Foreign Model

Foreign Students

I spent a semester abroad. I'm sure it's much easier for international students to adjust to America. What do they think of studying here?

You ask about international travelers in America with the benefit of having lived abroad. This country has greater wealth, more support systems, more civil rights, a better educational system, etc. Foreign students must have an easy time over here. Here's what they think.

Moving to an American university is a major undertaking for an international student. The internet offers photos and video for dorm housing or off-campus condos for sale or rent. Upon arrival at college, the student already knows what to expect for accommodations.

The first semester at college in the U.S. is usually quite overwhelming for foreign students. There are huge challenges and a large culture gap, especially for those from Asian nations. There will be an immediate impact for many students experiencing their first western country. The great thing about America is that it is a melting pot of different nations, especially on campus, so students are never alone.

New assignments are often a struggle for international students who have never dealt with our system. Compiling lengthy and detailed assignments using research papers and academic references is a challenge on its own. If you have never written in such depth before or English is your second language, you will find these difficult. Fortunately, many colleges do offer assistance and have reading and writing centers to help.

New subjects are also a challenge for foreign students. Many colleges require a series of general education classes, regardless of your major. Some international students are perplexed as to why they have to study history for example, if their degree is in engineering. Extra classes provide exposure to topics that you would not normally study and this can be quite a shock to international students.

New professors with different teaching methods can be a surprise for those from overseas. Learning in other countries, especially in Asia, tends to be by rote, read and repeat and do not question. In the west, our education system is more interactive, lecturers will encourage active participation, and learning is a collaborative experience. Being able to approach professors is a big cultural difference, in many countries teaching is a hands-off experience.

A huge part of college life is the social scene. Many international students are not used to this and integration can be a struggle. Building friendships and relationships is difficult, more so if you're from overseas. Most colleges have plenty of activities and clubs to facilitate social interaction between fellow students.

This rise in affluence in Asia has led directly to more discretionary dollars for select international students. The shopping experience here is unmatched abroad. Since these students come by air, they often have to shop for everything the typical domestic student brings from home. Many plan to live in the U.S. longer than their 4-year college program, so they may find self-storage units to warehouse some choice possessions, until they move out of college.

The change in diet will affect pretty much every foreigner visiting here. Cuisine varies greatly between countries and the typical freshman diet will cause weight gain from junk food. Colleges do offer support, such as wellness, health centers and nutrition advice, all available on campus.

Safety can also pose a surprising issue for foreign students. They do not recognize the same visual cues that Americans have learned about traffic rules, neighborhoods, people, food, etc. Foreign students can easily obtain a license to drive in the U.S. With our traffic system of right-hand-side driving, foreign drivers can easily find themselves confused.

One thing that unites a great deal of international students, though, is their love of the U.S., once they've settled in.

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign - Robert Louis Stevenson.

(Suzanne Hite is a former publications editor serving the technology services sector).

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