The following is the fifth blog of a six-part weekly series highlighting model practices of International Student Offices.
In our ongoing series to help increase the level of internationalization at your school, I have been looking at model practices that high performing universities in the field of international education possess and exhibit. We’ve talked about the international office having a concise vision statement and a clear mission statement that include global learning goals. We’ve also covered the value of having a designated Senior International Officer and having a solid infrastructure on campus that promotes internationalization.
Now, we will look at four ways to increase the level of international student care and outreach.
1. A Dedicated and Diverse Orientation Team
While international students come to a foreign country filled with excitement, they also will have a myriad of new experiences, some of which could be quite challenging. Having an onboarding process that includes a dedicated orientation team with people from across the campus and community (not just using your international office staff) can go a long way in helping international students feel less apprehensive and overwhelmed. Having a team of support personnel participate at orientation shows inbound students there are many people who care about them and are there to help.
2. Support Structures Built into the Operations
Meaningful support structures tailored to international students’ needs also will make them feel included and valued. Some examples are:
- Multicultural dining options (adjusting to the American diet can be a big challenge for many international students)
- Transportation to specialized shopping and grocery areas in and around the community
- International student classes taught by professors from other countries to help students adapt to American culture and academic system
- Hold a Monthly Coffee Hour or monthly workshops on topics of interest for international students
- Holiday programming that recognizes and celebrates a variety of religions/cultures
Giving international students multiple avenues of support and communication will help them feel included and create opportunities for them to share their culture as well.
3. Offer Specialized Health Insurance Plans
Let’s dispel two myths about international students, 1) they are unaware the U.S. health care system is expensive and, 2) they do not want health insurance while they are in the United States. This isn’t true.
International students know healthcare in the U.S. is expensive and they want health insurance, but they are often confused about the concepts of deductibles and coinsurance, which they don’t have in their home countries.
Health insurance plans specialized for international students can simplify and protect students from typical upfront health costs and high deductibles common within the American health care system. Having an insurance plan tailored specifically for international students (with no or very low deductibles and minimal copays) can help them afford to stay in school. Imagine being sick in a foreign country and not knowing how or where to get medical help, especially if you bought an inadequate plan or if you were saddled with a plan that required considerable out-of-pocket contributions. Easy-to-understand health insurance takes the stress out of health care insurance.
4. Removal of Negative Administrative Policies and Processes
Administrative processes and procedures can have an unintended negative impact on international students. For example, policies like early move-in fees, holiday housing fees, and reduced campus facility hours during holidays, can put international students in a bind. These policies can marginalize them and, in the worst-case scenarios, underscore a feeling of isolation they may have while other students are celebrating holidays with family. This can exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness that international students may already have.
Being sensitive to these policies can foster ideas for creating programs for social togetherness among international students. For instance, during the holidays, one dining hall could become a gathering place for all students spending the break on campus can create new relationships that may not have existed during the normal semester. This turns a negative policy into a social opportunity.
What’s your international support structure experience at your institution? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you believe are the most important things you’ve done for the success of internationalization efforts at your school!
Next time, we will conclude our series of Five Model Practices for Student Internationalization, with How to Create a Support Network for International Faculty to Improve Overall Experience.
Author: Jeff Foot
Jeff Foot is the Executive Director at LewerMark and is responsible for developing new client relationships. He joined LewerMark after spending 17 years at Northwest Missouri State University where he served as Director of Admissions and International Affairs. While at the university he also served as International Affairs Director and Data Specialist for the Intercultural International Center. He has a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Missouri, a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from NMSU and a Bachelor of Arts Sociology from the University of New Brunswick in Canada. Foot also led the English as a Second Language Program at Byuk Sung College in South Korea from 1998 to 2000.