6 Issues All International Students Face

Flying to another country where you will live for the next four years can be challenging…to say the least.

You’re excited, upbeat, willing to try new things, and face new obstacles.

Until you find yourself staring at the unnaturally bare walls of your new dorm room, sitting on your suitcase – the one familiar piece of your old life.

Because that’s no exaggeration: your life will change. In a multitude of ways.

International students leave behind their homes, people, pets, streets, secret walkways, and a piece of themselves. They face an interesting transition. These are a few of the things they go through:

#1 The “EVERYONE IS MY FRIEND” phase

You meet a new person nearly everyday as you find your way around campus and the dorms. This gives you the illusion that you’re socially accepted, and/or even popular. You feel like being generous: saying hi to everyone you see, smiling, and waving to people at the bus stop or down the hallway. All your issues seem to be everyone’s issues: you’re all away from home, and trying to adapt like so many insects feeling their way. And so you bond. And bond. And bond some more.

#2 Then it “CLIQUES” in

No, that girl you met last week in the cafeteria doesn’t actually listen to alternative rock. And that guy who called you cute and asked you to hang out sometime; he sidles past when you wave now. Now you see the groups they have. You pacify yourself… ‘college can’t be like high school!‘ And then you realize otherwise. People who knew each other before you knew them stick together. Others have formed new cliques. It all happened so fast, you didn’t even have time to sit and ponder with a thoughtful expression. Cliques can form on the basis of race, gender, nationality, campus, age, music tastes, soda preference, wealth, and so much more.

#3 Ride on the “DOWNWARD SPIRAL”

So you find out you have no ‘real’ friends, and you’ve ignored the ones you had back home and so they probably hate you. Your cat probably wants nothing to do with you either. What could be worse? You shut yourself up in your room and decide that studying is the solution to everything. Except you also know that’s impractical, but you have no real friends, so what do you do? You’re trapped in a whiny social conundrum. Welcome.

#4 Answer your “PHONE” already

Your parents gave you space and time, and more space and more time. Now they want to know what you’re up to. You probably haven’t remembered to call them up in the last few days because of all the issues you were having. But they don’t know that. They’re sitting 3000 miles away fuming and feeling ignored. And so the family problems begin. You feel like slamming your phone and severing contact altogether. Yet you know you can’t, so just sit there and take it. Grit your teeth.

#5 You do have “BOOKS” you know…

You came to college to study. And while orientation is glossy and happy and sunny, you will need to get to studying eventually. Added to the other problems, this realization will hit you the hardest. Didn’t you have your fair share of dreams? Visions of a 4.0 have clouded you over. You think you’ll fail, or die, or get expelled. No, you won’t. Trust me.

#6 How does your “WALLET” feel?

When you moved in, your parents bought you everything: pins to paper to shower curtains. And now you must fend for yourself, mustn’t you? Back at home you’d say “I’m rich today,” or “I’m poor today,” depending on how much money your parents forked out every morning for school. And now…your three jobs have you running around in circles trying to balance it all out. Your wallet is all about you…welcome to the world of adult finance.

There could be a lot of additions, but I think I covered the main ones.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Ibtehaal says:

    Aah I remember a few of these stages! Worsened infinitely by language barrier issues and culture shock. The turning point passed quite unnoticed for me though. For some weeks, I felt like it’ll never get better, and at some point, I suddenly realized that I’d been quite alright for a while, but couldn’t pinpoint when the change happened. Where did you study abroad/where are you studying abroad?

    1. Viva Violet says:

      Yes definitely! I’m in Northwestern University in Qatar. Moving here from Pakistan took a lot of getting used to. Even trivial things like the weather or clothes people around you wear tend to have a huge impact when you start settling in for the first time.

      1. Ibtehaal says:

        Oh for sure, I feel you! How long has it been now? You’ll miss it incredibly when it’s over!

      2. Viva Violet says:

        It’s only been two semesters so far… I know I will. There’s nothing like it, despite all the fuss and feathers.

  2. This is brilliant! The only thing that I experienced that you might include is somewhere between step 1 and step 2. The “this time next week it’ll be OK” – you’re finding your feet in the country and the uni and with friends. The first six weeks or so that was all I could think, and I found a good group of friends and we worked through it together. Get a good network of international students and you’re golden. British universities usually have an ISA, International Students Association, they are the best way to make friends fast and visit other towns and cities in the country.

    1. Viva Violet says:

      That’s quite true. There does come a point when you realise it’s not as bad as thought and you do end up meeting some very nice people along the way.
      The best thing about college is that you end up with a good bunch of friends even if you can’t recognize them from the start out.

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