WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

Challenges Facing International Students on Campus

Monday | December 18, 2017 | by Mohsen Alzahrani

challenges facing international students on campus

Studying in the U.S. is an exciting goal for many international students. And many students are pursuing their goals by studying abroad in the U.S. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), in 2013, the recorded number of international students who studied in the U.S. increased about 36 percent from a decade ago. Moreover, during the 2015-2016 academic year, the United States hosted an all-time high number of international students, reaching over a million, according to IIE.

However, despite their positive social and economic contributions, international students often experience adjustment challenges given the English language barrier, as well as cultural, academic, and other social factors. This blog post will investigate some of the challenges international students experience at American universities and colleges. I will also identify the most useful on-campus resources for international students in overcoming acculturation challenges while pursuing their academic goals.

Academic and Social Challenges Facing International Students on Campus

International students deal with many academic and social challenges during their university years in the U.S. These challenges affect their academic achievement as well as their social engagement in many different ways. Consequently, they may struggle academically and feel invisible on campus, especially when engaging in different group activities.

One common academic challenge international students may face is the English language barrier. The English language is very hard to learn. There are so many rules and exceptions that international students have to understand. The English language can confront even the most prepared student with grammar challenges, and as a result, many international students struggle. Reading a lot of academic materials within a short period of time is especially challenging. If their English skills are not good enough, international students may feel uncomfortable on campus, which can affect their grades on exams and essays.

Related article: 8 Ways to Strengthen Your English Language Skills

Another challenge international students may face is adjusting to a new life and culture. Adjustment challenges are one of the most common social challenges international students may face while studying abroad. In fact, international students may experience daily emotional crises related to their families back home. Further, international students may experience self-inflicted guilt for leaving their families behind and the expectation to cope with their emotions has an impact on their lives.

Tips for Overcoming Challenges on Campus

Many universities and colleges offer a variety of services and resources to help students and international students, in particular, succeed during their time in college. These services include student associations, the on-campus counseling center, the on-campus writing center, recreational clubs, and more.

Many schools have writing centers to help students improve their writing skills. Writing centers provide students with one-on-one writing tutorials. They also offer writing and research workshops to help students conduct research and write essays. In general, these resources provide students with social and academic support. They offer a space where international students can release stress and find a support group.

Getting involved with groups on campus is one way to meet new people. International students can participate in academic clubs, social organizations, or even part-time jobs. Moreover, campus activities are a great opportunity for students to practice their English, as well as meet new students and make new relationships. Many times, international students can find it hard to interact with native English speakers; therefore, getting involved in campus activities can help them interact with native English speakers.

One great example of campus activities is sports. In fact, participating in team sports is a great way of interacting with other students. For example, I practice soccer on campus with the university team. This has helped me form relationships and practice my English.

Use the on-campus counseling service. The counseling service is a great resource that many colleges offer students. It is especially helpful for international students who struggle socially and emotionally. Being away from their families and friends, international students feel lonely sometimes. These feelings might affect their academic achievement because it is very hard to focus on school while facing other social and emotional challenges.

Therefore, utilizing the counseling service is a great way for international students to overcome this challenge. Many schools have a counseling service facility where students can set up appointments and go talk to one of the advisers in the center. These advisers and therapists are well-qualified and prepared to help students cope with any difficult situation.

In conclusion, studying in the U.S. is a great opportunity for international students. Having a degree from the U.S puts you at an advantage when it comes to applying for jobs in your home country. However, international students’ time in the U.S. might represent a real challenge for them. Knowing how to deal with both academic and social challenges can help international students overcome them. Moreover, getting involved in campus activities and utilizing the universities’ on campus resources can help international students adapt to their new lives.

Do you want to share your story or tips about studying abroad in Canada or the U.S.? Sign up for our Student Ambassador Program today!

Mohsen Alzahrani is a Ph.D. student at the University of Denver where he is majoring in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.