendoorsdata.org/data/international-students/enrollment-trends/

Kim, M. T. (2002). Measuring depression in Korean Americans: Development of the Kim Depression Scale for Korean Americans. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 13(2), 109–117. https:// 10.1177/104365960201300203

Kim, Y. (2012). Beyond cultural categories: Communication, adaptation and transformation. In J. Jackson (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of language and intercultural communication (pp. 229–243). Routledge.

Kim, Y. S., & Kim, Y. Y. (2016). Ethnic proximity and cross-cultural adaptation: A study of Asian and European students in the United States. Intercultural Communication Studies, XXV(3), 61–80.

Ma, K., Pitner, R., Sakamoto, I., & Park, H. Y. (2020). Challenges in acculturation among international students from Asian collectivist cultures. Higher Education Studies, 10(3), 34–43. https://doi.org/10.5539/hes.v10n3p34

Robinson, O., Somerville, K., & Walsworth, S. (2020). Understanding friendship formation between international and host-national students in a Canadian university. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 13(1), 49––70. https://doi.org/10.1080/17513057.2019.1609067

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271

Thelin, J. R. (2011). A history of American higher education. Johns Hopkins.

Triandis, H. C. (1995). Individualism & collectivism. Westview Press.

Voronov, M., & Singer, J. A. (2002). The myth of individualism-collectivism: A critical review. The Journal of Social Psychology, 142(4), 461–480. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224540209603912

Yamamoto, Y., & Li, J. (2012). Quiet in the eye of the beholder: Teacher perceptions of Asian immigrant children. In C. Garcia Coll (Ed.), The impact of immigration on children’s development (pp. 1–16). Karger.



How to Cite

Ma, K. (2021). Facilitating Recovery through Building an Interconnected Community: From Awareness to Action. Journal of International Students, 11(4). Retrieved from https://ojed.org/index.php/jis/article/view/3303



Cross-Border Narratives