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The Challenges of Studying Abroad as an International Student

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Apa khabar? Ni hao ma? How are you? Kamusta ka? Kya haal hai? Malay, Chinese, English, Tagalog and Hindi. Students from all around the world manage to take the opportunity to listen to all these languages and many more. It’s amazing how different it is compared to the normal phrase we hear everyday which is “How are you?”. International students have developed a very insightful university experience for home students at universities. According to a research done by Hobsons and the British Universities’ International Liaison Association (BUILA) it said that without international students, there will be absence of support on the deliver of academic programmes, and a considerable help to Britain’s local and national economies.The examination demonstrated that the positive effect of global understudies on the university experience was a solid subject of input from their respective respondents. Many noted that their presence brought diversity to universities and in doing so helped internationalise the university experience for all students. International students help to introduce our domestic students to various cultures, different ways of thinking and operating. They help to ensure that our students graduate with a diverse opinion of opportunities in whatever interest field they decide to work in the future. According to the OECD, the number of international students will grow rise and exceed to 8 million in the year of 2025. However, Britain’s share of the international market is crashing as the number of highly-ranked British educational institutions has decreased. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, UK had 52 universities but has now fallen to 45 in a ranking list done in 2015-16. Countries like Australia, Canada and the US are producing an increase in numbers of international students. But, why is that happening? A few international students in the University Of Hertfordshire was pleased to share me with some information on their experience of studying in a country that’s thousands of miles away from their home soil.

Studying abroad from respective home countries can be difficult. There is some sort of fear of meeting new acquaintances. Noticing there are different people with different beliefs, it can be seem as something new. International students in the University of Hertfordshire think they feel isolated from the local students mainly because the two parties have different beliefs on many things. There is also culture shock between the local students and international students. Both local and international students experience a communication barrier and even fear. That’s why, majority student population in the university often spend their time with other people who are in the same country as they are. It is well understood if international students would like a piece of home with them but it appears to be a different case for the international students in the University Of Hertfordshire. Mustaqeem Carlos, from Malaysia stated:

“Its hard for international students to get along with the local students over here probably because of the differences of their lifestyle and culture. We, as international students would warmly accept locals as our friends if they were slightly more down to earth. Perhaps, they could be more open minded in terms of socially accepting how we behave, think, operate as well as respecting our diverse culture. We come to the UK and we want to make the best out of it and that’s by meeting new people and making new friends from all around the world.”

In terms of language, international students are more than qualified to speak English. However, Badrul Iman, from Malaysia as well, think that there is a stereotypical view from local students on the ability of international students to speak English. He also stated that there have been cases where the local students in the university would say things like ‘Your English is very good.’ and international students would take it as an insult because obviously they do speak English. This links with stereotypes. Ly Tran, a chief investigator on two research projects on the teaching and learning of international students funded by the Australian Research Council stated that ‘Stereotyping international students has a destructive impact on international students’ access to work placements and employability.’ Stereotyping international students broadens the segregation between international and domestic students. It shows that the ways international students are generalised makes them feel disconnected and places them in a position of vulnerability and marginalisation within the classroom and campus (Tran, 2015).

My other interviewee, who choose to be anonymous, whose also an international student in the University Of Hertfordshire stated:

“There’s a reason why there’s a thing known as culture shock and I think when international students come here from being so used to how things are in their respective home country, we are not used to how the local students do things and how they operate. There’s also a language barrier where British people have their own loghat or slang (accent/dialect).”

The study of ‘culture shock’ has come to draw more from social psychology and education than medicine. ‘Culture learning’ and ‘stress and adapting’ models have turned out to be entrenched (Furnham and Bochner, 1986) and ‘social identification’ hypotheses have turned out to be more noticeable. These three contemporary theories are more comprehensive, considering the different components of response – affect, behaviour and cognition (ABC) – when people are exposed to a new culture (Zhou, 2008). It’s hard for one to step out of their comfort zones and meeting people with different beliefs, it’s as if whatever one was taught since birth was in a thin line between truth or false. Jai Tong is an international student from Guangzhou, China said:

“No offence, but I think local students lack education on the culture of international students. Therefore it is essential for international students to teach the local students as well as vice versa. They sometimes think all asian are Chinese and we take it very much as an insult because they describe the language as ching-chong as how we describe it. It is a very strong stereotypical view. Local and international student should put their differences aside so we could open our mind into new things and probably share similar agendas. This ensures that both parties can accomodate along very well. It is also a case where home students speak our national language as we see it as a mockery because of their emphasis on the language when they speak. It feels like a mockery and it feels like we are socially unacceptable. We would want to make friends with home students but we feel the standards they put on ‘friends’ is unreachable.”

In conclusion, there are many tough challenges in life and being an international student is one of them. All it takes is a brave step forward and opening more space in our minds so we could let new things in. International students want to engage with local students and so do the local students to the foreign students. Emily Roach, a UK student said that:

“It’s amazing meeting new people from all around the world. We feel big and we don’t feel like one tiny blip on the radar. However, it is hard to approach international students because of how we see each other. Home and international students are just too afraid to approach because we think they might find us a little odd. There are only a few international students that I consider as dear friends. The reason why we are friends is because we are very open minded and we like to think that we are all the same despite our cultural background. The university need to put more effort on international students also because 8 billion pounds are spent by international students and we should be thankful because it helps the country from debt. If we open our minds and let new things in, we can achieve absolute diversity and produce a vast yet diverse network of friends.”

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