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Problems of international students in USA and how to tackle them

Rice Business School MBA

What are the common problems faced by international students who arrive on university campuses in USA?

MBA Crystal Ball invited Abbey Rice, associate director of MBA global programs at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business to share her views on the topic. While some of the points are related to the Rice MBA program and Rice University, Abbey shares plenty that’s relevant for international students at other universities too.

3 Top problems international students face in USA

by Abbey Rice

Rice MBA AdmissionsThis article includes perspectives from the Rice University Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS).

1. Immigration/Visa Status and Work Authorization (Employment After Graduation) * #1 for MBA

Problem: From the time they are accepted into the program, many international students are already worried about the options for internships and post-MBA job opportunity in the United States. The laws and processes change frequently so it can be difficult for even the administration to keep up. Students are responsible to understand their visa status and what it takes to obtain that status.

We work with them to provide an opportunity through the 2-year MBA program for an internship (CPT) and a 12 month post-grad opportunity (OPT). Students are only eligible for either of these if they land an internship or job. H-1B is only an option, not through the MBA, if they find an employer for sponsorship.

Many times students confuse federal law and Rice policy. They understand that there is a lot riding on the fact that they have to land those opportunities to even have the option to work here in the U.S. during their time here, and after.

Additionally, many students come into issues with different visa that may not allow them to participate in authorized work during the program. This is something that is typically understood too late in the process.
Suggestions: Take the time before you even apply to schools in the U.S. to understand all of the stipulations involved with working/studying on your particular visa. If possible speak to people you know who have gone through the process of studying in a foreign country.

Network from the very beginning and begin researching particular companies that sponsor international students in the industry of your focus. Once you’re accepted into the program immediately utilize all of the resources and departments at your fingertips.

Although the student is responsible for their visa status and understanding that, there are many offices and people on campus who want to help make the transition and process as smooth as possible.

READ, READ, READ. Read through all documents and guidelines given to you throughout the program. There are reasons these documents have been carefully put together and it’s important students understand and acknowledge what they are signing/agreeing to.

2. Language Barriers & Communication Difficulties

Problem: Many international students, although scoring high on the TOEFL exam, arrive to their programs under prepared in comparison to their classmates to perform at high level in writing and communication skills. This is due to English not being their first language.

It becomes extremely intimidating and can cause insecurities within the student early on in the program. Often times international students do not succeed at a high level in their communication courses and/or do not step up in leadership positions within group oral presentations.
Suggestions: Practice before you arrive. Challenge yourself to watch American movies and TV shows without subtitles, along with listening to English speaking music. Translate passages from an article in a newspaper.

Once arrived, befriend American students and surround yourself with them often. Hanging out with your peers most like you will not allow you to grow, especially with your communication skills. Many times your University will provide opportunities for Diction Coaching and/or communication workshops prior to school starting. Always opt into these.

Lastly, even If your communication program does not have one, adopt a mentor and have them coach you through presentations and have them peer review your writing. Practice makes perfect.

3. Understanding Plagiarism and Academic Honor Code

Problem: Believe it or not, many times international students are unfamiliar with the term and concept of plagiarism, at least in the way that we as Americans understand it. Working in groups can be very confusing for international students as they believe they are completing the assignment together, but may not understand that they cannot then copy verbatim their classmates work.

Cheating is seen as sharing.

Unlike American students who have been told and guided through what plagiarism looks like since grade school, international students are starting with a blank slate.

Perceptions of plagiarism are mostly based on historical and cultural assumptions. Many of the policies and guidelines set for students may not be specific enough for a foreign population. The language barrier can play a role in this situation as well.
Suggestions: Speak with your professors often. Utilize them as a resource from the very beginning. Familiarize yourself with well-known American plagiarism guidelines sites like Purdue Owl Writing Lab.

Speak with your academic advisors to gain resources provided by the university. The university should be speaking openly early on with international students about plagiarism and the severity of breaking an academic honor code in the states.

This article is part of CrystalConnect, an outreach initiative by MBA Crystal Ball.

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

7 thoughts on “Problems of international students in USA and how to tackle them”

  1. Hi,

    My Name is Dev and i am from Telecom Department, working experience of approx 5 years, Currently hold Coordinator position in Reliance JIO project, the reason i want to do MBA is Post my position there is only managerial work, and MBA from good College University can give me greater hike in no/lesser time.

    What i want to ask is i am not extremely not great with studies, but still i’ll try for IIM and XLRI, after GMAT but as a safer side i want list of private college with Good Placement records (sorry Indian Mindset can’t help it out) that offers one year or 15 month full time MBA.

  2. Hi,
    I need suggestion to take a decision. My current project is closed and now I need to search for new project within my organisation. I have 2 below options. Please let me know which one to pick.

    Option -1: Utilize all the 30 days vacation for Gmat preparation and give gmat exam before taking new project

    Pros: I will be able to prepare with better focus and momentum.
    Cons: I might lose good project opportunities

    Option -2: Take the project and prepare simultaneously

    Pros: I will not lose good projects
    Cons. I might not get enough time as this is new project and might take time to get adjust to new project.

  3. Hello Samir

    I am Samta Bajaj ( B.E Mech from Delhi college of engineering).I am located in Delhi . I have 27 years of experience out of which 11 years in a corporate HVAC firm and thereafter am running successfully independent HVAC consultancy firm by name of Envirocon Engineering services.

    I have a strong desire to do MBA from one of the prestigious business schools.

    Please suggest me suitable option for Executive MBA ; suitable course and institute .

    Thanks & Regards

  4. Hi Sameer, I have been working in a State Power Utility based in West Bengal and named as West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited, for 4.5 YEARS with designation Assistant Engineer(Electrical) a class I Gazetted post and presently posted as STATION MANAGER and I am the Office In Charge of a Customer Care Center with 45000 customers and my responsibility is to supply quality power to 45000 consumers and maintain all assets of the company as well as to realise the revenue . Alongwith the above mentioned jobs my responsibility is to design new 11 KV lines and 400 Volts lines time to time for development of the electric circuit in the jurisdiction. I lead a team of 18 Government employees and 60 outsourced employees.
    How competitive is my job profile if I apply for EPGP IIMB, PGPX IIMA, PGPEX IIMC.

  5. Hi Sameer,

    I am working in one of the top cement manufacturing company with 10 years of mixed experience [2 years – IT system development and support, IT infra support at manufacturing location, 2 years in user training, building MIS & reporting for distribution & commercial activities and assisting Head – manufacturing location, and 6 years of experience in corporate marketing (- building BI & MIS to assist CMO & Head – Corporate Strategy, coordinating with regions & implementing marketing & sales policies, supporting region teams, etc.)].

    10 -76.5%
    MCA – 69.9%
    Total experience – 10 Years
    Current position – Assistant Manager

    GMAT-planning to appear for GMAT in couple of months.

    Could you please help me to know whether I have any chance for IIMA PGPX and IIMB EPGP? What will be good GMAT score for IIM A PGPX and IIMB EPGP? What preparation should I do to improve my chances to get admission to IIM A PGPX and IIMB EPGP? Any other one year MBA program that I should look for (in addition to IIM A & B)?

    Thanks in Advance.

  6. I am an infantry officer with 15 years experience in the Armed Forces and I am desirous of stepping out towards a second career. I have had wide range of experience in handling military administration both in a domestic and and a multi national environment. The Armed Forces provides for an opportunity to avail two years of study leave i.e for furtherance of the education qualification through higher studies. This is were i look forward for your assistance to decide what would be the best course of action if i wish to apply for a job in HR. I still have a few years to go before I can hang my uniform. Your suggestions will greatly appreciated.

  7. @Dev: None of the top GMAT MBA programs can guarantee you a job. Talk to current students to find out how the placement process works.

    @Sandeep: I’d place the project at a higher priorit level than GMAT prep. you can always study for the GMAT in parallel. A good project gone will not come back.

    @Samta: You could start off by creating a list of the one year MBA programs you are interested in. Then narrow it down based on your career goals.

    @Saptarshi: A job description doesn’t decide whether the profile is competitive or not. Focus more on the accomplishments and how it separates you from others in the same industry doing similar work.

    @Susheel: There are other programs that you can look at. Here’s a list to help:

    @Gaurav: This article would be useful:


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