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Adjusting to a New Life – Challenges Faced by International Students

“We don’t grow when things are easy – we grow when we face challenges.”


International students have many expectations when they live in a foreign land. They can have high hopes when they enter a new school. Aside from budgeting after paying tuition fees, international students face unfamiliarity and a number of other obstacles: stress, weather, language and expectations from back home. Although these are somehow uncomfortable, there are ways to overcome them.

student sitting on a stone wall overlooking the city

Anxiety and fitting in

Feeling like an outsider?! (Insert Mean Girls Movie soundtrack- “Milkshake” By Kelis) and voila! Sounds familiar? The most common challenge international students face is adjusting to new surroundings. This includes the people they are dealing with on a daily basis. They miss their support system in their home country – their families, longtime friends and many more. Just like Cady in the Mean Girls movie. But there are tons of methods to grow your new network when studying abroad. Join clubs, volunteer, join sports events or even attend local festivals. This way, thinking too much about your families back home will decrease. Thus, making new friends is not bad at all.

student standing by the window

Stress and dealing with finances

On top of the never-ending lists of paperwork and exams among others, learning to master the money is a challenge too. Money can be a very useful tool if used wisely, but it can quickly disappear if not handled properly. Living in a different country can be a bit expensive compared to your home country. (You’re converting that can of soda and chips, right? LOL!) But there are good ways to stretch the finances. There are budget meals to plan ahead, nutritious alternative foods and free or cheaper recipes online. Adjust your daily budget accordingly. Universities also have financial counseling, especially post-secondary institutions.

Loneliness and homesickness

The unfamiliarity of a foreign land gives you a touristy feel at first. They call it the honeymoon stage; it’s the time of excitement and curiosity. Oh, hi there Instagram! When the honeymoon is over, reality hits you since you will be staying away from home for quite some time. Sounds lonely? Most students abroad face this challenge. Being homesick. Being miles away from families and friends – basically your whole support system. Although this is difficult, it is advisable to make new friends, create networks. Now is the modern era of digital technology – talk to your family online, indulge with a new hobby or visit the town center or a local bookstore. Anything that will keep your mind busy and productive. You’ll slowly start noticing changes in the way you think. You are now adapting to a new environment. Baby steps often lead to big leaps.

student leaning against a wall on her phone

Try todo things that make you happier and productive! Challenges such as unfamiliarity sharpen one’s personality, it expands your perspective, your horizon. Having the courage to get out your comfort zone can turn out to be the greatest accomplishment when done right. Difficult at first, but very rewarding in the end. Don’t be afraid to explore new things and meet new people. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Continuously improve every aspect of yourself at the moment, enjoy your new home and embrace the challenges, it will be worth it and it will change you and help you grow.

More study abroad tips and student stories here.

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