Foreign Students Connecting In The College Community—It’s Not Optional

empowered foreigner homesickness isolation in the USA students learn English to assimilateInternational students gaining acceptance into American Universities is at an all time high—these students aren’t just adapting to a new country, but navigating through a new culture as well.

Many colleges and universities are relying on increasing foreign student acceptance rates in order to bring in enough income to stay afloat. The University of California for example, admitted 43% more international students in 2013 than in 2012, as foreign students would pay an extra $23,000 a year and help plug the budget gaps caused by reductions in state funding. As state Universities and colleges are welcoming progressively more foreign students, the issue has been raised of how to help these students become connected to the community upon arriving.

Many foreign students admit to improving their English and gaining a unique college experience while studying in America, but they’re also lonely. Some of these problems are standard freshman fare: becoming homesick or having trouble making new friends—but others are specifically more complicated for these students studying abroad. Many international students live in dorms where close quarters can result in cultural misunderstandings: from hanging laundry on dorm room balconies to amounts and ranges of acceptable nudity. With many local students not understanding their peers’ foreign culture, they often disassociate with foreign students, causing alienation and a genuine sense of loneliness for international students.

The first month in America, along with holidays, tend to be the hardest on international students as they acclimate to being on their own and spending holidays apart from family. Because of this, many American Universities are striving to make incoming international students feel more at home.

USC for example, enrolling more Chinese students than any other US University, offers a 13-week course called “American Culture,” showing workshops and videos to better adapt foreign students to life in America. One video for example, shows students smiling and exchanging a handshake as a form of a greeting. Other days, students become acquainted with American culture through food. Teachers take students to restaurants to try their first In-N-Out Burger and allow opportunities for international students to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a host family’s house.

While US Universities are working on helping international students adapt to life in America, much of the responsibility lies on the student’s efforts. Being independent and branching outside of communicating solely with other international students allows for the most emersion into American culture. Networking and attending social events are also a great way to meet fellow students and can open up an array of opportunities both personal and professionally. For Chinese students, living outside of Asian enclaves like Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley or Sunset Park in New York can create opportunity and help obtain jobs that involves communication, like working at a local coffee shop.

Being open-minded to life in American Universities can allow students to make the most of their time overseas and enjoy gaining confidence and life experience all-while gaining a valuable college education.