Studying at the university requires adjustment so that the student can effectively function and pursue his chosen field of study. One’s academic life, gaining access to educational materials, and interaction with classmates and professors are all important factors in the adjustment process. Yet, they are not the only factors that should be taken into account. This adjustment process becomes even more important for international students. They have to adjust to the culture of the location of their university, they have to take into account the language, the social norms, the idioms and metaphors being used by the society that the university belongs to. If they fail to adjust in the social context, their education might not be maximized, and, worse, they might not be able to understand a lot of things in their schooling.
This essay takes a look in the adjustment process that international students have to face, particularly their context and their learning styles. It discusses how context and learning style affects their adjustment process. In doing so, this essay presents several theories and principles regarding the learning process. Furthermore, it presents several recommendations on how international students could better adjust in the university. More than just a theoretical presentation, this essay also takes into account the personal experiences of the author and will deal with some of the challenges being faced by international students in the university. This understanding is very important so that the international students, and other university students and professors would come to better strategies in helping international students cope with the university life and all its rigors and demands.
University Culture and the International Student
The university promotes scholarly studies and the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. In addition to this, the application of this body of knowledge in the society is also taken into account. Because of the process of globalization, university culture is also being internationalized in the sense that the university is being integrated into the global processes defining the world at this time (Bartell, 2003). Given this internationalization of universities, international students necessarily come to the fore. In a study conducted by Neville, students at the university who have previously enrolled expressed fear that they may not do well in the university because of the pressures of family, society, and of the economic side of their schooling.
As an international student, I have also experienced some of these challenges. Since I am far away from my family, I feel homesick at times, unable to focus on my studies. It takes courage and resolve in order for me to truly pursue my university education. Yet, because of the importance of my university education and the interactions with others, I painstakingly work towards improving myself in pursuing my education.
International Students and Speaking English
Another challenge that international students face is the issue of language. Since English is recognized internationally as the language of the university, international students have to learn this language so that they can converse fluently and intelligently with classmates and professors. For international students who are already fluent in this language, they have surmounted an important barrier. Yet, those who have not done yet, they need to work more in learning English, otherwise, they will fail to interact and converse with others, which is an important part of university life.
Universities therefore need to help international students who speak English as a second language in improving their English skills. This is the only way for them to truly make the connections that will help them complete their university education. Speech and language laboratories could be established and part of the learning processes of international students. This way, they will be able to interact better and have more opportunities in improving their English language skills.
As an international student who entered the university, I experienced a kind of culture shock because the university promotes a culture of literacy (Nevile, 1996). Although I was already a bit fluent with the English, I was not a prolific writer. So I had to attend some writing workshops and tutorial sessions so I could improve the way that I write in the English language. With this process, I was able to improve some of the things that I faced.
In addition to this, I also talked with other international students regarding the struggles that they face and the difficulties that they are having. In the process, I managed to have a support group that could easily help me deal with homesickness and other difficulties of being an international student. The interactions with other international students helped me become more prepared in dealing with the rigors of university life.
Maximizing Adjustment to the University
For international students who want to make the most out of the university, there are several tips that could be followed. For one, improving English skills is a must. It might take more time and effort to do so, yet, it is of utmost important that English skills become excellent. International students should also form support groups that could help them deal with homesickness and other challenges of being in a foreign society. The emotional support given by others makes a lot of difference in the adjustment process. Lastly, international students should be able to maximize all available resources at their disposal through consistent and persistent studying and pursuit of knowledge. This is the best way to deal with the adjustment process.
This essay has looked at the experiences of international students in adjusting at a university. Universities do have a culture of literacy, which the international student may not be prepared for. As such, they need to double their efforts in learning, in interacting and talking with others—friends, professors, classmates, and other international students—and gaining access to all forms of educational resources. By establishing support groups and mentoring relationships, international students could do well in their university education and prepare them for excellent work even beyond the university. Through this, they could contribute better to their society and their world.
Bartell, M. (2003). Internationalization of universities: A university culture-based framework. Higher Education, 45 (1), 43-70.
Nevile, M. (1996). Literacy Culture Shock: Developing Academic Literacy at the University. The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 19 (1), 38-51.