Being an International Student: To Give Up or To Fight?

Photo by Liubov Pak

Photo by Liubov Pak

International students encounter a lot of challenges while they live in foreign countries. It is likely to worsen their social as well as academic aspects of life. In such a situation, there are usually two types of students’ reactions: some of them give up everything and return to their native countries, while others try to find solutions and overcome difficulties. Based on the questionnaire among students of NRU HSE (National Research University Higher School of Economics), there are four most common challenges: language barrier, bullying, adaptation and stress.

Language barrier

Majority of international students tend to face a language barrier. It may cause problems even with necessities such as shopping or using the transportation system. It can be a serious issue for those who have health problems like allergies. For instance, the students, who totally do not know Russian language might even struggle with selecting products they need at a grocery store. Those who participated in the questionnaire advised several tips to ease the problem of a language barrier. 

The preparatory courses (International Prep Year) offered at HSE are very effective. There, students learn not only Russian language, but also features of Russian culture. In addition, self-study as well as active socialization with natives are helpful to understand the basics of Russian language. The latter may improve not only language skills, but also contribute to finding friends. It is recommended not to be afraid of starting a conversation as Russian people avoid talking first.


International students rarely come across bullying, however it takes place sometimes. Each student who experienced bullying gives different reasons for it. In general, it occurs mostly because of long-standing prejudices and stereotypes. Eradicating it may require a great amount of willpower and time. Students who successfully come over the bullying suggest to be patient and sociable in order to illustrate the unlikeliness of the prejudices and stereotypes.


Adaptation process is the problem everyone encounters despite the country they come from. The time necessary for getting adapted varies from student to student. Those who come from big cities are likely to adapt quicker since they have similar facilities, so for them, for example, it is not necessary to learn how to use the subway, contrary to the students arriving from less developed towns and countries. To illustrate, I came from a small town in Uzbekistan, where there is no subway. And it took about a month to come to know the system of transportation in Moscow. The students who had the same problems recommend downloading some useful mobile apps (2GIS, Google maps or Yandex maps) in order not to get lost. Plus, it is advised to be careful with food consumption, since some unusual products may cause a serious allergenic reaction. So, it would be better to include new products in a diet step by step.


The last, but not the least is stress. A great number of students are exposed to stress during the study process. There can be many reasons for stress: homesickness, new atmosphere, assignments, and exams. Being frequently in a stressful condition is likely to affect students’ health and productivity level. A strong will of achieving success at study may lead to work and life disbalance. In other words, students tend to allocate much more time on education, completely forgetting about having a rest. Sometimes, they just underestimate the benefit of relaxing periodically. 

Statistically, the students who keep work and life balance achieve better results in comparison with those who overload themselves with studying. Writing a schedule, meditation and journaling may help to put everything in order. The former may contribute to saving time through having a clear step-by-step timetable, while the latter two are supposed to help with regulating emotions and feelings. Besides, spending time on favourite activities are the most effective way of relieving stress and anxiety as well as keeping work and life balance. It does not necessarily be close to the major student opt for, but an activity student is interested in. It is also an efficient way to acquire knowledge in various spheres.

In conclusion, all international students at least once wanted to give everything up because of the problems which prevent them from enjoying life. However, applying a bunch of mentioned advice is likely to help to ease the problems and give the sense of unity with other students who experienced such challenges.

Text by

Liubov Pak