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Academic Challenges of International Students: Literature Review

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1. Introduction

Education has become one of the main sources of income in many foreign countries (Hegarty as cited by Ecochard and Fotheringham, 2017). Many Asian students leave their country to study in other countries such as Australia and United Kingdom for good quality of education. Although studying aboard has benefited students in providing them a good quality education, students have to go through many difficulties. It is very important to understand the difficulties when choosing to study in different country. When Asian students come to English-speaking nations, they must fine-tune their language skills hastily and learn fast, coping both mentally and culturally. Therefore, international students are closely affected by language proficiency, the kinds of pedagogy, practices and even culture that they have to go through. This review attempts to show the Academic challenges and language proficiency difficulties international students have to overcome to study at universities in western countries having similar situation in Australia.

2. Challenges

2.1 Language Proficiency

The utmost dispute of Non English speaking international students are spoken language proficiency and writing proficiency once they come to study outside home country (Angelova and Riazantseva; Cadman; Ferris as cited by Bailey, 2012). According to Kim (2011), International students studying aboard cannot communicate efficiently with native English speaker due to little proficiency they have. Additionally, Burns stated that most international students keep worrying about English language problems and their lack of ability to understand lecture (as cited by Hu and Zhang, 2013), result in line with Ramachandran, hestated that international students are not comfortable in English Speaking environment because of their lack in proficiency in English speaking (as cited in Ecochard and Fotheringham, 2017). Although international students do regulate language proficiency exam before entering university (Bai as cited in Ecochard and Fotheringham, 2017), these skill are not sufficient for them during their study time in aborad(Wu & Hammond, cited in Ecochard and Fotheringham, 2017). Conversely, the lack of proficiency not only affects international students, even local students face such difficulties in their first year (Bailey and Pieterick as cited in Bailey, 2012).

In addition, international students lack proficiency in writing in English since most international students do not have more practice in writing English in their native country (Wu & Hammond as cited in Ecochard and Fotheringham, 2017), Likewise, many international students hardly understand the easy writing system since they hardly write in English in their country.As a result, international students make mistakes in grammar, citation and other writing structure when they are enrolled in western country for further study (Bailey, 2012).

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2.2 Academic challenges

Secondly, international student come across challenge called academic stressors (Araujo, 2011). Students studying aboard have to deal with unfamiliar classroom practice and presentation style along with different group work (Kim, 2011). Confirming previous findings, Hu and Zhang (2013) found out that international students lack in accepting the American style of Academic process and fails to understand the lecture. However, international students still try their hard to make off with new classroom practice and improve their academic mark (Kim, 2017). Additionally, the difference in teaching style adds academic stress for international students (Quan et al., 2016 as cited in Ecochard and Fotheringham, 2017), for example in foreign country lecturer ask students to prepare for presentation without informing what they have to do and how they have to work out, whereas in Asian country teacher give proper instruction before starting any assignment and make students understand their work (Kim, 2011). Further international students have to work on their essay and other assignment proficiency (Bailey, 2012). For example, the writing referencing mechanics, embedding the in text citation and paraphrasing style in assignment are considered important feature of writing and for most international student it is new (Liu as cited in Bailey, 2012) which adds more stress to international student to cope up.

3. Evaluation and Critique

Strength and Limitation

After reading through these studies, their strengths and limitations will be discussed. Kim’s (2011) study was conducted through personal interview that has given result through individual experience.In Parallel, Bailey (2012) has done his report with proper framework using incoming data available following specific pattern of questioning, data collection, and information providing opportunities to get more important clues about the topic instead of being confidential and often self-fulfilling point of view. Whereas, Ecochard and Fotheringham’s (2017) review has combined findings from different article to get an exact conclusion for clear information for reader.

On the contrary, Kim’s (2011) study lacked sufficient evidence to make the arguments stronger since his respondents was less than ten students. In the same vein, Bailey’s (2012) research does not have statistically representative result which means it is rather tricky to measure the response given. This has the added drawback of proving if the statistics collected are real or duplicate. Therefore, future research should consider an in-depth understanding of the adjustments international student go through in their study abroad experience while still coping with the challenges.

4. Conclusion

The purpose of this literature review relates to the difficulties international students face when they are enrolled for study in country where English speaking is considered as first language. As a result language and Academic challenges are hardest for international student to deal where international student have to work on with their speaking and writing proficiency ability and have to adjust with the dynamic classroom environment. In Academic challenges international students have to learn all different type of referencing and paraphrasing along with understanding classroom discussion and presentation. Speaking proficient language with native community is difficult but if one could then they can improve themselves in case of academic result. However, this choice of review scope precludes an in-depth discussion of problems facing international student. Since question is left unanswered by this review and much scope are left for future researcher.

5. Reference List

  1. Arajua, A. (2011). Adjustment Issues of International Students Enrolled in American Colleges and Universities: A Review of the Literature. Higher Education studies, 1(1) pp (1-8), doi:10.5539/hes. v1n1p2, Retrieved from:
  2. Bailey, C. (2012). Negotiating writing: Challenges of the first written assignment at a UK university. In S. Sovic& M. Blythman (Eds.), International students negotiating higher education: Critical perspectives. Routledge.Retrieved from
  3. Ecochard, S., & Fotheringham, J. (2017). International students’ unique challenges–Why understanding international transitions to higher education matters. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 5(2), 100-108. Retrieved from
  4. Hu, W., Zang, Z. (2013). International Students’ Adjustment Problems at University: A Critical Literature Review. Academic Research International, 3(2), pp (400-406). Retrieved from:
  5. Kim, H. Y. (2011). International graduate students' difficulties: Graduate classes as a community of practices. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3), 281-292. Retrieved from
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Academic Challenges of International Students: Literature Review. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from
“Academic Challenges of International Students: Literature Review.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
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