At the University of Arkansas we have approximately 1,500 international students from all over the world that make up around 5.6% of our student body. Understanding and addressing the various challenges that these students face,as well as supporting them, is an important part of teaching these students.  This article provides information on the makeup of our international students and the issues they face as well as how we can support them.

Challenges for International Students at the University of Arkansas

There are several challenges for international students, such as

  • being immersed in a new culture
  • learning or working in a second (additional) language
  • learning and working within a new educational system with different rules and expectations
  • dealing with concerns with visa regulations
  • dealing with financial concerns
  • dealing with pressure from family, government, and/or scholarship requirements

There are specific academic challenges that our U of A international students face (Keogh & Rauth, 2013), such as

  • Presenting in front of class
  • Writing assignments
  • In-class writing (including tests)
  • Completing group projects
  • Understanding lectures
  • Multiple Choice tests
  • Note taking

Here are some comments from focus group participants at the U of A

“The testing time is too short. We know the material, but we need more time to read and respond on the tests. I have never finished a test.”

“I don’t speak in class. Other students do, but I feel nervous about my questions. I have to write it out before I say it. If the professor asks me to repeat my question or clarify it, my brain freezes.”

“I don’t feel comfortable to speak in front of the professor because he doesn’t understand my pronunciation. I ask questions after class. I am afraid the other students will laugh at me.”

“Team projects are hard. All of my partners are Americans. I made a recommendation in a group project, but they didn’t listen to me. They just ignored me. If I were American, I could explain more specifically and maybe be more persuasive.”

“If the teacher’s lecture is based on the book, if I miss something I can read the book. If it’s not, I cannot catch that info later.”


What are some things you can do to help your international students?

Written assignments:

  • Assign some low-stakes / pass-fail assignments that incorporate peer or instructor feedback
  • Provide detailed, specific feedback
  • Provide examples of completed assignments
  • Provide opportunities for revision; review writing assignments in stages
  • Be explicit in your expectations for academic integrity
  • Inform students of the Writing Support Center through Class +

Lectures and Readings:

  • Present the material in multiple ways (supplement with visual support)
  • Make classroom materials available after class
  • Provide examples of course content from your students’ home countries
  • Speak more slowly; be aware of idiomatic language, i.e. ‘You’ll catch on.’ ‘Just jump on in.’ ‘Do I need to twist your arm?’

Class Discussions and Group Work:

  • Explain why you think discussions & group work are valuable
  • Explain / model how you expect students to participate, and how you will assess class participation
  • Allow for peer feedback after discussions or group work
  • Include non-U.S. examples in course content
  • Elicit and encourage understanding of international students’ perspectives

(from Redden, E. (2017, Feb 24). Survey of international students asks what they’d like their professors to improve. Inside Higher Ed.)

Resources on Campus

International Students & Scholars
  • Michael Freeman, Director
  • James Flammer, Asst. Director of Retention
Sponsored Student Programs
  • Gloria Flores Passmore, Director
  • Catherine Cunningham, Program Coordinator
PAPSS (Panamanian) Scholars Program
  • Mayra Torres, Assoc. Director for Special Programs
English Language and Cultural Studies Program
  • LeyahBergman Lanier, Director Spring International Language Center
  • Cindy Rauth, Program Coordinator


This content was developed from a presentation by James Flammer (Assistant Director of Retention, International Students and Scholars) and Cindy Rauth (Program Coordinator, English Language and Cultural Studies, Spring International Language Center) which was sponsored by the The Wally Cordes Teaching and Faculty Support Center (TFSC) at the University of Arkansas.

The presentation can be downloaded and viewed as a PDF: TFSC Understanding and Supporting Our International Students.