Psychological Adaptation of International Students in the Northern Part of Cyprus

  • Ariel Ladum Walden University
  • Gary J. Burkholder Walden University
Keywords: International students, psychological adaptation, social support, cultural distance, acculturative stress


This study examined how cultural distance, acculturative stress, and social support interacted to influence emotional responses among international students studying in the northern part of Cyprus. Acculturation models and the stress-buffering hypothesis served as theoretical frameworks. The research questions involved understanding whether international students experienced more negative emotional responses compared to students from the home culture and whether social support moderated acculturative stress and reactions to being in the northern part of Cyprus. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) examined differences in emotional reactions between home and international students while hierarchical multiple regression was used to examine the moderation hypotheses. ANOVA results indicated that Turkish-Cypriots had more positive emotional responses than international students to being in the host culture. Results did not support social support as a moderator for either international students’ acculturative stress or their emotional reactions. However, results suggested that unmet expectations, less financial satisfaction, and less social support predicted acculturative stress, while being in a relationship, higher Turkish proficiency, unmet expectations, and higher acculturative stress predicted more negative emotional responses. These results may help universities design programs to support psychological adaptation among international students, which could ultimately facilitate student retention.


Baba, Y., & Hosoda, M. (2014). Home away home: Better understanding of the role of social support in predicting cross-cultural adjustment among international students. College Student Journal, 48(1), 1–15.
Babiker, I. E., Cox, J. L., & Miller, P. M. (1980). The measurement of cultural distance and its relationship to medical consultations, symptomatology and examination performance of overseas students at Edinburgh University. Social Psychiatry, 15(3), 109–116.
Berry, J. W., Kim, U., Minde, T., & Mok, D. (1987). Comparative studies of acculturative stress. International Migration Review, 21(3), 491.
Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigration, acculturation, and adaptation. Applied Psychology, 46(1), 5–34.
Berry, J. W., Phinney, J. S., Sam, D. L., & Vedder, P. (2006). Immigrant youth: Acculturation, identity, and adaptation. Applied Psychology, 55(3), 303–332.
Bierwiaczonek, K., & Waldzus, S. (2016). Socio-cultural factors as antecedents of cross-cultural adaptation in expatriates, international students, and migrants: A review. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 47(6), 767–817.
Bodycott, P. (2015). Intragroup conflict during study abroad. Journal of International Students, 5(3), 16.
Briones, E., Verkuyten, M., Cosano, J., & Tabernero, C. (2012). Psychological adaptation of Moroccan and Ecuadorean immigrant adolescents in Spain. International Journal of Psychology, 47(1), 28–38.
Cetinkaya-Yildiz, E., Cakir, S. G., & Kondakci, Y. (2011). Psychological distress among international students in Turkey. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(5), 534–539.
Chapdelaine, R. F., & Alexitch, L. R. (2004). Social skills difficulty: Model of culture shock for international graduate students. Journal of College Student Development, 45(2), 167–184.
Chirkov, V. I., Safdar, S., de Guzman, J., & Playford, K. (2008). Further examining the role motivation to study abroad plays in the adaptation of international students in Canada. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32(5), 427–440.
Church, A. T. (1982). Sojourner adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 91(3), 540–572.
Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 310–357.
Constantine, M. G., Anderson, G. M., Berkel, L. A., Caldwell, L. D., & Utsey, S. O. (2005). Examining the cultural adjustment experiences of African international College students: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(1), 57–66.
Demes, K. A., & Geeraert, N. (2014). Measures matter: Scales for adaptation, cultural distance, and acculturation orientation revisited. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(1), 91–109.
Demes, K. A., & Geeraert, N. (2015). The highs and lows of a cultural transition: A longitudinal analysis of sojourner stress and adaptation across 50 countries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(2), 316–337.
Galchenko, I., & van de Vijver, F. J. R. (2007). The role of perceived cultural distance in the acculturation of exchange students in Russia. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 31(2), 181–197.
Geeraert, N., & Demoulin, S. (2013). Acculturative stress or resilience? A longitudinal multilevel analysis of sojourners’ stress and self-esteem. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44(8), 1241–1262.
Hwang, W. C., & Ting, J. Y. (2008). Disaggregating the effects of acculturation and acculturative stress on the mental health of Asian Americans. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14(2), 147–154.
Jung, E., Hecht, M. L., & Wadsworth, B. C. (2007). The role of identity in international students’ psychological well-being in the United States: A model of depression level, identity gaps, discrimination, and acculturation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 31(5), 605–624.
Jurcik, T., Ahmed, R., Yakobov, E., Solopieieva-Jurcikova, I., & Ryder, A. G. (2013). Understanding the role of the ethnic density effect: Issues of acculturation, discrimination and social support. Journal of Community Psychology, 41(6), 662–678.
Khawaja, N. G., & Dempsey, J. (2008). A comparison of international and domestic tertiary students in Australia. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 18(01), 30–46.
Krohne, H. W. (2001). Stress and coping theories. In International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (Vol. 3, pp. 15163–15170). Oxford, England: Elsevier Science.
Kuo, B. C. H., & Roysircar, G. (2006). An exploratory study of cross-cultural adaptation of adolescent Taiwanese unaccompanied sojourners in Canada. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 30(2), 159–183.
Kuo, W. H., & Tsai, Y. M. (1986). Social networking, hardiness and immigrant’s mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 27(2), 133.
Lee, J. S., Koeske, G. F., & Sales, E. (2004). Social support buffering of acculturative stress: A study of mental health symptoms among Korean international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 28(5), 399–414.
Li, J., Wang, Y., & Xiao, F. (2014). East Asian international students and psychological well-being: A systematic review, 4(4), 13.
Maundeni, T. (2001). The role of social networks in the adjustment of African students to British society: Students’ perceptions. Race Ethnicity and Education, 4(3), 253–276.
Maundeni, T., Malinga, T., Kgwatalala, D., & Kasule, I. (2010). Cultural adjustment of international students at an African university. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 20(1), 79–84.
McLachlan, D. A., & Justice, J. (2009). A grounded theory of international student well-being. Journal of Theory Construction & Testing, 13(1), 27–32.
Mertler, C. A., & Reinhart, R. V. (2016). Advanced and multivariate statistical methods: Practical application and interpretation (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Misra, R., Crist, M., & Burant, C. J. (2003). Relationships among life stress, social support, academic stressors, and reactions to stressors of international students in the United States. International Journal of Stress Management, 10(2), 137–157.
OECD. (2018). Education at a glance 2018: OECD indicators. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from
Ong, A. S. J., & Ward, C. (2005). The construction and validation of a social support measure for sojourners: The Index of Sojourner Social Support (ISSS) Scale. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36(6), 637–661.
O’Reilly, A., Ryan, D., & Hickey, T. (2010). The psychological well-being and sociocultural adaptation of short-term international students in Ireland. Journal of College Student Development, 51(5), 584–598.
Pan, J. Y., Wong, D. F. K., Joubert, L., & Chan, C. L. W. (2008). The protective function of meaning of life on life satisfaction among Chinese students in Australia and Hong Kong: A cross-cultural comparative study. Journal of American College Health, 57(2), 221–232.
Park, N., Song, H., & Lee, K. M. (2014). Social networking sites and other media use, acculturation stress, and psychological well-being among East Asian college students in the United States. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 138–146.
Poyrazli, S., Kavanaugh, P. R., Baker, A., & Al-Timimi, N. (2004). Social support and demographic correlates of acculturative stress in international students. Journal of College Counseling, 7(1), 73–82.
Poyrazli, S., & Lopez, M. D. (2007). An exploratory study of perceived discrimination and homesickness: A comparison of international students and American students. The Journal of Psychology, 141(3), 263–280.
Poyrazli, S., Thukral, R. K., & Duru, E. (2010). International students’ race-ethnicity, personality and acculturative stress. International Journal of Psychology and Counselling, 2(2), 25–32.
Prelow, H. M., Mosher, C. E., & Bowman, M. A. (2006). Perceived racial discrimination, social support, and psychological adjustment among African American college students. Journal of Black Psychology, 32(4), 442–454.
Roth, P. L. (1994). Missing data: A conceptual review for applied psychologists. Personnel Psychology, 47(3), 537–560.
Sam, D. L. (2001). Satisfaction with life among international students: An exploratory study. Social Indicators Research, 53(3), 315–337.
Sam, D. L., Tetteh, D. K., & Amponsah, B. (2015). Satisfaction with life and psychological symptoms among international students in Ghana and their correlates. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 49, 156–167.
Schwarzer, R., Jerusalem, M., & Hahn, A. (1994). Unemployment, social support and health complaints: A longitudinal study of stress in East German refugees. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 4(1), 31–45.
Searle, W., & Ward, C. (1990). The prediction of psychological and sociocultural adjustment during cross-cultural transitions. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14(4), 449–464.
Sherry, M., Thomas, P., & Chui, W. H. (2010). International students: A vulnerable student population. Higher Education, 60(1), 33–46.
Sirin, S. R., Gupta, T., Ryce, P., Katsiaficas, D., Suárez-Orozco, C., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2013). Understanding the role of social support in trajectories of mental health symptoms for immigrant adolescents. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34(5), 199–207.
Smith, R. A., & Khawaja, N. G. (2011). A review of the acculturation experiences of international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(6), 699–713.
Suanet, I., & van de Vijver, F. J. R. (2009). Perceived cultural distance and acculturation among exchange students in Russia. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 19(3), 182–197.
Sullivan, C., & Kashubeck-West, S. (2015). The interplay of international students’ acculturative stress, social support, and acculturation modes, Journal of International Students, 5(1), 1–11.
Sümer, S., Poyrazli, S., & Grahame, K. (2008). Predictors of depression and anxiety among international students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86(4), 429–437.
Szabo, A., Ward, C., & Jose, P. E. (2016). Uprooting stress, coping, and anxiety: A longitudinal study of international students. International Journal of Stress Management, 23(2), 190–208.
Wang, K. T., Heppner, P. P., Fu, C.-C., Zhao, R., Li, F., & Chuang, C.-C. (2012). Profiles of acculturative adjustment patterns among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(3), 424–436.
Wang, Q., & Hannes, K. (2014). Academic and socio-cultural adjustment among Asian international students in the Flemish community of Belgium: A photovoice project. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 39, 66–81.
Ward, C., & Geeraert, N. (2016). Advancing acculturation theory and research: the acculturation process in its ecological context. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, 98–104.
Wu, E. K. Y., & Mak, W. W. S. (2012). Acculturation process and distress: Mediating roles of sociocultural adaptation and acculturative stress. The Counseling Psychologist, 40(1), 66–92.
Yakunina, E. S., Weigold, I. K., Weigold, A., Hercegovac, S., & Elsayed, N. (2013). International students’ personal and multicultural strengths: Reducing acculturative stress and promoting adjustment. Journal of Counseling and Development, 91(2), 216–223.
Yan, K., & Berliner, D. C. (2013). Chinese international students’ personal and sociocultural stressors in the United States. Journal of College Student Development, 54(1), 62–84.
Yang, B., & Clum, G. A. (1994). Life stress, social support, and problem-solving skills predictive of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, and suicide ideation in an Asian student population: A test of a model. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 24(2), 127–139.
Yeh, C. J., & Inose, M. (2003). International students’ reported English fluency, social support satisfaction, and social connectedness as predictors of acculturative stress. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 16(1), 15–28.
Zhang, J., & Goodson, P. (2011). Predictors of international students’ psychosocial adjustment to life in the United States: A systematic review. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(2), 139–162.
Zhang, J., Mandl, H., & Wang, E. (2010). Personality, acculturation, and psychosocial adjustment of Chinese international students in Germany. Psychological Reports, 107(2), 511–525.
Zhang, Y. (2012). An examination of acculturative stress, perceived social support and depression among Chinese international students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from
Zheng, X., & Berry, J. W. (1991). Psychological adaptation of Chinese sojourners in Canada. International Journal of Psychology, 26(4), 451–470.
Zhou, Y., Jindal-Snape, D., Topping, K., & Todman, J. (2008). Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1), 63–75.
How to Cite
Ladum, A., & Burkholder, G. J. (2019). Psychological Adaptation of International Students in the Northern Part of Cyprus. Higher Learning Research Communications, 9(1), 28 - 46.