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The Ups and Downs of International Students Abroad

A group of international students at university The West’s universities have been, for some time, and will likely continue to be for some time to come, the desired destination of international students from all over the world. State of the art research facilities, and a concentration of some of humanity’s best and brightest minds, combined with unmatched infrastructure and amenities, have drawn (in Canada alone) some 500,000 international students.

Leaving your home country to study abroad can be one of the most exciting things you do with your life. It gives you a chance to experience new cultures, new foods, new places, improve language skills, build valuable and impressive resumes, and, for some, provides a pathway to citizenship in an entirely new country. Universities in Canada and the United States place a tremendous amount of value on attracting and retaining international students, and work to ensure their academic experience is a positive one. As with any experience where you are facing significant unknowns, you will encounter both ups and downs – especially at first – when acclimating to your new country and university. Below are some of the things international students should keep in mind while considering an international university experience.

Culture shock

University life, and university towns, tend to be somewhat of a bubble, regardless of where you go in the world. There is a young, liberal culture that tends to dominate and it is not necessarily what you can expect from the wider society. Young people today have grown up more connected, and part of a much larger, more identifiable global culture than ever before. That being said, your new country undoubtedly has some surprises in store for you.

The way people talk and relate to one another will likely be different. Social norms regarding things like politeness, noise, greetings, personal space, touching and body language while talking, sense of humour, and national identity are all things that people who intend on spending a significant amount of time outside their home culture will have to come to terms with.

International students and university level English

If English is your second language, and even if you went to an international high school in your home country with a significant amount of English language instruction, the jump from high school-level English to university-level can be quite overwhelming for international students. That does not necessarily mean you are going to do poorly in your courses. Studies have shown that, although many international students (63 percent) do struggle with English in university and college-level courses, only 10 percent of them experienced significant grade drops.

You should also know that if you are struggling with your coursework, and require help, there are academic writing services out there that have helped countless international students obtain an edge on their coursework, and improve their ability to read and write in English. It takes courage and hard work to study abroad, and the academic papers and literature you will be exposed to, even at the undergraduate level, will introduce you to words and concepts that are both sophisticated and uncommon.


It is common for university students, especially new students, to feel homesick if they have chosen to study outside of the town or city they grew up in. Even moving just a couple of hours away to study can make students feel isolated and alone. This is especially true if you come from a close-knit family, and have a large and meaningful social network in your city or town of origin. This experience can be greatly amplified if you are coming from another country altogether.

Thanks to the internet and to internet-based communication, including things like social media, we are now more connected with our loved ones than ever before. The days of expensive calling cards and writing letters are long gone, and international students can be closer than ever to friends and family while not physically present. A good way to deal with homesickness is to keep active. It can be easy to end up wallowing in a pit of despair and decide that you don’t want to do anything, or see anybody. Staying active (including exercising) will help with your mental health, and make it easier to settle in.

You will likely have to speak publicly and participate in group projects

Speaking publicly is part of the university experience for most people. Whether as part of a group project, or on your own, you will likely have to get up in front of your peers and classmates, as well as your professors, and speak about course material. Public speaking is nerve-racking at the best of times, but especially so if you are doing it in a language you don’t feel 100 percent proficient in. Prepare yourself for that beforehand so that you are not all of a sudden overwhelmed by surprise and dread. Understand that most of your fellow students are not bad people, and that they will empathize with your discomfort and will not attempt to make you feel bad for trying your best.

The aforementioned group projects are also part of the university experience that many international students find uncomfortable, especially if you are not confident in your ability to communicate in English. If you don’t speak up and share ideas in a group project, you are likely to feel undervalued, marginalized, and on the sidelines (an unpleasant feeling for anyone). It is a good idea to come up with ideas before group meetings, and to ensure that you are able to communicate them clearly before attempting to do so in front of your peers. This way you can contribute, while avoiding stress.

The international experience is something that many students find immensely fulfilling, even life-altering. You never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to learn, or what interests you are going to discover while studying abroad. If you are an international student and find yourself struggling to keep up with the workload, or are feeling overwhelmed by what is being asked of you, get in touch with Homework Help Global today and let us make your international experience easier to manage.


Fass-Holmes, B. & Vaughn, A.A. (2014). “Are International Undergraduates Struggling Academically?” Journal of International Students 1(2014): 60-73

Katem, E. (2018). “Canada is home to nearly half a million international students.” Canada Study News. Retrieved from: