Each year, the United States accepts thousands of high school exchange students. Lincoln Lutheran is a school that hosts some of these exchange students from places all over the world, including Vietnam and Norway. Studying abroad for students is filled with challenges and opportunities.
A fellow exchange student, a Norwegian girl named Helene said, “It almost feels as if it was just yesterday when I was on my own on a plane not really knowing what to expect, but I was excited for what the future held for me.” She is adjusting to a new country, new school, and a second language that is different from her own.
Being an international student in the United States who needs to get a high score on the TOEFL – the Test of English as a Foreign Language, students encounter problems communicating academically and socially. Triet, a Vietnamese student, talked about his difficulties, “Well, the first difficulty is to cope with the cold weather. Indeed, the temperature sometimes reaches 0 degree C, which quite frankly is unbearable for an Asian like me. Secondly, it’s the difference between the school in Vietnam and Lincoln Lutheran is that I have more homework, different schedules, and everything is in English. Thirdly, having no friends initially made me feel isolated, which isn’t fun at all.” Since English is their second language, they need to spend more time and effort understanding class lectures and instructions, as well as reading their textbooks. While native students of English only have to focus on their assignments, international students have to study English and complete their homework at the same time.
Moreover, the cultures that some international students come from may make them afraid to speak up about their needs; however, the American school doesn’t reprimand students for asking about their benefits. After a year, Triet recognized that he should be confident to win friends. Over the summer, he stayed in his friend’s house, and then his friend took him to visit places where he had never been before. People are here to help but only when students speak up to let them know.
With difficulties also come benefits. The first benefit in coming to Lincoln Lutheran in particular, and in America in general, is that the American schooling system is one of best systems in the world. By learning in the USA, students become more open to new ideas and new environments. Helena, mentioned, “Studying in the USA helps me to do a lot of things that I didn’t do before, such as writing an excellent essay. I look at the central theme of the piece and seek to understand what is asked from the essay topic. Once I know, I find further information on the subject through books, lecture notes, and journals. It helps me to plan the structure. I also have an opportunity to make new friends, practice a lot of sports, try new things and experience American culture.” Studying abroad doesn’t only improve their knowledge; it also builds more independence.
In conclusion, by surpassing their challenges, international students earn their own experience and give themselves a chance at a better future. For all international students, Lincoln Lutheran is a place that encourages study abroad experiences and prepares them for university and adult life while developing a Christian worldview. To quote a Vietnamese student named Han, “I recognized that Lincoln Lutheran gave me an opportunity to change my life, and grow my mind.”