As an international student here at George Fox University (GFU), I can say studying in a foreign nation is much harder than I expected. I would like to represent the international students at GFU by sharing some of the challenges we face.
Before I wrote this article, I sent a survey to international students to collect opinions about certain challenges when studying abroad. The problems international students frequently mentioned were: language skills, food, making friends, a different educational system and lack of a support system.
Needless to say, the language barrier is a major challenge for international students. It can be hard for American students to understand how they struggle with English in everyday life.
For international students, a reading or writing assignment takes about two to three hours, while American students only use half that time.
Think of a scene in which an American student tells a joke to an international student, but the international student does not understand the humor behind the joke. That student is embarrassed greatly. These sorts of things happen a lot.
For Asian students, American food is challenging. Some students even get sick from eating food; some of them are not used to eating so much cheese, and others of them miss the food from home.
Other international students said they have felt lonely since they started studying abroad. I have often heard international students say things like, “I have friends, but I don’t have close friends.” International students are eager to make friends with Americana because this is a good opportunity for both sides to learn from each other. However, it seems like taking the initiative is not very easy for them.
Group discussions, presentations, exams and projects are driving some of the international students crazy. “You have to work so hard throughout the semesters here, whereas you only work hard right before finals back home,” said a Chinese student. “I felt bad for not making an efforts or making fewer efforts than American students during the group discussions or projects.”
Another girl said, “but sometimes I really don’t know what to say, or how to say my opinions in English.”
The last challenge, a lack of support systems, is the one that International Student and Scholarship Services pointed out.
“Being completely unfamiliar to the system is very hard for students from other countries,” said Alex Pia, the International Student and Scholarship Services director. “We try our best to help students, but there are times they are forced to face the difficulties alone.”
Indeed, for international students, there are more difficulties to deal with. However, these difficulties will help them become stronger, open-minded and curious individuals.