Working in Student Affairs can be quite rewarding. Students arrive to campus with high hopes and ambitions. Some students trickle into your office and want to learn about leadership and how they can be the next generation on campus supporting their peers. I have recently started thinking about a new concept and noticed I have never had an international student-leader on an orientation team.
Wouldn’t that make sense? It would make perfect sense to have an international student-leader welcoming fellow international students to campus and answering questions that are probably not on the top of a typical student’s list. It would be even more helpful if there a panel of international student leaders answering questions for other international students and their families. This could really help international students choose the school that best fits their academic and social needs. It might even help have an international Resident Assistant. This student leader could offer wellness programs about adjusting to this time zone and even concepts such as meal portions. These kind of things may seem very normal to a typical American college student, but a buffet-style dinner time is not the norm for an international student.
Many international students are so excited to integrate, connect, and experience culture. Early conversations with international students about their passions can go a long way. These are crucial first moments in the United States. Challenging them to approach American students, introduce themselves, and initiate a conversation could be the push they really need to make the most of their experience in the United States. Internationally-geared programs can help ease the transition into campus life and answer some burning questions. International students are already so far away from home and may have to deal with homesickness and slight hints of depression. We have to train our student-leaders to think outside of the box and put themselves in their shoes. Try to think about how it really feels to be an international student in America and the kind of support you would want on campus.
As I sit here and write about issues that I think are normal to expect with international students arriving to your campus, there is always room to grow. International students change every year and have different expectations and concerns. At my campus it is a never-ending cycle. New students arrive every five months and depart within a year. The most important piece of their arrival is support. Support these students during their stay, open your doors, and continue to smile in the hallway as they pass you. They will eventually come speak with you, whether it is to practice their English, or discuss something on a much deeper level. As long as we continue to support these students with a congruent and genuine approach, we cannot fail.
Check out this author’s previous “levels”!