Helpful Skills For International Students

Helpful skills for international students
Helpful skills for international students. Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst.

If you are an international student, no doubt you are dedicated to succeeding in your studies. It is possible that the academic culture you find in U.S. universities can in some ways be different from the one you grew up in. If you find that to be the case, here are some helpful skills for international students.

These skills will help international students

Besides your great study habits, which you probably have already developed, there are other less tangible skills that will help you in your academic career. One of them is discussion skills. Have you noticed that in the course syllabus of many classes, part of the grade goes to participation? Sometimes that is one-third of the grade. What the instructor is looking for is your participation in class discussions. If that’s not a part of the school system you grew up in, it can feel unfamiliar at first. What do you say? When do you jump in?

Learn discussion skills

The article How to learn discussion skills goes into depth on this topic. It offers specific ideas on how you can develop this skill on your own, so you can learn at your own pace. This skill is rarely taught. If you have the opportunity to learn this somewhere, it is worth investing your time. And if that course is not available, you can follow the tips in the article I mentioned and build up your skills yourself.

Talk to your instructors

Another skill that helps international students succeed even more is spending time with your instructors. Depending on how large your class is, you may have a teacher assistant teaching the class. Whether it’s a professor or a T.A., it is a good idea to spend time outside of class talking to them about topics from class. The reason is that not all professors have experience teaching international students. They may not be aware of your learning style, or whether their English is difficult for you to understand.

Once you have a personal meeting, often it is easier for the instructor to accommodate your needs, whether it’s English or understanding the concepts from class. They are more likely to look out for your learning. It also gives them the opportunity to observe your character. Sometimes a recommendation letter from a professor that knows you well can help when you are starting out. But in the very least, you would feel better, knowing that the instructor is willing to help you understand what you came to learn.

You’ll probably find some very helpful professors who are impressed with how seriously you take your studies, and may even take you under their wings to mentor you. Who knows? They may know someone who wants you as an intern after you graduate.

If you find this blog helpful, here is one on Why is it important to attend a university that matches your values?

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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