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What to Expect: Tales From An International Student

Posted by rafael on December 21, 2012 in Education

Coming to a foreign country as an international student can be a disorienting and disconcerting experience. Not only are you faced with potentially dramatic differences culturally and in terms of language, but the process of trying to learn how a different educational system works can also be daunting. Attending school through an exchange program or as a foreign transfer student can be exciting if you are prepared.

Cultural Differences

Culture differences can be disconcerting if you are not prepared. You may be surrounded by people who dress differently and talk differently from you. Although you may have taken language classes to become fluent in the language of the country you are visiting, you may find that local slang and ways of stating things are substantially different from what you learned.

Exploring your food choices can also be an adventure. Spices and flavors may be entirely different from what you are used to at home. If you are attending school in a country that is dramatically different from your own, you will probably discover that meal times are different and common foods are also significantly different. Almost every culture has some form of standard breakfast food and warm beverage for the morning. However, midday meals and dinner may be substantially different for you.

Classroom Differences

International students frequently report adjusting to school in a foreign country can be a difficult process. You may discover that professors relate to students differently in your host country. For example, in the United States, professors commonly openly critique and compliment students in class. Also, in the United States, professors commonly address students by their first name, dress casually and expect independent work from students. Students often call professors by their first name, openly challenge professors and may eat in the classroom. For students not from the United States these types of classroom behavior can be alarming.

Students from the United States attending school in a foreign country may find classroom behaviors stiff and formal. They may be disconcerted to discover that they are not allowed to engage in casual behavior in the classroom and are expected to only talk when called on by the professor.

International Student

International Student

Survival Tips for International Students

If you are attending school as an international student, you will eventually adjust to your new surroundings and how others behave.

• When you feel overwhelmed and homesick, find someone to talk to who will listen. Your school may have student groups for international students from your country. Visit the International Student Program office of your school to find out about recreational activities you can attend.

• Understand that you will probably feel homesick. Before leaving on your adventure, buy an international calling card or make sure your cell phone can make international calls. Talking to friends and family and hearing a familiar voice and accent can go a long way to helping you feel better. Bring a few things from home with you that you can keep in your room that will provide you with comfort, such as photographs, music and your favorite snacks.

• Be patient with yourself. Remember that it takes time to adjust to new surroundings and people. Give yourself some time to learn the language, meet people and discover foods that you like and enjoy. Be willing to ask for help if you get lost or are confused. You may be surprised at how much others are willing to help if you are willing to ask.

Going to school as an international student is an adventure of a lifetime. You are not only attending school to earn your grades and a degree. You are also attending school to learn from a new culture and to meet new people. If you relax and enjoy yourself, you will have wonderful experiences and open yourself to new ideas and perspectives in the process.

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