Tips for International Students: Turn Difficulties into Advantages


The trend of studying abroad appears to be on the rise with no indication of stopping its ascent any time soon. With a more globally connected world than we’ve ever had and higher-education being more accessible than ever before, more and more students are looking for opportunities to expand their academic level outside of their home countries.

These “foreign nationals” represent individuals that are eager to learn and determined to succeed away from home. And while they do a lot for their host countries, in terms of economic influx, for instance, they still face a lot of difficulties that may seem daunting at first.

Below are two of the biggest obstacles that international students often have to deal with, and how they can turn them into advantages.

  1. Language barrier

Most study abroad programs require a certain level of the receiving country’s national language in each of the potential students they host. However, being able to manage communication with your host country’s population is a far cry from being fluent with it.

Listening and speaking in a new language can get tiring. It requires a conscious effort on the part of international students, especially when they’re just starting out with their classes and their brains and ears haven’t had enough time to adjust to the new sounds.

Also, standardized tests such as the TOEFL may give students some skills to manage in an English-speaking country, but it doesn’t teach them the necessary things for interacting and communicating in day-to-day situations. When international students can’t understand a joke a professor says in class or can’t enjoy a casual conversation with native speakers, they can often feel isolated and homesick.

Mastery of their host country’s language is both a necessity and an opportunity for international students. Taking language classes and being immersed in it every day will help them learn the new language that much quicker and, while it may be difficult at first, it can lead to some amazing career choices in the long run.

One way they can take advantage of this situation is to pursue a career as a translator from

their native language to the acquired one (and vice versa). Not only are there plenty of job opportunities in this field, but also some of them can be done remotely without them having to leave their dorm rooms.

  1. Culture shock

While the vast majority of international students view experiencing a new culture as an exciting new adventure, the truth is that it will take them some time to adjust to their host country’s ideals and way of life, more so than they think it will.

This is one of the most common difficulties international students face as they deal with different social rules, behaviors, climates than what they’re used to. Luckily, most colleges offer counseling to their students and to help make acclimation easier.

While some students never really get completely comfortable surrounded by a new culture, others will find themselves flourishing in this new environment. Being able to fully experience different cultures will certainly be an advantage for many.

One way students can put this advantage to good use is to pursue a career in International Relations. Given that they have lived in at least two different countries with different cultures, they will certainly have the edge over the rest of their peers.

Last word of advice

Being an international student can be as thrilling as it is scary. Remember that you don’t have to go at it alone, try your hardest to get involved with your school, reach out and engage with other students and ask for help if you need it. Most of all, try to enjoy everything this experience has to offer.

Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Follow her @melissaaburns or contact at


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