Enhui Shao is from China studying at the University of New Mexico in the United States

Overcoming the Fear of Studying in America

Enhui Shao, an international student from China studying at the University of New Mexico, shares the three common reasons why international students fear studying abroad in America and how to beat that fear.

Enhui Shao submitted the following article to International Student Voice Magazine: 

There are tons of fears that occurs in one’s whole life time. Fear is something that stops one from achieving a goal. And for a long time, I had been thinking that fear was the most overwhelming characteristic that I couldn’t ever conquer in my life. Fear was once in my life, and it tried to destroy me. The fear of studying abroad was one of the most overwhelming fears in my life almost caused me to drop off the school. But I’ve found a way through it, like the famous English adventurer, Bear Grylls, said “Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” When one studies abroad, strange environment, faring away from family and new language can cause him/she the fear of studying abroad.

I’ve been in America for three years. I graduated from a high school in Pennsylvania right before the summer began in 2017. When I came to the U.S. on the first day, I confronted the first fear. That day I landed in Detroit airport, I had to pass the custom and catch up the transfer plane to Corning in NY. When I passed the custom, I walked into the big waiting hall. The waiting hall was full of people. I noticed a bunch of screens above my head showing the flight information. I looked up to try to find my flight, and I ended up seeing nothing. Suddenly a thought crossed my mind, “Go ask people.” I hesitated after I thought that would be a good idea to ask somebody. I stood there for thirty minutes to convince myself to seek a help from a stranger. Do I not speak English? Of course I do. But I was really afraid to talk in English to any Americans. I thought I had bad accent, and I had never talked to a American before. I didn’t know how to start the question of asking about my flight. I was shy, timid and insecure to open my mouth. Until I studied in the U.S., I found out it was not big deal to talk with Americans because they are nice and friendly. Which I totally agreed that Kang (2006) has found out that the language is the most important aspect in international students’ acculturation (as cited in Gómez, Urzúa, and Glass, 2014, P. 4). Gallagher and de Araujohinks (2011) think the fluency of second language will help international student more easily adapting the host country. (as cited in Gómez, Urzúa, and Glass, 2014, P. 4)

Second, I just moved in New Mexico in August 2017. I had heard of many strange things about New Mexico before I came, such as murder, kidnapping, a person pointed a gun at people and bicycle thieves. I became afraid because I came here to study, but not to meet criminals. I didn’t want myself in danger. In China, people are not allowed to have gun. And also the number of criminals are decreasing. Unlike America where people have guns, and they also carry guns when they are on the roads. The permission of carrying guns makes me feel insecure every time I walked on the street to the school. I was afraid that someday someone had gun to shoot me. Now I have a bicycle, but I am concerned about my bicycle that it might be stolen someday all the time because of frequent news about stolen bicycles on the campus.

Third, my family and good friends are all in China. They are not with me when I am in America. I felt lonely recently. Even I have friends here, but for me there are some barriers, in which I cannot open my heart to them. I don’t know I can trust them or not. I believe that everyone talks about privacy or shares own secrets to good friends, that brings people closer when they open hearts. I don’t have anyone whom I can share my kindness, happiness and sadness with. I feel lonely because there is no such friend who knows about me and understand me in here. I’ve read a article that indicates and explains my current situation:

“Bradley’s (2000) survey of the needs of international students indicated a high degree of mental health problems in students, caused by isolation, academic pressure and accommodation and finance problems.”(as cited in Brown and Aktas, 2011, P. 7)

In conclusion, three main reasons that can cause one’s fear of studying abroad are strange environment, faring away from family and new language can cause him/she the fear of studying abroad. The best way to adapt the host country is to learn the host national language, and to use it. Although we don’t have many friends in a foreign country, nevertheless we shouldn’t isolate ourselves from other people, but to participate more activities to make more friends. I believe everyone will find a good friend whom we can share our thoughts and feelings with.

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