International Students Adapt to America’s Education System


Photo provided by Stefanie T. Baier, PhD

International students move to the U.S to pursue an education beneficial to their future careers.

Zayna Jamil, Staff Writer

As the 2022-2023 school year begins, students from all over the world join Freedom High School embarking on a new journey to receive an education important to their futures. Many international students are discovering their passions, finding a community and navigating their way through an unfamiliar system, which comes with its exciting and memorable experiences, but can also be a difficult time of change.

At FHS, English Learners (EL) classrooms have a wide variety of international students from regions in Africa, South America and Asia combined into classes throughout the day. When first entering the educational atmosphere, EL students are tested on their abilities in comprehension, writing and mathematics for a better understanding on their English grade level. Based on their English level, they are placed into classrooms according to their test scores, whether it may be AP, EL  or Gen Ed classes.

“The first thing I had to recognize as an EL teacher and continue to recognize is where they came from because their school systems are very different, said Jacqueline Clement, FHS English and EL teacher.

Understanding the journeys of EL or international students can create a comforting environment for them, knowing they have a community that recognizes their life story before emigration. Whether it may be students or teachers interacting with international students, it is important that schools have a critical understanding of education systems outside of America and what a daily routine might look like for a person living globally.

International students also find difficulty communicating with other students around them due to language barriers. When moving, learning the native language of a country after immigrating can affect the way they make friends, comprehend classroom discussions and have daily conversations with the people around them.

“These kids are learning a language for survival,” Clement said.

Being an international student can also be a culture shock for those who left family, friends and loved ones to find an advanced education in America. Many international students find hardships in making friends and using their voices as a form of empowerment.

“At times, it’s stressful. I get really stressed having to go in and start the conversation,” said Sami Teran, a Bolivian student.

When moving as an international student, there are cultural and social customs in America that are overwhelming such as largely populated schools, big classrooms and large friend groups that may be intimidating to new students coming from across the world. This can be stressful especially for international students trying to adjust to a new system.

A lot of international students join clubs and extracurricular activities to feel a sense of belonging. This helps these students gain confidence and gives them the opportunity to find friends who have similar interests as them. This can also be a way to connect with other students who’ve travelled across borders to learn in America.

“It can be hard sometimes, but I’m on the field hockey team, so I feel like I have enough support,” said Lottie Luedtke, a German exchange student.

Playing a sport for a club or for a school can create worthwhile experiences for new students trying to search for meaningful connections around the area. This can also be beneficial to students who’ve played sports internationally, and are searching for sports scholarships in the United States.

From all over the globe, international students step foot into the land where the “American dream” is spoken of, ready to confront challenges that even the most willing of all born and raised Americans cannot bare to face. As they enter America, they want their voices heard through education and fight to overcome any obstacles hindering that ability.