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Specific Challenges for International Students and How to Overcome Them

When it comes to starting a career at a new college, all students have their own sets of challenges. International students, however, face a unique set. Not only are they beginning a new semester at an American university, but they are beginning this journey in an entirely new country. Here are a few of the challenges international students may face when they arrive on your campus.

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  • Culture shock. Coming to the United States from another country can be quite difficult for international students. They have to become accustomed to things like what foods we eat, how we dress, how to address their fellow students and professors, etc. Also, students may find themselves with more or less structure or leisure time than they would in their home countries, which can be quite an adjustment. These may seem like minor issues, but culture shock is real.
     
  • Academics. The academic world can be very different in the U.S. as well. Grades may be calculated differently here than back home, and they may not be used to the idea of having homework every day to complete after classes have finished.  There is also a larger focus on general education requirements in the U.S. than there are in other countries, so international students may be confused by having to take Gen. Ed. courses that are so far removed from what their major actually is.
     
  • Classroom structure. International students may not be used to having discussions in class, as in many countries, the professor leads lectures and students simply listen, only speaking when spoken to or asked a specific question. This means that international students may not be comfortable speaking up in classroom discussions and may need some extra encouragement to participate. Some professors may be more or less formal than what they are used to in their home country as well, meaning the student has to figure out the appropriate way to adjust to each individual class.
     
  • Language barriers. Even though international students have to pass an English proficiency exam to study in the U.S., this does not always mean adjusting to life in a completely English-speaking world will be easy. Students come to your campus from different parts of the country and will have differing accents, slang terms, and speak at different speeds.  Over time, this should get easier and easier for your international students, but there is certainly an adjustment period.
     
  • Homesickness. International students are usually excited to be here, but that does not mean they do not miss friends, family, and their way of life back home. For some, this can make the rest of the adjustments all the more difficult.

While you may not be able to necessarily relieve these issues for international students, understanding some of their unique challenges is key in being able to help them adjust to student life here in the U.S. more easily, making your university a more welcoming place for them to spend their semester. This, in turn, means that they are more likely to recommend your university to their peers back home.

How to Leverage Campus Groups to Recruit and Retain International Students at Your University

As you well know, students are looking at the schools they're going to apply to right about now. Applications will need to be submitted soon, and decisions have to be made about what school offers them the best bang for their buck. 

Some of the best academic minds, sports players and community leaders come from diverse backgrounds. That's why it's vital for universities to recruit and retain international students in a sustainable and effective way. So, while the various offices on campus are busy preparing recruitment materials and events, we have some tips on how to appeal to international students and their families.

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1. Partner with campus groups and offices that regularly reach out to international students.

Consider campus life offices, undergraduate experience initiatives, campus religious groups, graduate student organizations, sports teams, etc., and find a way to collaborate with these groups in order to provide prospective and current students with more information in their native languages. This simple gesture will show these students that your university campus leaders care about them and want them to succeed on your campus.

2. Think ahead to various student events and programs that could be excellent venues for international student involvement.

Is there a specific group on campus that welcomes students, offers food at its events, holds concerts or intramural sporting events? Reach out to these groups and offer to help host a special meal in celebration of these international students, or organize a special sports tournament these students can get involved in. Bonus points if the sporting event is one that is often played in these students' home countries!

3. Communicate on their terms.
 

This may seem like the obvious tip from a language services provider, but having documents and materials for these students in their languages is one of the most effective ways to recruit and retain international students. Make sure there is a web presence about your campus and its offerings in the languages your campus tends to hear the most. Students are constantly searching online for information and ways to get involved. If they can find it in their languages, they are much more apt to respond to your calls to action and recruitment methods. On the same note, leverage social media BIG time. If the number of Facebook users worldwide were a country, it would form the largest population in the world. Do a little research to see where these students hang out online, and prepare messages in their languages that will "speak" to them. Tip! Be careful not to use automated tools that can result in translations riddled with errors.

If you have any special announcements, social media posts or informational materials you'd like to send out to students or their parents, feel free to request a consultation with us. We'd be thrilled to help your campus further recruit and retain international students!