International Students talk about their experiences

Different academic cultures, another language and 7,400 miles don’t seem to be enough to stop four UVM students from encouraging others to achieve their academic goals — in addition to their own.  

Sophomores Chen Yang, Kaseya Xia, Dave Chik and first-year Zhou Shihao’s understand the academic challenges international students face both as Chinese Global Gateway students themselves and as SGA senators.

For these students, coming to the U.S. not only meant leaving their home, but also leaving behind their perceptions of the American education system.

International Students talk about their experiences PHOTO BY TIANA CRISPINO
International Students talk about their experiences PHOTO BY TIANA CRISPINO

Before Chik came to the U.S. he and his peers had only imagined how American students learned in college. “[We thought] they liked partying and having fun, or that their math is so easy, but that was not true when we arrived,” Chik said.

Chik and other international students said they were surprised when they discovered how much academics relied on interactions in the classroom. “Back in China when a professor asks a question we sit quietly,” Yang said. “I don’t know why, it’s just culture thing. But here students ask questions in class and they are really engaging.”

Global Gateway students take four to 12 months of English as a second language courses before starting their sophomore year. 

Students then take UVM courses open to all students that are taught in English. Shihao currently takes the ESL courses and said Global Gateway helps those with low English skills improve their grasp of the language. Yang said for many international students, taking notes, especially in discussion and lecture-intensive liberal arts courses is challenging.   

UVM provides subject-based and writing tutors available to all undergraduates through the Learning Co-Op and the Writing Center. 

In accordance to the Americans with Disabilities Act, UVM also provides Accommodations, Consultation, Collaboration, and Educational Support Services through the ACCESS office. “We have difficulty with note-taking but ACCESS only provides the service to disabled persons,” Yang said.“But [international students] come here because you should have the note taking skills and learn,” Yang said.

Yang, along with other members of the student government are focusing on getting more academic resources to support international students, like class note-takers, she said. 

Despite language and academic challenges, Xia said he likes how his classes include skills he needs after college. “Classes are more focused on the practical,” Xia said. “[In China] after we learn, we do not know how to apply [the lessons] to our life, or our career.”

Shihao wants to use his UVM degree to help his family in China.  “My family has a company and I want to help them make their company become successful and an international company,” Shihao said.

For others like Chik, gaining U.S. citizenship and working in the U.S. is another possibility. “I am interested in research in the U.S. although both [China and the U.S.] have high tech industries,” he said.