Inside the mind of an International Student

Our mind is naturally programmed to stay on a high alert when we travel to a new country. We are all too aware of our surroundings, too keen to learn something new, watchful of any impending risks and on an all time adrenaline high in general. But staying pumped up for extended lengths of time can be exhaustive for the body as well as the mind, don’t you think? Such is the peril of an international student.

An international student’s mind is filled with many hopes and dreams when he decides to embark on an exciting journey he is only too willing to begin. However, more often than not, the reality that awaits him is far from the fantasy he expects to experience upon his arrival. Relatives, friends, teachers attempt to paint a pretty picture but unlike most beliefs, getting an international degree is not a cakewalk. Like everything else, it too has its own pros and cons. While considering the pros, one must not overlook the cons and attempt to recognize and prepare for them. The many adjustments required of an international student in addition to the burden of getting good grades take its toll on the physical and mental health of international students.

Language is the one medium which bridges the gap between two people. When a student travels to a country whose native language is not similar to his own, he faces difficulty in not only understanding the lectures but also in making new friends which can have its own consequences. Miles away from home amidst unfamiliar surroundings, inability to make friends can instil a sense of alienation which may cause a student to slip into depression. Many international students shy away from making the first move when it comes to befriending native students. The idea of interacting with people from cultural backgrounds so different from your own may seem a little overwhelming in the beginning but its rewards are beneficial in many ways. Making friends gives a sense of belonging which is necessary for an overall well being of a person.

It is only natural to feel homesick once in a while. For an international student, after spending a whopping amount on the degree, frequent trips home can be unthinkable. This can very well be a major cause of an international student’s despair. The only solution to this is to remain focused on the goal and envision the bigger rewards that will come once the session comes to an end. The goal to stay focused; stay optimistic. Again, the key is to make good friends and get accustomed to the culture and norms of the society as soon as possible so as to fight back any feelings of loneliness.

Most international students experience culture shock when they enter a new country. A few days of exhilaration gradually gives way to denial and seclusion. The initial euphoria of beginning a new chapter of life dissolves into a state of disorientation as days pass. Most students struggle to find their place in the society as they adorn a whole new identity in a new country quite unlike the one they have left behind. Their lineage, social standing and reputation are left behind and they need to start afresh. This longing to fit in exerts pressure on students’ minds and causes them to feel dispirited should the process take time.

Besides the emotional aspects, academic changes, too, contribute to an international student’s predicament. A new country means new professors, a different style of teaching, variety of assignments, changed evaluation grounds, and a lot more. International students may find it difficult to cope up with the studies initially due to these factors. Lower grades and inability to perform well can adversely affect the confidence of a student. Changes are too many and time to accustom oneself to them may seem little.  A little help from the professors and peers can help in this case.

Students must not turn a blind eye to the dissimilarities. From friends to food, from assignments to professors, everything is a new experience. It is helpful to look at everything with a curious mind, learn to adapt to new customs, build an effective support system around yourself and surround yourself with people who continually inspire and motivate you. Nobody likes changes but change is inevitable. The key is to not bury your head in the ground and pretend there is no difference but to acknowledge and accept the change.

While the challenges faced by an international student are many, one must not forget that he or she is not alone and with optimism and will power these obstacles can be overcome. They must ask for help when in need. Many universities provide counselling services to international students to help them lead better lives as they complete their courses. These include emotional support, guidelines to perform better academically, help in understanding new culture and making friends. Overall, these services aim at diminishing the challenges an international student faces and making their stay fruitful, in the present as well as the future.

An international student undergoes a lot of mental pressure. Without the correct guidance, this may lead to irreversible consequences. Lack of empathy from the universities and natives may lead to feeling of isolation and eventually, depression. Inability to identify students with anxiety and mental weight early in the year can lead to detachment and poor performance in the later stages. However, it is not all bad. Universities worldwide are beginning to understand the gap between the experiences of an international and a native student and are working towards closing the same. This is a huge step towards simplifying the lives of international student.