International students face many challenges. You have to adjust to a new culture, language, food and academic demands. Another challenge can be public speaking and in-class participation. International students come from many countries with different cultural backgrounds, and might be used to different ways of learning. One of the values in U.S. education is active in-class participation, and many professors expect you to be a part of the discussion in order to get a good grade. We’ve all been there, first day of class and you have to introduce yourself and come up with a fun fact about your life. It is all pretty harmless and easy, yet your palms are getting sweaty and your heart is racing faster as your turn to speak approaches. It is completely normal and understandable to struggle with in-class participation, especially if you are still adjusting to the language and not used to this kind of learning environment. There are still ways for you to get used to be a part of the discussion, and get all the A’s you deserve.
- You are not the only one who feels nervous.
Many students, both international and American, get nervous about speaking in a classroom or an auditorium. It is completely normal to feel a bit scared when raising your hand in the 100-person lecture class. But in the end of the day, what are the worst things that can happen to you? You stumble your words, but believe me in a month no one in the classroom will remember it.
- Feel free to reach out to your professor and talk about your challenges.
Often time participation is a mandatory factor in your success in a particular class, so feel free to approach your professor and see if they can give you some advice. All of us struggle when we are put out of our comfort zone, and your teacher might have a couple of good tips to help you feel more confident to participate in the discussion.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Remember that your opinion matters and you have a unique perspective that you can share with your classmates. Think of the sentence, idea or question in your head, take a deep breath and just go for it. And even if you stumble your words or forget a word or two in the midst of the sentence, it is okay and it happens to everyone. So take another breath, finish the sentence and move on. The next day you will try again and will do great!
- It’s all about practice.
Speaking in a classroom for the first time on the first day is scary. Sharing your opinion for the 20th time with the classmates you see three times a week and pretty familiar with is much easier. Sometimes you just have to start and the more you do it, the easier it gets!