Journey of International Students into the Academic Field

“Academia is not everyone’s forte, but for those who are passionate in this field, it means the world to them.”

In this issue, I would like to bring out some of the most intriguing things that international students experience on their journey as they step outside their comfort zone and into foreign countries to achieve their academic goals.

First of all, the potential students do a lot of research before committing to anything, for example, they look at which colleges/universities/private institutions will be best suited for them. After their extensive research, they look into the requirements of the institution and gather all the documents necessary for submitting their application.

The second and foremost important factor for the international students is to find supervisors that have the expertise in their area of research who would be willing to accept new students under their supervision. A good supervisor means a successful achievement to the students!

Some of the things that a student looks for while searching for supervisors is funding; this is a vital need for all international students as they need the funds to support themselves for the duration of their studies abroad, to cover their tuition fees and reading materials, transportation fees, health service fees, accommodation costs, and just day to day living expenses. This funding can generally come from the supervisor’s research grants or through external scholarships. The student can apply for scholarships either through their home institution or through competitions within the proposed institution.

The entire process of being accepted into the program and moving to a new country can be quite challenging for international students. Many of the students face difficulties, especially with language barriers as English is not their first language. They have to take extra classes to brush up their English and to learn proper grammar and writing skills, as well as learn how to speak better.

Finding accommodation can also be quite a hassle. It is not always easy to find separate suites at reasonable prices; therefore they usually end up sharing rooms and common areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Apart from adapting to a new country, school, and cultural differences, they also have to learn to manage their daily lives, for example, learning to balance their coursework, research projects, cooking and cleaning, and this usually leaves very little time for their social life.

Often, the students will try and fit in with their current surroundings although, cultural differences are not easy to adapt to, but with a bit of trial and error, they manage to learn fast and most of the time, they embrace it with love. They are willing to try different ethnic foods, attend social events, participate in cultural festivities and even learn to dress like other nationalities.

Academically, international students are very intelligent and are able to learn very fast. They put their minds and hearts in whatever they do and aiming high is always a priority for them. Most of them graduate with good grades and publish their work in respectable journals.

International students do not always have it easy. Living in a foreign country and adapting to different cultures without any family and friend’s support can sometimes become a dreadful experience. Often, international students do not share their feelings with anyone as they are shy or feel intimidated by their new surroundings.

If they are in a program based education system, this is where the education administrators can play a big role in their lives. With a little bit of empathy and guidance, the students are able to adapt to their new lives and with every little bit of help, they can attain their goals. Transitioning into anything new is never easy, so with the help of the expert administrators, as long as they are understanding and not intimidating, the students are easily able to adapt to their new surroundings.

It gives great satisfaction to see the end results of the international students’ journey, as they focus on completing their coursework, research projects, theses, defending their final exams and eventually, graduating with flying colours; and making both their parents and the supervisors/programs proud!

Some of them also meet their soul mates in the new country, eventually get married and start a family. International students also have an opportunity to stay in the county after graduation from anywhere between 1 to 3 years on a work permit to utilize their achievements!

Finally, I conclude by saying that international students do become a part of your family!