The first problem that foreign students encounter is the language barrier. This is particularly evident in countries wherein English is the primary language. According to Professors Wilton and Constantine, “Because of language and cultural factors, Latin American and Asian students have greater levels of stress than other international students in the U.S.” (qtd. in Lee and Rice 385). A foreign student will expectedly have a weak command of the national language. This will impede communicating in class, as well as building social relationships. In addition, some instructors might not have enough consideration for international students; therefore, they might give insufficient explanations to foreign students. This will surely hinder the understanding of the student regarding important class lectures. Moreover, Professors Erichsen and Bolliger explained that “Language difficulties can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, struggles with course and program content as well as contribute to great anxiety and stress concerning in class participation and presentations” (311). This can be a serious problem for an international student. Secondly, opting to study in another country puts a strain on an individual’s personal relationships. Foreign students are far from their friends and family. Distance impedes communication, as well as the expression of emotional support. This could become a serious problem, particularly if the student encounters distressful situations. Professor Ponzettl says that college students experience loneliness in stressful situations. Since they react more negatively to stress, the experience can be quite detrimental and promote a sense of helplessness. Lonely students report poorer self-concepts and lower self-esteem. They report feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, alienation, anxiety, and being unloved (337-338). For example, when I just arrived in the U.S., I found myself feeling lethargic and depressed. Since I did not know to accept changes, even thought I had been in Australia for two years, life in the U.S. was difficult and stressful for me. Therefore, I firmly think that international students need someone to talk to so that they will be able to air out problems or frustrations.
Finally, students from other countries might have a harder time adjusting to local culture and traditions. According to Professors Jenny Lee and Charles Rice, “Most of the literature concerning international student experiences describes their difficulties as issues of adapting or coping, which embodies the assumption that international students bear the responsibility to persist, overcome their discomfort, and integrate into the host society” (388). Living in another country will make people aware of the differences between their own culture and the foreign country’s culture. This may be more of a problem for students who will decide to study in countries that have a completely different set of practices and values from their own. For instance, some Asians might find it hard if they choose to study in western countries. They will have to adjust to the local cuisine and traditions and even the style of teaching. For every international student, adjustment is very crucial in the achievement of academic outcomes.
To solve these problems, international students should be provided with comprehensive resources for support from institutions or advisors. Professor Ramsay, Jones, and Barker at Griffith University in Australia observed that higher levels of adjustment are associated with higher levels of support. The findings indicate the importance of reviewing services to international students in an attempt to improve their access to support (263). Therefore, I contend, quite bluntly, that universities must take a profound interest in their international students, so that they will become more responsible about themselves and have positive feeling about their new life in foreign countries.
In conclusion, studying abroad has its advantages and disadvantages. From my point of view, being a foreign student will enhance the learning and social experience of a person. If I did not experience these hardships such as culture shock, homesickness, or even racial discrimination, I would not be able to discover my potential. I am partly in agreement with the idea that studying abroad is a magnificent opportunity to improve one’s ability. However, people should first explore possible problems, so that they will be better-equipped in case they will be faced with these in the future.