International Students

Moving to a different country to pursue education can be exciting and fulfilling. International students can look forward to meeting new people, immersing themselves in new cultures, making friends across the globe, all whilst progressing their academic success.

However, being an international student is not easy and many face dauting challenges that can make it difficult, mentally draining, and isolating, such as integrating into a totally different way of life and customs. With this in mind, it’s imperative for international students to protect their mental health as much as possible.

What are international students?

International students are people who embark on educational studies in a country that is different than their own, for example a British student may decide to move to Spain to study for their university degree.

The UK has a strong relationship with international students, with Universities UK stating that international students make up a total of 20.7% of the totally student population in the UK.

Why do students study abroad?

Moving your life to a different country isn’t easy, so why do so many people study abroad?

Adventure and ability to see the world

Traveling is expensive and hard to do around full time education or work. So, many students decide to change their environment and explore other parts of the world whilst they complete their studies without compromising their academic success.

Improve language skills

Understanding another language is a beneficial skill to develop and a great way to improve this skill is by using it daily and speaking to fluent and native speakers. International students are able to immerse themselves within the culture and practice the language by doing simple, everyday thing , such as ordering a coffee or asking for directions.

Develop independence

International students may want to study abroad to gain further independence and escape their comfort zone. International study provides the opportunity to navigate new cultures and ways of life, learn a new language, and explore unfamiliar locations- all fantastic ways to develop independence.

Enhance opportunities

With new awareness and knowledge of other cultures, countries, and experiences, international students present their dedication to their studies. Becoming an international student shows potential employers that they have international experience, independence, willingness to learn, and ability to step outside of their comfort zone- all desirable skills for employment.

Challenges international students face

Culture shock

Culture shock is an experience someone feels when they move to another place with differing culture from their home location. Often, culture shock causes feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, and it’s not exclusive to moving to a new country, people can experience culture shock when they move cities, states, or towns.

It can be difficult for international students to navigate culture shock as they have the added pressure of their educational demands as well as getting used to a new way of life.

Culture shock is often temporary, but it can be extremely disorienting and make you feel like an outsider in a place you are meant to call home.

Tips on how to help culture shock: Keep in touch with home and understand that culture shock is a common symptom of moving away from home, you are not alone! Have familiar things around your living space that mean something to you and your connection to back home. Connect with other international students from your home country, they will understand how you are feeling better than anyone else.

Language barriers

Not being able to speak the language of the country you live in can be extremely frustrating and difficult to do everyday things, such as ordering a coffee or renting a book from the library. Language barriers may isolate international students whose first language isn’t that of the country they now live in.

Tips on overcoming language barriers: Use apps, such as Duolingo, to get you started in learning the language and practice the language with fluent speakers.

Loneliness

Going to university can be a lonely time for many students. Moving away from your loved ones and starting a new life is daunting because it feels lonely. It can be especially lonely for international students. Often, students from overseas face challenges, such as being further away from home, understanding a new culture, and balancing social connections with a possible language barrier.

International students adapt to a new community with a totally different way of life from what they are used to, encouraging feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Tips on how to offset loneliness: Join a society or club, such as a book club or a sports society, stick with it, and try with social connections. Keep in touch with family and friends from home.

Academic Challenges

Like language barriers, international students face academic challenges if they are not fluent in the language of the country they are living in. For example, they may find it difficult to follow a lecture or they may not be able to decipher academic writing. They may also find it harder to build social connections to native students, making it harder to rely on their peers for academic support.

Tips on how to mitigate academic challenges: Ask as many questions as possible and take your time to understand as much as you can. Don’t feel embarrassed or shy about asking questions, that is what you are there to do!

Homesickness

According to research, more than 90% of international students say they miss the familiarities of their home country, such as their friends, families, and homes. International students face this challenge on a bigger scale, they are no longer able to drive home to lean on their home support system.

Tips on how to alleviate homesickness symptoms: Keep in contact with friends and family from back home. Remember you are not alone, most international students will feel the pain of homesickness. Make social connections with other international students, they will be able to empathise and fully understand your emotions and feelings.

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