It’s that time of year again in Student Affairs. Students recently arrived to campus with hopes, aspirations, and maybe even a fresh start in their young adult lives. Some of us #SApros have experienced the wondrous and ever so magical trickle effect. Students will approach your office, unsure of who you are. If you’re me, they ask you your major and what class year you are. Once they get past my baby face, I have genuine and congruent conversations that help students develop and prepare to be leaders on campus.
For some international students arriving on campus, it is a complete fresh start. They leave their home country and travel thousands of miles away from their family and everything they have ever known. On top of that, they are culture shocked and could be learning to adapt to a new language. Just when you think it is over for an international student, let’s talk about all the hoops they have jump through to study and hopefully work a bit in college:
Wouldn’t it make sense to have international student-leaders to help other international students transition into college and campus life?
It would make perfect sense to have international student-leaders 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 were 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.
An international student leader could offer wellness programs to help international students with the new time zone and adjusting their sleep patterns to cater to their wellness and health on campus. For many of my international students, the dining hall is extremely overwhelming. All these new spices and items they are not used to. Learning how to portion their meals but also experience culture. Sometimes the dining hall can even create sadness and homesickness. These kind of things most American college students know like the back of their hand. But a buffet-style dinner time is not the norm for an international student.
Encourage your international students to be active leaders on campus and support first-year international students transitioning to campus life.
The truth is, they are still college students. International or not, they still want to connect, experience culture, and integrate into the community. They chose your campus for several reasons. Early trickle effect conversations can be the stepping stone international students need to move forward with their development and leadership on campus.
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. We have to train international students to become leaders on campus and take a step back. Try to remember what it was like for them to be new on campus and how they can support the next class of international students to experience leadership and clubs 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.
The most important part of their arrival on campus is the support and opportunities you provide.
Help international students actively engage on campus through leadership, clubs, and other resources on campus. Support these students during their stay, open your doors, and continue to smile as they trickle into your office. They will eventually come speak with you, whether to practice English, or discuss something on a much deeper level. From their first month to their departure, if support these students with a congruent and genuine approach, we cannot fail.
This post is part of our #SAinternational series. We will hear from #SApros who work in international student related services. We’ll also hear from those those who have had the fortunate opportunity to work overseas or have a global perspective to higher education. For more info, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Alison Scheide on Study Abroad Programs