In the United States just like any other society international students play a major role in improving the levels of education improve on the diversity level of the education system and improving on the levels of knowledge and awareness of the in different fields such as science, humanities, and technology.
Despite the perceived benefits brought by an influx of international students in different countries such as the United States, Australia and European states, the role of international students in these societies have received much attention following an increase in discontent among these students. This is because of the rise in the number and degree of challenges that they face. These run from perception of inhospitality, unfairness, confrontations, and cultural intolerance from the host nation. It is possible to assert that these problems are a consequent of neo-racism.
Prior to the eruption of these challenges, countries such as the US, UK and Australia were considered as some of the best destinations for international students due to high levels of education in these countries. However, the increase in international terrorism and other global economic and political challenges have resulted in an increase in discriminatory tendencies among members of the host country. This essay seeks to analyze the sociological challenges that international students face in their host nations and the possible solutions to these challenges. It is possible to argue that not all the challenges faced by international students can be categorized as matters of adjustments difficulties, but that part of these challenges arise from existing inadequacies within the host society. These difficulties can be addressed through a process of sensitizing citizens in the host nation of the essence of protecting and promoting the rights of international students through the existing institutions and laws (Pelling 10).
In terms of the solutions necessary in addressing the challenges faced by international students, there is need to develop policies that focus on peer assisted learning. This is an essential student support mechanism that provides more structured and elaborate means of communication and interaction among students drawn from different nations.
Challenges faced by international students in their host countries
The challenges faced by international students in societies such as the US originate from both adjustment related issues and societal inadequacies in the host society. Adjustment problems arisen form cultural related complications in different societies (Lee and Rice 382). Culture learning for instance has been described as one of the major challenges that international students face. This is because it interferes and affects the ethnic identities of the students considering that it may require them to undergo socialization into a foreign culture. The major effect of this approach to cultural orientation is that it may compel students into the practice of social norms and values that are considered inappropriate in their homes (Furnham 89). For instance, students from Middle Eastern countries are from communities defined by strict religious doctrines. These doctrines define the nature of relationship between the male and female members of the society. For instance in a country such as Saudi Arabia the relationship between men and women is defined by boundaries f respect to the ale gender. In addition, women in such societies do not expose their hair or most of their body parts to the public and this explains the reason for the Hijab among the females from the Islamic faith. The situation however changes when they are in liberal societies such as the United States and other European countries where there are no stringent measures defining the relationship between male and female (Lee and Rice 382). One of the major consequences in this situation is the development of ethno-nationalistic ideologies among international students seeking the recognition of their cultural practices in the foreign countries. This is considered a threat to the unity of such a diverse society since the international students will be considered as opposers o the social practices in the country.
Societal inadequacies that are associated with the challenges faced by international students include measure have been introduced to curb the number of foreign students acquiring visas and permits to study abroad. Communication difficulties have also been associated with the challenges faced by these students in foreign countries. This is because communication comprises one of the most essential interpersonal factors and any form of breakdown often affects the ability of the students to learn the language and develop essential social skills (Lee and Rice 382). The loss of social support systems especially from the family also plays a role in an increase in discrimination levels among the students since such students often begin developing tendencies of loneliness and the desire to reunite with their families posing a great challenge to the ability of these students to focus on their studies. Furthermore, studies have also indicated that most of the highly skilled students from Asian countries are seeking higher learning educational opportunities from countries other than the United States. It is possible to argue that the main cause of the reduction in the population of international students is because of an unwelcoming environment to these students (Lee and Rice 384)
Evidence of the challenges faced by international students
The enrollment of international students in the US became an element of focus in the post September 11 terrorist attack in the country. The Institute of International Education recorded that in 2004, the US experienced a 2.4% reduction in the number of international students since 1971 (Lee and Rice 381). This drop was large-scale in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and which registered a 16% reduction in the number of students joining US based institutions for higher learning (Lee and Rice 381). This decrease was registered despite continuous assertions by political and academic leaders that there was need to provide more support to the international education in the United States. The decrease in the population of international students from Asia is also associated with attacks propagated by individuals of Middle Eastern decent against American citizens. These students have opted for other regions where victimization based on race and stereotypical connotations are negligible.
An increase in international terrorist activities has also been cited as some of the reasons why a large number of international students from the Middle East withdrew from the US institutions. These students returned home and opted to join local colleges and universities because of the fear of reprisal resulting from the events following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. These students considered themselves to be threatened by American citizens due to an increase in the perception that those affiliated to the Islamic religion and originate from the Middle east were sympathizers an supporters of the terrorist activities against the United States. These stereotypical against the Arab population presented the United States as a society characterized by elements of neo-racism based on religious and cultural backgrounds. The raging war on terror against Iraq was also considered as a major contributor to the decline of International students from Asia considering the overwhelming perception that the US had developed the perception that government in the Middle East were sympathizing and supporting terrorist activities against the US.
Figure 1.0: The role of the community in addressing challenges of international students
Source: (Kuon 1)
Environmental challenges associated with culture shock can also be considered as a contributing factor to the challenges faced by international students in the US. Exposure to an unfamiliar environment causes anxiety, which has the ability of leading to some level of illness among the students hence resulting in depression (Oluwafunmilola 11). These environmental challenges are often associated by the inability of cultural practices in the host nations to accommodate cultures that are considered foreign. Cultural practices in the United States are liberal and the US constitution allows variety of freedom for every individual to engage in activities that are acceptable according to the law (Oluwafunmilola 11). Such a situation often puts international students in a situation that does not enhance the propagation of their cultural practices but one that encourages the adoption of foreign cultures in order to co-exist with other members of the host nation. The desire to seek and acquire identity in such a society is a major contributor to the inferiority complex challenges that most of these students face in the process of realizing their academic objectives in foreign nations. Figure1.0 makes refers to the loneliness and need for identity that characterizes the lives of international students who are yet to fit into the cultural requirements of the host nation. Such students need some form of companionship to help them navigate through culture shock. Loneliness for international students entails being away from their homes, families, and friends. An additional way through which they experience loneliness include differences in language of communication which makes international students feel discriminated form different activities that characterize the lives of students.
Other than the need for social acceptance in a foreign nation, international students also face challenges related to the negotiation of basic academic processes and living arrangements. These challenges persist despite the availability of numerous student support services, which in the view of critics do not provide sufficient support for the international students compared to the natives (Lee and Rice 386). This explains why it is necessary for these institutions in the host nation to develop novel strategies of meeting the special needs of international students. An addition observation of the challenges faced by international students in relation to the provision of student support services is that issues affecting these students are often addressed after an activity or an offense against the students has occurred (Lee and Rice 386). There is need for these institutions to shift their focus into the development of proactive measures that will provide necessary assistance to students at the initial stages of their integration into the community. Other than the United States, these challenges have also been reported in the UK where international students face challenges in terms of the type of food, openness on issues of sexuality and gender roles (Lee and Rice 388). One of the results of failing to develop institutions and programs that can address these challenges is that the international students may develop an intercultural competence as a technique of assessing contrary perceptions and worldviews. This may be challenging since it may degenerate into the adoption of unverified stereotypical cultural tendencies (Lee and Rice 386).
Misconceptions concerning the challenges that international students face is also one of the problems. This is because of the general assumption that upon entering a nation, international students has the responsbility of developing individual coping strategies (Lee and Rice 388). This presents the students with a problem framework of developing correctional procedures to the governing body focusing on any inadequacies that may be contributing to the problems in the host community (Furnham 89). The process of identifying challenges faced by international students on a cultural basis would provide the underlying differences. For example, through this approach it is possible to develop the assertion that White European students face less integration issues compared to African or Asian students (Lee and Rice 388). There is need to realize that these students also face issues beyond cultural or language difficulties. The assumption that the problems faced by international students are those of adaptation and coping creates the thought that it is the responsbility of these students to bear the responsbility and develop strategies of overcoming the prevailing discomforts to integrate into the society (Pelling 10).
Inasmuch as culturally related problems may be viewed as some of the challenges faced by international students, existing studies suggest the need for the host nations to develop some level of sensitivity towards the needs of international students (Lee and Rice 384). This is because through such level of sensitivity it would be easier for the higher learning institutions to review polices and eliminate clauses that may tenaciously or unintentionally marginalize international students. This would be a way of ensuring that these institutions are accommodative to the international students. In addition, it would also provide these students with a platform of airing their concerns and problems related to the way of life in the learning institutions (Lee and Rice 384).
Refutations of the challenges faced by international students
September 11 attacks may have affected the social relationship between the United States and students from countries in the Middle East but it improved the curriculum of the country’s disaster related courses. This is because of the realizations that there was need to train more individuals on disaster preparedness and disaster operates as a way of minimizing the number of fatalities (Oluwafunmilola 7). Inasmuch as this view may be perceived as an advantage to the higher learning institutions in the US, the general perspective of the country’s citizens against those from the Middle East. This is relation to international terrorism provides the conformation that there exists inadequacies in the society in terms of the ability of the government to ensure successful elimination of societal inadequacies such as stereotypical connotation (Oluwafunmilola 13). Despite this assertion, the United States is experiencing a reduction in the population of its foreign students.
Figure 2.0: population of international students across different countries.
This is because international students are attracted to other countries other than the US. According to figure 2.0, Inasmuch as the US is still leading in the proportion of foreign students, other countries such as the UK, Australia and France are becoming increasingly popular. Their popularity is attributable to improvement of education standards and the provision of better policies regarding the welfare. The UK for instance is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the population of foreign students.
The concept of racism in the US has been cited also one of the major challenges that International students face. The United States for instance has been accused of upholding racism despite constitutional laws seeking for the eradication of racism. The concept of racism does not only emanate from the US citizens but also for international students who possess stereotypical connotations about people of color. An effective solution in addressing this challenge would require peer guided learning aimed at uniting students from different background as a way of ensuring that they embrace unity. This would require careful selection of a mixture of students from the host county and senior International students because of their experience in handling challenges faced by international students in foreign countries.
Existing evidence suggest that it is the responsbility of international students to develop coping and adaptive mechanisms that will facilitate their ability to integrate successfully in their host countries. This means that the success of international students in a foreign country is solely dependent on personal attributes (Brux and Fry 508). This assertion can be perceived to be discriminatory and selective in nature because it eliminates students whose personality traits do not allow them to easily mingle and integrate with other members of the society. This assertion withdraws the responsbility of ensuring student welfare from the host nation and from the institutions, which may be assumed as an approach towards neglect of institutional and constitutional responsbility (Brux and Fry 508). The society is defined by norms and values, which are to be inculcated into other members through existing government and academic institutions. Students are not only affected by cultural practices but also by the existing social ills in the society. This makes it the responsbility of the institutions to develop polices and strategies that protect the interests and the wellbeing of the natives and those of the other members. In addition, it is through these polices that the institutions of higher learning can ensure that the students are accommodated and for easy integration into the society (Brux and Fry 509). The Oregon State University for instance organizes a noncredit “American Survival” class, which offers discussions to internationals students on ways of adjusting and living in the United States. Colorado State University also provides students with induction programs into the American culture by engaging them different activities that define the operation of the university.
Continuous reduction in the population of foreign students in the United States and other European countries has been associated with communication challenges, liberal social life, and difficulty in obtaining permits. Inasmuch as these assumptions have been essential determinants of the proportion of international students in different countries, they are not the only aspects considering that with technological improvements, different countries and institutions have improved in terms of their ability to offer better education services (Geary 8). Countries such as China and South Korea for instance are some of the emerging education giants in Asia and this makes them a perfect destination for students from the Middle East, Africa and other European countries. In addition, universities in the Middle East have also been able to form partnerships with other prestigious universities as a way of bringing the services near to the students. This eliminates the travelling and accommodation costs that these students could have incurred when seeking better education in their countries (Geary 8). Internet technology has also played an essential role in improving the nature of education in countries where foreign students originate. This is because through the internet students have the ability to engage in long distance learning and this has resulted in the reduction of enrollment population. Long distance learning for international students has been considered as a perfect strategy or reducing the level of challenges experienced by international students considering that it provides them with a platform of practicing their cultural and behavioral traits while acquiring higher education (Brux and Fry 510). Inasmuch as it does not defeat the purpose of immersion, it provides students with a peaceful platform necessary for the realization of academic goals. In addition, it also provides them, with a platform of engaging in virtual interaction with other students through social media without the fear of intimidation or culture shock.
International students face culture shock and other related challenges that result in high-level depression and anxiety in terms of their ability to realize success in their academic endeavors. This is however considered a problem during the initial stages of studying in a foreign nation (Pelling 7). However, these students have the ability of understanding the prevailing circumstances and developing techniques of navigating through their challenges overtime. Successful integration into a foreign society will provide a platform of acquiring education from different cultures (Geary 4). This multicultural approach to learning provides international students with alternative and non-traditional techniques of managing their different problems. In addition, international students also develop skills on how to globalize problems and develop lasting global solutions. Studying in a nontraditional society provides an international student with an understanding of different weaknesses associated with different societies and the best approaches to use in finding lasting solutions (Geary 7). It is through the efforts of international students that societies can develop new approaches of addressing societal issues considering that the multicultural approach to societal problems provides robust and informed solutions. An international student has the responsbility of uniting with other members of the institution to ensure that they engage in constructive and informative initiatives (Brux and Fry 510).
In terms of the solutions to the challenges faced by International students in foreign countries such as the US, it would be important for the institutions of higher learning through the government to develop effective strategies aimed at facilitating peer-assisted learning. Through this student support mechanisms, it will be easier for student from different backgrounds to acquire and understand a more structured means of communication, interaction, and integration into the foreign country. Furthermore, it would also be important for the schools to introduce mentorship trainings to ensure the presence of highly skilled and experienced individuals who can offer advice on different aspects related to the institution and the country. Through mentorship it will be easier for students to develop mechanisms such as community service which will allow for easy integration and acceptance into the foreign country.
Societal inadequacies that are associated with the challenges faced by international students include measure have been introduced to curb the number of foreign students acquiring visas and permits to study abroad. Other challenges include culture shock, environmental and communication differences. Internet technology has also played an essential role in improving the nature of education in countries where foreign students originate. This is because through the internet students have the ability to engage in long distance learning and this has resulted in the reduction of enrollment population. The multicultural approach to learning in a foreign country is an essential benefit of in solution provision. This is because provides international students with alternative and non-traditional techniques of managing their different problems. In addition, international students also develop skills on how to globalize problems and develop lasting global solutions.
Brux, Jacqueline and Fry, Blake. Multicultural Students in Study Abroad: Their Interests, Their
Issues, and Their Constraints. Journal of Studies in International Education Volume 14 Number 5. 2010
Furnham, Adrian. Culture Shock: Literature Review, Personal Statement and Relevance for the
South Pacific. Journal Of Pacific Rim Psychology Volume 4, Issue 2 Pp. 87–94University of London: UK
Geary, Devon. Taking the Plunge into Culture Shock: Study Abroad Elements Impelling
Cultural Adjustment. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2014.
Kuon, K. Community as the focus of analysis for international students’ difficulties.
Lee, Jenny and Rice, Charles. Welcome to America? International student perceptions of
discrimination. Springer Science Business Media B.V. 2007
Oluwafunmilola, Omodona. Depression among International Students. Central Ostrobothnia
University Of Applied Sciences, 2012
Pelling, Andrew. Culture Shock of International Students in Canada. University of Regina,1989