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Managing Your Studies as an International Student

Written by: Chloe (she/her)

2 min read | Published: July 2, 2024

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International students have unique challenges to overcome on top of domestic university student financial and educational difficulties. Being away from home can come with a language barrier, lack of familiar connections or people, and adjusting to unfamiliar expectations. Learning in a second language is undeniably harder than studying in your native language. New material is complicated by the fact that reading and writing requires more time.

Even if you’re fluent in English, academic writing can feel like an entirely different language altogether. Accomplishing the same goals as native English speakers can take more effort for an international student due to language or cultural barriers. While developing language skills can alleviate this mental overload, there are additional strategies you can use for educational success.

Learn to Self-Advocate

Unfortunately, due to the language fluency expectations of most universities, there isn’t much accommodation for international students within classrooms. In high school, assistance is often readily provided and sometimes given proactively before a student starts to struggle. If you’re struggling in college, the responsibility of seeking out resources is on the individual. This can be a big adjustment for some, and it’s often the reason students aren’t able to achieve their full potential. Reaching out to your professors can be a great way to foster a connection and seek advice.

As an international student, it’s important to recognize the added barriers you’re facing and be committed to your own success. Some universities offer free tutoring within your program; but if it’s affordable, a private tutor has the added benefit of personalized help. Additionally, many colleges have international student offices and academic writing centers that can assist with assignments or personal concerns that affect your ability to succeed in school.

Manage Your Stress

Expectations are often high for international students attending university, and when that’s combined with familial pressure, it can create high standards for success. It’s important to remember to not be too hard on yourself. It can be easy to get swept up in comparing yourself to your peers in terms of academic and career success. When domestic students are discussing their internship plans, it can be upsetting if you’re struggling to find sponsored employment. Take a step back and remind yourself that you’re accomplishing a very high level of independence — and possibly doing it all in multiple languages, far from home.

Connecting with other students can be a great way to relax while also increasing your support network. Having friends to share notes and study with is a great way to lessen academic struggles. Participating in clubs can help you build friendships, experiences and language proficiency. If you’re feeling homesick, there may be a cultural student organization with students who speak the same language or come from similar backgrounds. Remember you’re never alone, and there are other students who have faced similar struggles who understand and may be willing to help.


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