The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

John Madden

Second Advisor

Michael Schwartz

Third Advisor

Ramon Serrano

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Studying abroad as international student can be enjoyable, but at the same time, it can be extremely difficult to adjust to a new environment. International students face hardships in order to fit in or change their fixed identities from their home country due to the culture shock they encounter daily as well as their languages barriers. This paper studies the difficulties that international students experienced in their host country, the differences from their countries and how they changed to adjust in the U.S.

In this study, nine Korean international students in an upper Midwest University in the U.S. were interviewed. They were four Korean females and five Korean males who respectively agreed to take part in this study. These students were either enrolled in graduate or undergraduate programs. Ten interview questions were asked to find out the changes Korean students went through, the factors caused them to change their identities and how these factors contributed to the changing identities of the students.

Eight factors are found in this study: having English nicknames, voluntary participation, language barriers, procedures, individualism, gender roles, racism, and future goals. These factors caused Korean students to change who they are in the U.S. compared to who they were in Korea. The participants made efforts to adjust to the U.S. culture by having English nicknames and trying to participate more in the classroom. They even changed their gender role in the United States; however, this could be a temporary change. All participants mentioned that there were more opportunities for the future and they felt comfortable in the U.S. Nonetheless six of them still wanted to go back to Korea after their graduation due to their limited visa status, homesickness and hardship to get a job in the foreign land.

It is worth considering the implications of the above for teaching practice. First, international students struggle to fit in the U.S. by changing their identities. However, if we as teachers know students’ difficulties and how hard it is to change their original habitual culture right away, we can understand why students are doing certain behaviors that are not expected and considered rude. Also teacher training can help teachers in their interactions with international students. Second, teachers can try to listen to their international students more carefully. International students think differently. Many international students do not express their feelings and cannot be themselves. They tried to just fit in the U.S. without saying anything and simply bearing the situation. Third, clearly, teachers need to be aware that international students are putting remarkable effort into their dreams and educations. With a language barrier, international students tend to be passive and feel a lack of confidence in their daily lives. They often need to be challenged and motivated by giving them compliments in the first place from teachers for their accomplishments. Fourth, teachers need to speak clearly in class and try to understand different culture. International students miss many things in class and have misunderstandings about class concepts. They cannot even ask professors about understanding or consideration. If teachers can be aware of hardship for international students not to understand clearly, this can help students learn successfully.