Advising international students has a lot of factors that one must keep in mind (cultural norms, immigration law, etc) that makes it very different from normal student advising. Working with international students has taught me a lot about advising and I’m so grateful for it. Here is what I’ve learned so far:
Understand the cultural context that your student is coming from and what is ‘normal’ in their culture.
In some countries, it is rude to look people directly in the eyes as it may be a sign of disrespect. However, here in the States, maintaining eye contact throughout a conversation is normal and encouraged. Keeping simple things like this in mind is crucial for interacting with international students successfully. Researching your students’ countries, their norms and practices is beneficial for both parties involved.
Read and keep up-to-date on immigration rules and regulations.
Immigration laws are always changing! Knowledge of these laws is integral to being a Designated School Official (DSO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO). When in doubt, always refer to the Code of Federal Regulations and the NAFSA’s Adviser Manual . Asking a more experienced colleague in your office can help, especially with gray or complicated situations in relation to immigration laws, and/or your regional ombudsman in your NAFSA region for more help. Also, watch the webinars on SEVIS updates from the Study in the States website to be aware of changes in the SEVIS system.
Get to know the student on a personal level.
During my time as a Resident Assistant as an undergraduate, I had a chance to get know, and grow with, 32 other college students. Learning 32 people’s names was difficult at first, but I found ways to bond with them by learning about the things they do, what they are studying, etc. Sometimes when I’m meeting international students, I will say hello (or other phrases) in their native language. It lets them know that they are welcomed and to show that I care.
Be familiar with local and international events in the news. Follow up on them if it directly affects your student population.
The work that international educators do reaches far beyond just the university campus. It is imperative that we have knowledge of worldwide events affecting both us and our students. There are two great sources from NAFSA that deal with this issue specifically that are worth looking into. The link for one is here and the other is a PDF. Discussing crisis management strategies with your staff in relation to this is also good to have in place.
Encourage your students to share their culture with others.
One way to do this is through educational programming for the campus community to enjoy. Even just asking about a student’s culture or home country in a conversation is another great way of doing this. As a naturally curious and inquisitive person, I do this all the time since I enjoy learning about different cultures.
Be kind and understanding.
Coming to a foreign country is scary, yet exhilarating. Your students may be nervous about how their English sounds and may be hesitant at first to speak. Understand that they will be experiencing culture shock on top of a lot of other feelings when they first arrive. Showing a little kindness goes a long way and they will appreciate it.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Anne Scheideler Sweet on Academic Advising