The academic classroom is the place where cultural diversity challenges often arise. International students often must work harder than their domestic counterparts when completing assignments or understanding the literature in any given class. A person who has never before taken a U.S. History course struggles when assumptions are made about what common knowledge the classroom shares. In the words of one student taking American History during his first semester, “When the professor talked about Philadelphia, I wondered who that was.” Likewise, a student from a non-Christian nation may find it difficult to relate to Renaissance Art featuring the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child.
At the same time, many of those same students are struggling with adjusting to a completely new culture, both in and out of the classroom. In his article, “Adjustment Issues of International Students Enrolled in American Colleges and Universities: A Review of the Literature.” Abrahao Andre de Araujo (Higher Education Studies Vol. 1, No. 1; June 2011) sites the following factors in determining the difficulties of international student adjustment:
– English language proficiency; Studies for years have shown that English language proficiency is directly related to students’ levels of depression, ability to acculturate, and their comfort in classes
– Social Support; Lack of social support (or lack of the perception of social support) is a predictor of depression
– Length of Stay in U.S.; Greater length of time in U.S. is associated with lower levels of psychological distress
– Perceived Discrimination or Prejudice; Perceived discrimination affects adjustment of the student
– Establishing relationships with Americans; Several studies have found a correlation between adjustment and significant relationships with Americans
– Homesickness; Not surprisingly, internationals experience homesickness more than U.S. students, creating greater issues of adjustment
ISSS attempts to provide services and programs that address these and other adjustment issues of the international student. Academic Departments can assist in this transition by being aware of the issues international students face and making appropriate referrals to international students as needed.