Common Challenges for International Students

As an international student there may be times when you feel overwhelmed. Listed below are some of the common challenges you may experience and some suggestions on how you may be able to overcome these.

Please remember if you are having any difficulties you can contact the IST.

Culture shock

Culture shock is a common experience for people who have moved from one country or cultural environment to another. It can make you feel disoriented when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life.

Signs of culture shock include:

  • Extreme homesickness
  • Isolation and a feeling of disorientation
  • Sleeping and eating disorders
  • Loneliness and sadness

If you are experiencing signs of culture shock there are a number things you can do to help yourself settle in to life in the UK. The University also offers a number of services which can support you.

  • Visit the Guild of Students and sign up with one of the many student groups available
  • Take advantage of the English In-sessional language classes at Birmingham International Academy
  • Try to keep an open mind
  • Ask for information on where you can buy a variety of foods from your home country as there are a number of places both locally and across the city
  • Speak English whenever you can
  • Speak to the Guild of Students about getting a Global Buddy
  • Make an appointment to speak to an advisor in Counselling and Wellbeing

Financial difficulties

If you are experiencing financial difficulties, financial support is available from Student Services. They can provide information on funding you may be eligible for, and can help you manage your finances effectively.

Feeling Homesick

It is common to feel homesick, particularly if you have moved to another country.

Please remember that whilst it is natural to feel home sick, it is equally important to talk to someone about this. The University has trained staff within the Counselling and Wellbeing Support Team who are at hand to help.

Language difficulties

You may find it difficult at first to communicate with others at the University if your first language is not English.

During your time at the University, speak to your friends from your own country in English as much as you can, after all practise makes perfect as the saying goes. Listen to the radio or news and practice saying small sentences out loud with the pronunciations.

The Birmingham International Academy at the University runs English In-sessional programmes; these programmes are free and take place during lunch hours. They have been known to benefit a number of our international students.

Making friends

The University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students run a variety of events and meetings for international students. The Guild of Students supports over 250 incredible student groups, societies and associations. Whether you are interested in food groups, cultural groups, academic groups or music, there is bound to be something that will appeal to you.

Guild Advice at the University also runs Global Buddies for our international students. Global Buddies are established students who volunteer their time to help you settle into life at the University of Birmingham. The Buddies are a great source of help and offer knowledge and information on how to make the most of your student life at the University.

Need to take a break from your studies

In instances where you need to take a short break from your studies, the University may approve a period of Authorised Absence. This can be for a maximum period of 8 weeks without the withdrawal of immigration sponsorship.

In some circumstances a Leave of Absence may be more appropriate. For example, if you have a relative at home who is unwell or if you need to return home under other extenuating circumstances.

If you are considering taking a break from your studies, please contact the International Student Team (IST) in the first instance.

Read more about Authorised Absence for International Students and Leave of Absence.