The Main Problems Faced by International Students

International students who study at British universities face some challenges that need academic staff’s involvement. Saudi Arabian students share some difficulties with other foreign students. This essay will talk about two kinds of problems that face International students, in general, and Saudi students in exceptional. English language proficiency is the first challenge which will be discussed in the next two paragraphs. The fourth and fifth paragraphs will focus on one of the cultural hardness. This essay will recommend some possible solutions to face these two problems.  These challenges should be taken in consideration by institutions.

One of the difficulties that face International students is the lack of English proficiency. It has been proved that there is a large gap between the low English language level of some international students and the level of the performance that they should provide during their study (Brown, 2007: 3). The English language proficiency is considered by some researchers as a unique challenge that some international students face, in compression to native students, which needs, in some occasion, involvement from the professors, which causes a passive impact on the course performance (Andrade, 2006: 8). This challenge is almost certain to be the main difficulty that faces Saudi Arabian Students in the UK. Saudi Students face difficulty in reading and writing while they study in British universities, as (Algahtani, 2011: 194) has mentioned. He has stated that although Saudi students take the EAP in the UK, they face some difficulty in their English proficiency. It seems that the English language proficiency is one of the most important challenges that face international students. Regardless of studying EAP programs in the UK, it appears that most of the international students will face the English language difficulty.

One possible solution to this problem is probably the awareness that should British universities provide to the academic staff about the English language difficulties that face international students. Andrade (2006: 11) has suggested that lecturers should take this problem in consideration, and provide some assistance to forging students, such as writing main points on the board, avoiding fast speaking, giving them time to think and answer and using a formal language that avoid jargons.  Alqahtani (2011: 216) has recommended two solutions to face the complications of understanding lecturers owing to their accents. The first resolution is that they should avoid using informal language. The second solution is for the EAP department to invite some lecturers who have different accents to visit once or twice; which may help international students to practice listening to a new accent. Universities may help their international students if they focus on awareness programs oriented to the academic staff, and they should warn them of challenges of the English proficiency that face these types of students.

In addition to English proficiency, some cultural aspects may be considered as challenges for international students. The majority of international students face cultural challenges, and they will have some stress especially at the beginning of their study, because of the differences between the educational system in their home countries and that in the UK (Brown, 2007: 3).  One of cultural aspects that affect international students is the way to get assistance from their professors. According to the rareness of asking for help, professors may think international students have neither queries nor problems (Brown, 2007: 5). In contrast to the higher educational system in Saudi Arabia, where students can ask their professors any time, Saudi Students find it difficult to ask a professor without an appointment (Algahtani, 2011: 191). For instance, a Saudi student has stated that even though professors in British universities are friendlier when compared to professors in Saudi Arabian universities, it is still difficult to ask them after lectures, unless one gets an appointment (Algahtani, 2011: 191). Dealing with lectures appears to be an example of the cultural differences which cause some problems to international students.

These cultural challenges should be addressed and solved by universities. Lecturers should pay attention to the many cultural issues that face international students. For example, refusing to talk to them after class, unless they have an appointment, seems to affect them, and it may hurt them. According to Andrade (2006: 9), most professors are not aware of the emotional suffering and the stress that international students face during their study. It appears that the strict treatment with these students may hurt them more and affect their educational progress. However, this could be solved if lectures allow new students to meet them after class, and after answering their inquiries, they teach them the proper way to meet the lecturer.

In conclusion, it is almost certain to say that international students face some unique difficulties which are not counted so for domestic students. This essay has focused on two types of these challenges. One of them is the English language proficiency, and the other one is cultural problems, especially that one relates to the nature of the relationship between academic staff and foreign students. Two possible solutions were suggested. The first one is to encourage professors to speak in slow and clear way. The other solution is to warn lecturers about the cultural challenges that face those students to take these difficulties into account. International students are part of the internationalized educational environment, and helping them to solve their difficulties will probably increase the quality of institutions’ outcomes.

Fahd Alghofaili


            Algahtani, M. (2011) An investigation into the language needs of Saudi students studying in British postgraduate programs and the cultural differences impacting on them. University of Southampton, Faculty of Low, Arts & social sciences, School of Humanities.

Andrade, M. S. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5; 131

Brown, L., 2007. A consideration of the challenges involved in supervising international masters students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31 (3), pp. 239-248.