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Challenges Faced by International Students in USA

Challenges Faced by International Students in USA

So, you’re here in the United States to complete your studies. Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step. We know you might have thought of everything before coming here. However, there are still some challenges that you might face during your stay as a student here in this country.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you at every step of the way.

Here are some challenges that you may face and some tips on how to tackle them.

Cultural Challenges:

This is one of the biggest challenges that you may face here. No matter how many English TV shows and movies you’ve seen, it won’t prepare you for the “Culture Shock” you might face here. India is a culturally rich country. We have our customs and traditions and so is the case with United States.

The language, accents, holidays, a completely different sporting culture, the customs, way of greeting, smiling, personal space – all of it might just seem very overwhelming at first. But slowly and steadily you’ll fit right in.

Here are some tips and solutions that may help you:

-         Be prepared for these challenges – For a Cultural Shock. We know how it sounds. That is no solution. But we really believe that if you are prepared for what is about to come, you will not be hassled when it is actually happening with you.

-         Teacher-student relationships are rather informal in the United States- particularly compared to the Asian education system. Get an understanding of how students and teachers interact.

-         Be open to making new friends as soon as you can upon arrival. Also look to your fellow study abroad students as a support network and a place to share and learn about common practices in the United States.

-         Read about tipping practices in the United States.

-         Figure out the different modes of transportation in the US

Financial Challenges

Let us first acknowledge the fact that studying in US is quite costly. With an approximate fee of 50k USD per year, you are already spending a lot of money. Especially for Indians as the value of Rupee is not so great compared to the US dollar.

Most of us have taken student loans back in India and are already trying to save every penny here. But your tuition fees in not the only cost that you’ll have to take care of. There are other additional costs that you’ll have to bear such as Food, Travel, Rent, Entertainment, Healthcare and other smaller miscellaneous costs.

Here are some tips and suggestions to manage your costs:

-         There is a scholarship for nearly every topic of study and minority group. Other scholarships are merit-based (based on high achievement and extracurricular activity) or need-based (applied when an applicant meets certain financial criteria). Some are available for United States citizens only, but many are available for anyone. You can't get the scholarship unless you apply, so talk to your school's financial aid office for scholarships specific to your school and look at an online directory like Fastweb for more options.

-         Please have a good health insurance. Healthcare in the US is a bit messed up and you might end up with hefty bills if you don’t have good health insurance. We have a guide for this too.

-         Work a part-time job. Some on-campus jobs for students include positions in the school cafeteria, bookstore, library, or gymnasium. While it's unlikely you'll be able to earn enough to pay the majority of your expenses, a part-time job can help cover books, clothing, and personal expenses. Be sure to note U.S. working regulations for international students. You can check out our guide on the same.

Social Challenges

Starting out as a new student in a program abroad can feel intimidating and lonely, so try to step out of your comfort zone and get to know as many people as you can while you are getting acquainted with your new home for the duration of your studies.

Some Solutions:

-         Get to know other students in your program who are going through the same social changes. Attend optional meetings and outings and sign up for any weekend trips or excursions.

-         Get involved in student groups on campus- volunteer and academic groups are generally a great place to start. Your university should have a listing of all active student groups available.

-         Befriend local students, as they can help get you acquainted with the school and introduce you to new friends. Sit next to them in class and offer to partner with them on projects.

-         Attend local events. Free apps like Now and Like a Local can zero in on your location to help you find cool spots and happenings nearby.

Academic Challenges

With so much else going on, it can be easy to focus on everything but your school work, but remember that your academic experience is what brought you to the United States.

While your studies should always come first, this can be a challenge if you discover that U.S. language and classroom expectations are different than in your home country.

Follow these solutions, focus on your studies, and embrace your new culture so you can have an educational and fulfilling experience.

Some Solutions:

-         Talk to the professor. While it may be intimidating to talk to a professor who lectures in front of hundreds of students at a time, his or her job is to teach. Take advantage of office hours if you are unable to stay after class.

-         Ask your guidance counsellor for a student mentor's email address and connect with him or her.

-         If you are not clear on an assignment, talk to the professor, a teacher's assistant, or another student from your class. In America, study groups are common. Joining a study group for your difficult classes can help you learn better, collaborate with other students, and give you an opportunity to receive a little extra help clarifying assignments and coursework.


Ask most Indians what they miss the most and they’ll say Indian food. Though there’s a lot of Indian food available in most of the cities here in USA, you may not find everything to your liking and may also find it overpriced. Because – Dollars.

The only solution is to learn cooking. Trust us, once you learn how to cook, not only will you start saving a lot of money, but you’ll also add a life skill and you’ll never miss Indian food again anywhere you go.

Understanding Plagiarism and Academic Honor Code

Believe it or not, many times international students are unfamiliar with the term and concept of plagiarism, at least in the way that Americans understand it. Working in groups can be very confusing for international students as they believe they are completing the assignment together but may not understand that they cannot then copy verbatim their classmates work.

Unlike American students who have been told and guided through what plagiarism looks like since grade school, international students are starting with a blank slate.

Perceptions of plagiarism are mostly based on historical and cultural assumptions. Many of the policies and guidelines set for students may not be specific enough for a foreign population. The language barrier can play a role in this situation as well.

Some Solutions and Suggestions:

-         Speak with your professors often. Utilize them as a resource from the very beginning. Familiarize yourself with well-known American plagiarism guidelines sites like Purdue Owl Writing Lab.

-         Speak with your academic advisers to gain resources provided by the university. The university should be speaking openly early on with international students about plagiarism and the severity of breaking an academic honor code in the states.

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