Foreign Perspective: International Student Struggles

If you’ve ever studied abroad, then you know what it’s like to be submerged in an entirely foreign culture. But have you ever wondered what it’s like on the flip side of the experience – what it’s like for someone going abroad to America? Join columnists Amy Chilcott, of Australia, and Kasumi Hirokawa, of China, as they encounter all things American and Penn State – and tell it as they see it the way only one with a foreign perspective can.

mixture-69523_640Being an international student is an amazing experience, but there are certain things that international students have to deal with every day that local students probably don’t realize. However, if you’ve been on study abroad trips, you may be able to relate to what I’m calling “international student struggles.”

Mentally changing currencies to figure out what something costs in your own currency

Every time I make a purchase I have to change the price from American dollars to my own currency, Australian dollars. Sometimes it’s hard to make the conversions in your mind because a currency’s worth can fluctuate over the length of your time away from home.

Having to mentally convert the temperature to know how hot or cold it actually is

Most international students come from countries where the temperature is measured in Celsius. When someone says “It’s 70 degrees outside,” I have no clue what they mean. I still haven’t figured out how to do temperature conversions in my mind so I have to use Google or a phone app.

Having to change the way you spell and pronounce words

Many schools overseas teach in British English. It’s annoying to accidentally spell a word “wrong” (in British English instead of American English) and have your teacher mark it as incorrect. It’s hard to change the way you spell after learning British English for 18 or so years. I still get weird looks from students near me if they notice the way I spell words differently.

Having to talk to your parents at weird times of the day (very early in the morning, or very late at night)

A 16-hour time difference is challenging to work around. When I wake up, my parents are about to go to bed. When my parents wake up and are getting ready for work, I’m going to bed. This means it’s hard to find a time where we all have time to talk, and even if we do find time, the talk is usually brief.

Seeing your family once (or maybe twice) a year

I haven’t seen my family since mid-August and I won’t see them again until May next year. Sometimes it’s not worth going home in the winter break when you have to travel for two days to get home, and two more to get back (that’s more than half a week of travel). By the time you get home you’re jetlagged and can’t enjoy yourself anyway.

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