Each year students seeking post-secondary school education make the daring step to move abroad. Some from acquisition of full scholarships to study abroad, while others who feel an overseas experience is way better than their local academic experience depending of the career they seek. Most of these students are upbeat and exude confidence about the new exciting experiences they would have in their new locale. The excitement is however short lived once the realities of schooling abroad begin manifesting (Oliffe, Robertson, Kelly, Roy, & Ogrodniczuk, 2010).
Statement of Theory
Alienation of the new student through culture shock coupled with the need for academic excellence are the root causes of stress in international students. The students often are unable to strike a balance between their social lives, economic challenges they face and their academics. Achievement of social well-being and academic success requires psychological tranquility (Smith & Khawaja, 2011). Socio-cultural isolation, loneliness and general uncertainty make the foreign student’s life miserable and difficult. Despite the growing number of international students globally (Yang & Noels, 2013), very little research has been channeled towards improving the psychological support framework for this cadre of students globally.
Hypothesis and Topic. It is verifiable that earning an education in a developed country earns a student great respect and recognition back in their country of origin (Vinther & Slethaug, 2015). However lack of company and familiar faces could predispose the international student to stress and anxiety. Even with geographical bridging brought about by technology including Skype, Facebook, what Sapp and other forms of social media, the stress in these students has but increased to alarming levels. The international student therefore experiences more stress inherent of isolation and academic pressure as compared to the native student. Due to pressures heralded from communication with their families back home these students ignore their state of mental health thereby aggravation of stress and depression. These students hardly ever reach out to seek counseling services because of the high cost of counseling services. To mediate these pressures therefore calls for proper multi-faceted inputs from the respective educational institutions, healthcare facilities and foreign envoys towards helping foreign students to adjust effectively in their new societies and environments.
We carried out a strategic survey across two universities that had faculties accepting international students. We targeted 45 international students from all over the world as respondents in our survey. Our research was meant to establish whether these international students had been exposed to and the scope of any socio-cultural, economic and academic shocks associated with being international students. We also sort to find out whether they sort professional help or intervention in case they felt stressed by these challenges. We also carried out random surveys on the native students to see their predisposition to be affected by the same challenges.
We identified the international students from the records at the faculties in the two universities that offered education to international students. Where we had more than one student from one country, we only selected a single respondent.
- Have you ever felt stressed out because of difficulty of socializing with others and concentrating on your academics
- Which group do you readily associate with, natives or other foreign students?
- Have you ever sought counseling services for the stress you experienced? If no why?
Method .We used questionnaires with objective open-ended questions so that the respondents could respond freely. For those students who could not write in English, we used recorders to capture their interview response.
Results. 88.8 % of the respondents indicated they had experienced socio-cultural challenges on arrival. 100% of the respondents indicated that they found it difficult socializing and relied majorly on communicating home for communication. 75% said they were more comfortable associating with fellow foreign students than native students. 40% had attempted suicide due to social and academic stress. 0% sort professional help in relation to the adversity caused by the stress. However 95% of the natives indicated having experienced stress related to socio-cultural and academic shocks. They visited counseling therapy frequently as they indicated they are aware of their mental health.
Although most countries embrace multiculturalism, there is an influx of international students seeking better education offered in developed countries (Yang & Noels, 2013). Our survey discovered that International students found it easy to relate with fellow international students compared to native students. This is compounded by the fact that they seem to undergo similar challenges and therefore each party would understand readily the other’s predicaments. Notably students of Indian origin and Hispanics blended more easily compared to those of African and Chinese origin who preferred remaining silent during class and outdoor social sessions. Though all groups experienced cultural alienation, those who could not speak the local language monotonously quiet. They condemned themselves to dull lives, which ultimately leads to mental stress then depression and finally attempt on life. Furthermore, we established that foreign students hardly ever seek professional counseling services due to the expensive cost of the services. Some tended to ignore the importance of these services indicating that they always thought themselves as okay despite undergoing bouts of stress.
Limitations of the study
Due to lack of confidence in our ingenuity and fear of possible victimization, most of the foreign students shied away from participating in our survey. Most were admitted on scholarship and utterances they deemed contravened their financier’s perspective would make them vulnerable for scholarship cancellation. We also experienced massive communication barriers especially for respondents who could not speak of write in English.
We were only allowed to access those respondents the respective colleges wanted us to meet. Other plausible respondent’s information was withheld, maybe deliberately.
While the aforementioned are grave concerns marring the socio-academic lives of international students, little has been done towards addressing them. Despite these students paying more to receive an education at learning centers, they are left to cope by themselves. Apart from adopting the desire to appear internationally competent by enrolling more foreign students, colleges and universities globally should ensure that these international students are debriefed frequently to forestall depression and stress. Perhaps they could also be provided with guardians, to help them navigate around with ease during their initial period of stay. Their host institutions should also make it policy for the international students to receive free lessons of the local lingua to make them able to communicate with relative ease. This will ensure excellent social, academic and mental health for international Students.
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Oliffe, J. L., Robertson, S., Kelly, M. T., Roy, P., & Ogrodniczuk, J. S. (2010). Connecting masculinity and depression among international male university students. QualitativeHealth Research , 7, 987-998.
Smith, R. A., & Khawaja, N. G. (2011, November). A review of the acculturation experiences of international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations
Vinther, J., & Slethaug, G. (2015). The impact of international students on the university work environment: A comparative study of a Canadian and a Danish university . In Language and Intercultural Communication (pp. 92-108).
. Yang , R. P., & Noels, K. A. (2013). The possible selves of international students and their cross-cultural adjustment in Canada. International Journal of Psychology , 48 (3), 316-323.