International Students: Adapting to College Life

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Male student in classroom

BJU is home to international students from over 40 countries. From Koreans to Colombians to Ethiopians, the campus is full of diversity. As an international student at the University, you’ll quickly see three new cultures emerge: American, Southern and BJU.

Facing a new cultural environment while starting college is not easy. Here are some academic obstacles that you might face in America and how BJU can help.

Language Barrier

Language might be the first obstacle you face when you arrive in the U.S. For some international students, such as from Canada or the Lesser Antilles, language barriers are non-existent. But if you’re a second-language speaker, American English represents a challenge—especially in school.

At BJU, adjusting to different accents, speeds and terms is easier thanks to the University’s resources. If you’re struggling with the language, the Bridge to College English (BCE) program provides great support. Becky Han of China, who participated in the program last fall, describes it as “an actual bridge that helps students connect to the classroom dynamic.”

The program prepares you for the academics of college even before you choose a major. With smaller classrooms, specialized teachers and slow immersion into BJU Core classes, BCE gives you a smooth transition to college academics.

Testing Conflict

Pursuing college in the States seems great until examinations hit you like a ton of bricks. You might find yourself struggling to study for classes or leaving tests incomplete because you don’t have enough time to translate the content. Lack of experience and difficulty with the language make testing tough, but the University’s Academic Resource Center (ARC) provides the right tools.

Located on the second floor of the Alumni Building, the ARC offers free tutoring, study groups and academic coaching to all students. The coaches can train you on note-taking, studying strategies and learning styles. The center also offers academic accommodations and assistance to students with learning disabilities and language barriers.

See also: The Gift of Time: An Exam Survival Guide

One of those academic accommodations is the Testing Center, which provides students a quiet space to take tests. “It’s very convenient,” said Humberto Bautista, an engineering major from Honduras. If you struggle with English, you can apply for 20% extra test time and to have a dictionary available for language help.

Bautista notes that many international students use the Testing Center’s services. “The extra time helps us consider the questions in a better way, and that is quite helpful,” he said.

Writing Challenge

Writing represents one of the toughest parts of college for both American and international students. No matter the major, all students are required to write. But not having experience with English academic writing can make the process more difficult.

The Writing Center, another ARC branch, offers one-on-one guidance for working on papers and essays. Madi Landry, an English major and teaching language as a second language minor who works as a writing tutor, said many international students need to “retrain their minds” to write for English academia.

Common mistakes in essays, Landry said, is the use of articles. “When you’re writing an academic paper, one of the most important factors is clarity. The lack of even one article can make a difference in your recipient’s understanding of (the essay),” she said.

BJU international students, such as nursing major Ria Liu, appreciate the Writing Center’s guidance and the “more professional perspective” of their assignments when they work with a writing tutor.

Support System

No international student would be aware of these resources if it weren’t for the Center for Global Opportunities (CGO). For the past three years, the CGO staff, directed by faculty member Mark Vowels, has led international student orientation in the fall.

New international students, like yourself, arrive a week before other students. For Nicoll Botero, a criminal justice major from Colombia, international student orientation was an opportunity to establish solid friendships and get to know the University.

Botero was born in Greenville, but lived the past eight years in Colombia, where her father pastors a church.

“When I was told I was to attend international student orientation, I was slightly offended,” said Botero. She thought she knew American culture enough and there was no need for her to go. Now she acknowledges that “arriving one week earlier to BJU was the decision that changed my freshman year. It gave me a week to settle into my dorm without feeling too overwhelmed, to meet other kids that had similar stories to mine, time to miss home without having to rush to class, and it also gave me the opportunity to see the love of God work in people from distinct backgrounds. I met the people that would become my best friends the first night of orientation.”

After orientation, the CGO will continue to help you through the student-led branch, the International Student Organization (ISO). The ISO focuses on helping foreign students and missionary kids adapt to life away from home. Through cultural events, worship nights and outings, the ISO welcomes everyone interested in learning about other cultures. The group also gives international students a space to de-stress from academic life and a support group that discusses challenges.

Studying abroad is worth the challenge. Language barriers, testing difficulties and writing hardships are just part of the race. At BJU you’ll learn to trust God’s will, face academic challenges and come out victorious.