College is a learning journey wherein students must adapt to new educational and social environments. While juggling increased academic demands, many also face personal stressors that directly impact their ability to learn. Through her work with first-year students at the Orillia campus, Dr. Isabelle Deschamps noticed that many international students were “struggling to adapt to the small campus and felt very isolated compared to other students who seemed to flourish.” Knowing that current rates of depression and anxiety amongst students are on the rise and that those with healthy coping mechanisms often do better in school, Isabelle sought to learn more.
In partnership with Research and Innovation, and with a grant from the Research, Innovation and Scholarship Fund, Isabelle’s goal was to create a portrait of international and domestic students’ stress experience that would offer insights into how the college could better and more effectively tailor supports like counselling to meet their needs. She recruited all first-year, full-time students enrolled at Georgian College who were 18+ years to complete an anonymous online survey. R-COPE was the key metric used to measure individual differences in coping strategies amongst the students including the five forms of coping responses to stress: self-help, approach, accommodations, avoidance and self-punishment.
From the study Isabelle noticed that “while both domestic and international students share common stressors, the source of the stress, as well as the coping strategies utilized, might vary culture to culture.” The data revealed that while domestic students identified work-life balance as their biggest stressor, international students reported that their biggest challenges were finances and transportation. During her presentation, Isabelle gave a striking example of an international student she knew who had registered for a program held in Orillia but, not familiar with the local area, secured housing in Barrie with no means of personal transportation. This left them scrambling for housing while also adjusting to a new country and academic expectations.
Isabelle’s goal is to use the data collected from this study to shape and improve support offered to domestic and international students to help them better manage stress. Coping strategies are teachable skills. If we, as staff and faculty, are aware of common stressors, students can work to alleviate them and teach them the tools they need to manage in the face of adversity.
What coping skill would you share with students? Comment below.
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If you missed Dr. Deschamps’ presentation you can view it on Bernick Online, Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship’s (RIE) YouTube channel. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE while you are there so you do not miss any of the content from our team.