The present study aimed to address following questions: what are the major difficulties faced by Chinese graduate students at J. F. Oberlin University in their academic adaptation; what might be the possible reasons for the academic difficulties; and how do they cope with the difficulties? A qualitative research strategy, using principles of case study, was utilized for the study. Individual semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 15 Chinese students enrolled at the Graduate School of Business Administration of the university. And data collected during the interviews were analyzed under focus questions and themes identified in the literature review and theoretical framework.
The study found that, in adapting to the new academic environment, the Chinese graduate students at J. F. Oberlin University encountered various difficulties, such as attending classes, writing theses, timely graduation and independent arrangement of learning and research. These academic challenges could mainly be attributed to the students‟ language competencies and their previous educational experiences, financial difficulties, insufficient learning support from the university, as well as gaps between the students‟ academic expectations and that of professors. In coping with the academic difficulties, most of them adopted a three-step strategy: independent hard working; seeking help from friends and approaching professors for help. The first step, independent hard working, was the major approach.
The study also found that such demographic characteristics, as educational level, age and length of residence in Japan, length of stay in the host university and in the graduate program were related to the students‟ academic adaptation.