International students struggle in college


Staff writer Emma Li (The Inquirer 2010)

According to the International Institute of Education, the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States  increased by 8% to an all-time high of 671,616 in the 2008/2009 academic year. Many colleges recruit foreign students to increase diversity, foster cultural understanding, international relations and help the economy. International students contribute $17.8 billion to the U.S. economy.

Studying in the U.S is a great opportunity for international students; but it is a big challenge.

Many international students have left home for the first time, and they must learn how to take care of themselves: cooking, doing laundry, and dealing with roommates. Some international students eat bread everyday during the first month they are in America, because they have no idea how to cook.

In addition to adapting to a new home, international students face language challenges, school-related stress, and pressure from their families. Nearly $200 a unit can be a big investment for families. They simply cannot fail the class, because of this sacrifice. For many of these students, it is a case of “to pass or to die.”

Another difficulty for international students is adjusting to American culture. One time I went to a party, and all my Chinese friends came on time, but left an hour later, because they thought no one else was coming. All of my American friends began to arrive after an hour. A good lesson for my Chinese friends: never go to a party on time.

International students often stay in their own boxes, living and hanging out with people from their country. Sometimes their laptops are their only true friends.

Many international students are trying to make a positive change. They are making new friends, practicing English, and building leadership skills.

To my international student friends: ask if you need help. There are people and organizations to help you, such as the international students’ office, the English tutoring lab, the counseling center, and cultural clubs, like Indo DVC and Latino Students Alliance. There are outside school groups too: the International Christian Fellowship offers free dinner and organizes games and activities every Friday night.

To my American friends: now that you know the difficulties that international students face, when an international student speaks with strong accent, asks to borrow your notes or asks you how to spell a word, please be nice. Start a conversation with them. They need help and they need friends.


Contact Emma Li at [email protected]