Challenges of International Students from Pre-Departure to Post-Study

A Literature Review

  • Jeevan Khanal Nepal Open University
  • Uttam Gaulee Morgan State University
Keywords: challenges, international students, pre-departure, post-departure, post-study, study abroad


Studying in overseas universities or colleges presents international students with exciting opportunities; however, with these opportunities come challenges that they need to overcome. The purpose of this review is to summarize the challenges of international students. Drawing on the existing literature since the year 2000, this article addresses several challenges confronting international students within some top sending countries and receiving countries. The challenges are categorized into pre-departure, post-departure, and post-study to create a model of the issues of international students. The findings revealed a plethora of challenges including some common ones such as obtaining accurate information, admission procedure, and preparing documents for VISA while preparing for study abroad. Similarly, international students have to deal with language, financial challenges, and cultural adjustment when they are in host countries. Uncertain future and paperwork are the major challenges after graduation.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Jeevan Khanal, Nepal Open University

JEEVAN KHANAL, PhD, is a faculty member in the School of Social Sciences and Education, Nepal Open University, Nepal. His research focuses on the area of international students, study abroad, educational leadership, educational administration, academic integrity, higher education, and multiculturalism.

Uttam Gaulee, Morgan State University

UTTAM GAULEE, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Community College Leadership Doctoral Program, Morgan State University, USA. His research interests include community college systems, development education, diaspora studies along with interdisciplinary perspectives on education policy, global citizenship, and cross-cultural issues in international development and geopolitics.



Alexander, L. (2012, May 29). The crucial documents you need before departing for study abroad. StudyAbraod. Retrieved from: https://www.studyabroad. com/resources/travel-documents-for-study-abroad

Alloh, F., T. Tait, D., & Taylor, C. (2018). Away from home: A qualitative exploration of health experiences of Nigerian students in a U.K. Journal of International Students 8(1), 1-20. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1101024

Al-Quhen, K.Y. (2012). Cultural diversity in university requirements and among international students at Aal-Bay University in Jordan. European Journal of Social Sciences, 28(4): 489-501.

Amy, B. (2017). 97% of international students leave the UK after studies. THE PIE NEWS. Retrieved from:

Andrade, M. S. (2006). International students in English speaking universities: Adjustments factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5(2), 131-154. doi:1177/1475240906065589

Andrade, M., S. (2009). The effects of English language proficiency on adjustment to university life. International Multilingual Research Journal, 3(1), 16-34. Doi: 10.1080/19313150802668249

Asian Development Bank Institute (2014). Labor migration, skills, & student mobility in Asia. Retrieved from:

Babacan, H., Pyke, J., Bhathal, A., Gill, G., Grossman, M., & Bertone, S. (2010). The community safety of international students in Melbourne. Institute for Community, Ethnicity and Policy Alternatives. Victoria University. Retrieved from:

Bartram, B. (2008). Supporting international students in higher education: constructions, culture, and clashes. Teaching in Higher Education, 13(6), 657-668. doi: 10.1080/13562510802452384

Bista, K. (2016). Examining the research on international students: Where are we today? Journal of International Students, 6(2), I-X.

Bista, K., & Dagley, A. (2015). Higher education preparation and decision making trends among international students. College & University, 90(3), 2-11.

Bista, K. & Gaulee, U. (2017). Recurring themes across fractal issues facing international students: A thematic analysis of 2016 dissertations and theses. Journal of International Students, 7(4), 1135-1151. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.103598

Blake, A.C. (2006). The experiences and adjustment problems of Africans at a historically black institution. College Student Journal, 40 (4), 808-813.

Boado, H.C.B, HU, Y. & Soysal, N. Y. (2017). Why study abroad? Sorting of Chinese student across British universities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39(3), 365-380. doi: 10.1080/01425692.2017.1349649

Brian, J. (2012). Preparing Japanese University Students for study abroad. Retrieved from: vstudentsforstudyabroad.pdfon October 8, 2018

Brown, L. & Jones, I. (2013). Encounters with racism and the international student experience. Studies in Higher Education, 38(7), 1004-1019. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2011.614940

Burdett, J., & Crossman, J, (2012). Engaging international students. Quality Assurance in Education, 20(3), 207-222. doi: 10.1108/09684881211240286

Caldwell, E., F. & Ssekasi, D., H. (2016). Leaving home: The Challenges of Black-African international students prior to studying overseas. Journal of International Students, 6(2), 588-613

Campbell, J., & Li, M. (2007). Asian students’ voices: An empirical study of Asian students’ learning experiences at a New Zealand University. Journal of Studies in International Education, 12 (4), 375–396. doi: 10.1177/1028315307299422

Chan, E. (2013). A narrative research study-Living in the space between participants and researcher as a narrative inquirer: Examining ethnic identity of Chinese Canadian students as conflicting stories to live by. In J. W. Creswell (Ed.). Qualitative inquiry and research design. Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed., pp.303-326). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Chen, J. M. (2017). Three levels of push-pull dynamics among Chinese international students’ decision to study abroad in the Canadian Context. Journal of International Students, 7(1), 113-135.

Chen, W.C.D. (2007). Reflecting on pre-sessional EAP courses: A pilot study of Taiwanese students' perspectives at the University of Leicester. An Interdisciplinary Journal, 53, 127-134.

Ciubancan, M. (2015). Principles of communication in Japanese indirectness and hedging. Romanian Economic and Business Review, 10(4), 247-253.

Clark, N. (2013). Indian study abroad trends: Past, present, and future. World Education News+Reviews. Retrieved from:

Cowley, S., P., & Ssekasi, D., H. (2018). Motivation, induction, and challenge: Examining the initial phase of international students’ education. Journal of International Students 8(1), 109-130. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1101039

Dalglish, D. C., & Chan A. (2009). Expectations and reality-international student reflections on studying in Australia. The Queensland University of Technology. Retrieved from: 0%20Carol%20Dalglish.pdf

Dao, T. K., Lee, D., & Chang, H.L. (2007). Acculturation level, perceived English fluency, perceived social support level, and depression among Taiwanese international students. College Student Journal, 41(2), 287-295.

Duangpracha, K. (2012). The accommodation challenges of international students (Doctoral dissertation). Graduate School of Business and Law, Australia.

Du Bois, C. (1956). Foreign students and higher education in the United States. Studies in universities and world affairs. Washington, DC: American Council of Education.

Durkin, K. (2008). The adaptation of East Asian masters students to western norms of critical thinking and argumentation in the UK. Intercultural Education, 19(1), 15-27. doi: 10.1080/14675980701852228

Falcone, S. (2017). International students’ recruitment: Trends and Challenges. Journal of International Students, 7(2), 246-256

Falkingham, J. (2017). A survey of 3,500 UK- based international students with surprising results. Times Higher Education, The World University Ranking. Retrieved from:

Favin, M., Steinglass, R., Fields, R., Banerjee, K., & Sawhney, M. (2012). Why children are not vaccinated: a review of the grey literature. International Health 4(4), 229-238. doi: 10.1016/j.inhe.2012.07.004

Flood, H. (2015). International students face unique challenges after graduation. USA Today College. Retrieved from: 19/international-students-face-unique-challenges-after-graduation/

Galvan, J. L. (2013). Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak.

Gardner, S.K. (2013). The challenges of first-generation doctoral students. New Directions for Higher Education, 163, 43-54. doi: 10.1002/he.20064

Han, X., Gebbie, M., A., & Appelbaum, R. (2015). Will they stay or will they go? International graduate students and their decisions to stay or leave the U.S. upon Graduation. Plos One, 10(3), 1-18. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118183

Hofstede, G. (2003). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.

Horne, S.V., Lin, S., Anson, M., & Jacobson, W. (2018). Engagement, satisfaction, and belonging of international undergraduates at U.S. research universities. Journal of International Students 8(1), 351-374. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1134313

Hyun, O., J. (2016, September 18). Korea sends most forth students abroad. The Korea Herald. Retrieved from: ud=20160918000267

ICEF Monitor, (2014, April 23). New research explores economic impact of international students on host countries. Retrieved from:

Institute of International Education. (2016). Fast Facts Open Doors 2015. Research

and Publications: Open Doors. Retrieved, hand-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/Fast-Facts#.Vy-Susv2YdV

International Trade Administration (2016). 2016 top markets report education country case study. Department of Commerce, United States of America.

Kavilanz, P. (2018, March 14). Sharp drop in international student visas worries some US colleges.CNN Money. Retrieved from:

Kirch, W. (2008). Systematic literature review. Encyclopedia of Public Health. Springer: New York.

Lane, J. (2015, October 14). US losing its dominance in the global higher education market. Retrieved from:

Le, A., T. & LaCost, B., Y. (2017). Vietnamese graduate international student repatriates: Reverse adjustment. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 449-446. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.570295

Leder, G. C. & Forgasz, H. J. (2007). Australian and international mature students: The daily challenges. Higher Education Research & Development, 23(2), 183-198. doi:10.1080/072943604200020665

Lee, J. J. (2015). International student experiences of Neo-Racism and discrimination. International Higher Education, 44, 3-5. doi: 10.6017/ihe.2006.44.7916

Leong, P. (2015). Coming to America: Assessing the patterns of acculturation, friendship formation, and the academic experiences of international students at a US college. Journal of International students, 5(4), 459-474.

Li, J., Marbley, A. F., Bradley, L., & Lan, W. (2016). Attitudes towards seeking counseling services among Chinese international students: Acculturation, ethnic identity, and language proficiency. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 44(1), 65-76. doi: 10.1002/jmcd.12037

Li., J., Wang, Y., Liu, X., Xu, Y., & Cui, T. (2018). Academic adaptation among international students from East Asian countries: A Consensual qualitative research. Journal of International Students, 8(1), 194-214. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1134289

Li, S., Zizzi, S. (2018). A case study of international students’ social adjustment, friendship development, and physical activity. Journal of International Students, 8(1). 389-408. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1134317

Liao, K. Y., & Wei, M. (2014). Academic stress and positive affect: Asian value and self-worth contingency as moderators among Chinese international students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic. Minority Psychology 20 (1), 107-115. doi: 10.1037/a0043071

Ling, C., & Tran, L., T. (2015). Chinese international students in Australia: An insight into their help and information seeking manners. The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 14(1), 42-56.

Maringe, F., & Carter, S. (2007). International students' motivations for studying in UK He: Insights into the choice and decision making of African students. International Journal of Educational Management, 21(6), 459-475. doi: 10.1108/09513540710780000

Mills, N. (2018). International students say challenges in Australia include loneliness, racism, poverty. ABC radio Melbourne. Retrieved from:

Ministry of Education (MOE) of the People's Republic of China, (2018). 2017 sees increase in number of Chinese students studying abroad and returning after overseas studies. Retrieved from: 1804/t20180404_332354.html

Neghina, C. (2017). 2017 Trends in student recruitment. Retrieved from

Nicolescu, L. & Galalae, C. (2012). International students' mobility and adjustment. A literature survey. International Conferences Future of Europe 2012 Rethinking Strategies in Emerging Economies, 9-10 November 2012, The Bucharest University of Economic

National Union of Students (2014). Widening the safety net: International students in unexpected financial hardship and what can be done. Retrieved from

O’Malley, B. (2017, October 21). Study identifies key challenges for foreign students. University World News. Retrieved From: 171021054644646

Onsman, A. (2012). Distributing the future evenly. English as the lingua franca in the Saudi Arabian higher education sector. Higher Education Policy, 25(4), 477-491. doi: 10.1057/hep.2012.8

Park, E. (2016). Social and educational challenges of international students caused by accented English in the Australian context: A sociolinguistic analysis of linguistic experiences (Master thesis). School of Education and Professional Studies. Griffith University, Australia.

Paul, A., K. (2015, July 2). Get a job or get our: the tough reality for international students. The Guardian. Retrieved from: education/2015/jul/02/get-a-job-or-get-out-the-tough-reality-for-international-students

Perry, C. J. (2016). Comparing international and American students’ challenges: A literature review. Journal of International Students, 6(3), 712-721.

Russell J., Rosenthal, D., and Thomson, G. (2010). The international student experience: three styles of adaptation. Higher Education, 60(2), 235-249. doi:10.1007/s10734-009-9297-7

Safipour, J., Wenneberg, S., and Hadziabdic, E. (2017). Experience of education in the international classroom- A systematic literature review. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 806-824. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.570035

Sawir, E., Marginson, S., Deumert, A., & Nyland, C. (2007). Loneliness and International Students: An Australian Study. Journal of Studies in International Education. DOI: 10.1177/1028315307299699. Retrieved from:

Shin, G., W., & Moon, R. (2015). South Korean universities remain challenging places for foreign students and faculty. The Conversation. Retrieved from:

Smiljanic, I. (2017). The role of attachment, travel experiences and English proficiency of international students, acculturative stress and depressive systems. Journal of International Students, 17(2), 188-203.

Spinks, J., & Wong, I. (2010). Understanding student recruitment in Mainland China: a case study. International Strategic Information Service Report, 1-29.

Ssekasi, D., H., Mushibwe, C., Caldwell, E.F. (2014). International Education in the United Kingdom: The challenges of the golden opportunity for Black-African Students. Sage Open, 4(4), 1-13. doi: 10.1177/2158244014562386

Swathi, R., Mark, K., Kara, K., & Ankita, G., (2017). Strategies to address English language writing challenges faced by international graduate students in the US. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 764-785. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.570033

Tang, X., Collier, D., A., & Witt, A. (2018). Qualitative study on Chinese students’ perception of U.S. university life. Journal of International Students 8(1), 151-178. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1134279

Thamrin, Y., Pisaniello, D., & Stewart, S. (2010). Time trends and predictive factors for safety perceptions among incoming South Australian university students. Journal of Safety Research, 41(1), 59-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2009.11.003

The Times of India (2015). The pre-departure checklist. Retrieved from: -checklist/articleshow/48738040.cms

Thomas, J. & Harden, A. (2008). Methods for the thematic synthesis of qualitative research in systematic reviews. BMC Medical Research Methodology. Retrieved from:

Ugwu, D., N., & Trache, M., A. (2017). Post-graduation plans of international science and engineering doctoral students attending U.S. universities of Texas Arlington, USA. Journal of International Students, 7(1). 1-21.

Wong, J. (2004). Are the learning styles of Asian international students culturally or contextually based? International Education Journal, 4(4), 154-166.

Wu, W. & Hammond, M. (2011). Challenges of university adjustment in the UK: a study of East Asian Master's degree students. Journal of Further and Higher, 35(3), 423-438. doi: 10.1080/0309877X.2011.569016

Yakaboski, T., Velez, K., P. & Almutairi, Y. (2017). Collectivists’ decision-making: Saudi Arabian graduate students’ study abroad choices. Journal of International Students, 7(1), 94-112.

Yan, K., & Berliner, D. C. (2013). Chinese international students’ personal and sociocultural stressors in the United States. Journal of College Student Development, 54 (1), 62-84. doi: doi:10.1353/csd.2013.0010

Yakunina, E. S., Weigold, I. K., & McCarthy, A. S. (2011). Group counseling with international students: Practical, ethical, and cultural considerations. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 25, 67-78. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.54.4.385

Yeoh, J., S. & Terry, D., R. (2013). International research students’ experiences in academic success. Universal Journal of Education Research 1(3), 275-280. doi: 10.13189/ujer.2013.010319

Yocket Editorial Team (2018). Pre departure to-do list for students going abroad for higher studies. Retrieved from:

Young, J., T. (2017). Confucianism and accents: Understanding the plight of the Asian international students in the U.S. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 433-448. doi:10.5281/zenodo.570022

Zamborlin, C. (2016). Giapponesi, parlanti oblique evvaghi per la salvaguardia di ‘wa’. quanto c’e di Vero nel luogo commune, 3(2), 155-171. doi: 10.7358/Icm-2016-002-zamb

Zhang, Y., & Hagedorn, L. (2014). Chinese education agent views of American community colleges. Community College Journal, 38(8), 721-732. doi: 10.1080/10668926.2014.897082

Zhou, Y., Frey, C., & Bang, H. (2011). Understanding of international graduate students’ academic adaptation to a U.S. graduate school. International Education, 41(1), 76-94.

How to Cite
Khanal, J., & Gaulee, U. (2019). Challenges of International Students from Pre-Departure to Post-Study. Journal of International Students, 9(2), 560-581.
Research Articles