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REFLECTION ON CHALLENGES FACED AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT



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REFLECTION ON CHALLENGES FACED AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT

INTRODUCTION

”Human life is a continuous journey that offers an array of experiences, challenges, and lessons”. Studying in a foreign country sounds amazing, more like embarking on an unforgettable adventure planned for decades, but it is not really what everyone thinks, not smooth sailing, because all that glitters is not gold. As an international student who has been through it and still in the process, who recently embarked on a journey to study abroad few months ago, I have encountered various challenges that have shaped my perspective, personal growth, experience, and academic journey along the line. This essay is a reflection of the various obstacles I have faced as an international student studying abroad.

CHALLENGES FACED

One of the most deeply faced is the new culture, the culture shock is nobody’s mate, getting used to a new culture, imagine being dropped into a whole new world where everything feels different, weird, that is what it was like for me at first. Found myself sunk in unfamiliar customs, traditions, and social norms. It was lonely and still, getting used to the transportation system by getting a bus card, using the app was kind of new, though we have something similar in my home country, which is the bus card, but others like grocery shopping, interacting with other people, most especially the citizens, Finns. It was really challenging, but I adjusted quickly within my first month, as I started to embrace the unknown, learning about new traditions from other people and the citizens.

Another big and important challenge, especially to me, is the language barrier, the language barrier is a struggle, which I am still struggling with, this requires additional effort from each international student, not our language of instruction, but we must pass the Finnish course for foreigners 1 and 2. Also, communicating with the mid and older generation is a big deal, half of them doesn’t speak nor understand English, same applies at the grocery stores, restaurants and other stores. And it is glaring that, to integrate into the system here, you must know the language, thus language proficiency is a big obstacle for some of us.

Academic differences and transition are one of the obstacles I faced earlier as a newly arrived international student. Adapting to a new learning environment, with differences in educational systems, teaching styles, regulations, assessment methods. The gap and difference from my home country is clear. Adjusting to new academic norms and learning approaches was challenging, most times in first semester I often felt overwhelmed by the academic workload, navigating work life and school, but I adjusted quickly and learnt one or two things needed to be done in the first few months of my arrival. Though the workload is still overwhelming, I could navigate better than last semester with my time management and organizational skills.

On the other hand, money is another big deal and worry, do I say this is the scariest part. The cost of studying abroad is not child’s play, especially those of us that our currency has collapsed over the years, from tuition fees, accommodation to living expenses, one or two fees that comes up in school, Kela and so on, can be very frustrating for many international students, it all adds up fast, everyone literally spends money monthly here. As it is, I had to take on part time jobs to help cover expenses, though it is not easy balancing work and studies, but still, I navigate through. The financial struggles so far have taught me to be resourceful and thoughtful with my finances by budgeting responsibly. This leads me to unemployment.

Finding employment here is frustrating for international students, particularly due to the limited job opportunities, language barrier and competition in the labor market. As an international student who has a parttime job, many Finnish employers prefers proficiency in the Finnish language, which is a big barrier for non-native speakers like me. International students face restrictions on working while studying, which limits our access to employment opportunities. Financial instability could affect students’ academic performance, I am one, some of my colleagues are also affected by this challenge.

Lastly, fitting in, social integration is another challenge for us international students. One of the hardest parts was feeling like I don’t quite belong, making new friends, building meaningful connections or relationships in a new place can be tough, especially when one is from a different background. It is scary because you don’t even know what to expect from one another. But gradually, the friendship started aligning, got to know few people and shared experiences about one another. Yet discrimination and stereotyping could come in sometimes, especially from the average citizens, who are not exposed or welcoming.

CONCLUSION

As an international student, the challenges I have faced thus far have been testing, from cultural adjustment and language barriers to financial stability, unemployment, and social integration. These are opportunities for growth, not just obstacles, which also shaped me in one way or the other. I suggest individuals should get educated on cultural sensitivity, so as to encourage acceptance and knowledge of diversity and also calling for easier recruiting laws for international students. For the country, Finland could create a more inclusive and supportive environment for international students.

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