Challenges for International Students: Language and Culture

In a series: The International Student Experience
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Will Hutton interviews international students on the challenges they have faced regarding language and culture.

Transcript of ‘Challenges for International Students: Language and Culture’:

Quite a number of them will have had an English medium education already, so their level of English may be quite high, but that doesn’t mean that coming to the UK is easy for them because they face a number of other challenges that aren’t necessarily linguistic, these are cultural challenges: the challenge of moving away from home, homesickness is a major issue.

Challenges for me: I actually lived in the United States for five years and so that was a culture shock for me but moving to the UK was more of a culture shock, simply because the lifestyle is quite different, whereas the lifestyle from the United States to Bermuda is similar, whereas the UK, even though there’s the – Bermuda is an overseas territory you would think that they would have similar cultures, but it’s totally different. The eating habits and the, maybe the lifestyle, the alcohol, it was a total culture shock for me personally. Meeting new friends, having to adjust, these are all characteristics of my personal moving experience.

Sometimes people they might get me wrong, because – it’s very difficult to understand the students, especially the international foundation programme, because students are coming from all around the world. They’ve got different cultures and different customs.

Well, as an international student, there were different things that were challenging. First of all, culture shock. Like, changing – coming from Nigeria to the UK to study, I had to adapt to the lifestyle here, the way of doing things. Another thing that – that piqued me was also the weather, because Nigeria is really, really warm compared to the cold of London. And then I would also say, getting used to the UK education system and the marking system was also a bit of a shock for me, getting to meet new friends, and basically just adapting to the environment. But I think after a few months I got used to it and it was just like, London is home.

Adapting to the expectations of British higher education can be very hard for a lot of students. Of course we have a large number of students who face significant linguistic challenges as well, and their English may be – may be inadequate for what they have to do and so we spend a lot of time trying to improve the level of English for those students. But we also have lots of students who actually their English is generally fine, and it’s more to do with adapting to the expectations of higher education that is the challenge.