Published On: Tuesday, September 26, 2017|Categories: Education Info, International students, Tenney Subscribers|
international students outside smiling with globe

Unless you’ve personally studied abroad before, it’s difficult to know what exactly an international student has to go through. In this blog, we’ll go over six of the most difficult challenges that incoming students from abroad have to overcome:

The American teacher-student relationship

We’ll start here because it’s the source of many academic problems for international students. The teacher-student relationship in the U.S. is unique just like it is in any other country. This means that any international student, regardless of what continent he’s from, will have to make some major adjustments in this respect.

Students from Asia have identified this as one of the most difficult aspects of their exchange. Research from the Athens Journal of Education explains the root of this problem:

“When international students struggle, 40% of faculty respondents rated “Differences in teaching methods or instructional practices” as being a source of the problem. International students may not be accustomed to the American student’s typical relationship with his or her teachers. A professor originally from Taiwan explained: “Their perception of a teacher is very different than the American student perception of a teacher. They hold a teacher in high regard. We have a saying, ‘One day a teacher is a teacher for life.’ So that personal touch is very important. It’s the encouragement that makes them continue through the process.””

Students should learn from the beginning how to view and speak with their teachers. Getting this line of communication right will make everything else easier in terms of academics.

Culture shock

The culture shock is real, regardless of how much a student prepares for his new environment. International students have to quickly pick up on subtleties of the culture, such as body language, signs of respect, and overall pace of life.

Adjusting to a new language

International students often struggle with the language barrier. Even if they excel at expressing themselves, they still might find it difficult to understand colloquialisms and local accents. This will likely be a theme throughout their entire studies.


Transportation is something we all take for granted. If they don’t have access to a car, then it can be a challenge for international students to get around. American public transportation might be difficult for them to understand and get used to.

Meeting new friends

Meeting locals is one of the most attractive aspects of studying abroad. But unfortunately, international students tend to get grouped together, separate from local classmates.

This research by Texas A&M University collected first-hand accounts of students who struggled in this respect. Here’s one for example:

“My main difficulty now is “making friends” in class and in everyday life. Now, most of my friends are from Japanese student organization. I don’t know how to make friends with my classmates. I am waiting for my classmates to come to talk to me (Sayuri, Japan).”

The best thing they can do is join clubs and organizations. They shouldn’t just wait for someone to approach them because there’s a chance it’ll never happen.

Class expectations

Class expectations in the U.S. can be on the opposite end of the spectrum of class expectations in an international student’s home country. Everything in terms of participation, homework, tests, and teaching methods could be new to an international student.

Moreover, teachers can’t explain how class expectations vary from each international student’s home country since they’re different all over the world. It’s not uncommon for an international student to struggle with this aspect throughout the semester.

Apart from the normal activities that every student must do, international students are exposed to a whole new set of challenges. For more information about the challenges that international students face, contact us today.

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