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Culture-Related Issues That Impact International Students’ and Immigrants’ Life in Washington DC


Students tend to travel to other countries that offer better educational options. For example, the united states of America offer students a better option for school work. This will translate to experience through the places they study and exposure to different cultures and destinations. Usually, when students go to different places, they tend to have a culture-related issue that will majorly impact the way they live in the place they are studying. Despite their diverse and different ethnic groups found in society, many people tend to be culturally in shock. This paper looks at the hurdles that international students encounter when studying in Washington DC. Particularly, it notes that adjustment VARIABLES i.e. classroom transition, language issues, stress and anxiety, social support, cultural shock, and cultural distance considerably influence the capacity of international students to adjust to life in Washington D.C. Also, It offers avails likely solutions to these issues faced by international students.

Several students have difficulty adjusting to their school life through the research and tend to transition well into college. (Bhugra & Becker, 2005) Therefore, the students would need several ways to adapt to these factors in a psychological and a sociological adaptation so that they can be able to survive. Most international students struggle to adjust to a new lifestyle, learn the language, and comprehend a new way of life, so it should be no surprise that they face several challenges. To succeed and overcome the problems of living in other nations, you must put in a lot of effort. Because every human being identifies with a certain group, it is critical to comprehend the values and customs of other cultures to comprehend our own. Most people believe that instead of giving up one’s culture, one should be open-minded. This is necessary if individuals are to respect one another and find common ground.

They are several benefits that students would have when they study abroad. According to Lillyman and Bennett (2014), studying in American universities provide these students with a thrilling chance of mixing with other international students from other states thereby increasing their confidence levels. Also, these students have a beneficial aspect in that they are globally employable and head in their field when they return back home. Furthermore, the student’s perspectives are disputed as they become autonomous thinkers and agents for change and go through personal growth.

Usually, most of the schools in Washington that host these students, also benefit in terms of financial gain. According to Lillyman and Bennet (2014) the US economy in 2013 witnessed an injection of about $27 billion by international students. This represented a $3 billion rise from the previous year. Other gains, apart from financial benefits, entail a heightened profile among international students, which for the host institution can enhance the understanding of Cross-cultural communication. Usually, the host institution has an advantage in terms of money, but they gain good press and reputation, which helps a great deal.

Usually, the increased number of students in the university will help with several benefits and could attract several students overseas. The presence of the international students might help with an additional factor of heightened chances for international partnership between separate institutions in separate states. Also, having international students likely brings additional global, cultural, and ethnic viewpoint (Ching et al, 2017). This is of essence no only to the host institution but also to other students in the learning environment. Some of the variables that may influence the acculturation process of international students and migrants include; family support, social support, age, language proficiency, and the year of stay in the country.

When they enter the united states and settle, migrants and international students realize that they have to assimilate to the culture of the people. Through aspects such as language barrier and culture shock, then they tend to have several issues adapting. Moving from where one has known to be home for almost all their life is hard, and through the exposure to different cultures, it is hard to understand and look at other aspects of life from certain angles (Haft et al., 2020). In addition, in the united states, they have a different manner of speaking to their elders and people, and international students have to learn that aspect.

Language barrier among students makes it harder for them to interact among students, and therefore they find it difficult to interact with other students. Communication and being good at it helps with the way they learn from others. Thus, they tend to be shy around the new students and the environment they are in (Kim et al., 2017). It makes them have fewer interactions that will help with the way they accomplish daily goals. Considering that they would be afraid to ask for help, they tend to lack the ability that could be helped furthermore.

Most students, therefore, when they arrive in DC first are overwhelmed, and most of them usually wish that they could go back home since they are frightened and most view the cultural adjustments as a struggle. International students and migrants, in many ways, think of loneliness and isolation when they are pursuing their education in the United States. Due to these factors, it is normal for students to have a difficult time adjusting to the host culture. The negative aspect of the acculturation exercise can happen due to the naturally demanding character of change and adjustment to new social and cultural expectations.


Cultures are difficult to understand, and through the transformation that they tend to have, several misunderstandings may occur, leading to cultural transformation and transformation. International students who attend school in Washington are of a different race, social class, and religion. Hence, the educators need to find a way to shape the way these students adapt to their new surroundings; therefore, it is important to note that identifying each identity of the students helps with how they can fully comprehend the students’ identities. Race and culture have a major impact on a student’s education in the way that there are some misunderstandings among the educators and the students.

The challenges

Entering U.S colleges and universities, for most international students, can be an immense cultural and life transition. According to .. (), most of these students go through difficulties and challenges such as but not restricted to: hurdles in communication with peers and faculty, isolation and loneliness. They also go through lack of proper accommodation, financial hardships, anxiety, stress, misunderstanding, troubles adapting to the academic culture, and language difficulties. Most of these students rely on friends and families when faced with the above-stated challenges and difficulties. However, not all students possess the required support besides most individuals weren’t empathetic for entertaining these students (Wu et al., 2015). Also, despite the host institutions offer Arriving in a new country, international students might undergo the aforementioned difficulties.

Also, according to Wu et al., (2015) many hurdles also spring in the academic context. To international students one of the biggest academic hurdles curtailing effortless accustoming of international students is language. According to the study, staff of the host institution weren’t compassionate because of international students’ language expertise. The students were criticized by the staff for not being answerable for their academic advancement. Lack of English expertise becomes a hurdle for effective engagement in host community. Most of these students don’t comprehend what their classmates and tutors talk regarding their graduate-level classes. Besides, they experience troubles working out the day-to-day issues e.g. asking for help, or taking the appropriate grocery shopping or buses.

Other challenges these international students experience are issues with their tutors (Wu et al., 2015). Most international students had to feign to comprehend the conversational contents traded with inborn English speaker because of their restricted language expertise. Occasionally, a modest English expertise level would lead to a negative inkling from the tutor since the tutor judged that the international students weren’t adequately braced for class. Also, tutors readily condemned these students’ accents, encouraged them to take corrective classes, and frequently question these students’ capacity to finish class assignments. The outcome of this kind of critique on behalf of the college tutors led to the international students to perceive that they didn’t have help required at school (Wu et al., 2015). Besides, they felt as if these responses from the tutor as discriminatory attitudes towards them. To international students, stereotypes and racism still persist and this is an essential matter that institutions should regard when hosting international students.

Most international students still go through discrimination and prejudice by American students besides there being many benefits that these students contribute. According to Charles-Toussaint and Crowson (2010), American students are concerned that international students present a risk to their social status, values, beliefs, physical well-being, education, and their economic from an anti-immigrant stereotype. When individuals have anxiety to associate with peers from other cultures, they will fashion an adverse stereotype regarding the conduct of the newcomers. The study notes that prejudice against Arab and Mexican migrants was linked to symbolic and realistic risks.

On the Contrary, according to Wu et al. (2015), international students who participate in extracurricular tasks, are well-connected to their professors and fellow students, and who feel at home are more likely to graduate from school. Specifically, support from society and family has a productive impact on these student’s study-success.

Adaptation variables among the students

Adjusting to a new way of life necessitates an aggressive change in personal identification (D). The process is a dual process entailing psychological and cultural change. Though the process might be challenging, to most international students the process is a positive experience. The cultural adjustment is felt as an exercise that facilitates the intercultural communication capability of international students (Lillyman and Bennet, 2014). The following is a discussion of the leading variables that shape the capacity of international students to adjust to life in the United States.

Cultural Distance

According to Redmond (2000), students usually experience various types of stress when they encounter other distinct cultures. According to the study the four dimensions of culture are: masculinity/femininity, collectivism/individualism, uncertainty avoidance, and power distance. The disparities of these four dimensions between cultures is what’s termed as cultural distance.

The extent to which society individuals agree that institutions and organizations have power is referred to as power distance. The degree to which people of a society are uncomfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty is called uncertainty avoidance. Individual aims are prioritized in idealist societies, whereas collective goals are prioritized in collectivist cultures. According to Redmond the term “masculinity” describes societies that value material success, heroism, achievement, and aggressiveness. Femininity, on the other hand, emphasizes the value of life quality, caring for the weak, and relationships. Masculinity/Femininity usually reflect on the ways of acting, feeling, and thinking. Thus, the dimension plays an essential part in the ways that they have intercultural relations.

Cultural variability firmly impacts social interactions. For instance, individuals from the femininity culture may view an individual from the masculine culture as embracing an inordinately bold mode of communication even though the assertive mode of communication in the masculine culture is regarded as being normal. The greater the cultural divide between the students’ native and host cultures, the more difficult it may be for the international students to correctly foresee and understand the host culture’s actions (Kim et al., 2021). Because there is a significant cultural gap between most overseas students studying in the United States and the American society, their acculturative stress might be considerably higher.

Cultural Shock

This is described as the disorientation feeling an individual experience when they move from one familiar culture they’ve been used to, to one that is very unfamiliar. For instance, the main stream American culture is normally considered as supporting open emotional expression, contempt to authority, and rugged individualism. Thus, students coming from a culture that emphasizes emotional control and moderation, the joint obedience to authority, and interpersonal relationships might experience a culture shock when they move to the U.S.

The cultural adjustment exercise might be perceived as a never-ending exercise. For instance, international students and immigrants who have resided in the U.S for more than a decade may go through cultural identity predicament. Since they are lawfully regarded as American citizens but are viewed as a foreigner or an outsider in their country (). To these international students and immigrants, the cultural adjustment is a perpetual reality in that they reside in a foreign state, the U.S, whose culture is immensely different from theirs.

Social support

Students getting social support from their fellow students helps adjustments easier and significantly increases the students’ acculturation. Several bodies formed so that international students form a social network that would help them diversify in many other support areas among the students. The networks they create usually consist of academics and advisors who help each other in certain troubles (Malhotra, 2020). Through other connections, students are helped to be in touch with their roots and culture. Social ties, therefore, usually play an important role in helping students that just joined the school in terms of phycological aspects and how they can transition to the new culture. Through forming such social ties, a group of immigrants leads them to be a community where they can help each other overcome certain aspects that they are going through. Therefore, social ties offer support that immigrants and students cannot get from their host country through these groups.

Also, according to.. () international students with more local and international links appear to effortlessly adjust to the new culture whilst the students who have more co-national but less international ties appear to have challenges with cultural adjustments. However, individual international students and immigrants might go through separate degrees of acculturative stress. According to .. () due to a larger cultural difference, Asian international students in the U.S, compared to all international students may need to put in extra efforts into the process of adaptation. In regards to the noted dimension of cultural distance Western European and the United States cultures are at extremes of individualism whilst Asian states display a firm collectivist inclination.

Stress and anxiety

Students and immigrants usually get anxiety and a sense of fear when they first arrive at a country that is not theirs, and therefore they tend to be stressed and anxious before they get accustomed to the ways. Most international students normally have high expectations about the United States before even arriving in the country. These students experience disappointment and depression when these expectations aren’t met. Also, those overseas students who have irrational lofty expectations regarding their lives and competencies in the U.S might feel a deep sense of loss complimented with bitter feelings of inferiority. When foreign students study abroad, they make a huge personal, social, and financial commitment. As a result of this investment, overseas students may feel under pressure to perform (The National Academies Press, 2015). International students with language challenges may find it more difficult to earn a bachelor’s degree than their American counterparts. Some overseas students may experience anxiety as a result of the challenge and pressure.

Usually, students like Asian Americans are seen as the minority ethnic group in the culture of the Americans. Therefore, they are assumed to have no psychological problems, resulting in the belief that they don’t get to have certain issues. Yet, they face several issues, which will deter them from seeking help since they have a certain stigma from their community and have academic pressure and expectations. Because most international students have set the type of anxieties, the pressure usually gets to them, and having a support system helps them suppress the pressure they are facing.

International students might experience pressures and anxieties when studying in another country. When these anxieties and pressures surpass standard levels these learners might experience mental health problems.

Language barrier

For international students the English language was recognized as a key issue as social adjustment and academic success is considerably associated with English proficiency. International students may face anxiety issues and disorientation due to a lack of English competence. On the international students’ part, a language deficiency might cause limited class participation as by their speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills their limited English proficiency becomes apparent. Also, these students may need more extra time for writing and reading which might impede with their academic performance if a class test is programmed to be completed in a set time. Language deficiency may also cause international students to have reservations regarding their success and for Asian male students this may be more demanding because of their fear of disappointment when making mistakes.

The language barrier may be one factor contributing to Chinese overseas students’ social isolation in their host country. One of the continual tensions during the sociocultural process is English competence. The international students’ participation in social engagement was hampered by linguistic deficiencies, which caused them to lose out on social opportunities. Due to language limitations and varied life experiences also expressed a sensation of detachment from their environment and surroundings.

Also, communicating with an accent is another factor that results in stress and anxiety international students affecting their capacity to function in both academic and social contexts. Listeners will evaluate a speaker’s personality, social effectiveness, social status, and competence based on the speaker’s accent. On the listener’s part, a nonnative accent can result in discrimination and stereotyping whereas listeners relate a conventional English accent with higher intelligence, education, and social status.

Classroom Transition

This is the experiences of severe anxiety, confusion, and frustration international students experience when subjected to conflicting and ambiguous expectations, bombarded by disorienting and unexpected cues, and exposed to unfamiliar teaching and learning methods (). Due to the cultural difference between their home countries and the U.S overseas students might go through these frustrations transitioning to classrooms in host institutions. For instance, overseas Asian students in the U.S might view their tutors as authority heads in their fields and thus might feel uncomfortable disputing their tutor’s opinions. Also, students from cultures where its impolite to continuously talk about personal opinions may find discussion in the classroom between students to be an unfamiliar teaching mode. Besides the theme in the deliberations might be less pertinent to the overseas students despite it being relevant to the American culture.

According to Huang (2012) regarding the classroom environment in the U.S, international Asian students experience multiple aspects of classroom transition. First, these students feel uncomfortable having analytic disputes, asking questions in class, and taking part in classroom deliberations. Unfamiliarity with the learning settings may dishearten the students from taking part in classroom tasks. Besides, most American professors highlighted feeling frustrated in becoming involved Asian international learners in classroom tasks. Teaching approaches that functioned effectively with American students appeared incompetent with Asian students.

Classroom transition also entails other aspects (Huang, 2012). For instance, when Asian international students have their familiar learning context lost when they seek to further their education in the United States. Thus, compared to their American counterparts, these students have to make more effort besides spending more time to incorporate information to sort out their cognitive conflicts to effectively engage in classroom tasks. Also, the learning materials’ content, particularly for social sciences, is likely to be more RELEVANT to American culture resulting in these international students taking some time to adjust. Studying in a foreign setting, pertains the students’ prior knowledge regarding the subject matter, learning approaches, social expectations, and cultural taboos. According to Huang (2012) what learners from the mainstream American culture perceive as common sense might be novel to the Asian international students.

When a person is undergoing cultural transformation and transitioning from one culture to another, they may experience an identity crisis. Consequently, if they are conflicted in two different ways, they tend to be torn, and they get stuck in the middle because they do not know who they are and what they identify as (Voss & Tuin, 2008). Thus most immigrants and students tend to face the problems that usually result from these factors, and they will have a difficult time in the way that they transition in their own culture and how they change in several ways. In addition, through the immigrants, they are a way that will have difficulty in how they relate and live with others, making it hard for the transition among the people to happen.

Hence despite the arising problems that may come from cultural differences, some aspects may result from people understanding that they cannot always avoid students coming to their country. Therefore, they should help them by making it conducive in a way. Through the different ways, they can be helped to perform better, and for the immigrants, they can continue living in the country with no hurdles (Wu et al., 2015). Through the help that they can receive, they include some aspects of help that will result from social support, seeking counseling services, and ensuring that they transition well into society and classrooms.

Many international students face language barriers. Therefore, they tend to have issues of proper understanding, which may lead to them failing in classwork and, therefore, will lead to social anxiety. Therefore, students need to be provided with assistance since they tend to have imperfect English or are unaware of the language. In addition, students admitted to universities and have no proficiency in English must be helped since their success benefits the school and the students altogether.

Most of the biases and discrimination of the students will tend to be caused by their imperfect English, and therefore educators must acknowledge that fact. Acceptance and making a norm that students tat have accents talk just fine will encourage them to be more interactive in the classroom because they will ask questions, increasing exposure among the students. Educators should also practice patience and become more aware of the disparities in communication styles, choice of words, and nonverbal cues.

Social contact, on the other hand, is not confined to exchanges with American students. The school must guarantee that a social interaction network has been established to assist and add value to the student’s adaptations to their new surroundings. In addition, re-establishing social networks in the host nation and ensuring that the strategies to communicate are improved together with how they talk to others. Social interaction with the locals would help newcomers acclimate to the new culture.

International students have less influence on the host community because of their immigrant status and lack of knowledge of the social structure of their native country. There is a lot of evidence that having a terrible connection with the local people has a detrimental influence on the mental well-being of the students. Although it is difficult to change perceptions about international students, therapists and employees can urge for or give information in terms of global students’ economic contributions to the US economy

International students experience financial difficulties and job worries while studying in the United States. Hence, they should be given permits that will allow them to work outside the university. But, instead, they do not because international students are not allowed to work outside the school, unlike other countries, which will give limited finance to the students.

International students completing internships in the United States are also subject to rigorous legal constraints. International students must apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which is a time-consuming process. Following working as an intern for more than a year, an international student will not work in the United States after graduation (Yuerong et al., 2017). Even if international students are permitted to work in the United States, most vocations are restricted to citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Furthermore, international students are only permitted to work for a year in the United States. If they want to work in the United States, they must apply for OPT. Compared to Canada, the United Kingdom, and other western nations, the United States imposes the most stringent legal limitations on overseas students working in the United States.


Most international students come from countries with harsh climatic conditions, and they face many setbacks during the winter period where the temperatures are very low. The fact that it is new to them will greatly affect how this will make them adapt to the challenges they encounter.


Listening to and speaking in a foreign language is hard. Some international students find it difficult to understand the lecture and reading materials in class. People speak quickly, and you may be hesitant to ask them to repeat themselves. In addition, you may find yourself missing English if it is not your first language.

Social roles

You may feel perplexed, surprised, or offended by social actions. People may look distant, aloof, or constantly in a rush. You might also be startled to see couples kissing and holding hands in public. You may notice disparities in men and women’s interactions, as well as variances in same-sex social contact and relationships, and then you are accustomed to.

Rules of behavior

Aside from the obvious features that hit you as soon as you arrive, such as sights, sounds, fragrances, and tastes, every culture has social customs that shape how people interact. These are less obvious, but you’ll most likely encounter them at some time, and the outcome can be confusing. For example, individuals will have different perspectives on importance, giving jobs, and monitoring time. In both business and academia, sticking to a schedule is essential.


Even though you might immediately notice cultural differences in your physical environment (for example, cuisine, clothes, and attitude), one may also discover that individuals from other cultures have radically different perspectives on the world than you do. Cultures are based on a foundation of profoundly ingrained values, conventions, assumptions, and beliefs. Attempt to defer judgment as much as possible until you better understand how different aspects of culture come together to form a unified whole (Malhotra, 2020). Consider what people say and do in light of their cultural standards. This will assist you in comprehending how others see your actions and how to comprehend theirs. When you comprehend both cultures, you’ll probably discover that you enjoy certain features of both and dislike others.

Relationship stress

The transition to a new culture with one’s partner may lead to certain strain in the relationship since they will be a new dynamic instead of what is usually known and understood. Your spouse may find it challenging to adjust to a new culture. Your spouse may feel lonely since they were uprooted from your culture and cut off from family and friends. Due to the language barrier, even simple chores can be unpleasant. They may find it more difficult to establish new acquaintances if they cannot engage in practical, meaningful activities such as getting a degree.


Students and refugees all face similar issues, and they face problems that are coupled up with the ways that will result from the culture-related issues in the host country. Usually face, and therefore over time, we tend to see that despite the issues that have arisen due to the change, they can be resolved, and people can live well in their societies. Through the change that they have undergone then they experience a different aspect of their lives. Many students who move there often need support that comes from their fellow peers and their teachers.

This research sought to uncover some of the problems international students face, their cultural identity shift, and whether they encounter identity crises throughout their time in the United States. During my interviews with the participants, I became aware of the difficulties that come with being an international student and the cultural divisions and philosophical understandings that such activities entail. Overall, these international students had difficulties while living in the United States, and they continue to do so as they try to adjust to their new surroundings. For example, some believe that locals should make a greater effort to understand them, while others believe that instructors might play a more significant part in their academic life. International students, on the other hand, often feel more welcomed with other international students.
Migrants’ mental health is impacted by a complex process that includes a range of causes, experiences, cultural adjustment, and stages. The stresses of migration, when combined with a lack of social support, a disconnect between achievement and expectations, economic hardships, racial discrimination and harassment, and a lack of adequate housing, medical care, and religious practice, can lead to low self-esteem, inability to adjust, and poor physical and mental health. Furthermore, social and cultural factors have been related to immigrants and refugees, and more study is needed to understand better the role of cults in the development of mental illness.

Mental health professionals must understand and recognize the sociocultural elements that impact the development of grief in persons who have moved to guide diagnostic and treatments properly. Cultural grieving, an important component of the migrant’s experience, is influenced and mediated by a combination of the migration process, cultural identification, cultural congruity, and biological and psychological components. Cultural identification and congruity will influence a person’s capacity to comprehend and work through the mourning process. Disruptions in identity and congruity are more likely to result in complex grief.


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