16 Struggles Every International Student Can Relate To

Transitioning into college is no easy feat. Figuring out your way around a new place, trying to find new friends after 10 years of having the same friends, doing your own laundry and buying groceries for the first time; it’s all very challenging. But it’s even harder when you’re in an entirely new country, immersed face-first in an entirely new culture. 

This one is for all my international folks who have definitely lived through these same struggles. 

1. Packing

We don’t get to bring whatever we want with us to university. We have to somehow pack our entire life into a mere suitcase or two that end up being so insanely heavy that we get tired from lugging them around at airports. And, because we’re not going to be home for so long, we have to make sure to pack all sorts of snacks and ramen and whatnot into these two suitcases, hoping customs won’t notice.  

2. Plane Rides

Okay, we’re done packing. Now what? Now, comes the fun part! We have to endure the long plane rides. These never-ending flights somehow manage to achieve everything from making us question life to enveloping us in so much boredom, that it drives us crazy. The layovers are so fun, too! I mean, who doesn’t love just sitting around, amirite? And after 24-36 hours, we finally reach our destination, extremely sleep deprived and worn out.

3. Jet Lag

What follows those exhausting plane rides is the pain that is jet lag. We will find ourselves staying up all night, then take long naps at odd times during the day. Then not be able to fall asleep at night because we slept during the day. And that cycle just keeps going on and on for quite a while. 

4. Dealing with Time Zones

Because being so far away from family isn’t horrible enough, the insane time difference makes talking to them even more difficult. When we’re awake, they’re asleep. And when they’re awake, we’re asleep. It’s so great! I hope you detected the sarcasm there. (If you did not, I’m sorry. I’ve been told my sarcasm isn’t always clear.) Oh, and daylight savings? Messes us up BIG TIME. 

5. Visa and Paperwork 

All that paperwork and visa documents we have to deal with is so frustrating. And so is making sure to get that stuff signed before we leave the country so we can get back in. Ugh. 

6. Currency

Please tell me I’m not the only one that converts everything back to the currency from back home because dollars still make no sense to me. And I still can’t tell the difference between quarters and pennies and dimes. SO MANY COINS!

7. Answering the “Where are you from? Question

When we tell someone where we’re from, we get many different reactions. Either that person is all, “Woah! That’s so cool!”, or they have no clue where or what that country is, or they just hit us with questions that involve every cringy stereotype of our country. 

8. Travel Adapter

We always have to make sure we have our international travel adapter with us everywhere we go because our laptop charger won’t work with these strange, foreign sockets.  

9. Complaining about the Food

There are a variety of complaints we have about the food here. Either there is barely any salt. Or the rice is way too undercooked. Sometimes the food portions are too large for one person. Or their “Spicy Asian Noodles” are neither spicy nor Asian. We just want our mum’s home cooked meals.

 10. Homesickness

We find ourselves missing home a lot more than we had thought we would. Every little thing about it. Our comfy bed. Mom’s delicious food. Arguing with our siblings. That one Lebanese restaurant with that delicious green chili sauce. That one bubble tea place with the best milk tea. 

11. Not Understanding Pop Culture References or Slang

Someone will make a reference that everyone will get and they will all start having a heated discussion about it while we just stand there, all confused. Eventually, someone will attempt to explain it to us. After a while, however, we get so tired of it, we just pretend like we get the reference and resort to the smile and nod. And the slang? Will someone please explain to me why people are getting bread? And why are we calling people goats?

12. Missing Public Transportation

This obviously depends on where we’re at, but most likely, there is not a lot of public transport wherever we are. We miss riding in taxis! Calling an Uber gets so annoying and expensive. Why can’t there just be taxis driving around? It would make life so much easier! 

13. Crazy Weather

After living near the equator all our life, trying to survive the winter can be like trying to sneeze with your eyes open. Weird analogy, I know, but you get my point. Our bodies aren’t wired to withstand -20 degrees Celsius! Oh, sorry, -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t even get me started on figuring out the Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion. That’s a whole new ball game.   

14. Living in Constant Fear

Don’t tell me I’m the only one who is always afraid of being deported. You won’t see us do anything remotely out of line because what if we get kicked out of the country?

15. Public Toilet Stall Gaps

Okay, can someone please explain this to me? Why do we have no privacy in the bathroom? Whose brilliant idea was it to add huge gaps on the edges of all the toilet stall doors? I don’t want to be making eye contact with strangers while I’m in there. It’s weird! I mean, might as well not even have those doors. 

16. Meeting Someone From the Same Country as Us

In the occurrence that we are fortunate enough to meet someone from the same country as us, we will flip out. We get so excited and start talking about anything and everything. But we especially about how much we miss home.

Bottom line: We constantly miss home

But, at the end of the day, we made the decision to come here to study, so we really shouldn’t be complaining. And being away makes us realize how much we truly love our family and friends and it makes going back even more special.