Challenges Faced by International Students in the US
Foreign students in the US face a host of issues that they need to deal with effectively to ensure their period of stay in the nation is happy and fruitful. Some of the common problems include the cold weather in winter (depending on the location) as well as coping with the demanding course work. In this article, we list the common challenges faced by international students in the US and advice on how to handle them effectively.
The United States is called a melting pot because people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures live here harmoniously. In fact, New York City is home to residents hailing from more than 100 nations. Yet the US has its own distinctive culture which can take a while to adapt to for students from conservative countries. For instance, interaction with professors is informal and on a first-name basis. College administrations do their bit for foreign students by providing resources and hosting events to help them mingle with the community.
New arrivals at a US campus tend to put on weight especially if they stay in the college dorms. Daily meals are offered in unlimited quantities at the restaurant buffets and this can be too tempting for some. Besides typical American fare such as burgers, pasta and pizza can play havoc on your waistline if you are not too careful. So foreign students need to be smart and eat healthy foods to stay in shape for their course work, athletic activities and of course partying.
Most students from foreign countries are used to being graded on tests and papers. In the US, class participation is important and students have to do research and cite their sources in their assignment papers. This can be a tough challenge but there are resources available on the Internet that can be referred to. College campuses also help out by offering writing centers that provide the necessary tutoring to help international students get good grades on their research papers.
Most college professors in the US encourage students to participate in class discussions and are open to offering advice and help regarding course work in their offices. If you get an assistantship to work with a professor, make the best of it and gain valuable knowledge from him or her. It can indeed be a cultural novelty for students from places with more of hands-off instruction. Our advice is to not regard professors as your superiors but as partners who can help you learn more.
Most US universities and colleges offer a diverse range of subjects especially at the undergraduate level. So don’t just stick to engineering or business courses for example. Some students are shocked that they have to take history or religion courses and struggle with electives. But such subjects offer you exposure to topics that you wouldn’t have pursued otherwise. So keep your mind free and open, and try to cultivate new interests and academic passions at your US college.
College life is not just about academics. Making friends and creating networks is also important to help you lead a fulfilling social life and move ahead in your career. Try to mingle with your classmates and go on sightseeing tours with them around the city and even to other places. Plenty of students in your class may be from other towns or countries and you can hook up with them for these sightseeing tours. American professors encourage teamwork for class discussions and written assignments and you can utilize this opportunity to create your own intimate circle of international friends.
Life is all about facing challenges bravely and carving your own path towards your set goals and destinations. So imbibe the international student experience in the US with an open mind to succeed in your academic life.
Why you should consider studying overseas
Being far from home is never easy, especially if it is for the first time, which is often the case for many college students. Each year, many people travel to different countries to pursue their career goals. For some this can be challenging. Apart from the fact that college education comes with its own set of difficulties, you will have additional factors to think about if planning to study abroad. Some of these include:
- The cost of airfare
- Finding suitable accommodations if you will not be living on campus
- Learning your way around a new country
- Adapting to cultural differences
These are just a few of the issues you will likely face if you decide to study overseas. This is not an easy decision to make for many students and their families. However, studying is sometimes the best move not only for the educational factor, but also for your career prospects. Other reasons why you should consider studying overseas are:
Exposure to a Different Culture
This is one of the main reasons many prospective students choice to go to a college abroad. You may learn a new language, try cuisine you never even thought of trying, or you may find that you now like a different genre of music. Whatever the result, your outlook on life will change and you come away with a different view of the world.
Increased Networking Opportunities
Most people make vital, lifelong contacts while in college. Contacts in a foreign country could prove useful to you as you embark on your career path. This could also be good for any company you work for, especially if the job requires that you travel.
It Can Improve Your Marketability
In the global environment that exists today, experience in foreign countries is something many employers seek. This can boost the quality of your résumé significantly, making it easier to find a job when you leave school. Studying in a foreign country will show your prospective employer that you can adapt to change. The company may ask you to attend meetings or seminars abroad, or to represent it in some other capacity.
Other Benefits to Studying Overseas
One of the main things about this type of study is that it gives you the opportunity to travel. Sometimes being far away from your family might be the best thing for you. You will develop a sense of independence, while making new contacts and developing an international perspective. You will probably meet people from all over the world who could become lifelong friends.
Although you may have concerns about the quality of the training available in foreign countries, you can put these to rest. Many colleges around the world provide quality undergraduate and graduate programs. If you are thinking about studying in a foreign country, take the time to research different colleges before making a decision. In your research, pay attention to the following:
- The types of facilities available
- If financial aid is available for foreign students or even if your home country will fund your studies
- Are there internship opportunities and will the school assist you in finding placements
- What kinds of social clubs and activities are available
- What kind of medical services are available and the cost
While college ranking is important, it should not be your main priority when researching and selecting a college overseas. These rankings alone will not offer the complete picture about a college. Some study abroad programs allows you to spend just a set number of semesters overseas and then you can transfer to your home country to complete your studies. For many students, this format gives them the best of two worlds.
7 Top challenges students face when studying abroad
Students enrolling in colleges overseas will find the experience frustrating, challenging but also exciting. When going to a country with a very different culture, students have to try to adjust to their surroundings. While the experience is definitely not easy, it can be a lot of fun. Knowing what to expect before travelling to another country is the best way to make things easier. Given below are a few challenges that students commonly face when they study abroad:
All students will initially feel like an outsider when they go to a new country. They find it difficult to understand the local norms and culture, the language and food. While most countries are quite welcoming, the experience can be trying as you try to come to grips with your new surroundings. However, this problem will eventually seem smaller as you adjust to the new environment and find the locals to be friendly and encouraging.
The culture in every country is different. In fact, the cultures within the same country tend to be quite different. For students, it is important to understand and accept this fact. From minor cultural differences like accepted dressing and communications to larger issues, students in a new country will take a little time to fully understand the extent of cultural differences. The best way to deal with this problem is to read a little about the culture of the country you will be visiting and talking to other international students about their experience.
Every country has different food. The food items served in the college cafeteria in a new country might be very different from what international students are used to eating back home. Initially, there might be a few adjustments required and you may even face physical issues as your body tries to adjust to the new ingredients and taste. However, with time you may easily get used to the new cuisine. Students can also try to find ingredients from their country in specialty grocery stores and supermarkets and try to cook at home.
Language is perhaps one of the most common challenges that all students studying abroad face. Learning a new language takes time but once you are well-immersed, the problem will go away very quickly. English is spoken in most countries today so it should not be too difficult for students to communicate with others. However, it is also important for students to persevere and try to learn the language normally spoken in the new country.
Studying abroad can be a very enjoyable experience. However, being away from friends and family can take its toll over time. The best way to deal with this problem is by building a new support network in your new environment. Make new friends, talk to your classmates, join clubs at the university and do everything you can to build meaningful relationships.
Students from Asian countries are usually accustomed to lecture based classes. Universities in western countries usually involve group discussions, seminar and interactive learning techniques that international students may not be very familiar or comfortable with. These students are usually more comfortable with passive learning and tend to take some time to adjust to self-directed, independent learning that is usually required in western classrooms.
Because of the many difficulties that students tend to face in a new learning environment, it is common to see their grades drop during the first year of university. Some students may have high academic expectations and may find their performance depressing and discouraging. It would be help if you start studying up on some of the more difficult courses in advance. Take fewer credits in the first semester to ensure you have a comfortable schedule and try to avoid going for the tough courses right in the first semester. Most important of all keep an open channel of communication with your instructors and professors.
While there are several challenges that you will normally face when studying abroad, the experience is very rewarding and enriching.