The primary motivation for studying abroad is to seek high quality of education as some foreign institutions offer superior quality of education relative to the domestic schools. Today, education is among the factors that determine the success of an individual thus, students enroll in institutions that are likely to enhance academic excellence regardless of their physical location. In the job market, companies seek employees who graduate from reputable institutions. Individuals who study abroad have an opportunity to interact with people from varying cultures thus gaining the cultural competence required in today’s working environment (Gebhard, 2012, p. 158). Additionally, they may experience different styles of learning in the foreign countries, which may improve their academic excellence. However, there are challenges that students studying abroad face that may adversely affect their academic performance. Loneliness and language barrier are some of the factors their school life uncomfortable. Based on an interview with international students studying in Georgia, this study discusses the challenges experienced by students studying abroad.
The primary aim of conducting the interviews was to identify the challenges that are experienced by students studying abroad (Pandit and Alderman, 2004, p. 130). The interviewees were international students aged between 18 and 23 years, with a mean age of 20 years. About 51% of the respondents were male and the rest were female. The study involved students in varying levels of education ranging from freshman to senior education. Among the countries of origin for the students included Germany, Japan, China and Lebanon, implying that majority of the interviewees had a cultural background that was distinct from the rest. The findings of the study revealed that about 70% of the students studying abroad had limited interaction with the other students. Among the factors that resulted to the limited interaction included language barrier, which made it difficult for them to make friends. About 60% of the students revealed that they had difficulties coping with the new culture of the United States in terms of dressing mode, religion and food. About 80% of the respondents indicated that they enjoyed the new experience in the new country, but often felt lonely. Based on the findings from the interviews, it is accurate to state that individuals studying abroad are faced with various challenges including social exclusion, cultural adjustment, and loneliness.
Studying abroad exposes one to new experiences and knowledge that may help them later in life, but it is common for individuals to feel like outsiders. The limited interaction between the students and the rest of the community leads them to feel like they do not fit in the country’s culture. Although most of the institutions create an environment where international students thrive, they still feel like outcasts. For example, as an international student one might not understand jokes cracked by the rest of the students and this makes them feel very uncomfortable. Before the international students get used to the new cultures, they may find it difficult to interact with their peers. The primary issue with the social exclusion is that it may lead the international students to have low self-esteem. However, the challenge lessens as the students continue with the program and become well acquainted with the culture of the new country.
Cultural adjustment is also a challenge that affects the students studying abroad, because majority of them come from countries where the cultural background differs from the United States. Among the cultural elements that the students have to deal with include language as it acts as a barrier to their interaction with the others. Minor cultural aspects such as the mode of dressing in a foreign country have a large impact on the lives of the international students. To fit in the new society, the international students may have to change their mode of dressing to suit the Institution’s. For most of the students, the change may be uncomfortable. However, the adjustment does not necessarily entail changing one’s values to ft in but it involves respecting the cultures of the other parties. Conducting a study on the experience of international students in Belgium, Wang and Hannes (2014, p. 79) concluded that cultural adjustment is the most significant challenge that the students face. Interviewing the Japanese students studying in Belgium Universities, the authors concluded that the culture shock that the students experience makes it difficult for them to adjust to the new culture. Culture shock affects the academic performance of the students negatively as they may become disoriented and lose focus of their academic aspirations.
Majority of the international students experience loneliness because they rarely interact with their peers. The lack of close friends in the school makes it hard for the students to have company and may end up regretting the decision to study abroad. In some cases, international students need friends to help them get over the cultural shock, but are difficult for them to find friends, especially if they speak a different language. Studying in a foreign language may be challenging and may affect the academic perform of the students negatively. According to Baba and Hosoda (2014, p. 12), international students learn foreign languages used in teaching better when they interact more with their peers which are proficient in the languages. The authors indicate that the loneliness experienced by the international students does not only affect their social welfare, but also their academic performance as they take long to learn the language used in classrooms.
It is evident that the challenges experienced by the students studying abroad affects their academic performance negatively, making it necessary to identify measures that may help them cope with the problems. According to Erichsen and Bollige (2011, p, 324), the challenges can be solved by ensuring that the students are familiar with foreign culture before enrolling for courses. The authors cite that the international students should also learn to be observant so that they are able to understand the foreign culture well. Marginson (2014, p. 18) indicates that the international students should also be curios and eager to learn so that they adjust to the foreign culture.
In conclusion, it is evident that international students benefit greatly from acquiring their studies abroad. The new methods of teaching and new systems of education in foreign countries may help improve the academic performance of the students. However, the various challenges that the population faces as a result of moving to foreign countries affects their academic performance negatively. Additionally, the social welfare of the students is adversely affected by the cultural shock they experience. The primary issue is that there is limited literature about the coping methods that can be used to overcome the challenges. Therefore, there is need for social researchers to conduct more studies about the strategies that can be used by international students to cope with the challenges experienced while studying abroad.
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Gebhard, Jerry G. “International students’ adjustment problems and behaviors.” Journal of International Students 2012 Vol 2 Issue 2 (2012): 158.
Marginson, Simon. “Student self-formation in international education.” Journal of Studies in International Education 18.1 (2014): 6-22.
Pandit, Kavita, and Derek Alderman. “Border crossings in the classroom: The international student interview as a strategy for promoting intercultural understanding.” Journal of Geography 103.3 (2004): 127-136.
Wang, Qingchun, and Karin Hannes. “Academic and socio-cultural adjustment among Asian international students in the Flemish community of Belgium: A photovoice project.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 39 (201