Sample Essay on Challenges International Students Face in Classroom

Challenges International Students Face in Classroom

Literature Review


Globalization of higher education has been on the rise for different societies internationally. Despite the fact there is an increase in the number of students travelling abroad for studies annually, very little has been done to address the needs of students during their adaptation period to new the new environments (Mostafa, 2006). Over the last decade, international student’s enrollment in the United States has immensely expanded. International learners experience many stressful challenges in the institutions of higher learning in their pursuit for higher education (Chavajay & Skowronek, 2008). The challenges include Communication barriers, such as inadequate language skills, lack of metaphor comprehension knowledge, non-verbal and verbal communication problems, paraphrasing problems, and inability to acquire or understand various facilities and technological resources given to them to succeed inside and outside the classroom. Other challenges emanate from social constraints, studying schedules, learning styles, and cultural adaptation among others. Challenges international students face in new environments includes language barriers, academic culture, misunderstanding, and difficulty in communication with faculty and their colleagues among many others (Ismail & Idris, 2009). Another challenge involves classroom balancing their daily life with academic requirements. It is important to help international students to find success in the classroom when they attend schools in the United States. The literature review will discuss the challenges affecting the success of international students in classrooms and effective ways to assist international students to conquer the challenges and find success in the classroom.

Adapting to the Cultural Transition

International students in the United States encounter a challenge in adapting to the cultural transition, which affects their academic work in classroom. Cross border student mobility has increased in the recent past as a result of internationalization demand and globalization effects in the world as witnessed in the U.S. ( Zhao, Kuh, & Carini, 2005),which have resulted in a high inflow of international students in the United States. An estimated 5% increase of students from different parts of the world flew into the US in search of higher education. Many international students are reported to come from the Asian backgrounds, which are China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan. The number of international students abroad has been steadily increasing over the years in pursuit of overseas higher education.

In terms of culture, international students also encounter a great deal of cultural barriers in their classrooms. Many international students from different cultures acknowledge that the aspect of culture shock is experienced in the United States with their cultures not considered in their new environments (Habib,Johannesen & Øgrim, 2014). This is mainly caused by the differences exhibited in beliefs and value systems. Upon getting into a new cultural environment, the students are expected to adjust to different value systems, communication patterns, and interpersonal relationships that apply in classrooms and in social settings. For instance, the notion of punctuality was a challenge. These experiences make international students go through a lot of stress. These challenges should be addressed in order to promote culture and sense of persona development among the international students. Diversity in the institutions of higher education should be seen as an opportunity for the students to learn how to live with each other from different backgrounds (Zhao, Kuh, & Carini, 2005).

Low Quality Supervision

The quality of supervision by instructors in International institutions in the United States is a challenge that affects the success of international students (Myers & Claus, 2012). In higher education, research and coursework are vital in producing quality academic work and creation of rapport between students and their instructors. The instructors play a significant role in this facet as the guide students from time to time. This also plays an important role in determining the success of students generally. Instructors play an important role in cross cultural supervision connection. Therefore, international students require a more attentive approach from the instructors in order to adjust and adapt to the new environment. This calls for patience and commitment from the instructor’s part in order to establish a good relationship with international students and enhance effective communication in order for the students to succeed (Myers & Claus, 2012). Without this support, international students encounter great challenge in adapting to the academic life that affects their success.

Academic Challenges

A good number of international students face academic challenges in classrooms settings. Language, for instance, is the greatest academic challenge, which hampers international students’ smooth adjustment to the new environments and classroom performance. Language barrier is a major challenge facing students in academic adjustments (Kuo, 2011). Many students have encountered difficulty communicating in the American English even after having learned it in their home nations. The main features of the language that prove challenging are accent, speech rate, and pronunciation. Most of the students spent most of their time to improve on their English language skills. International students find out that they cannot understand listening to English language pronunciation. Some students are forced to take English classes in the US, which they did back in his home country but have found them different in understanding. The American English seem advanced to international students in terms of speed and therefore international students cannot cope with the classrooms requirements (Ismail & Idris, 2009).

Communication Challenge

Institutions of higher education in the United States lack of offering language support to international students remains to be a challenge encountered by international students. A good number of international students steaming in the United States universities face difficulties in their communication due to lack of proficiency in English language as seen in the earlier literature. This causes a major communication breakdown and anxiety both within and outside classrooms (Brown, 2008). Lack of this support is a big blow for their academic endeavors in classroom and social life in the foreign environments. Furthermore, through student’s organizations, international students can be in position to join several associations, which reduces the effects of isolation in classrooms and gives them a sense of belonging. Some of the associations are meant to address the problem or gap between international and host students. Lack of these important provisions is a big challenge to international students in the United States, which makes the students unable to achieve success in their classroom work.

Limited English proficiency among international students affects their success in the classrooms (Kuo, 2011). This is manifested in the student’s inability to speak orally and in written form affects their academic work since they cannot present well written scholarly work. This inefficiency also affects the student’s ability to effectively participate in classroom sessions, which are crucial parts of the academic evaluation. Accent challenge barrier in language communication among international students leads to stereotyping and downgrading of student listeners to their fellows from the international boarders thereby making them less motivated to take part in important class work interactions. This challenge also makes international students to be viewed from a negative perspective from their listeners in the classroom setup. In most cases, communication challenges were witnessed in classrooms to all students from collectivism and individualism cultures.

Physical Health Problems

International students’ physical health is also another challenge affecting their success in classrooms. When students travel to a new environment to seek for higher education, they tend to take part in different physical activities different from what they were doing at home in order to adapt to new ways of life. There are also cases of students being affected by the different kinds of foods being served in the new environment (Talebloo & Bak, 2013). This factor affects the general normal functioning of international students, which in turn affect their academic performance in classrooms.

Poor Relationship with the Institutions’ Staff

Spencer (2003) work demonstrated the importance of good relationship between higher learning institutions’ staff and students and international students as one of the need by international students. In his findings, Spencer noted that higher institutions staff and faculty staff lack considerate adjustments to accommodate international students’ lack of aptitude in language. In fact, some staff would go ahead and criticize some of the international students for doing little in the development of their academic advancement. For instance, Seminarians entails a cluster of students who travel to far nations because of the nature of their education requirements. Many of them go to the United States thus being non-native speakers. Their cultures too differ to a greater extend. However, the staff need to come up with strategies that will help the students achieve their goals both inside and outside classrooms. These include undertaking necessary trainings in helping international students on approaches such as participation in class, reading and writing

College and university instructors form part of challenges international students encounter. According to Kim (2011), his literature entailed how international students’ struggles in their interaction with native speakers instructors in applying ethnographic methods. His work showed that many international students would at times pretend to have understood a conversation with native speakers, which was not the case. As a result of their inability to communicate fluently in native language, some instructors would go ahead and develop a negative impression about the students not well prepared for their studies.


In as much as there are many benefits international students can contribute to the American institutions of higher learning, they still waste more time in dealing with instances of discrimination prejudice from the American students as a challenge (Lee, 2013). A research conducted by Bonazzo, (2007) on Chinese female students, it was established that Japanese female students received numerous discrimination and stereotypic treatment from American students who had a negative perception towards their international colleagues. The worry of the American students was because of the fear of international students being a threat to their economy, education, belief, and values, which proved a challenge to the international students. International students also encountered a challenge of isolation from fellow colleagues in classrooms. This occurs during the process of orientation and making friends. Most foreign students in the United States have encountered different forms of isolation in their classrooms and social lives. At first, the international students do not have an option but to take a passive role in their academics. However, as time goes by, they invent new ways of being actively involved in the classroom activities and discussions together with other social activities that boost their relationship with native students and faculties. Students, for instance, are isolated upon selecting participants for a students’ classroom groups, clubs, and other colleges associations (Medved, Franco, Gao, & Yang 2013). Foreign students in the United States also encountered challenges in their classrooms as a result of prejudice from local students. This meant that they faced marginalization both in classrooms and in social settings. According to the participants, some students made fun of them without understanding their backgrounds. They reiterated that they were more than willing to share with the American students some factual information about their background so that they might understand them. This indicates that sharing would promote some form of mutual understanding among the different cultures found in the institutions of higher learning.

There is also a problem between native professors and international students between African female scientist students in Western universities (Bonazzo & Wong 2007). The finding of his research indicated that instructors always questioned the capability of the international students to work on the course assignments, encouraged them to undertake remedial courses, and criticized their accent problems. This reaction from instructors made the international students feel that they did not get much needed support from the institution and acted as prejudice to their race and class. In all these literatures, it is evident that international students lack institutions’ support in their endeavor for higher education abroad. Some face the challenges in interacting with the professors due to language barriers, cultural dissimilarities, and expectations. Furthermore, international students are also faced with the challenge of being recognized as international students. They reiterated the significance of being recognized as an important component of a slight accommodation from the lecturers and colleagues. This problem of International students makes them develop too much feeling of anxiety that emanate from student teacher relationships and other classroom challenges. International students face isolation and discrimination that leads to loneliness while studying in the United States. It is important to help international students so that they find success in the classroom when they attend schools in the United States.

The absence of intercultural Communication Process

This is a challenging aspect that that is hindering the smooth transition of adaptation to the international student’s success in classrooms in the United States. For instance, when individuals develop anxiety in their way of communication with people from different cultural backgrounds, they end up developing some stereotypes regarding the behavior of the people.

Academic Barriers

Many international students face academic barriers in the classrooms through the teaching systems, methodology, and their instructors. Academic challenges categories for international students mainly refer to the academic systems, instructors, and methods of teaching employed (Habib, Johannesen& Øgrim, 2014). Moreover, according to McCalman (2007) literature found out that with regards to teaching and learning challenges, specifically trained instructors in international colleges and institutions to are a significant resource, especially in dealing with international students. The system of education in high institutions is based on practical and research factors than theoretical aspects. This provides a challenge to international students who do not have research background assistance from the instructors.

Pressure and High Expectations from Parents

Another challenge that international students in the United States face is the pressure and expectations from their parents to succeed in their class work. Most of the students carry the expectations of their parents in the United States. Some of the expectations include learning results or outcomes, English language proficiency, and financial support among many others. This makes the students go through a lot of pressure in their academic studies in classrooms in order to meet the expectations within a short period. Many international students receive a lot or pressure from parents on how they are coping with studies. This makes the students find it hard to explain to them that they need more time to cope with everything. Lack of positive support from the family, institution, and society is an element affecting the success of international students. International students who feel comfortable relating to their colleagues in colleges and universities through participating in extra-curriculum activities are more likely to be retained by the institutions and graduate successfully after a successful achievement in classrooms with no group separations (Medved, Franco, Gao, & Yang, 2013).

Social Communication Barriers

International students in the United States encounter social communication barriers in terms of sign language and other forms. This element affects them as a result of the way things are done in the United States, which is contrary to their home nations. Different sign languages varied and proved to be hard for the students to understand the real meaning that is intended. The international students also encountered a difference in the communication patterns. For instance, in their interactions with their instructors and colleague students in classrooms, they have to deal with these differences (Kuo, 2011). These situations bring about awkward scenarios for the international students to bear.

Financial Challenges

International students in the United States are also faced with financial implications challenges that affect their success in their classroom work. Financial worries among the global students have been proven to be prominent sources of stress (Chavajay, & Skowronek 2008).. The rates of international tuition are normally higher as compared to domestic students. This makes most international students to have substantial amounts of anxiety in trying to balance between financial needs and academic requirements. Students financial needs affect their academic work because most of them end up enrolling for student work programs or seek employment opportunities, therefore, taking much of their class work. The United States has very limited loan option for international students.

There are many challenges that come along with undertaking studies in foreign nations. In this literature review, the specific problems faced by international students in the United States have been identified so far. A number of institutions of higher learning often do not offer support services to international students thus being a challenge to international students. There must be a better way of identifying the challenges international students go through and come up with strategies to overcome them. The institutions’ lack of provision for the stratagems services for addressing international student’s remedies has made international students to continue living facing the challenges encountered in the new environments. The institutions need to provide school facilities and resources in order to assists international students adapt to the new academic environment. These include services, such as students associations, academic writing centers, counseling facilities, and recreational facilities among others. These facilities and resources are significant in allowing the students to relieve classroom stress and get close to a support group to get help in addressing some of the issues. For instance, amidst all these challenges, international students would find some quiet and peaceful times in facilities, such as the library or laboratory to study alone and improve specific areas. Some students would make extra efforts to get help from the writing centers for their paper revision. Students would also visit the counseling facilities as often as possible to relieve some of the pressure accrued from classroom challenges.

Lack of Special Facilities and Services

Lack of special facilities and services like dormitory and campus activities make international students to continue encountering many struggles and challenges in their pursuit for higher education abroad. International students need to seek different ways of learning and adapting to the new cultures through exploration. Through these facilities, international students in this case sought to befriend native English speakers and other host students as roommates to learn basic elements like culture and basic language improvement. Other international students use the facilities, such as different students’ organizations whereby social interactions create a sense of incorporation and assimilation. Learners who get involved in university activities and groups are able to expand their social associations and overcome their struggles (Bamford, 2008).

The literature in this paper is an indication of international students’ different challenges witnessed in different parts of the world. These are the challenges or negative outcomes that international students face in their pursuit of higher education in foreign nations. It is evident from the discussion that there are several effects experienced by international students as a result of these challenges, for instance, uneasiness, depression, anxiety, and loss of academic pleasure .Others include academic pressure both inside and outside classrooms, inferiority feelings, discrimination, and feeling of unappreciated.

Benefits of International Students in the United States

International students bring many benefits in the United States apart from the academic stature and financial benefits. According to Taras and Rowney (2007) they identified many other benefits that the American students gain from cultural diversity like preparing themselves for global assignments. Also, most international students are significant in enhancing domestic institutions’ academic excellence. This is because most of the students are highly ranked in their countries and because of that, some are sponsored to pursue their education abroad. Consequently, the students bring in new and diverse ways of thinking, therefore, catalyzing the academic competition.

Moreover, international students constitute a great source of assortment in the institutions of higher education. Through their presence, the culture within the colleges and universities is enriched. This is significant in building up the cultural sensitivity and skills of the American students and faculty staff through their daily interactions. They offer opportunities for local students and communities to enjoy foreign experience components, such as language, culture, and traditions.

International students are sources of economic investment for domestic institutions. Many international students in the United States fund their education privately from different sources that are outside the United States. This is a significant source of income for the Higher education institutions and the country at large, which is in form of fees, tuition, accommodation, and travel expenses among others. Therefore, international students play a major role in the economic input of the universities since foreign students’ fees is always higher than that of domestic students. This extends to other sectors, for instance, accommodation facilities.


Basing on the literature review, recommendations for colleges and universities in the United States is a significant matter that needs to be addressed. Although some challenges are tackled and strategies are mentioned in the literature, more is required in order to examine the challenges faced by international students and solutions in different contexts.

First, the institutions of higher learning should come up with an open English learning program that will help international students’ language proficiency. Language as a barrier has consequences on the students’ life in college or university, both in class and outside classroom. For instance, the institution can launch several workshops or seminars where international students can be familiarized with English language basic usage, such as slang words and other social aspects that contribute effectively to their success academically and socially.

Additionally, the institutions of higher learning in the United States should appreciate the value of embracing foreign students not only in economic aspects but also in recognizing the diversity factor they bring in. For instance, international students should be taken through an elaborate orientation process to help them acquire necessary skills in adapting to new learning environment. This also calls for the administration units within the institutions to allow equal learning opportunities for all students. Furthermore, the universities and colleges need to enhance their intercultural competence aimed at associating all students whether domestic or international by training the staff that ensures this is objective is achieved.

Moreover, international students require more guidance in order to achieve their academic endeavors and reduce psychological effects by the instructors (McCalman, 2007). Therefore, the institutions need to come up with active and effective tutoring and counseling facilities to guide international students amidst all the challenges they encounter in their new environment. A close orientation to the United States culture should also be offered to international students. This should also incorporate academic culture through forums, such as seminars conducted by professionals, and other international students who have succeeded, with an aim of helping them cope with existing new challenges.

International students encounter many problems in their pursuit for higher in the United States. Therefore, it is important for the institutions of higher education to note that in a much they are putting all efforts to attract international students from across the globe, they also need to understand the challenges faced by the same students and put across the correct support. Global students are spread all over many colleges and universities in all the US states. The population of the foreign students in the institutions contributes to the diversity and global face in their classrooms, institutions, and the community. For instance, the presence of international students in classrooms is significant in adding a difference in perceptions, which increase understanding and appreciate differences in cultures found across the globe. Therefore, acceptance of international students in the United States institutions of higher learning is important. The international students contribute positively to the students’ population at different levels through academic prestige, cultural expansion, and financial revenue.


This review of literature provides challenges that international students encounter in their pursuit of higher education in the United States. There are many challenges that university students come across as they pursue higher education away from their home nations (Özturgut & Murphy, 2009). The challenges are inside and outside classrooms. The obstacles emanate from social constraints, communication barriers, studying schedules, learning styles, and cultural adaptation among others.

The review clearly shows that there are several transitional challenges that international students encounter when they enroll to study in the institutions of higher education in the United States. However, these challenges form a basis for motivation among the international students to come up with strategies that help to solve their problems with regards to the new environment. When the international students adapt to the new environment, they come up with strategies that assist them in dealing with the challenges. However, this process takes time and energy considering that each moment spent in the institution is important. Therefore, the institutions of higher learning need to steer up resources and facilities to focus and address the challenges that international students go through immediately they report to their respective campuses. This can be done during the orientation process of all students admitted to the institutions with a key focus on students from different backgrounds. In this regards, students will adjust quickly to the changed dynamics of the new environment. The universities need to provide first hand assistance to the students to enable them cope with the new learning surroundings that will help them achieve their desired goals academically and socially.



Bamford, J. (2008). Strategies for the improvement of international students’ academic and cultural experiences of studying in the UK. The enhancing series case studies: international learning experience: The Higher Education Academy.

Brown, L. (2008). Language and anxiety: An ethnographic study of international

postgraduate students. Evaluation and Research in Education,

21, 75–95.

Bonazzo, C., & Wong, Y. (2007). Japanese international female students’

experience of discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes. College Student

Journal, 41, 631– 639.

Chavajay, P., & Skowronek, J. (2008). Aspects of acculturation stress

among international students attending a university in the USA. Psychological

Reports, 103, 827– 835.

Habib, L., Johannesen, M., & Øgrim, L. (2014). Experiences and Challenges of International Students in Technology-Rich Learning Environments. Educational Technology & Society, 17(2), 196-206.


Kim, H. Y. (2011). International graduate students’ difficulties: graduate classes as a community of practices. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3), 281-292.

Kuo, Y. H. (2011). Language challenges faced by international graduate students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 1(2).


Lee, K. C. G. (2013). Training and educating international students in professional psychology: What graduate programs should know. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 7(1), 61.

McCalman, C. L. (2007). Being an interculturally competent instructor in the United States: Issues of classroom dynamics and appropriateness, and recommendations for international instructors. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2007(110), 65-74.

Medved, D., Franco, A., Gao, X., & Yang, F. (2013). Challenges in teaching international students: group separation, language barriers and culture differences.

Mostafa, G. (2006). Learning and cultural experiences of Arab Muslim graduate students in a Canadian university. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 1(1).

Myers, S. A., & Claus, C. J. (2012). The relationship between students’ motives to communicate with their instructors and classroom environment. Communication Quarterly, 60(3), 386-402.

Spencer, A. (2003). Facilitating the academic success of international students. Teaching Theology & Religion, 6(3), 164-168.

Talebloo, B., & Bak, R. B. (2013). Challenges faced by international postgraduate students during their first year of studies. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(13), 138-145.

Taras, V., & Rowney, J. (2007). Effects of cultural diversity on in-class communication and student project team dynamics: Creating synergy in the diverse classroom. International Studies in Educational Administration, 35(2), 66-81.

Zhao, C. M., Kuh, G. D., & Carini, R. M. (2005). A comparison of international student and American student engagement in effective educational practices. Journal of Higher Education, 209-231.