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The Opportunities and Challenges of International Study

Last Updated:

Mary Ann Santoro Bellini, Ph.D.

International students enjoy three key opportunities and face three key challenges.


Greater Cultural Awareness
The opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture really only comes with living in that country. Many expatriates and students describe this as the most rewarding part of their experiences.

Language and Fluency
Language fluency is challenging whether you are traveling or living abroad, but there is a better chance to master the language when you live in a culture and must interact with nationals on a daily basis.

Travel Experience
Living or studying abroad affords you more chances to travel widely throughout your new territory, which is exciting and personally rewarding.

Culture Shock
The shock of moving to a new country and into a new culture can last for months, bringing with it stress, isolation, and depression. Difficulty also comes with being separated from extended family and friends.

Foot-in-the-Mouth Syndrome
Many cultural faux pas are committed when study-abroad students and expatriates, unable to speak the language fluently, attempt to communicate to their co-workers and superiors. This can result in insecurity or isolation.

Returning Home and Back to School
Repatriation and reintegrating can be very difficult – almost as difficult as adjusting to a new culture. This experience is referred to as Reverse Culture Shock.

For more information see:

Psychological Effects of International Study
The Four Stages of Culture Shock
Coping with Culture Shock

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