Ghar ka khaana, ma-baap ka pyaar are as essential for us as air and water, so it comes as no surprise that Indians among all international students in the United States struggle the most with loneliness and homesickness. Financial problems also add to their woes.
Insights offered by a recent release of a study, Improving the International Student Experience, by World Education Services (WES), a non-profit organisation in New York and Toronto looking into international student issues, said Indian students (42%) in the US seemed to be more homesick and lonelier than others (32% overall). Quoting various research studies it said they tended to live at their parents’ home during or after college, often until marriage. Though young people in many countries lived with families till adulthood, family interdependence was strongly emphasised in India. Moving out of home alone and going to another country without a spouse, friend or family member could cause strong feelings of homesickness and loneliness.
WES surveyed some 4,683 international students, including those currently enrolled at US institutions. Others graduated as far back as 2010. Results for students from the top two countries of origin – China and India – and from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa were included.
Among other challenges, 71% sub-Saharan Africans and 67% Indians (out of 63% overall) found cost of living to be too high in the US.
Indians also valued work experience outside their country over improving career prospects at home (52% versus 40%). By contrast, improving career prospects at home was more important for students from Canada (49% versus 34%) and Middle East and North Africa, indicating that students from these countries and regions often intended to return to their home countries in time.
Sixty per cent Indians compared to 70% Sub-Saharan Africans and 63%Chinese were motivated to study in the US because of better education outside their home countries.
The top pull factor for respondents from all regions was the availability of a desired study programme. Fifty-nine percent of all international students selected this factor. In particular, Indians (64%) and Sub-Saharan Africans (63 %) looked at specific programmes when deciding to study abroad. Among all students, Indians (49%) chose an institute because of its reputation and (41%) were lured by research opportunities.
Despite missing home Indians (94%) and Europeans (90%) were most satisfied or very satisfied with their life in the US, followed closely by the sub-Saharan Africans and Chinese students. The results largely corroborated results from the International Student Barometer (ISB) which surveyed students at selected universities in the US, UK, and Australia – in 2014. It showed that European students were most satisfied in these destinations and that Indians were among the most satisfied from non-Western countries. One of the reasons could be their strong knowledge of the English language. Indians (95%) were also among the 47% students who were very satisfied with course offerings and with their institute’s evaluation of their academic performance.
Though the survey found the need for improvement in career services offered in the US, which prepared students for careers through mock interviews, mentoring and resume writing advice, Indians (85%) were again the most satisfied lot. They also gave the thumbs up to staff of their institutes for information related to visas, jobs and internships. About 72% said they were very satisfied with the help they got in finding part-time and post graduation jobs and internships through counselling, job fairs, portal, websites etc. Indians (90%) were also the most satisfied lot when it came to participating in learning and development activities through campus services such as student clubs, organisations, societies etc.