Hugh Downs School doctoral students help Chinese students assimilate to life on campus

Hugh Downs School research assistant Elena Steiner and graduate student Yanqin Liu designed and facilitated a workshop on intercultural conflict for Chinese students, part of the 2018 ASU Chinese Student Conference held at the Memorial Union on February 17, 2018.  

Research Assistant Elena Steiner and graduate student Yanqin Liu

The workshop, "How Do We Handle Intercultural Conflicts?" came about after Steiner and Liu conducted an on-campus needs assessment for ASU's 4,000 Chinese students. The assessment revealed that some students had a hard time handling intercultural conflicts with high power distance, meaning relationships with their professors and supervisors. 

"Power distance focuses on how a society deals with the levels of power inequality between less powerful and more powerful individuals," said Liu.  "People from high-power cultures are more likely to conform to hierarchy, while low-power distance societies tend to distribute power equally. In general, China is considered as having higher power distance than the U.S., so when Chinese students study and live here, they may consider a higher power distance between themselves and their professors, advisors, and even their American peers. What may happen is that when they encounter conflicting situations, they may not know how to speak up for themselves." 

The workshop consisted of a video with role playing from a Chinese student's perspective, a follow-up discussion, and activities to help handle conflicts, including storytelling and a "say no" exercise. 

Students were invited to complete a survey after the workshop to provide feedback. Half of the  participants thought the workshop was very helpful  and the other half thought it was helpful.