International students may experience different problems than people who grown up in a country where a school is located, but most difficulties can be overcome in the end. Some problems, though, can cause you to give up school and if that happens the life can be not so easy but this is the case for any one. Giving up school is sometimes better than being stuck on to a bottomless ditch. For graduate students, changing supervisors may help and for undergrads, changing schools or majors.
In regard to dealing with new people, I think changing elementary or high schools in your own country will give you more headaches; people in the US said same thing. There are many extremely smart international and domestic students; the best part of studying and living in a new place is you can meet many eccentric folks. On the other hand some graduate students in Canada are more interested in immigration than their studies and are happier to get their permanent residence card than their intended degree. Some always complain about their new places especially when people from a country get to gather.
I was involved in some Japanese student club and was a president at one time but I spend most of my time with classmates, office mates and soccer players I met. After a while it is more valuable to spend time with people of same interest rather than with people from the country born in. And the native language skill becomes degenerate as well; some people point it out and these people tend to have very poor English skill.
I saw many postdoc ads; they often ask for high motivation. I thought it is useless to ask for these things. But when we see candidates at interviews by myself, the motivation strikingly divide them and defines them. But it is hard to tell about the best fit.
English as a second language
English is not my native language; this does not help me to navigate through school works and afterward. Fortunately my native language skill is limited too so I did not feel so bad when people did not understand what I was saying.
I was learning English before the internet become popular. I used short wave radio like BBC, Voice of America, Christian Science Monitor of Boston. I also used English tapes of TOEIC and American Stream I found in my house. I also used NHK (Japanese public broadcasting station) English programs but I also listened to NHK radio program of French, German, Italian and Spanish. I cannot use any of them but I can read and listen a little. Knowing other languages helped me to understand English more. It worked to me but I do not recommend it to any one. I wanted learn German because many German contributed in physics but later I realized I should learn physics more.
I do not listen to radio nor watch TV other than World cup soccer and some Olympics. I watched some TV shows to socialize with people when I was in a residence. I watch few movies — less than a few per year. I like some documentaries. The best program is Uncommon Knowledge which I put the link on the blog. The program tells me how to discuss with and interrupt people. I also listen to NPR, Nature Podcast and some other programs on the web.
My current English is in a state of fluctuation: having lived in California, New Brunswick, Waterloo, Boston, real Cambridge and Antwerp exposed me a lot English. No offence but living in Antwerp made my English or my thinking into another dimension. I probably know much more English than people around though I have unmistakable Japanese accent. Hopefully I can learn Dutch but Dutch is very difficult to learn and the efforts do not pay off in science since knowing Dutch does not give me a huge advantage. But learning French will be useful. In a few years, my English may become an ugly Frankenstein. Now I have to ask, what happened to my Japanese skill? No worry. It was not great to begin with and there are a plenty of people who can speak and write better Japanese.
A few days ago, I gave a talk at BSP Cardiff (British Society of Parasitology), and I got a plenty of real questions so I assumed the audience understood my talk. But I should not have left my laptop in my home… A French speaker just before me was a replacement, so at the very start of the talk, there was a silent. He was just staring at the presentation. It seemed nothing came to his mind. So he just picked up a paper from his pocket and read it then started talking…