Common Challenges Faced By International Students

Mary Joseph
Mary Joseph May 5, 2023
Updated 2023/05/05 at 2:55 PM
Common Challenges faced by international students

Studying abroad provides a chance to gain a top-tier education while exploring new customs, meeting people, learning a new language, and living independently, which is an exhilarating time in one’s life.

Additionally, having international experience looks impressive on a resume.

However, not everything about studying abroad is trouble-free. International students encounter unique challenges that are absent in their home countries.

This article delves into the most prevalent hurdles international students face while studying abroad and offers tips on how to overcome them.

Common Challenges Faced By International Students

Culture Shock:

It can be challenging and perplexing for individuals to navigate through an unfamiliar setting and culture.

International students often find it difficult to adapt to the customs of their host nation, which can make them feel like they don’t belong.

Furthermore, the campus may have a distinct culture that requires some time for the student to get used to, such as mixed-gender dorms, a more relaxed rapport with professors and figures of authority, and class discussions that involve presenting and debating multiple perspectives.

Before you arrive in your host country, make sure to conduct comprehensive research to gain knowledge on what you can anticipate.

Take time to observe and interact with the locals and try to get involved in their culture.

 Don’t be afraid to ask them about their customs and traditions because they are usually enthusiastic to share them.

Additionally, they may also want to learn about your culture in return. It takes time to fully understand a new culture, so it’s essential to remain patient, maintain your curiosity, and have an open mind.

Language Disparity:

 Countries like Singapore are renowned for having excellent English language proficiency.

However, even if students are proficient in English, they may encounter difficulties while studying abroad due to unfamiliar local expressions, rapid speech patterns, and strong accents.

 These obstacles can impede students’ academic progress, create feelings of isolation, and even diminish their confidence.

Don’t feel scared or ashamed of encountering a language barrier. Instead,  take it as an opportunity to learn a new language.

The most effective way to enhance your language abilities is through complete immersion.

Don’t limit yourself to people from your own cultural background when learning about a new culture. Instead, make an effort to socialize and engage with local students frequently.

 If possible, enroll in classes that teach the language spoken in your host country to improve communication with your peers.

Many universities offer language support programs for international students. The more effort you put into learning it, the better you feel at it.

Furthermore, acquiring mastery of a second language is a valuable skill that you can bring back home.

Conversely, there are situations where it is necessary to become accustomed to individuals who are not fluent in your mother tongue.

 In such instances, you can utilize this as a chance to enhance your skills in effective communication and demonstrate patience towards those who are similarly endeavoring to surmount language obstacles.


Despite efforts by global systems to promote diversity and inclusivity, discrimination remains a prevalent issue.

International students often encounter discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, and native culture, with unfair stereotypes and assumptions made about them.

However, the university campus is an ideal platform for promoting diversity and educating people about different cultures.

 By sharing personal experiences, offering support, and fostering a sense of acceptance, people can cultivate respect and appreciation for diverse customs, traditions, and beliefs.

Therefore, it is crucial that everyone plays a part in promoting diversity and inclusivity on campus.


It’s common to experience homesickness when you’re surrounded by unfamiliar surroundings and miss the people and things that bring you comfort.

This feeling can be intensified by academic, social, cultural, and financial pressures, as well as the internal conflict of feeling privileged to have the chance to study abroad. As a result, this can cause stress, anxiety, or depression.

To overcome homesickness, it’s helpful to stay occupied by socializing, volunteering, and exploring your new environment.

By adopting a positive attitude and changing your perspective, you can make the most of your surroundings and leave homesickness behind.

Fortunately, thanks to technological advancements, we have the ability to communicate with our loved ones back in our home country at any time.

Even though there may be differences in time zones, it is crucial to maintain frequent communication with our family and friends in our country of origin.

This not only enables us to update them on how we are coping but also helps us to keep our support system nearby and ensures that we can always count on them.

Building Relationships

Common Challenges Faced By International Students

International students frequently arrive on campus unaccompanied, without any acquaintances in the vicinity to assist them in getting acclimated.

As a result, they may have limited shared interests and activities with local students.

Additionally, the host country may not acknowledge the holidays they celebrate, and they may not have any association with the holidays observed in the new location.

Given the distance from their accustomed environment, international students tend to seek out individuals from their own cultural background, which can lead to avoiding social situations and further isolate them from completely assimilating into their new surroundings.

It’s important to keep in mind that upon arriving at a new school or country, you may feel like you’re in the minority compared to the local students.

 However, it’s worth noting that other students are likely experiencing similar nervousness.

There are many students from various parts of the world who are eager to make connections on their first day of school.

Therefore, why not take the initiative and be the first to reach out?

Create opportunities for developing strong friendships by proactively getting involved in sports clubs and student organizations where you can connect with people who share similar interests and enjoy spending time with you outside of class.

It’s important to not only focus on personal relationships but also to cultivate a professional network while you’re studying.

Attend career fairs and networking events, take advantage of university mentorship programs to find a mentor, and establish professional connections on LinkedIn.

Whether you’re in your home country or a foreign one, the principles for interacting with others remain the same.

A piece of advice to keep in mind is to not overlook your academic responsibilities when you relocate abroad.

Even though you might have a lot happening outside of school, it’s crucial not to fall behind.

There are numerous resources available on campus, such as international student services, that can assist you with anything you need.

Financial Matters:

It is common knowledge that pursuing an education in a foreign country can be quite expensive.

Unless one has financial assistance from a scholarship, students are responsible for covering costs such as tuition fees, housing, food, transportation, and other daily expenses.

The amount required varies depending on the individual’s living preferences, the city they are in, and their spending habits.

Generally, larger cities tend to have higher expenses.

This is a chance to acquire knowledge about budgeting and money management.

 It’s important to regularly monitor your finances and spend wisely, while also setting aside funds for unexpected situations.

 If you require additional income, consider internships, part-time work, or gigs, which may be available through your university.

However, before embarking on a job search, make sure to research the employment regulations that apply to international students in your host country.

Differences In Currency:

You might consider the notion of being preoccupied with disparities in the currency as trivial, but it’s not just about obsessing over exchange rates and improving your arithmetic abilities in your head.

There are also additional financial variations that you should bear in mind.

To give an illustration, certain nations don’t incorporate taxes in the advertised price of an item, and the tax has to be computed and included separately when making a purchase.

 Additionally, there are informal words for money that you should acquaint yourself with.

For instance, in the United Kingdom, the slang term “quid” is used to refer to one British pound.

Lastly, ensure that your bank cards are operational in foreign countries.

Although you might assume that all banking networks are interconnected worldwide, that is not always the case.

 Certain nations only accept debit cards and not credit cards, while others only accept chip-and-PIN cards and not the older magnetic-stripe ones.

Therefore, it is advised to research the payment methods accepted in the country you plan to visit.

Living Independently:

In order to enjoy the independence of living on your own, it is important to make arrangements for appropriate student housing first.

You need to make a choice between residing in a campus dormitory or an apartment located off-campus.

Opting for an apartment can be a daunting task as it involves finding a secure and affordable place to live in an unfamiliar area.

Furthermore, there is also the worry of being scammed by fraudulent landlords and paying excessively high rents.

Irrespective of your choice, it is probable that you will reside in a communal setting, except if you decide to rent the entire apartment.

 It will be essential to get along with your housemate or roommate, and you will have to begin taking responsibility for household tasks that you may not have previously done.

 You may be questioning your ability to handle these responsibilities.

Once you receive your acceptance letter, it’s recommended to begin searching for accommodation and to use reputable student housing agents.

 For most individuals, leaving their homes and relocating to a new place by themselves is a significant event.

 If you’re uncertain whether to choose a dorm or an apartment, it’s generally advised to reside on campus for your first year.

This is a wise approach to transitioning into college life, establishing a schedule, getting accustomed to the new city, making friends, learning how to live in a shared environment, and gradually becoming more independent.

All of this while prioritizing your studies and giving yourself time to make informed decisions later on regarding various apartment options, locations, roommate choices, and the kind of lifestyle you desire.


It is now time for you to progress and face the next challenge in your academic and professional journey. You should now come back and share the amazing and fulfilling experience you had while studying abroad.

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