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International Students Face In Tertiary Studies

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Discuss about the Challenges that International Students Face In Tertiary Studies.




The number of international students in several foreign universities is rapidly increasing. This report will focus on the various challenges that the international students are facing during their study in the foreign universities. This resulted in increased number of students who are keen to study abroad. As the contemporary world has experienced digital revolution and globalization, the interaction among various nations and cultures has increased in a significant manner (Staeheli, 2016). However, the large numbers of students who are coming to a new country are struggling to adapt new unfamiliar culture and to become comfortable with the new environment. The cultural shock, the communication gap, distant relationship among students and teachers act as the key drivers in raising the questions (Trueba, Jacobs & Kirton, 2014).  The other challenges the international students mainly face are related to time management, assessment strategies and finance management.

The challenges the international students face in studying abroad:

Cultural shock

Through their course of study the students are primarily facing the issue related their cultural shock. Culture is the student’s social behavior, customs or ideas of the community or society he or she belongs (Van Rij, 2017). Cultural shock can be defined as the disturbance or disorientation the students experience by sudden changes in their way of life mainly caused by unfamiliar culture (D’Souza et al., 2016). The students come to new country; new culture and treatment they get there also cause them to feel the disturbance. This has been proved all the new members in a new culture experience the cultural shock one way or other.  As mostly the international students come to the host countries for a temporary period they struggle more to adapt the new cultural practice. Most European and American countries act as an individualistic and masculine society. Maximum of the international students in the European or American universities come from Asia or Africa (Altbach, 2015). Their cultural experience is significantly different from that of the culture of Europe or America. The sojourner faces the challenges in the academia when a task is assigned to him and he is instructed to do it in a certain way which he is not used to (Petersdotter, Niehoff & Freund, 2017). The new language problem, the ignorance or indifferent reactions from other prevents them from socializing. The international student goes through several stages in his phase of cultural shock. In the denial stage he denies everything that the new culture has to offer as it is totally stranger to him, then he goes through the defense stage where he tries to defend himself from the consequences that caused by the unfamiliar culture. Next he identifies the differences which lead him to the next stage of acceptance, where he realizes that the new culture is not absolutely different rather is a different from of the culture of his own. Then he starts adapting and integrating with the new culture.


Finance management

The cost for staying and studying in any foreign university is high. The international students go for part time jobs in order to meet their financial needs; however the process of getting a local job often proves to be challenging for them (Lin, 2016). Also there are different rules in each country regarding offering jobs to foreign students. It is not just the financial need for the study their leisure expense, holiday expenses create financial needs which they struggle to meet.

Time management

As they often opt for part time jobs, they also face challenges managing their time. The international students often fail to balance between their academic life and life outside the campus. The academic curriculum itself is quite time consuming. They initially take more time than the local students in order to adapt the new syllabus.

Assessment strategies

The assessment or evaluation process in the foreign countries is very different from their own. Assessment strategies are related to the various types of evaluation methods the universities apply to judge the students’ academic performance. The universities apply diverse range of assessment methods from written exam to area studies, project, field researches, presentation, reports and many others (Brown, Bull & Pendlebury, 2013). How the students are performing in groups is also often being measured as part of the assessment.  The international students are not generally used to such various methods. The research papers the international students have to prepare are not familiar. They initially face challenges in understanding the structure of the research paper and collecting and applying proper resources and citations.


Language barriers

Though most of the international students know and speak English well but communicating with the native English speakers often proved to be challenging for them. The international students face difficulties understanding other languages, the dialects of the local students and the local students also feel difficulties understanding the international students (Wu, Garza & Guzman, 2015). The local students generally speak fast and often there are some colloquial words which do not make any sense to most international students.

 Diet Challenges

The new environment has great impact on the international students’ lives. As the new freedom in a foreign land, advanced life style and stress from transition have great impact on the food habit. The international students face challenges in a new country related to the diet change (Yue, Le & Terry, 2014). The new food consumption habit leads to obesity and other problems. The international students struggle to adapt and control their food habit in the host countries. They tend to consume foods that are mostly focused in taste and less on the nutrition.

Managing the role relationship

The relationship between the teachers and the students is different in several countries. The international students coming from a different culture find difficulties in adjusting with the western practice. From countries like China or India usually come with high expectations from the teachers which they often feel are not being satisfied by the teachers.  The European and American academic professionals mostly see themselves as student facilitators unlike the teachers in most countries who teach the students whatever they need to do (Lunenberg, Dengerink & Korthagen, 2014). The teachers engage more if offering them freedom and creativity by not offering them any direct instructions. The teachers expect more involvement and initiatives from the students. The teachers act as if they are at the same level with the students, who the students can approach and freely talk to. The students are encouraged in open discussion (Burns, 2017). In an ideal classroom the teachers are not only the source of knowledge, the teachers expect every student to contribute knowledge significantly.


In most other countries the teacher is the active source of knowledge and the students act passively inside the classroom. They do not talk directly to the teachers if they are not asked to. The act of talking or directly participating in the lecture is considered to be disrespectful. The teachers provide them with direct instruction as what exactly they should read and how to apply the learning. The collaborative nature of the teachers is unfamiliar to the international students. The international students get confused regarding what exactly the teachers are expecting from them. As the teachers do not give direct instructions they feel uncertain about how to proceed and continue. They feel the need of directions and that leads them to perform poorly. The international students feel uncomfortable to express their thoughts directly so they mostly feel uncomfortable and remain silent in class activities.



The universities should adapt better strategies and encourage the international students more.  The students from outside must prepare themselves for the coming challenges in a new environment. They must study and analyze the existing problem through an effective communication with ex international students from the same university. The university and the aspiring students should be trained prior to the admission. This will eventually minimize the cultural shock among the new international students. 

The universities should invest more in the students’ wellness service. The students must take advice from the nutrition counselors or dietician of the campuses. If the international students having much difficulty with the new food habit or experiencing bad effects on health, they should consider going back to their old food habit and chose a healthy eating plan.

The universities must develop communicative learning practices. The students should be engaged orally participating in the classroom and actively participate in direct communication. The international students should communicate more with the local students and academic staff as more conversation will help them to identify the problematic areas. Before the undergraduate or post graduate students join the courses the universities or training institutions organize bridging courses to the aspiring students. The IELTS preparation will help them not only dealing with the language problems but also provide them with necessary knowledge so that the cultural shock gets reduced.


The host nations also encouraging students from outside as the cross border education has significantly contributing in their economy. The universities are trying to implement effective strategies for the international students are struggling to adapt new unfamiliar culture in their campuses. The universities are getting more engaged in internationalization. The universities are offering the international students more solutions and suggestions on how they should deal with such problems. Adapting the discussed recommendations might improve the situation; however not every problem can be solved just by the universities; the international students should participate actively in the process as well.



Altbach, P. (2015). Foreign study: Patterns and challenges. International Higher Education, (30).

Brown, G. A., Bull, J., & Pendlebury, M. (2013). Assessing student learning in higher education. Routledge.

Burns, A. (2017). Innovating teacher development: Transformative teacher education through classroom inquiry. In Innovative Practices in Language Teacher Education (pp. 187-203). Springer International Publishing.

D’Souza, C., Singaraju, S., Halimi, T., & Sillivan Mort, G. (2016). Examination of cultural shock, inter-cultural sensitivity and willingness to adapt. Education+ Training, 58(9), 906-925.

Fujimori, D. L., Odo, B. M., & Smith, L. E. (2015). Hit the Ground Running: Enhancing International Students’ Cross-Cultural Adjustment. In International Management and Intercultural Communication (pp. 62-74). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Lin, L. (2016). 3 Real Reasons Why International Students Can't Find Jobs in the US. HuffPost. Retrieved 22 August 2017, from

Lunenberg, M., Dengerink, J., & Korthagen, F. (2014). The professional teacher educator: Roles, behaviour, and professional development of teacher educators. Springer Science & Business Media.

Petersdotter, L., Niehoff, E., & Freund, P. A. (2017). International experience makes a difference: Effects of studying abroad on students' self-efficacy. Personality and Individual Differences, 107, 174-178.

Staeheli, L. A. (2016, February). Globalization and the scales of citizenship. In Geography Research Forum (Vol. 19, pp. 60-77).

Trueba, H. T., Jacobs, L., & Kirton, E. (2014). Cultural Conflict & Adaptation. Routledge.

van Rij, G. (2017). What Is Culture and How Does It Affect Our Daily Lives?. HuffPost. Retrieved 22 August 2017, from

Wu, H. P., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, 2015.

Yue, Y., Le, Q., & Terry, D. R. (2014). Transition to an unfamiliar environment: International students' living experiences in an Australian regional area. Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association (JANZSSA), (23), 10-20.



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