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Specific Challenges for International Students and How to Overcome Them

When it comes to starting a career at a new college, all students have their own sets of challenges. International students, however, face a unique set. Not only are they beginning a new semester at an American university, but they are beginning this journey in an entirely new country. Here are a few of the challenges international students may face when they arrive on your campus.

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  • Culture shock. Coming to the United States from another country can be quite difficult for international students. They have to become accustomed to things like what foods we eat, how we dress, how to address their fellow students and professors, etc. Also, students may find themselves with more or less structure or leisure time than they would in their home countries, which can be quite an adjustment. These may seem like minor issues, but culture shock is real.
     
  • Academics. The academic world can be very different in the U.S. as well. Grades may be calculated differently here than back home, and they may not be used to the idea of having homework every day to complete after classes have finished.  There is also a larger focus on general education requirements in the U.S. than there are in other countries, so international students may be confused by having to take Gen. Ed. courses that are so far removed from what their major actually is.
     
  • Classroom structure. International students may not be used to having discussions in class, as in many countries, the professor leads lectures and students simply listen, only speaking when spoken to or asked a specific question. This means that international students may not be comfortable speaking up in classroom discussions and may need some extra encouragement to participate. Some professors may be more or less formal than what they are used to in their home country as well, meaning the student has to figure out the appropriate way to adjust to each individual class.
     
  • Language barriers. Even though international students have to pass an English proficiency exam to study in the U.S., this does not always mean adjusting to life in a completely English-speaking world will be easy. Students come to your campus from different parts of the country and will have differing accents, slang terms, and speak at different speeds.  Over time, this should get easier and easier for your international students, but there is certainly an adjustment period.
     
  • Homesickness. International students are usually excited to be here, but that does not mean they do not miss friends, family, and their way of life back home. For some, this can make the rest of the adjustments all the more difficult.

While you may not be able to necessarily relieve these issues for international students, understanding some of their unique challenges is key in being able to help them adjust to student life here in the U.S. more easily, making your university a more welcoming place for them to spend their semester. This, in turn, means that they are more likely to recommend your university to their peers back home.