Transfer Hurdles for International Students Moving to the U.S. (and Solutions)

Transfer Hurdles for International Students Moving to the U.S. (and Solutions)

Moving to the U.S. to attend school is a major change in your life. No matter how well you are acquainted with American culture, it will take time to get used to your brand-new surroundings.

Once you arrive in the U.S., you’ll have precious little time to settle in on campus before classes start. The combination of a hectic academic schedule and an unfamiliar location can be stressful. However, if you’re prepared for what you’re likely to face, you’ll fare much better.

We have compiled a list of the most common problems that most students face when transferring to an American college or university, and how to best tackle them.

Culture Shock

Culture shock is probably the most significant problem that international students face when they arrive in the U.S.

No matter how sociable you are in your home country, it might be awkward to find yourself surrounded by students from the U.S. who speak differently, act differently, and discuss different things than you’re used to. It can be difficult to feel like you fit in when you cannot contribute to the discussions that your classmates are having.  

Feeling isolated can lead you to withdraw and spend most of your time by yourself. This can be harmful, because your college experience should go beyond focusing only on academics. It’s important to make friends, take part in activities, and learn to network to increase your career prospects after graduation.


It is important to remember that it may take you a while to completely understand U.S. culture and its various aspects. However, the U.S. is a very friendly place. Every college or university has activities and clubs where you can meet people and get involved. Make yourself a part of the collective and socialize with other students without the fear of feeling out of place. Remember, every freshman is new to the college experience. No matter where you’re from, you are not alone.

Language Obstacles

Even if you passed your English proficiency test with flying colors, you may still face issues understanding American English. The U.S. has a wide variety of accents and dialects, and some might be particularly hard to understand. It can get taxing for your brain to process a known, but foreign, language at first.


Listen carefully and try to understand. If you cannot, just politely request the speaker to repeat. In a few months, your ears will grow accustomed to the dialects of American English speakers. It is difficult, but not as hard as you might think. You can also spend time outside class consuming American media such as television shows and podcasts to help you better understand the dialect and speed up the process.

Credit Transfers to the USA

Transferring credits from your home country to the U.S. is possible, but can be difficult. Often, your transcripts are in a different language, or the grading system could be different. If you can show that you have already participated in similar coursework back home, you will not need to repeat these courses in the U.S.


Apply to your U.S. school far in advance, and ask the them about their credit transfer rules. You will probably need to get officially translated copies of your transcripts.

Most often, the schools that accept credit transfer from international students also have access to standardized translations from service providers that they trust. However, this is a time-consuming process and you need to stay ahead. Start early, and complete this process as soon as possible.

Credit Transfers from the USA

The same problem might happen in reverse if you’ve been studying in the U.S., and want to continue your education at a college or university in another country.

When transferring out of the U.S., you might find it difficult to get a school in another country to recognize the credits that you have completed.


It is recommended that you first research all of your considered schools to find out if the degree or credits are accepted globally. This research should include the college that you plan to join in the future.

If it is not and the college refuses to grant legitimacy to your credits or degree, offer to appear for an examination to prove that you have sufficient subject knowledge. Otherwise, you could apply for a fast-tracked condensed refresher course at the college in your new country.

Feeling Rushed

While adjusting to life in the U.S. takes time, the curriculum and academic program do not wait. You may end up feeling overwhelmed balancing academics and your new surroundings.

If every newcomer to the U.S. had a couple of months to settle in and find their bearings, the transition could be much smoother, with less stress. Too much stress can cause you to do poorly in classes, and even affect your sleep.


Try asking your family or friends who have studied abroad what their experiences were like. No amount of internet chat rooms and blogs can take the place of firsthand experience.

Take the advice of those from your home country who have this experience. There are so many students who choose to study in the U.S., you are bound to find at least a few who can provide you with helpful guidance.

Parting Thoughts

Pursuing a higher education is challenging. It needs to be challenging to prepare you for your future career. Those challenges can be multiplied when you’re taking on a full academic course load in an unfamiliar country. However, you should take solace in the fact that U.S. colleges and universities are very accommodating to international students. You will find resources like the International Students and Scholars Office, as well as professors, advisors, and classmates at your school who will be happy to help answer any of your questions.

If you follow these tips and use all the campus resources at your disposal, you can position yourself for U.S. college success.

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