How Are Your International Students Adjusting?
Vol. 17 No. 2
As November approaches, this is a good time to evaluate how your international students are acclimating to their new experiences. Students should be settled into their routine and aware of elements that are uncomfortable or hindering their progress.
Faculty and staff should also have had a chance to observe behaviors and be aware of any concerns or warning signs. If changes are needed, your team will have time to make adjustments to students’ schedules, home lives, or mentors before mid-semester testing and your holiday break.
The question now is: How do you begin your international student evaluations?
Data Collecting. All great investigations begin with collecting facts. Your international student program team should be involved in continuous conversations about how your students are progressing in their studies. This team should be made up of faculty and staff dedicated to the success of your visiting students. They must consistently engage with your international students and be able to make non-biased judgments about academic futures.
Mid-to-late October is the optimal time for your team to generate the first round of reports about international students. Depending on your school’s mission, these can be formal reports shared with host and visiting students’ families. They could also be informal reports that are talking points for counselors and key admission personnel engaging with international students. Any reports generated should be maintained in student files.
Formal Check-Ins. Many schools struggle with maintaining communications with international students. However, this is a critical aspect, not only for the success of your international students, but also to remain SEVP-compliant.
Remember, your school becomes a student’s legal guardian once they arrive on U.S. soil. As such, your team needs to be aware of any lifestyle changes, academic adjustments, emotional struggles or triumphs, and plans to leave the area for vacation or home visits. This may seem like a lot of information to capture and maintain per student, but with weekly or bi-weekly check-ins, it’s actually fairly easy to capture.
With feedback in hand from your international team, communicate with your students about points that require reflection and/or praise. Here are some questions and areas of conversation you’ll want to focus on:
- Ask your students about their social interactions. Have they formed relationships with domestic students or are they making friends with only other international students?
- What do they want to leave behind with the school and the community from their time studying here? Ask them to not focus on awards and scholarships. Instead, ask them to focus on activities that are more impactful to school community, such as volunteerism or a special display of their unique talents.
- How are they living? Is their host family incorporating elements that remind them of home into daily or weekly routines, such as food and religious practices? Are they finding a healthy balance between study and cultural submersion? Are they finding English easier to understand and speak? Are they sleeping enough and at peace in their host homes?
- What is their favorite American “thing” they’ve been exposed to thus far? A new favorite food, type of music, place, activity, etc.?
- What are their goals? Are they be planning a trip home for the holidays? Are they considering continuing their studies through the spring semester? Have they started to think about college?
Reflection. With student and team insights in hand, take the time to review how perceptions match or differ. If there seems to be a large difference between your team’s understanding of the student’s transition and the student’s feelings, you might need to have a deeper conversation with your team and possibly involve the host family.
Always keep complete notes with the student’s file. These don’t need to be part of the student’s transcript. However, they may be needed for future SEVIS investigations. This includes all weekly or bi-weekly check-ins, quarterly evaluations, team notes, and any requested correspondence with the student, family, and host family.
If you’re looking to bolster your international student program, ISM has several new services designed for schools with programs at various stages. Contact our Advisory Services department to learn about consultations that may assist your school in deepening your international student experiences. You can also view upcoming Webinars and workshops.
Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 15 No. 6 Building an International Student Program Team
The Source for Private School News Vol. 13 No. 3 International Recruitment Strategies
International Program Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 1 Ok, You’ve Enrolled International Students: Now What?