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Difficulties in Studying Abroad: Intercultural Difficulties and Language Barriers

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 1425 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Identify difficulties that students sometimes face when studying at a university abroad, and discuss the best approaches to overcoming or avoiding the problems you identify.

It has become increasingly large number of the international students in recent years. Many students are now interest in study abroad. Yeoh and Terry (2013) in their recent research paper found that the numbers of international students has significantly increase in enrolment. The main reason given for studying abroad is to step out of their comfort zone and be open to new experiences. In addition, studying abroad may provide students to get the chance to experience new environments, cultures and some social issues. There are many benefits from the intercultural experience, such as to learn other cultures and to make an adjustment through differences culture. On the other hand, the international students may also face the challenges, as they leave their culture behind, and try to adapt themselves to a new physical, environmental, and linguistic location (Smith and Khawaja, 2011). Another concern for students who study abroad is language barrier. Chung, Ingleby and Richard (2011) argue that the learning style is often quite different from the style that they are used to in their home countries due to the study environments, and it may hard to communicate with others. This essay will investigate the difficulties of studying abroad include intercultural issue and languages barrier on students, and also provide some effective ways to overcome such challenges.

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The major problem for students who study abroad may face is the differences between cultures in the host country and their hometown ‘culture shock.’ According to Pedersen (1995), culture shock defines as “the process of initial adjustment to an unfamiliar environment” and notes that the term has been used to describe the emotional, behavioral, and physiological impact of the adjustment process on the individual. These include the social roles, climate, food, and the way people behave and speak. Further research (Presbitero, 2016) showed the results that the culture shock negatively impacts international students’ psychological and sociolcultural adaptation. One of the most effective ways to overcome culture shock is to be open-minded. Try to learn new things, and students may also find certain things that they may like. Moreover, they can not only learn a new culture, but they also can enhance the other people to be more understand and respect in their culture (Dwyer, M. and Peters, K., 2014). Another way is to be prepared as much as they can before they arrive the host country and prepare some ingredients, or find a supplier of familiar food from their own country.

Another important problem of the international students’ academic life is language barrier. These difficulties in communication experienced by people who are speaking different languages and accents in daily life. According to Strauss (2012), students who are from non-English speaking background (NESB), they may get both spoken and written English challenges. The challenge of hearing and speaking a different language may hindering their academic learning process. Moreover, they are taught by native speakers, and they might get the chance to experience difference styles of education. Recent research Chung, Ingleby and Richard (2011) suggests that the difference between the Asian learning style and the Western learning style is how they focuses on the lesson. The main point of Asian learning style is a ‘surface learning approach’ which is concerned with memorization. Asian education system is more concerned with a teacher-centred approach which is the knowledge is transmitted to students by a ‘spoon-feeding’ method (Wong, 2004). It is opposite from Western the education system (Guilfoyle, 2006). The best way to tackle this challenge is try to be a good learner. It is a good way to become fluent if students try to learn another language and immersing themselves in a place where they speak another language. Goldstein and Keller (2015) argue that they may have positive relationships with the people from the host country if they have openness to experience skill. Time management is another key which impact upon students’ achievement as prioritizing the important things and doing the ‘first thing first’ (Yeoh and Terry, 2013)

Therefore, there are great solutions to reach such problems which is intercultural relations and linguistic issue. The main causes of student difficulties appear to be that host country has a different culture from their hometown. This concern can be deal by being open mind, treat everything new as a chance to gain knowledge about the culture. Due to the differences language that students experience when study abroad, they should try to speak, learn from the locals and know how to manage time well for study. Although, these challenges also could positively impact their life skills and long-term learning.

Reference list


  • Chung, Ingleby and Richard., 2011. Overcoming the cultural challenges in supervising Chinese research students in Australia, [e-book] Abingdon, England, Routledge, Available through: <http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30044719> [Accessed 9 July 2019].
  • Dwyer, M. and Peters, K., 2014, The Benefits of Study Abroad: New Study Confirm Significant Gains, [pdf.] Available at: <http://www2.clarku.edu//offices/studyabroad/pdfs/IES%20study.pdf> [Accessed 9 July 2019].
  • Goldstein and Keller, 2015, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, U.S. college students’ lay theories of culture shock, [e-journal] 47, pp. 187-194. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2015.05.010
  • Guilfoyle, 2006, Experience of Learning The 15th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Peers, family, community, supervisors and governance: A review of key sites for supporting international postgraduate students’ transitional learning
  • experiences. [e-book] Available through: <https://clt.curtin.edu.au/events/conferences/tlf/tlf2006/refereed/guilfoyle.html> [Accessed 10 July 2019].
  • Pedersen, 1995, Contributions in psychology, the five stages of culture shock: Critical incidents around the world, [e-book]Westport, CT, US: Greenwood Press/Greenwood Publishing Group. Available through: <https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zszx6k5Y1HMC&oi=fnd&pgots>
  • Presbitero, 2016, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Culture shock and reverse culture shock:The moderating role of cultural intelligence in international students’ adaptation, [e-journal] 53, pp.28-38. Available through: Science Direct website <https://sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/SO147176716300712>  [Accessed 10 July 2019].
  • Smith and Khawaja, 2011, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, A review of the acculturation experiences of international students, [e-journal]35(6), pp.699-713. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.08.004
  • Strauss, 2012, Teaching in Higher Education, ‘The English is not the same’ challenges in thesis writing for second language speakers of English, [e-journal] 17(4), pp. 283-293. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2011.611871.
  • Wong, 2004, International Education Journal, Are the Learning Styles of Asian International Students Culturally or Contextually Based?, [pdf] Available at: <https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ903817.pdf> [Accessed 9 July 2019].
  • Yeoh and Terry, 2018, Universal Journal of Educational Research, International Research Students’ Experiences in Academic Success, [e-journal] 1(3), pp. 275-280. http://dx.doi.org/10.13189/ujer.2013.010319.


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