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Learning from Life Lessons as an International Student

International students discover that important lessons are not merely reserved for the classroom setting. 

Learning from Life Lessons as an International Student

While educators are responsible for the imparting of knowledge to their students in classrooms, life still holds the key to the total transformation of these students. For what good is knowledge if there is no room for the students to apply what they learned?

This is even more important in the case of international students. Top higher education institutions (HEIs) host their international students in an environment conducive to learning—through lectures or life lessons. 

An institution should make sure that proper systems are set in place, and regularly updated, to ensure that optimal learning is accessed by everyone—even those who are not familiar with the local culture and practices. In a study conducted among 900 students in Australia, 41 percent of international students are disconnected and experience high levels of stress. Therefore, HEIs with good student counselling services and international peer mentorship programs deserved to be praised for their initiatives. 

International students have it harder when it comes to adjusting. Counselling provides international students with a safe space. Counselling matters include but are not limited to psychotherapy, academics, and career. An effective peer mentorship program, on the other hand, takes some pressure off of new international students while it allows the peer mentors to learn alongside the mentees as well, as they process all the information they need repeatedly and understand it better. Because of this, peer mentors have a better understanding of their subjects as well and do good in classes.

International Peer Mentorship Programs prove beneficial for both mentor and mentee.

Apart from what is taught inside the classroom, international students are thrust into learning these major life lessons:

Understanding independence

Most parents teach their children to be responsible but it is not until they have left home when the latter closely experience the concept of cause and effect up to the most minute detail. International students are presumed to be people away from home for an extended period. With this in mind, they are forced to be responsible. These responsibilities range from setting strict financial budgets and sticking to work schedules to maintaining healthy relationships and keeping one’s home safe and secure—all by themselves. The responsibilities begin even before boarding a plane for another country. Students need to be prepared beforehand, making sure their documents are all ready, and that his mind and body are fit for travel.

At the end of the day (and quite literally for these students), the value of hard work is impressed on their minds and souls. This is one lesson international students learn to cherish until they graduate, and perhaps, one they wish to impart to the next generation of learners.

Embracing cultural diversity

One important element crucial to learning, unfortunately often forgotten, is the ability for a person to unlearn. This might sound paradoxical, however, there is a benefit in emptying one’s preconceived notions of how people should behave and instead, keeping an open mind. Generally speaking, international students are on a path of greater self-awareness. The more they are exposed to different cultures, the more they are learning more about the world itself.

This exposure to different cultures can come in a variety of ways. Of course, there is the culture of the host country itself, arguably the most dominant. Then there are the different cultures of one’s classmates and perhaps, some teachers. There are the food and customs to be tried and learned, and the language barriers that need to be solved.

Again, self-awareness is the prime takeaway amid this blending of cultures. Internationalization should not be mistaken for homogenization, as most of the top host countries are in the west (Top 3 are the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada). International students are the perfect models of unity in diversity.

Top host destination of international students worldwide in 2019, by number of students (STATISTA)

Appreciating roots

Last, there is the life lesson of appreciation. International students are aware of the life they have left behind and the life that is to come. It’s hard to gauge the importance of one without the other, and this usually leads to the students appreciating the opportunity before them.

International students, with the wealth of knowledge they have acquired, still have a duty to be true to themselves and their roots, whatever their migration plan may be whether they are open to returning to their home country or staying in their host country.

All of these lessons are tied up by gratitude. Not everyone is given the opportunity to be able to study abroad. One works harder, smarter, and better when he is thankful for the chance at a better life. This goes the same for everyone else in higher education, as maintaining an attitude of gratitude allows for more personal growth.


These life lessons may be student-centric, but these are also points that need to be reiterated among those in the position of leadership in higher education for them to be able to understand better the situation of international students and help steer them to growth. Growing individuals lead a growing institution, and this growth is not only measured in quantity but all the more in the quality of education given and received. 

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Data Sources:

Russell, J. (2009, December 19) The international student experience: three styles of adaptation. Springer Link. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-009-9297-7

Personal and Psychological Counseling At Colleges and Universities (n.d.) State University. Retrieved from https://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2317/Personal-Psychological-Counseling-At-Colleges-Universities.html.

5 Benefits of Peer Mentoring Programs (n.d.) International Education Specialists. Retrieved from https://www.idp.com/singapore/blog/5-benefits-of-peer-mentoring-programs/.

Top host destination of international students worldwide in 2019, by number of students. (2020, November 27)  Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/297132/top-host-destination-of-international-students-worldwide/. 

Wu, C. (2017, January 30) International students’ post-graduation migration plans and the search for home. Research Gate. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313820374_International_students%27_post-graduation_migration_plans_and_the_search_for_home.


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