Helping International Students Transition
Vol. 16 No. 8
At Summer Institute this year, ISM inaugurated a workshop covering international student topics—International Enrollment: Knowing Your Why and Managing Your Risk. Led by Jacqui Yamada, a seasoned Director of International Programs and former Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) from the Rocky Hill School in Rhode Island, attendees not only explored SEVIS compliance issues, but also what it means to incorporate international programs into the overall student experience and school culture.
One of the most important aspects of a strong international student program is the transition process. This topic led to some interesting conversations during the class. Although most attendees had strong international student programs, not many knew how to assist with their international students’ transitions.
Attending school in the United States is remarkably different from the visiting student’s life at home—and the school does play a role in helping the student become accustomed to their new surroundings. Orientation activities provide opportunities to set expectations for your international students, and introduce them to the people who will play key roles along their educational journey.
Your international student orientation is another chance for you to review your school’s mission, culture, and policies with your new students. This is when your student handbook (translated into their native language) should be reviewed. Cover your mission and policies, as well as expected study habits, available school activities, school violations and consequences, counselors, and student mentors with whom each student will be paired.
It’s important that these policies are delivered in person in addition to being outlined in the written handbook. Schools that rely on international brokers to introduce students to school policies typically have more issues than those that clearly communicate expectations.
This is also the time you can touch on deeper student matters, such as why they are there, academic goals, social goals, how they measure living well, and what contributions to the school community mean to them. (These factors should also be reviewed by your faculty and staff when assessing how well your international students are adjusting.) Although this isn’t the time to expect clear answers on these deeper subjects, scratching the surface sets a healthy pace for your program and your international students.
The Principal Designated School Official (PDOS) should schedule monthly reviews with each student once the school year begins. Monthly check-ins allow for a clear measurement of adjustment as well as how well the student is acclimating to your school’s culture.
Additional ISM resources:
International Program Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 1 OK, You’ve Enrolled International Students, Now What?
The Source for Advancement Vol. 12 No. 3 Developing Your International Students' Networking Skills