Problems faced by Carbbean International students in the US

International students

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International Students Enrollment

International students’ enrollment into universities has expanded drastically in the last decades (Wu, Garza and Guzman (2015). International students contribute to the diversity of campuses and communities and are crucial to the United States higher education for academic prestige and financial benefits. Undoubtedly that decision to pursue an international education is exciting and challenging at the same time. While the perceived experiences are second to none, it also crosses your mind on whether or not you will be able to fit in, much less survive.

If you are like the masses who leave their countries of origin or residence in hopes of tertiary education in the United States, you are probably leaving your family and friends behind. Some are lucky to have their friends and make the move with them since they were accepted to the same university, while others are luckier to have their whole family migrate with them. Whatever the case, here are some problems faced by international students who go to school in the United States of America:

  • Moving and Sustaining Yourself

If you are a member of the Caribbean and you moved to America for schooling you knew that the flight fare alone was a steep penny not to mention the fact that you have to pay tuition. If you are from places like Jamaica where the conversion rate is 118JMD to 1 USD, you might have to contemplate long and hard if you really want to study in the U.S. of A. or just let bygones be bygones until you are more financially stable. Post-grad maybe? But if you get a scholarship, the struggle is not as real, but you will find yourself still being financially stressed over rent payments, and if it isn’t that it is the cost of living. A person has to eat.

“If you were poor in Jamaica, you are a different kind of poor up here. I had to make end meets with three jobs when I was in my first year of college in my homeland, but now doing a year in America with the exchange rate, I don’t know how I survive.”

  • Culture Shock

At one stage or another of the big move you will experience culture shock, be it mild or severe (Wu, Garza and Guzman, 2015). Especially Caribbean students who are used to their own unique way of living and overall culture, they find physical and emotional discomfort when living in another country with norms, beliefs and practices different from their own. Especially the huge contrast in music, dance, cuisine and slang is the biggest issue faced by international students who are from the Caribbean. This causes them to experience feelings of paranoia; mood changes like depression, anger or sadness/loneliness; lack of confidence; withdrawal; insomnia; and loss of identity. They have to therefore confront the different ways of thinking and doing in the United States through resources which specifically aid in overcoming these challenges (Wu, Garza and Guzman, 2015).

“One thing I missed the most was the food and the dancehall and Soca culture. Yea I downloaded dancehall and reggae tracks but it wasn’t the same up here as it was listening to it in Jamaica. Especially the Soca and Carnival season. They don’t dance the same up here.”

  • Feelings of missing their country of origin

You will miss your country no matter how small or crowded it was. You will start reflecting on how much you actually miss that person that always came to your house for dinner, or the way your grandmother cooked her Sunday ackee and saltfish. Once you’ve realized that you are now an ant in an enormous colony nest, you will also realize how much you wished that you had a close knit and functional Caribbean home and how much each and every person meant something in their own unique way. The support system is also an issue if you don’t have one in your immediate surroundings in America, so you will also miss the one you once had back in your homeland, as well as your culture, the ease of communication and the comfort of belonging.

“My main challenges came in being lonely without family to encourage and support me throughout my college life. There seemed to also be no available jobs for students to earn an extra pay so I was solely dependent on the income which my parents sent me.”

  • Issues with Vocabulary and Language

The biggest problem as it relates to language and vocabulary is the contrast in accents and the ways persons communicate.  If you’re from the Caribbean, Americans will have a hard time communicating with you and understanding you, especially if you speak Caribbean Creole. However, if a Caribbean born student has a foreign lecturer, say Russian, German or Indian, they will also have a warm time understanding the lesson being presented; solely due to their contrasting accents.

Also, since Caribbean students were taught with the British system of education, the American education system, especially vocabulary is particularly difficult to adapt to. Spelling and vocabulary is something Caribbean nationals would have to break the habit and fast, in exchange for a new way of vocabulary and expression. For example, colour becomes color and football is referred to as soccer and what Americans call football is actually American football.

“I had a huge problem communicating with persons in my class. Especially when I started using the Jamaican slang and people would try and mimic me then laugh or look at me like I was an alien. I understand why persons just adapt to the language and the accent.” – Anonymous.

By Alexandra Daley



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