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Chinese students represent the largest single group among international students enrolled in the U.S, and globalization has played an important role in impacting Chinese students’ perceptions of what it means to study abroad. According to The Wall Street Journal, there are 85 percent more international students enrolled today in U.S. schools than ten years ago, adding more than 35 billion dollars to the nation’s economy in 2015 (Belkin & Purnell, 2017). This qualitative study adds to the limited research available regarding Chinese students’ cross-cultural transition and academic adaptation to American universities (Kusek, 2015; Yan & Berliner, 2009). Findings add a new perspective regarding the students’ perceptions and expectations in China compared to their true experiences in the U.S. universities. Results show that, despite significant barriers, Chinese students are eventually able to transition and adapt to the new surroundings.

Implications of findings can help in the development of effective strategies and programs to facilitate these students’ transition and adaptation in U.S. higher education institutions.