International writers to American universities can have a varied experience, but one constant is the impact of the “secret language” of American idioms and academic jargon. Marshall Adams is a doctoral student from Ghana studying at Antioch New England’s Environmental Science program. He talked with WEX recently and shared a few insights to the ways American English has challenged him.

“There are many cultural pieces – so many. I am still discovering them as I’m still in the process of learning more within my scholarship. Probably the biggest surprise, and that one that I found is the use of certain terminologies.”

We asked him for examples of language that he’s come across. He quickly offered: “My favorite English words or phrases are numerous but the one that first comes to mind is “wicked problems.” Marshall shared this example about  a term used in his field: “wicked problems mean complex or problematic issues in real-life context. Besides complexity, wicked problems are also characterized by uncertainty. Today’s environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation, and illegal logging are complex interrelated problems that exhibit unique features of a ‘wicked problem’.”

All of us at WEX congratulate Marshall on his researching and writing successes. We look forward to helping other international writers succeed at American universities.