There are two kinds of pressures for international students adjusting to a new country- balancing their academic work with all the challenges of studying abroad and understanding the new academic system in their university. For most of the students, the medium of education changes due to the switch in language and the classroom setting might be different as well. It takes time and patience to understand the professors and their assessment process.
Whatever challenges you face regarding your academic results, do not doubt your decision to study abroad because these hurdles will teach you much more than studying in your own country will.
Understanding the academic culture and education system of your host country
There are different aspects that make up the academic culture of a country. This academic culture is derived from the socio-cultural background of the country. For example, in Asian countries, teachers are considered the final authority on knowledge and challenging their opinion is offensive whereas in Europe, lecturers encourage healthy debate and exchange of opinions. Thay have an exploratory approach towards education so an international student might find it difficult to suddenly come out of their bubble and express opinions in front of new people.
Adjusting to different teaching styles and classroom dynamics
Learning shock is a very big problem for international students as they are not used to the difference in teaching methods in their new classroom environments. Depending on where the students are from, they have different expectations from the teacher. Due to their prior educational experience, they might think the teacher will spoon feed the entire curriculum to them. Others might want a more discussion based classroom or help from the teacher in completing their assessment.
Classroom dynamics also differ in many countries and students who are not used to interacting with other classmates or giving their opinions might find it difficult to converse in a new language.
Familiarising yourself with the grading system and academic expectations
Grading systems differ in every country and sometimes they vary within a country’s provinces as well. The new grading system is very important to know in order to put in the required amount of work to get a good grade. Different percentages denote different grades in your home country compared to your host country so passing marks will be very different in your own country. Sometimes, there is a scaled marking system which might shock you when you get your results so understanding the system is important to perform well.
Navigating the research process in a new academic environment
Different kinds of research approaches are encouraged in different countries. At times, data collection through interactions and surveys is more valued over ideas formed by self-study and reading literature. It takes time to understand what the academia generally demands from students so have a discussion with your professor about this.
Understanding and following academic integrity and plagiarism guidelines
In order to avoid getting in trouble and maintaining your reputation as a professional, it is important to know all the rules for academic integrity in your university. Proper regulations and citations practices need to be followed and plagiarism should be avoided at all costs. You also have to know what the definition of plagiarism entails in your university- sometimes even paraphrasing is considered theft of knowledge so make sure you know these guidelines.
Developing effective study habits and time management skills
By observing the classroom and assessment process, you have to notice what kind of note-taking strategy is the most effective:
- Making meaningful notes from the live lectures
- Making personal notes after reading through textbooks
Dedicate time to regular study habits that will enable you to absorb information that you will be tested on. Choose a conducive learning environment to study and see which kind of information medium (auditory, visual, textual, etc.) works for you. The best time to study is your most productive time of the day-make to do lists and goals for that time but do not lose hope if you can’t follow them. Make sure to take breaks, get enough sleep and eat well.
Managing coursework, assignments, and deadlines
When you are in a new academic environment, the workload can change too. To manage this new workload and deadlines, you have to adjust your routine:
- Plan and organise realistically- See which assignments and exams are most urgent and then make a viable study plan according to your concentration abilities
- Tackle the hardest task first
- Don’t procrastinate and learn to say no to partying when you have work due
Participating in group work and making presentations
Again, this is the kind of work where language barrier might affect your output. Communicating with your classmates and presenting confidently in a foreign language is difficult so if presentations make up a huge part of the assessment process, you have to make an effort to polish your skills in the language. Consider language exchange apps like HelloTalk. If you do not have experience in making good presentations, consider taking an online course about the skill or just observe well-made, powerful academic presentations.
Preparing for exams and assessments
If you’re from an academic background where your memorisation skills were tested rather than your critical skills to synthesise ideas from experience or reading, you will need to learn this by practising. You can not use your previous skill to ace exams and assessments in the new environment.
Utilising support services and resources for international students
Keeping in mind all these impediments in the learning process of an international student, it becomes incredibly difficult for them to show their full potential without some external support from the university. Academic support in the form of tutoring and writing programs are offered in the following ways:
- New student orientation
- Counselling services
- Workshops on surviving academic life in the host country
- Tutoring and supplemental instruction
- Writing consultants
Maintaining academic progress and achieving academic success
In order to maintain your progress each semester, you must pay attention to all the courses and their related assessment work and exams. Each professor has their own way of testing the students so you must stay updated and catch up regularly with the course content. Communicate with professors and do not shy away from asking for help where you feel that you are lagging. Attend workshops and seminars in your university to learn new skills.
Another important part of maintaining your grades is taking care of your health as well as finances. Support for both of these aspects of international student life are available at almost all campuses.
Exploring academic opportunities and building your academic profile
While studying as an international student, if you can see yourself building a career in the host country, it is good to start by navigating the opportunities presented to you within the university. You can start by taking any of the following paths:
- Becoming a Teacher’s Assistant at your university
- Collaborating on research work with a professor
- Signing up for internship opportunities with industries that partner with your university
Resources for international students adjusting to academic life
- Pre arrival support system- these are mentoring programs that give you a briefing about important topics like accommodation, finances, academics, etc.
- Orientation programs arranged by the host university
- International students adviser on the campus