International Students

Adjusting to a new country, culture, and academic system can be both exciting and difficult. Transitions can be especially challenging when you are far away from people who usually support you. Counselors at the University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services (UKCC) understand this, and are aware of the many ways that being from another culture can impact your experience here at UK. We often met with international students and have been able to help with both academic and personal problems.

Talking to a counselor is not as common a practice in many countries as it is in the United States. Many foreign students often say, "I'm not 'crazy', so I don't need to speak with a psychologist." But counselors at UKCC are here at the university to help students reach their educational goals. We understand that problems in your personal life can impact your ability to learn, so we talk with students about a variety of issues. You do not have to have a mental illness to find talking with a counselor helpful.

Some international students have a specific problem they want help with when they come to UKCC. Others are just aware that things are not going as well as they expected.

What problems do international students often talk about with a counselor?

Living in a new culture presents many challenges. Often the differences are interesting and fun at first, but over time having to adjust to so many new things can be exhausting. Some of the issues foreign students face and talk about in counseling include:

  • Missing home
  • Not wanting to go home
  • Difficulties reading, writing, or listening to lectures in a foreign language
  • Adjusting to major differences in the educational system
  • Wanting to choose a major that your family would approve of, or that would make getting a job in your country difficult
  • Problems getting help for physical illness due to difference in the medical system
  • Not being understood because of your accent
  • Not being understood when you express yourself in your usual way
  • Roommate conflicts
  • Difficulties making friends with Americans
  • Conflicts between values at home and in the US regarding dating
  • Problems interacting with professors, advisors, or employers
  • Concerns about family reactions to choices you make while in the US
  • Dealing with others' misperceptions about your culture or country
  • Finding that some people are prejudiced against others from different cultures
  • Finding that things that were a problem at home are still a problem even though you are in a new environment

Dealing with these issues can lead to:

  • Feeling sad
  • Feeling worried
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling confused
  • Feeling frustrated or angry
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling helpless or stuck
  • Feeling a lack of confidence
  • Feeling fearful of the unknown and unfamiliar
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Problems concentrating
  • Academic performance problems
  • Academic performance problems
  • Physical illnesses

The Counseling Center is available to help students with any of these issues.

What is counseling like? What can I expect?

Many student feel uncomfortable discussing a personal problem with a stranger. The staff at the Counseling Center are trained professionals who are knowledgeable about the issues facing international students.

The First Session:

When you first come to the Counseling Center you will be asked to complete some forms and will then meet with a counselor. This counselor will ask you questions about the problem but also about other areas of your life in order to figure out what kind of counseling service will be most helpful to you. At the end of the intake interview, the counselor will talk with you about what to do next. Most often one of the services at the Counseling Center will be recommended, and your counselor will help you schedule an appointment to return for the actual counseling sessions. The counselor may also tell you about other resources on campus or in the Lexington community that will be of help to you.

The Second Session:

The person you meet with for the intake interview may or may not be the same person you see for counseling. However, once you begin the counseling process (the second session) you will always see the same person. In counseling sessions you can talk about your problems with someone who will listen attentively and who will not judge you. The counselor may ask questions to help you think about the problem a new way and may give suggestions. The goal of counseling sessions is to help you find options and make choices to solve problems and feel better. The counselor may also offer information which you may need to resolve your problems.

Sometimes one counseling session is all that you will need. More often you will meet once a week or every other week until your problem is resolved. Depending on the problem, you may meet with the counselor alone, with your spouse or partner, or with a small group of other students who have similar problems. Individual and couples counseling sessions are 50 minutes. The small group counseling sessions are 1½ hours.

Can anyone find out that I have been to the Counseling Center or what I said to the counselor? What is confidentiality?

Everything you tell the counselor is strictly private and confidential. This means that by law the counselor cannot provide anyone with information about you, including that you are meeting with a counselor, without your written permission. That means that information will NOT go into your academic record and will NOT be given to your parents, your home government, or the US government. The only exceptions to this confidentiality law involve those few times when it is clear that a person's life is in danger, when a child or elderly person is in danger of being harmed by a caregiver, when there is violence (such as shoving, choking, grabbing, hitting, punching, kicking, throwing things at the person, or threats of any of these) between spouses or dating partners who live together, or when the information is required by a court of law (i.e., subpoenaed) within the United States.

OK, I want to talk with a counselor. What do I do now?

To schedule an appointment call (859) 257-8701 or come by the office in 106 Frazee Hall and tell the receptionist you wish to schedule an appointment. If you are in crisis or are so upset that you feel you cannot wait to speak with someone, please tell the receptionist that you need to speak with someone immediately. Have other questions? Please visit our Frequently Asked Questions web page.

What other services does the Counseling Center offer?

More information about available services can be found in the Services section of this website.