All that glitters isn’t gold! For someone it might look like a fancy fairy tale about living abroad, studying or working but life is damn hard if you are a student with higher expectations laden with financial pressure. What are the possible common stressors faced by international students?
I moved to the UK to pursue my second post-graduate degree, I did my research and my homework before moving, set minimum expectations and was prepared to face a culture shock, guess what? Life became a little easier. The problem starts when you don’t plan, set higher expectations and fall for the delusional world out there.
It is never easy to have your footing in the initial months, I have seen people around me talking about feeling depressed, facing loneliness and emotional isolation. There could be different reasons but the core problem is, that it starts impacting your mental health and your productivity.
What are the Common Stressors Faced By International Students?
As per Research Gate, international student depression statistics; revealed that 45% of the students had depressive symptoms and the major reasons were homesickness and culture shock international students face.
As a mental health blogger and an international student myself, I have been observing a few patterns around me over the past few months, I could draw the parallels, and it also helped to introspect and check on my well-being. Stress in international students is common but understanding the mental health issues of international students on campus and offline is a little difficult.
Since I miss my daughter, who is staying with my parents at the moment, I feel lonely at times and that one stressor is powerful enough to trigger an array of lonesome thoughts inside me, so I can imagine people facing more than one such symptom of stresses as an international student.
11 Common stressors faced by the international students
In this blog, I am going to talk about mental health and international students: issues, challenges and effective practices:
1.) Language Barrier
As international students, we all are familiar with the English language but sometimes understanding and reciprocating, in the same manner, becomes difficult for many students. Catching up with the accent and the local lingo takes time but for some, it becomes a reason for discomfort while communicating. Students whose native language is not English, go through a language barrier as one of the strong common stressors faced by the international students.
2.) Expression barrier
With language comes expression difficulty. Sometimes students fail to communicate or express their thoughts and put their words forward and that creates a sense of restlessness and anxiety among international students.
Feeling homesickness is not a weakness or something to be embarrased about, it is very natural to miss your comfort zone and natural surrounding once you are away from it. Homesickness is absolutely the number one common stressor faced by international students because they surely miss their territory.
4.) Feeling left-out
Due to the language barrier, lack of communcaition and understanding of the references in the daily conversations, people feel left out. They try to fit in, and gel in but sometimes they just dont get to sync and this feeling starts taking a toll on their emotional health.
5.) Academic pressure
A new enviornment, new course, and new methodology of teaching need a settling time. Sometimes when an international student doesn’t feel comfortable with the process and teaching methods, they lose focus and it starts impacting their studies.
6.) Cultural shock
Cultural shock is again one of the most common stressors faced by international students in every corner of the world. Some people just explore, learn and enjoy it and some find it really hard to adapt.
When you move to a new country, a new place, you definetly want to explore. Sometimes this leads to over expenditure. You planned to find a job but you are not getting any, you spent a major portion of your funds on food because you can’t cook, and much more such ground level practical reasons leading to a lot of financial stress in international students.
8.) Family expectations
Once you move abroad to study or to work, all the eyes are on you. Since studying abroad is a huge investment, the family starts expecting you to do well and earn well, and settle well. But there are always end number of factors beyond your control which shakes your calculations and this creates a lot of stress, stress regarding the future uncertainity.
9.) Relationship issues
The life of a student is not only surrounding studies, job and managing finances but also relationships. Especailly when you are in a relationship with someone in another country, or it is a long-distance affair, it becomes a little difficult to manage things which leads to a lot of relationship stress between the people involved.
10.) Poor time-management
Since you are on your own, you tend to take advantage of the freedom. Your sleep cycles, eating habits, spending habits everything starts affecting. Then you even lose track of time becaue all you do is either procrastinate or keep pushing things to the last minute, which only leads to mental stress.
11.) Part-time job and studies balance
Many students sincerely take up part-time jobs to earn their living cost while they are studying, which is a good thing and a good way to work on communication and interpersonal skills but it also starts impacting the work-life-study balance if not managed properly.
Coping strategies for international students
International students face a lot of mental stress during the initial months, right from the application process, to finding accomodation, settling down in the new enviornment takes a toll on their mental health. Here are a few stress management techniques:
1.) Reach out and seek help
2.) Talk to your family or friends about how you are feeling
3.) Walk, exercise or meditate without fail, choose whatever works for you
4.) Do not ignore sleep and food
5.) Take time to process new environement
6.) Look at it as a learning opportunity
7.) Give yourself some time to settle down
Frequently Asked Questions about stressors faced by International students (FAQs)
What challenges do international students face?
Internatioanl students face a lot of emotional turbulence when they come across cultural differences, biasness and homesickness.
What are the major stressors for a student?
One of the major stressors for any international student is the feeling of loneliness followed by the feeling of being left out.
What are the types of stress that students face?
Students usually face academic stress, meeting and managing expectations stress and financial stress.
Priyanka Joshi is the founder of Sanity Daily. Host of ‘Mental Health First” Podcast. A digital nomad, published author and an NLP practitioner, helping you prioritize your mental health.