Some Kent State international students experience transition difficulties

Taylor Meade

For some international students at Kent State, transitioning not only to the American lifestyle but also the college lifestyle can be difficult. 

International student adviser Samantha Bell said international students often struggle with the differences in teaching methods between the United States and their home countries. 

“Sometimes, because of a cultural differences in their country, it’s not acceptable for them to question the teacher,” she said. 

Bell said it may be difficult for international students to feel comfortable approaching their professor for clarification or if they missed information needed. 

The language barrier can also be a struggle for them.

Bell, who studied abroad in Japan for a year, plans to work with Japanese and Korean students in the fall to assist them specifically in transitioning easier into the U.S. 

She said she finds it remarkable how quickly some international students adjust to American lifestyle. 

“I’ve only been here for two months and most of the students I’ve seen, they’ve adjusted like they’ve been here their whole life,” Bell said. 

Ruonan Zhang, a public relations graduate student from China, struggled with English when she arrived in the United States. 

Zhang said she was taught English from a textbook, and China didn’t have many native English speakers to practice the language with. 

She received her undergraduate degree from Shanghai International Studies University, which Kent State has a cooperative partnership with that allows her to obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years instead of six.

“But what really gets (Chinese students) are the small talks or current issues, like what happens in the news,” Zhang said. “We can’t have a full understanding of them because we don’t have the ability to understand the culture.” 

Zhang said participating in class and having an American host family have helped her transition better. 

Jinsil Kim, a freshman international exchange student from Korea, said she was supposed to be in Kent for one semester but decided to get an extension because she didn’t want to leave. 

“I had other options from other universities in America, but I felt like Kent State has good program for psychology, and also I personally want to travel a lot in the eastern part of America like New York, Boston or D.C. and go to city-like areas,” Kim said. “I felt like Kent State had a good location, and I could travel to other states that I’d like to travel to. I have close friends here. I feel like this place is good for me to have a better experience and more fun.” 

Kim said her English proficiency wasn’t as high as she thought it would be when she arrived in the U.S. 

“Time passed and I felt like, ‘Why can’t I understand English as well as I expected?’” she said. 

Although Kim isn’t currently taking classes this semester, she now works in one of Kent State’s psychology labs but plans to return home this summer. 

She said she admired the diversity among citizens in the U.S., which ultimately helped with her transition issues because she didn’t feel like she was standing out. 

“I’ve seen many people have different lifestyles so I can be more open minded,” Kim said. “It’s been a really good experience to broaden perspectives I think.”

Contact Taylor Meade at [email protected].