International students face many cultural challenges when trying to adapt to life in a foreign country. These challenges can include finding an ideal home, establishing new relationships, and communicating in a foreign language while trying to succeed personally and professionally, especially in studies. Most of the time, many universities try to help international students by offering specific programs and resources which may vary from university to university. These programs are sometimes insufficient and difficult to understand for international students whose first language is not English.
The difficulty of adaptation is different among international students. According to Louise Dassy, an international student from Belgium, ”Understanding people was not hard for me even if my second language is English.” Dassy’s first language is French and thanks to her parents, she had a chance to attend an English school where she learned English before coming to study at Herkimer College. ”Sometimes in class, I am not very sure of what I am doing, I have some difficulties understanding my teacher, but some teachers understand me and try to help me after classes. Even my advisor helps me to make my schedule.”
Robu Ikaraski is a Japanese student at Herkimer College. He faced many challenges too when trying to integrate college and social life after moving to America to study. According to Ikaraski, ” I came alone to America. It was like a movie, everything was beautiful. It was difficult to talk to other students and socialize with them. Especially in classes, I could not understand my teachers. I only knew some basics of English. My advisor helped me a lot to schedule my classes, find a job, and a social security number.”
Herkimer College offers struggling international students the opportunity to develop friendships and build a strong local support network, including cultural resource centers and places for international students to meet people facing similar challenges.
Among these places, is the Office for International Programming. Nodoka Hiraoka is a student of Japanese origin who works there. According to her, “The International Office is open to all students. We welcome students from all countries. Every day we have students from many different countries and many different languages in the office. I mainly work with students who have language barriers. I act as a liaison between the school and international students, helping them to express their opinions, communicate school requirements and familiarize themselves with the school. Sometimes I also provide academic and registrar support. It is very difficult to meet the needs of each student, but we try to do our best.”
For students who speak English as a second language, Herkimer offers a program that includes English reading, grammar, writing, speaking and listening lessons, as well as American pronunciation lessons, culture and student life in the United States.
There is no doubt that international students face a number of cross-cultural challenges that impact day-to-day logistics, communication, and relationship building. But this adaptation is a normal process that every foreign student must face. Fortunately, there are many ways to help minimize the difficulties of adapting to life in a new country offered by university students.