Colleges and universities in the United States experienced a 10% increase
in international students between the 2013/2014 and the 2014/2015 academic years. As this population continues to become a larger part of the campus demographic, you must ask yourself, “How is my institution helping international students become a part of campus life?”
Mindfulness of Inclusivity is Key for Welcoming International Students
The opportunity to learn from people of different cultures and countries is enriching and even cathartic. When institutions can welcome international students with open arms it’s to the benefit of everyone who’s a part of that community.
“American institutions can be seen as mini melting pots,”—Katy Hopkins of US News.
The campus community is a wonderful opportunity for members of different cultures and citizens of different countries to come together. However, it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges international students face while on campus. For instance, one should be mindful of cultural differences, thereby preventing any preconceived notions about a particular culture to dictate your work, or the programs you devise for students. Language can also be an obstacle. English may not be many students’ first language, so it’s important to consider how to overcome language difficulties and barriers when communicating.
Technology Plays an Important Role
International students face life in a strange country, far from their families and friends and are often immersed in a language not their own. Although technology cannot fix everything, there are several tools that can help relieve homesickness and aid with language barriers. Chiefly, international students’ ability to communicate with family and friends from home is vital to their academic success. A survey of international students at Michigan State University reported that the most popular applications for communication between countries include:
- and WeChat—a popular application in China that is similar to FaceTime and frequently used among Chinese international students.
International students may find themselves at a disadvantage as far as classroom conversations are concerned. According to the Online Educational Research Journal (OERJ), the tendency for many western institutions to “teach to the test” may adversely affect international students who reportedly reap the most from coursework. Similarly, idiomatic and colloquial language used by instructors and tutors may confuse students of different language proficiencies. Yin Pool, an Algebra instructor at West Texas A&M University, believes international students are too shy to speak in front of others in class, “My experience with international students is they tend to be quieter, they do much better in one-to-one conversations.” The solution that many instructors are pointing to is Smarthinking. Smarthinking addresses Pool’s comments regarding international students and learning, especially one-on-one communication. An app is available for students as well as a full-fledged web page, normally accessed through your institution’s online class medium. Through Smarthinking, students can pose questions, reserve individual tutoring sessions, submit writing assignments for review, and speak with a tutor via a chat option, or by scheduling an in-person meeting. As language is commonly the most difficult obstacle to overcome in helping international students, Smarthinking fills a much-needed, instruction-based gap.
Being a Member of the Campus Community is Crucial
“A sense of belonging is critical to student success. If you feel you don’t belong either because of class or ethnicity, you’re more likely to drop out, ” said Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education With this in mind, we should all consider what our institutions can do to make the experience of an international student equal to that of a “local” student. The ability to access information and communicate with others seamlessly, regardless of background or English-speaking/writing proficiency, is one step towards helping international students be successful from day one. This post was created with help from the following articles:
- The Canyon News -- Technology helps WTAM international students learn www.canyonnews.com/technology-helps-wtamu-international-students-learn/
- MSU Article re: Apps http://statenews.com/article/2015/11/international-students-stay-connected
- US News, Katy Hopkins http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2012/10/10/colleges-encourage-more-international-student-engagement
- University of Melbourne: stat on tech usage among international vs local students https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/39266/NativesReport.pdf
- Online Educational Research Journal: international student difficulties in the classroom https://www.academia.edu/1285731/To_what_extent_can_Technology_Enhanced_Learning_help_universities_support_International_Students_throughout_their_studies