Immigrant students face challenges in the classroom

STATEWIDE - It's the one thing foreign students have in common: no matter where they're from, they're all navigating a new way of life.

The transition into the American public school system is made a little easier in Austin at International High School.

"Language is the biggest problem. Communication. And you know without communication, without asking questions you lose the keys of success," said high school senior Khoa Doan, originally from Vietnam.

It’s, by no means, a measure of intelligence.

"My first language is Pashto, I actually speak five languages, English is one," said Afghan national and high school junior Fatima Mizakahil. 

If English isn’t one of those the American dream becomes more inaccessible.

"My first three months I was struggling. I was basically mute," said Doan.

Language aside, getting used to the different customs is jarring. It's re-learning how to learn.

"If you have an English class, that teacher comes to your class. But here it is different. If you have an English class, you go to his class," said Jordanian national and high school sophomore Odi Alachiq. 

"Here it’s like, one class takes 90 minutes and in my country it was just 25 minutes. We did not learn anything that much faster," said Mizakahil.

But giving up the familiar and going headfirst into the unknown is part of the compromise.

"They understand the fact that they’re here to be better, to succeed. So they build on that," said Internation High School math teacher Elias Barahona.

Because what they get in return, as Mizakahil said, is an America as good as its promise.

"I’m so thankful that I’m here in America. Now I have a lot of freedom. Now whatever job I want, I can get it."