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Foreign students or International students are students, usually in early adulthood, who undertake a program of foreign study study in educational institutions in a country other than their own. While most universities have official student exchange programs, some well-funded high schools have them, too. Although some students travel abroad mainly to improve their language skills, others travel to advance their specialized studies. Still others study abroad because suitable tertiary education is either in short supply or unavailable altogether in their home countries. In addition, in many parts of the world, a foreign degree, especially if earned from certain countries, is honored more than a local one.
Prospective international students are usually required to sit for language tests, such as IELTS & TOEFL(English speaking education), DELF (French speaking education) or DELE (Spanish speaking education), before they are admitted. Tests notwithstanding, while some international students already possess an excellent command of the local language upon arrival, some find their language ability, considered excellent domestically, inadequate for the purpose of understanding lectures, and/or of conveying oneself fluently in rapid conversations.
Many countries force international students to pay higher tuition than citizens of the country. This discrimination is usually justified by the argument that the students' parents do not pay taxes in the country.
International student programs have over the years encountered a number of criticisms, both from the host countries and from the international students themselves. While some of the criticisms are well-founded, others are based on misperceptions or even racism.
International student programs can be a politically sensitive issue in the host countries. Opponents of the programs fear that international students would take the limited university placements away from local students. Proponents of the programs counter this belief by arguing that the high fees paid by international students enable universities to maintain, or even increase, placements for local students.
It is not unusual for international students to encounter language problems in the host countries. Despite the pre-admission language tests — which might give the students a false sense of mastery over a foreign language — students often find it difficult to understand the coursework, and some might feel that their lecturers are unhelpful in explaining the coursework to them. Academics, under pressure from cash-strapped university authorities to retain international students, sometimes make the courses easier, to the resentment of many local students. It has been speculated that language difficulties may contribute to the problem of plagiarism, particularly in the form of using essay mills.
Finally, many would-be employers, especially those within the host countries, find some former international students have unsatisfactory language abilities, despite having earned university degrees.
A major drawback of International Students Programs is the reluctance of universities, in the host country, to face immigration limitations and expose them clearly to their incoming foreign students.
- They may have difficulties in obtaining a long term work visa.
- They may face as a consequence large salary gaps in comparison to their fellow nationals.
- The tuition fees may be too high with respect to their work prospects.
- They may be barred from high profile jobs where citizenship is a prerequisite.
- NAFSA: Association of International Educators
- International Union of Students
- Brethren Colleges Abroad
- Cultural Experiences Abroad
- American International Education Foundation (AIEF)
- List of tips for international students coming to study in the U.S. -- Collected throughout the years from the international MBA students of Babson College
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