Problems Faced by International Students

International students have always faced trouble when it comes to studying abroad. Most of these students, Asians going to the West or vice versa, have confronted complex situations especially when it comes to adjusting themselves to a new background. Alike to this situation, a recent article has provided us an insight on how Chinese students have the most trouble adapting to the American Educational System (Zhang 2016). Looking into international education, we can best describe it as  an external mediated ‘adjustment’ or ‘acculturation’ which obliges to the requirements of the host country (Marginson 2012). These students who have transferred miles away from their original country are usually kept under observation as they proceed with a rigorous progression substituting their home identity for a host identity. However, the progression period between two individuals varies as it depends on their willingness and acceptance level to adapt change.

Although there are several other factors, language is always seen as the biggest obstacle for international students (Armstrong 2014). Chinese students who have to go abroad are usually given a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) before they transfer to America. Based on observations, most of them have resulted poorly when it came to speaking in English however excelled quite well when it came to the written portion (Zhang 2016). Students from Eastern continents have usually displayed problems when it comes to speaking as they have trouble catching up with the language and slang used in the University. Based on experience, international students have always tried to catch up with their syllabus by having translations from their friends or peers in order to grasp what is going on in class. Their less-ideal situation also comes as a frugal when it comes to making friends or having a normal interaction with locals abroad.

Another factor which implies as a barrier would be the cultural changes an individual has to go through due to the move (Armstrong 2014). An international student is very likely to find discomfort emotionally and physically as they are trying to embrace another culture’s beliefs and traditions. Habits like smoking and drinking which is accustomed to westerners might be hard for a Chinese, Indian or even Middle Eastern student. Their morals and principles are different, as Westerners are more individualistic while Eastern people are into collectivism. International students are likely seen with their group as they move and prefer deciding things together rather than alone. A few other cultural dimensions which supports this idea would also consist of Hofstede’s cultural factors like Power Distance (PDI), Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS) and Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) which simplifies the difference between Western and Eastern culture.

In addition to that, climatic changes are also considered a barrier. International students have to get themselves adjusted to different environmental temperatures as they move around abroad (Armstrong 2014). The beginning of adaptation is stated to be quite challenging. Most of them do fall ill, as their body takes time to adjust to the new climate changes. Furthermore, students are also reminded to change their dressing styles according to the new conditions they would be facing. And for the last barrier, international students do get ‘homesick’ quite often (Armstrong 2014). The need for them to leave their families and stay apart for an ample amount of time indirectly affects them physically and emotionally. Most of the time, international students would consider their mates as their new family members as this would avoid them from overthinking about their families.

In a nutshell, we have learned how there are plenty of barriers for international students once they are studying abroad. However, to overcome those problems, I believe they need to be strong-willed as this would help them sustain while going through acculturation. Also, extra guidance from school would help them cease these barriers for an extended amount of time. International students need to give it a chance in order to welcome changes while holding on to their identities in order to sustain themselves in a foreign country.


Armstrong, A 2014, ‘Problems that can be faced by International Students’, Student Competitions.Com, accessed 31/10/2016,


Marginson, S 2012, ‘Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’ , International education as self-formation, accessed 31/10/2016,


Zhang 2016, ‘ Most difficult problems for Chinese students in American Universities‘, The Ohio State University, accessed 31/10/2016,




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