It’s a fact that international transfer students struggle quite a bit in their new environment. Many sources attest to the impact on their mental health (like this article in The New York Times) and academic performance (this study in the Journal of International Students). Understanding the challenges waiting for you from the start and learning how to overcome them is sure to reduce the risk of such problems for you. The most common issues are money, cultural differences, and a lack of support structure. All of them can be negated with a more thorough preparation for transfer.
Top 3 Challenges for International Transfer Students and How to Deal with Them
1. Financial issues
According to College Data, the average yearly budget for an international private college student in the US is about $417,830. The tuition costs are lower in public colleges, however, the fact that a fairly large budget is necessary is indisputable.
Therefore, it’s essential to calculate your personal budget in advance and make sure you have the money before transferring. This will remove a major stressor from the start. Setting up an emergency fund in advance is also a must.
Students can use scholarships and/or financial aid to help cover their expenses. You’ll need to apply for those in advance so that all financial arrangements are complete before your transfer.
If you plan on getting a part-time job to pay your way through school, be sure to secure it beforehand as well. Don’t forget to check the school’s regulations on this matter. You also need to choose your classes carefully or look for a job with a very flexible schedule.
2. Cultural differences
Culture shock is one of the main challenges for international transfer students in the US. Watching movies and reading up on social norms doesn’t prepare one for a complete dive into a new culture. In fact, Hollywood-induced stereotypes only make it harder for some people because they have so little in common with the actual realities and complexities of American life.
The best way to overcome this challenge is to do as much research as you can. Getting some experience of the US in advance will be the greatest help. Forward Pathway advocates using summer/winter camps that give future transfer students a chance to experience the American education system. Such camps even include classes in actual US schools so the experience is as real as possible.
Volunteering programs are also an option for those planning to go study in America. However, those usually limit you a bit and rarely offer to see how the actual schooling works.
3. Lack of support network
People around you whom you can trust enough to come for help in any situation are your support network. However, international transfer students usually have to leave the majority of them behind. Thus, they get stressed because they don’t know where to turn for help. They also get an extra helping of stress because they need to establish new social connections to build that network from scratch.
The only way to overcome this particular challenge is to try making connections before you go to the US. If this isn’t possible, be engaged in social activities so you can meet new people faster.