Are you worried about succeeding in your classes abroad?

You've succeeded in your classes back home, but what about in another country? They have different teaching styles, different ways of grading, and maybe even a different language.

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Don't stress!

These goal-setting strategies will help you set yourself up for academic success as an international student.

1. Understand the System

You're in another country, so everything will be different, even the academic system.

Pay attention to these differences so you can still achieve academic success.

Dwight from The Office says to Michael Scott,

What might be different?

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  • Teaching styles: lectures vs. student participation in class

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  • Addressing your teacher: using their first name vs. their last name

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  • Student interaction: group work vs. individual work

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  • Assessments: many small assignments vs. one exam

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  • Writing style: including your opinions vs. writing only facts

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  • Referencing: which system to use when including information from a source

2. Break It Down

Write down goals for each for your classes.

Goals are clearer if they're broken down into parts. Focus on the specific steps involved in meeting your goal.

Keep in mind the different systems from Step #1. For example, maybe there is only one big exam in your home country, but there are lots of assignments in the new country. A good strategy is to make a goal for each assignment.

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Instead of:

  • I will get an A in my class.

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Your goal could be:

  • I will do all of my homework assignments and make a study plan to prepare for my tests and projects.

Focusing on smaller goals will motivate you to reach your larger goal.

3. Follow a Timeline

You're an international student, so you may need extra time to complete assignments, especially if your classes are in a different language or dialect. Give yourself more time than you think you need!

A calendar with pins marking four dates. Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

What should you do when? On a calendar or planner, write down all of your major assignment and assessment deadlines. This will help you stay organized and prepared for your classes.

If you use a digital calendar, such as Google Calendar, you can also set up reminders before big due dates.

4. Get Support

Good news! There's no need to go it alone. A lot of resources are available to help you meet your goals and find academic success.

A woman using phone and looking reassured when other women appear and help her.

Check out these common campus resources:

  • the library/a librarian 📚 (learn more about academic libraries)

  • the language center 🗣️

  • an international student club 🌍 (learn more about cross-cultural friendships)

  • student interest clubs ⚽

  • a mentor/buddy 👭🏾

  • your classmates 👥 (learn more about study groups)

  • your teacher's office hours 👩🏽‍🏫 (learn more about office hours)

5. Be Flexible

There are many challenges for international students. Language and culture differences both in and outside of the classroom may interrupt your path to academic success.

If you get off track, don't panic! Be flexible.

If your original goal or plan is too difficult, or you need more time, you can make changes! Think about what didn't work, adjust your plan and timeline, and keep working towards your goal.

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For example, you have a project due on Sunday. You think it will take you two days to complete. You want to give yourself extra time, so you plan to start on Monday.

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  • Monday: You're feeling homesick, so you spend the evening talking to friends and family back home.

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  • Tuesday: You review the instructions and realize you don't really understand what the teacher wants.

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  • Wednesday: You ask the teacher about the project during his office hours.

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  • Thursday and Friday: You work on the project.

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Saturday: You get help at the language center.

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Sunday: You submit the project.


You're struggling in class. What should you do? Select all that apply:

Choose the Best Plan

Which student is most likely to get an A on their English exam?

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Riley reviewed the class website to find out what to expect on the exam. She wants to ask a classmate for help, but she's too shy.

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Yang wrote her exam date on the calendar. She plans to study by herself the night before. She did well on the English exams in her home country, so she's not worried.

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David wrote down each topic on the exam and reviewed the syllabus. He made a study plan two weeks before the exam. He was going to join a study group, but they cancelled, so he went to the language center for help instead.


Which international student will succeed at their goal?

Take Action

You're on your way to achieving academic success!

It's time to start working on those goals.

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Choose one of your academic goals:


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