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Challenges Faced By International Students


As mentioned by Titrek et al. (2016, p.148), the number of international students from different countries and with different beliefs and culture is increasing tremendously because of the good quality and high development of education in countries like the UK, Australia, Canada and Turkey. Still, adapting to the new environment has become a more challenging process because the basic living conditions that the international students experience in the new country is completely different from that in their country of origin. The new experience can consequently affect the psychological wellbeing and physical health of the international students. Basically, moving into a new culture may result in an isolating experience. Although the challenges that the international students face are same as those faced by Australian students (accommodation and finances), most of them lack easy access to support as well as resources that could help them handle such problems. In addition, most international students experience feelings of culture shock, homesickness, isolation, and language problems. Such factors normally affect their academic progress and life. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the challenges that the international students face in their day-to-day life.


In order to understand the challenges faced by international students, Yue et al. (2014) conducted
interviews using qualitative research method through a face-to-face interview and a well-structured questionnaire. The participants comprised of 22 international students with no less than six months in the Australia Regional area and also five university staff members who normally interact and communicate with the international students. Similarly, Titrek et al. (2016) used a qualitative research method whereby 37 international students were interviewed. In contrast, Obeng-Odoom (2012) used online survey that was conducted at the University of Sydney by the International Students Support Unit. This was achieved by sending emails to the enrolled international students at the University of Sydney, requesting them to participate in the online survey.

Food is a very important component that maintains a person’s health; therefore, Yue et al. (2014) established that most international students were not familiar with the local food, and this posed a serious challenge. Yue et al. (2014) further established that most international students’ dietary needs were not met because there was less variety of their cultural ingredients or food. Similarly, Titrek et al. (2016) underlined the connection between the transitions to new environments and being unfamiliar with the local foods. The challenge of consuming the local food is attributed to lack of knowledge about the basic ingredients of their traditional foods. Yue et al. (2014) argue that food and diet directly impact the health of a person, but does not provide empirical evidence to demonstrate the correlation. Because of differences in nutrition concepts and diet, the majority of international students experience hardship while trying to adapt to the local cooking style and food. In Titrek et al. (2016, p.151) study, 18 students pointed out that food was the greatest challenge. Furthermore, because they do not have family encouragement and support, a number of international students start developing unhealthy diet practices like eating a lot of snacks. Ways of identifying smart food choices has not been examined, and this warrants further investigation.


In their study, Yue et al. (2014) established that most international students in the Australian Regional area were worried about accommodation facilities as well as the relationship with the owners or their housemates. The concern is attributed mainly to the economic and cultural differences. Similarly, Titrek et al. (2016, p.152) noted that international students in Turkey normally experience issues associated with accommodation facilities, which can result in negative health impacts amongst the international students.
Surprisingly, Obeng-Odoom (2012, p.208) study point out the both international and local students face the accommodation difficulty; however, students living in their home, with relatives or family members were more satisfied in terms of accommodation. Obeng-Odoom (2012) study results indicate that international students, particularly those living in the rental units are facing a lot of accommodation problems. Likewise, Yue et al. (2014, p.11) mention that the increasing dissatisfaction and costs toward accommodation amongst the international students can result in challenges such as psychological and financial stress. Some international students in Titrek et al. (2016) study pointed out that they normally face challenges while living in the dormitories because of the poor condition of the facilities and overcrowding. Although all the studies agree that accommodation is a major problem that needs to be addressed urgently, the provided suggestions merely focus on a particular group of international students or country.


The increased living cost and tuition fees in addition to the lack of scholarship according to Yue et al. (2014, p.15) is a major challenge facing most of the international students and can result in health problems. Also, Obeng-Odoom (2012, p. 208) established that international students are facing financial challenges while trying to meet their daily needs in a new country. Obeng-Odoon thinks it is important for international students to calculate the cost of living and studying cost in a foreign country so as to ensure that they are prepared when they arrive. Yue et al. (2014, p.11) agree with Obeng-Odoon that financial problems are the greatest sources of stress for the majority of the international students; therefore, sufficient finances are needed to ensure that the students get a quality education, accommodation and food. Obeng-Odoom (2012, p.213) found out that the accommodation problem is the main contributor of the financial hardship that the international students are facing and is exacerbated by the low-income status.


Most of the reviewed studies focussed on the challenges facing the international students only in one university or on students from a particular country. The findings cannot be generalised to depict all situations. The sample size in Titrek et al. (2016) and Yue et al. (2014) is very small and could affect the reliability of their study results since it results in a higher variability that could result in bias, especially in terms of non-response. Furthermore, there is no equality between both male as well as female; therefore, determining the most important issues that face both them is very challenging. While Titrek et al. (2016) and Yue et al. (2014) only focussed on international students, Obeng-Odoom (2012) offered a comparison with the local students in only one aspect, accommodation. This warrants a further research to compare local and international students with the view to the three challenges (food, accommodation and financial problems).


Obeng-Odoom, F., 2012. Far away from home: the housing question and international students in Australia. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, vol. 34, no. 2, pp.201–16.

Titrek, O., Hashimi, S.H., Ali, A.S. & Nguluma, H.F., 2016. Challenges Faced by International Students in Turkey. Anthropologist, vol. 24, no. 1, pp.148-56.

Yue, Y., Le, Q. & Terry, D.R., 2014. Transition to an Unfamiliar Environment: International Students’ Living Experiences in an Australian Regional Area. Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association, no. 43, pp.10-20.