Difficulties of Being an International Student


When an international student goes out to endeavour on their new academic journey, the last thing they want to happen is have a horrible overseas experience. International students are usually very hard working (Marginson 2012) as they travelled to the host country at an expensive price and therefore would not waste such a great opportunity.

International students face more social problems than anything. They face a foreign language, studying in a new setting, finances, accommodation, and day-to-day living problems, and they must negotiate an unfamiliar set of institutional rules (Marginson 2012).

It can be hard for international students to make friends, because in the scheme of things, they’re not in the host country long enough to form close friendships. Students have many chances to see new people at university orientation programs, classrooms, dormitories, flats, formal and informal parties, church services, and places of work. Most of these places  provide them with only one or a few chances of meeting therefore making it hard to create close friendships (Kudo, Simkin, 2010). In a report by Kudo and Simkin (2010), they say that Japanese students tend not to go out and actively make friends, with this having something to do with their culture. They also state in their study that a reason why the Japanese students didn’t make friends was because they were placed in dormitories with other international students therefore not allowing interaction with host students. The only time they would see the host students would be for 1 hour tutorials.

So, what does this tell us? There are two different reasons as to why it may be socially difficult for international students. That being the international students culture and the treatment from the host country. The two factors create a barrier between communication and friendships.

It would be unethical to tell an international student that they must conform to the host countries culture. In Japan, they have different levels of friendship which are based on a number of things. They are: continual contact, emotional contact and support (Kudo, Simkin 2010). As previously stated, the ability for Japanese students to engage with local students is hindered due to their amount of time spent with each other, therefore the cultural steps that the Japanese students have to towards friendships can not be fulfilled.

“Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australian-centered view of a diverse and complex world” (Marginson 2012). Parochial means confined or restricted; limited in range or scope. In a University setting, this can be applied to the attitudes of local students toward international students. Local Australian students may be not open to being patient and understanding of foreign students, considering that the language barriers is what makes it most difficult. From my own personal experience, the main challenge I had with interacting with an international student was the language barrier. Not only was this difficult in my group assignment but the tutor was finding it difficult to understand them as well. Needless to say, that one tutorial a week was the only time I saw them and would not consider catching up on the weekend. I don’t believe I was being provincial, but it was purely the difference in the way we expressed ourselves and language.


Kudo, K, Simkin, K 2010, ‘Intercultural Friendship Formation: the case of Japanese students at an Australian university’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 24, Issue 2

Marginson, S 2012, ‘International Education as Self-formation’, Lecture slides at University of Wollongong 21st Feb 2012

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