Being an International Student
There are a number of reasons why people decide to study in another country. For one, the educational facilities and competencies of the schools in other countries may be better than the ones available in the home country. As such, studying in famous universities may provide a greater level of academic proficiency and prestige to the person who studied in these universities. Another reason for an individual to study abroad is the exposure of a person to different cultures and modes of life.
Interacting with people from diverse nationalities and cultures can greatly enhance the academic experience of a person and will add a depth of understanding to the particular subject of study of such a person. Whatever the reasons are for studying in another country, there are certain advantages and disadvantages associated with it. One of the issues that have to be addressed is language. Does the student have the necessary skills and proficiency in the language of instruction of the university he or she will study at? Most universities now use English as the medium of instruction.
Other countries, however, especially in Japan and in Europe, would require a level of proficiency in the language of instruction being used in these countries. In addition to this, the international student would have to prepare himself with the different nuances and difficulties associated with being immersed in another culture. If the student is not oriented or prepared well, the tendency would be for him to undergo a culture shock. Furthermore, he will be subjected to the different effects of being an international student. This essay looks at the different factors and issues that affect the general well-being of an international student.
It also puts forward several suggestions as to how an international student could cope well with the pressures and issues he has to face. Effects of Being an International Student One of the most easily recognizable effects of being an international student is the loneliness and homesickness during the first few months of staying abroad. Homesickness may be brought about by several factors. The environment that the student is in would be vastly different from the environment that he enjoyed at home. The familiar comforts of family and friends are literally oceans and thousands of miles away.
Given this, it would be easy to succumb to depression and sadness caused by homesickness. This is further affected by several other factors in the environment of the international student. He lacks familiarity in the place and the nature of social interactions in the country where he studies would be different from what he is used to. In this regard, he would have to adjust as effectively and as quickly as possible. Otherwise, homesickness will get the best of him and will negatively impact his performance in his studies (Andrade, 2006).
The international student might also suffer from culture shock brought about by his interaction with people that belong to a different frame of reference from him. Back in his home country, the student might not have paid attention to the nuances in meaning and interpretation of social gestures and statements. Also, there might several behaviors that would be considered as different from the norm. These cultural differences would create stress and difficulty on the part of the international student, especially if he does not develop a network that would help him adapt in the society (Andrade, 2006).
On the other hand, when an international student has immersed himself in the culture of his host country, he might forget his cultural heritage and would display the culture of the host country even in the presence of his fellow citizens of his home country. The preservation of his cultural integrity would therefore be necessary, especially if he were to go back to his home country after his stint as an international student (Andrade, 2006). In addition to these effects, the international student will also be subjected to learning shock (Griffiths, Winstanley & Gabriel, 2005).
This learning shock is characterized by ambiguous expectations, frustrations, confusion and anxiety brought about by the unfamiliar learning environment in a foreign country. The teaching methods that they encounter, the way that they become disoriented by cues and other learning environments all contribute to the learning shock that they experience. The language barriers and difficulties in communication also contribute to this learning shock. Although English has become the most famous medium of instruction all over the world, there are still difficulties that people who speak English as a second language experience.
The metaphors and figures of speech in English are sometimes difficult to grasp and understand. The readings for the subjects that international students have to take are full of these metaphors and add to the learning shock being experienced by the international student. The issue of finances for studying may also become an issue for an international student. Although it is easier nowadays to transfer funds from one area of the world to another, the allowances and funds for schooling of an international student may be limited.
When the international student is in his home country, it would be easier to ask help from friends and family members. However, because of the distance separating him from such relationships that he has this might also contribute to anxiety and learning shock that he s already experiencing. There are instances, therefore, that the international student will have to work part time just to finance his studies. This act, however, is dependent on the nature of the visa granted to the international student.
If working part time becomes an option for the student, then this might also have an impact on his studies especially in terms of managing time and the requirements of the school. Given these effects of studying in another country, any international student should be able to devise some ways in order to cope effectively with these difficulties. Otherwise, the international student might be forced to go home without finishing the degree because of homesickness and the learning shock that he experiences. Dealing With the Effects of Studying in another Country
In order for an international student to deal with these effects, he has to learn how to integrate himself in the society. This includes learning the language of the country that he will be studying in. Learning the language means going beyond having survival skills in the language of the country that the student is in. It also means learning the connotations and degrees of meaning of the language and the way that people use their language. Classroom-level mastery of language is good. However, this is not an assurance that the way that language will be used in conversations and in day-to-day interactions is an entirely different matter.
Having proficiency with the language will be an integral part for the integration of the international student in the school as well as in the society in general. According to Koskinen & Tossavainen (2003), intercultural mentoring is an important part of the integration process of an international student in the academe and in the society. This kind of mentoring needs to be administered by international students as well or by culturally-sensitive faculty and older students so that the new international student could adapt well with the demands of the academe and of the society where they are located.
When the mentor looks after the adjustment level of the student; establishes a meaningful relationship, guides the international student in mutual learning and guidance in most aspects of studying and living in a foreign country. Although there are moments of frustration, Koskinen & Tossavainen (2003) noted that this experience also presents rewards to both the mentor and the student. In some universities and higher education institutions, their usual approach in helping international students is usually through official programs in the school and mediation in the academics of the student.
However, the interpersonal and informal means of mentoring and helping the student assimilate himself in the academe and in the society (Major, 2005). Being an international student poses several challenges. It has several effects, which, if not checked and effectively addressed can cause severe repercussions on the academic standing of the student. By having a good understanding of these effects, several means of intervention can be arrived at and will help the international student.
- Andrade, M. S. (2006). International Student Persistence: Integration or Cultural Integrity? Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, 8 (1), 57-81.
- Griffiths, D. S. , Winstanley, D. & Gabriel, Y. (2005). Learning Shock. Management Learning, 36(3), 275-297.
- Koskinen, L. & Tossavainen, K. (2003) Characteristics of intercultural mentoring – a mentor perspective. Nurse Education Today, 23 (4), 278-285.
- Major, E. M. (2005). Co-national support, cultural therapy, and the adjustment of Asian students to English-speaking university culture. International Education Journal, 6(1), 84-95.