The Downsides of Being an International Student and How to Handle It

The Downsides of Being an International Student and How to Handle It

As an enthusiastic international student all set to go to the U.S., you are probably brimming with excitement. It’s hard to think of much else besides all the fun you are going to have and of the experiences you’ll get to partake it. As fun as daydreams are, it’s important to keep your perspective. The realities of being a foreign student in a completely new environment will catch up to you soon. And when they do, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself to deal with them.

Adjusting as an international student is harder for some than it is for others. Here are some of the most common problems faced by international students. This article will also give you actionable tips on how to deal with them.

Work and Work Permits

Working in any foreign country requires permits and even then, there are restrictions. As a student, in most states, you will only be allowed to work for 20 hours per week. If you want to stay on in the U.S. after college, you will need a change in your visa permissions. There are employers and companies who will make this process easier for you.

There is also a program called OPT – Optional Practical Training that allows international students to work in their area of study. If you are eligible, you can avail 12 months of employment authorization. If you’re majoring in a STEM subject, this can be extended to 24 months as well, depending on your state, university, and employer.


Even if you’re an English scholar, American English will take some getting used to. The thick accent can be hard to understand and respond to. And as most Americans don’t speak other languages, it is a good idea to learn the language ASAP.

There are many apps and tools that you can use to better your English. These will help you converse better, thus help you make friends. There are also apps that will come in handy when you need to submit assignments


American culture, though very inclusive, will be a shock to most international students. The food, the general practices, and even the style of dress may seem alien to many. If you’re from a conservative country, it’s an even bigger adjustment to make.

One of the easiest methods to get settled would be to consume a lot of American media. TV shows and movies will be a very fun way to absorb the culture. Make it a point to make at least one American friend. They will help you get integrated into the culture more quickly.

Social Anxiety

Making friends is easier said than done. The anxiety of moving to the new place only triggers this further. The easiest way to deal with this is to make good friends with your roommate. At least during your first year in college, you will have to live in a dorm. You can ask your dormmate to take you around campus. Most colleges will also have an international student orientation. You’ll likely meet students of the same ethnicity as you, whom you can easily befriend. If the stress gets too hard, there will likely be an on-campus counselor or advisor who can help you deal with the anxiety.

Learning and Teaching Style

The teaching style in American education systems is very different from other countries. The amount of time you will be in class, the grading system, the standards expected for submitting assignments: It’s all different. You will also be expected to participate in the class, grading is also done based on this. If you find it too hard to get used to, talk to your professors in the first semester. You will likely get good pointers or even relaxations in standards from them. YouTube is another great resource to help you with this problem. You will find detailed videos on how to format papers and submit assignments.

Financial Problems

American cost of living is higher than that of many countries. Be prepared to deal with that. It is prudent to get into a part-time job that can help supplement your finances. You should also set up a local bank account. This will help ensure you don’t lose money while exchanging currency. Create a budget and stick fast to it. Being a student, you can also take advantage of student discounts from restaurants and even for transport. Take advantage of these and you’ll find that your finances are easier to handle.


American healthcare is notorious for being expensive. Even a regular doctor visit will cost upwards of $1,000 in the U.S. You might think it’s not a priority, but it is vital to have health insurance in place. Even a basic health insurance plan will save you a lot of money in case you need to go to the hospital. It is also highly likely that your campus will be able to provide basic care at a small medical facility on-site. Use this facility for minor illnesses and injuries. Your health should always be a priority.

Not Knowing the Area

Being the ‘new guy’ or ‘new gal’ can be frightening. You will probably not know the geography of your new home, and that can be scary. As soon as you reach your room/apartment, research where the closest grocery store and pharmacy is. In a college town, these will likely only be a walking distance away. Drill the routes to at least these two places into your mind. You can slowly start exploring the area once you’re more comfortable. It is also a good idea to have a good maps app installed on your phone. Many apps come with a feature that shows you the closest or most highly rated establishment. This will come in handy when you’re searching for a new place to hang out at.

Sound daunting? Perhaps, but you are sure to have a couple of years of unforgettable experiences. Studying away from home is a very valuable opportunity that not all get to experience. Though it might be hard at first, make the most of your time away.

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