Leaving home and studying abroad comes with a wide range of emotions like happiness, sadness, excitement and being homesick. Foreign students, just like any visitors to a foreign country, must deal with cultural differences and make adjustments. Foreign students will be struggling with the tremendous challenges presented by an unfamiliar environment, a foreign culture, different language, homesickness living independently, finance, adjusting to different teaching styles and different learning styles and for most of all, their learning. Although they are unfamiliar to the culture and language, international students migrating to the Philippines clearly have high interests in acquiring educational advancement. The international students, under confusing circumstances, still have to find ways in making their transition to a new environment as easy as possible.
Here are some of the challenges they faced.
Students from Nepal and India have a lot of similarities because of their geographical proximity. The usual diet in India generally includes legumes, fruits, dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, honey, grains and vegetables. Over time, various regions of India became vegetarian due to the influence of Jainism and Hinduism. Indian food is actually known for the large number of spices that are included in their food. While Nepalese dishes are generally healthier than most other South Asian cuisine, relying less on using fats and more on chunky vegetables, lean meats, pickled ingredients and salads. Common ingredients found across Nepalese cuisine include lentils, potatoes (which are particularly popular within the Newar communities in the Himalayas and Pahar region), tomatoes, cumin, coriander, chilies, peppers, garlic and mustard oil.
Their food is heavily mixed with variety of spices which is opposite to the Filipino style of preparing their food. As South Asians with freezing climate, the spices in their food help their body heat requirements sustain during cold weather. As a tropical country, most Filipinos are not passionate with spicy food except for selected menus.
Koreans are adapted to green and spicy food. Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, vegetables, and meats. Traditional Korean meals are named for the number of side dishes that accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice and kimchi is served at nearly every meal. While they bring bottled spices and wrappers for certain food, what they have back home was in shortage in their host school.
Generally, East, South and Southeast Asian students’ food is spicy. They found the carnivorous eating habit of the Filipinos quite extraordinary because they are mostly vegetarians.
Nepal and India are predominantly Buddhist countries with only a small number of Christians. Religion in Nepal encompasses a wide diversity of groups and beliefs; however, Nepal’s major religion is Hinduism while the Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions which are Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.
At present, however, it is limited primarily to the immigrant Indian community, though traditional religious beliefs in most parts of the country have strong Hindu and Buddhist influences. Over the last three decades, a large number of civil servants and highly educated Indians working in large banks, Asian Development Bank and the BPO sector have migrated to Philippines, especially Manila. Most of the Indian Filipinos and Indian expatriates are Hindu, Sikh or Muslims, but have assimilated into Filipino culture and some are Catholic. The community regularly conducts philanthropic activities through bodies such as the Mahaveer foundation, The SEVA foundation and the Sathya Sai organization. Most Hindus congregate for socio-cultural and religious activities at the Hindu Temple (Mahatma Gandhi Street, Paco, Manila), the Indian Sikh Temple (United Nations Avenue, Paco, Manila), and the Radha Soami Satsang Beas center (Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila). The late “priest” (scripture reader in Sindhi and Gurumukhi) of the Hindu Temple, Giani Joginder Singh Sethi, was active in interfaith affairs, accepted visits by school students, and organised the first major translation of Guru Nanak’s Jap Ji into Filipino (Tagalog), translated by Usha Ramchandani and edited by Samuel Salter.
In the absence of Buddhist services, students who came from Nepal or India come to other religious services. This is a problem that students had to face.
Separation from Home
Being away from home, family and friends is one of the most difficult adjustments for foreign students. While in the Philippines, they had no immediate families to convey their needs and problems. The feeling of homesickness is one problem that was difficult to overcome.
Going to college might be the first time that many international students will have lived away from home or been away from their family for a significant amount of time. Aside from college being a very unfamiliar environment, everything is just different, from the food to the people and even the living accommodations.
The first few weeks of going to college can create a stressful environment even though most international students eventually get used to these new stimuli without many problems. It even causes stress for people who are truly excited about changes because change, even positive ones, can still induce stress.
There also tends to be a change in the support environment of a student. Old friends and family members cannot be easily reached for support when the students have a bad day, encounter a confusing situation, or when there is a big test coming up. And even if they are available, it is usually only through the computer or a telephone rather than in person. Students might find this hard to adjust to, especially during the first few months.
Homesickness is universal. Psychologists refer to it as “separation anxiety” and note that few people are immune.
Homesickness can impact any of us when we move to new surroundings and experience new situations, people, and demands to which we’re not accustomed.
Many students and families believe the myth that students won’t be homesick in college if they’ve left home successfully in the past, e.g. camps, vacation, other travel, etc.
How is Homesickness Different from Depression? Students who are depressed don’t experience relief from their symptoms, even if they go home for the weekend or engage in their favorite activities. Students who are homesick often find that, when they leave school and spend time at home, their depressive symptoms disappear.
Some students will experience mild symptoms of depression and anxiety several weeks before leaving home. Some students might feel fine at first but, as the excitement of college begins to wane, or even during their second year, homesickness can strike.
Homesickness isn’t reserved only for the young. It can impact anyone at any time in their life when encountering a move or change in environment. Some of the factors that contributes to homesickness includes:
The distance between home and school
Not feeling prepared academically to meet the challenges of college
The decision to attend college or a particular college was not made by the student
A sense of anticlimax at finally arriving at college after working towards it for so long
Contrast in lifestyle, including different cultural values or traditions, sexual orientation, or geographic differences such as moving from a large city to a smaller one
Financial issues that require the student to work and go to school at the same time
School Related Factors
The medium of instruction, teacher’s approach of teaching, instructional focus and classroom interaction are school related factors which greatly affected the students’ academic and social performance.
Korean and Chinese students come to the Philippines to learn English, hence, it takes time before they could interact with their Filipino teachers, friends and acquaintances. To Koreans who were basically zero in both verbal and nonverbal English language, the interaction was almost impossible. Even to the Nepalese, who were already English speaking, found it hard to understand the accent and pronunciation of their teachers. Most Christian missionary students could hardly speak English; hence, this is their biggest adjustment problem during classroom discussions. Lessons relied much on how well the lessons were interpreted.
The teacher’s approach of teaching or their strategies vary from course program, age and type of students. Foreign students who were enrolled in regular degree programs were required to comply with the requirements set forth on the syllabi of the instructors and professors. Like any regular student, foreign students are equally treated inside the classroom. Filipino professors and instructors teach with thoroughness and seriousness. Most teachers teach with standard strictness and quickness without regard to the foreign students’ nationalities. Since most teachers do not make adjustments in their methodologies, the foreign students find their teachers’ style a problem.
For many college students, most especially international students, high academic expectations might be one of the most common causes of long-term stress. This is why most, if not all of them go to college after all – to learn. When students don’t get the results that they think they should get, or if they feel pressured to get certain academic results, this can cause them a lot of stress.
College might be the first time that many students are academically challenged. Many of them might even have breezed through high school, so getting a low grade on the test for the first time can be a bit jarring. In addition, test anxiety can also be experienced for the first time or even increase in intensity. Test anxiety is the feeling of anxiety that usually comes before or during the taking of tests. The symptoms will usually be both mental and physical and this can usually inhibit the ability of a student to perform as well as he or she otherwise could.
Each nationalities have different languages, and having English as our second language it would still be difficult to communicate with another nationality due to accent and pronunciation of words. The needs of international students in terms of communication are important and complicated, especially for those who may have had not a good background in English. These international students face the challenges in adapting to a new language, a different academic environment, and an unfamiliar culture and society. Many academic support and teaching staff have empathy for the challenges faced by international students. It is observed by many researchers that individual students consider their lack of proficiency in English as the single cause of difficulties in their studies. Students make little progress in their studies because of language difficulties. Therefore, many universities once offered language classes as a way to support students based on recognizing their needs.
It is observed by many researchers that individual students consider their lack of proficiency in English as the single cause of difficulties in their studies. “Students make little progress in their studies because of language difficulties.” Consequently, many universities once offered language classes as a way to support students based on recognizing their needs. The term language difficulty has a number of specific areas of concern. Some studies done by a number of support service staff in different universities confirm that Asian international students experience language difficulties in reading, speaking, listening and writing. Although most of these previous studies were conducted in different universities the findings are strikingly similar. In general, Asian international students are described as quiet members of class who seldom participate in discussions. They tend to prefer to see their lecturers and tutors after class if they have questions. It is also observed that when a staff confronts a silent student to conclude that either the student did not prepare for class discussions well, or the lack of proficiency of English hinders the student in speaking up. They suggest that language may be part of the reason for the student’s non-participation in class. It may also be due to a lack of confidence. Personal encouragement from peers and colleagues may be needed to help students build their confidence so they can participate in class discussions and other activities.
Some students mentioned that the new experiences of living in the Philippines required them to develop new skills. Apart from studying, students have to spend time in housekeeping duties such as cooking, shopping and laundry by themselves. Some students found that the responsibilities that come from this independence placed competing workloads on their study. I think, being able to leave the country to study as an international student is challenging yet exciting because they will meet new people and learn other culture. And of course it would be great if foreign students would overcome all the challenges that they face and make their family proud, and also, the people in the Philippines makes sure that students will not dwell too much on this struggles.