Unspoken Stories: Foothill’s International Student Community



JunKai Chen, Contributor

  You may be surrounded by international students or be one at Foothill College. We all know that because of recent trends towards globalization, the inflow of international students into the United States has increased significantly. But how much do you know about the international students? What impact do they have on the college and communities? What kind of problems will they encounter?

     Although many native students complain that international students take up their educational resources, the value international students bring can not be overlooked. In David Neumann’s article “International Student’s Challenge and Adjustment to College“, he states that “international students make contributions that have positively influenced the student population on so many different levels…academic prestige, cultural exchange, and financial revenue”. To begin with, international students have to pay more money to get into college. I found that international students pay 100 dollars per unit of credit while only 30 dollars for native students. International students represent a large economic and international relations investment for America through their expenditures on tutoring and living expenses. Moreover, as international students come from a different country, they will have a different culture. As a result, they will add different perspectives in the classroom and enhance the mutual understanding and appreciation of the differences found around the world. In other words, international students constitute an increasingly relevant and important source of diversity on college campuses. At the same time, we experience many problems.

    For most international students, entering US universities and colleges can be an overwhelming life and cultural transition. In the process of adapting, they will encounter many problems.  Neumann states that “many studies explored the challenges and hurdles experienced by international students attending institutions of higher education in the US. These difficulties include but are not limited to: language difficulties, difficulties adjusting to the academic culture, misunderstanding, and complications in communication with faculty and peers; stress, anxiety, feeling of the isolation, social experiences, culture shock, financial hardships, lack of appropriate accommodation, isolation and loneliness” (Neumann, 2015). As an international student, I have personally experienced these difficulties. 

     I want to share my experience to help other international students. Foothill College is the first college I attended in US. When I first came here, I thought the most difficult challenge for me was the language. I came from China, and the level of my English at that time could not even support my basic communication with my classmates. The language difficulties were not only because of my own English level, but also from different accents, the rate of speech, and pronunciation. This language barriers not only had a bad influence on my process of learning, but also directly caused a series of problems in my life. For example, when I tried to rent an apartment, the lender told me what things I should prepare for renting, but I had no idea what he was talking about. As a result, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure it out. I think language is the most difficult challenge not only for me, but for most international students.

    As an international student who has adapted to US culture, I have some suggestions for my classmates. Most of the international students are not really good at English when they just come here, and then most of them are afraid of communicating with the native speakers and only meet friends who come from the same country as them. As a result, they don’t have the chance to speak English and can not improve without practice. Don’t be afraid of using English to communicate with other students. Use English as much as you can, because practice is the best way to improve English.

   Because I could not understand clearly when the instructor talked about these topics on the first day due to the language problem, I felt confused about the choice of courses and how the entire college works at first. As a result, I felt anxious all the time and always worried about whether I made mistakes on my choice of courses or where the cafeteria or school office were and so on. To solve this problem, my suggestion is to use the Campus Counseling Service if you are confused about something, because the Counseling Service aims to help students and can help you solve the problem and answer your doubts. In addition, I suggest that international students join some Students’ Organizations because these organizations also can help students solve their difficulties. When I first came to Foothill College, I joined an organization named  Chinese Christian Fellowship. This organization meets once a week to solve the students’ difficulties and answer students’ question.  I really got a lot of help from these meetings.    

    I did an interview with a Japanese student who has adapted to Foothill College very well in order to understand the situation of international students more clearly. She agreed with me that language is the most difficult challenge for the international students and the best way to overcome this challenge is to practice. On the other hand, she mentioned a problem which I overlooked when I first came to Foothill College: she must spend a lot of money to live in the US because the yen is not worth as much as the dollars. She said that to solve this problem, international students should spend less money and try to get a part-time job at Foothill College. When I asked if culture become one of the challenges for her, she said “absolutely not” and that the culture is pretty easy to adapt to. She mentioned that healthcare is also a big problem because international students don’t have health insurance in America. Without coverage, they have to pay a lot of money for treatment and medicine. Some international students prefer to be sick and heal themselves than go to see a doctor because of the expensive treatment. For now, there are two ways to solve this problem: the first one is not to get sick,  do more exercises, eat healthy food, and get enough sleep will help.  The second one is to go to the Health Services/Planned Parenthood office, free to all Foothill students, for some help.

     In my opinion, Foothill College should not just leave the international students to solve problems by themselves. They should assist them to overcome their difficulties. Firstly, for all of the Foothill students and faculty, they should be aware of the value of embracing international students and appreciating the diversity of each other. Faculty should consider the language problem and the native students should develop intercultural competence to interact with international students. It is no doubt that faculty and native students can help international students a lot on adapting to the new environment. Secondly, tutoring and counseling are expected, because international students really need guidance to succeed in their academic study. Thirdly, Foothill College could offer international students a special orientation about US culture to help them adapt to the culture.

    International students often face a series of transitional difficulties when they come to study in the US at College or University, but these challenges also motivate international students to develop strategies to solve problems. When they become autonomous learners, they develop new learning strategies to deal with difficulties. The adjustment and adoption take time and effort, and it needs a lot of support from different aspects. In my opinion, the university or college is usually the first place where the resources can be provided, and I suggest that they should focus on challenges faced by international students and provide adequate support for them.