International Educator - November/December 2014 - 46

FOREIGN STUDENT AFFAIRS

dent. Their resident adviser gave them her
paper to use as a reference. Response from
international student: 'Someone told me it's
perfectly fine to do this.'" Discussion follows.
"The foreign student's culture cannot be
taken as an excuse for failure," Grassi says.
"We have to set up an environment so everyone knows what is expected, and how to
handle it when expectations are not met."
The style of faculty in the United States
and abroad can differ, sometimes causing misunderstandings. If international students are
having a problem, their teacher may, in a casual way, suggest an office visit. But Chia-Yen
Lin, director of USD's international students
and scholars program, says it's important to
be more direct and set up a specific time to
come; this is more in line with what they experience at home. "Otherwise, the student may
never show up and an opportunity is lost to
deal with the issue at an early stage," she says.
A unique approach was taken at VCU in
August 2013 when a faculty learning community was formed to develop knowledge,
skills, methods, and programs to support
the academic success and wellness of its international students. This group of 16 met
every two weeks, gathering information,
sharing, listening to speakers, and searching the literature for appropriate material.
The second semester was devoted to developing strategies and resources within their
departments and sharing at new faculty orientations and online.

10 Practical Tips for Faculty
1

Be proactive in communicating with international students. Even a short
conversation after class about the student's home country can help the student feel more comfortable and can build rapport. Do your best to learn how
to pronounce students' names, even if it takes a few attempts.

2

Normalize "office hours" on the first day of class as most international students are reluctant to visit faculty offices unless they are compelled to do so.
Keep in mind that in many parts of the world, professors and students rarely
interact directly so some international students may seem initially distant or
avoidant.

3

Check-in with students after assigning group work and offer suggestions.
Clear group/individual expectations are also helpful as international students
may not be accustomed to cooperating in an academic environment.

4

Talk to students individually about participation and encourage students to
share their unique perspectives; ask questions like "how would this issue be
perceived in your country?" to inject an international perspective on global
issues.

5

Be conscious of discussions/topics that presume a nuanced understanding
of American history and politics. International students will often nod along
in agreement although they may not follow the discussion.

6

Recognize that language proficiency is not usually their primary barrier to
academic success; many international students struggle more with academic
writing and the volume of reading assigned. Help international students to
prioritize readings and refer students to campus resources for more help.

7

Clarify your expectations on class policies including attendance requirements, homework submissions, etc. If you notice an international student
missing a deadline or arriving late to class consistently, use these situations
as teachable moments and emphasize the importance of promptness and
deadlines in the United States. Remember that international students are going through a process of cultural adjustment. Classroom culture is only one of
the many ways they have to confront cultural differences every day.

8

Provide examples of successful coursework. Often international student
struggle to understand what qualifies as an "A" paper or presentation. Providing samples of "A" work can help international students to track their progress and to identify areas where they need to improve.

9

Understand the difference between degree-seeking and exchange students.
Exchange students make up the minority of international students at most
U.S. colleges and universities are less likely to be familiar with U.S. academic
culture and may experience more initial challenges.

International Offices
Support Teachers
Typically colleges and universities have various departments that handle each piece of
the international student experience. But
at VCU they have integrated all these services into International Student and Scholar
Programs: academic, immigration, and student/community engagement. "It's one-stop
shopping for international students and faculty," Hill says. She attributes the 3.7 percent
retention increase from 2008 to 2013 in part
to this integrated approach.
To deal with the increasing numbers of
international students, some universities have
46  

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR N O V + D E C .14

10 Collaborate with your office of international students and scholars. Unsure

if an issue with one of your students reflects a cultural difference? Working directly with the international student office is a great way to handle challenging
interactions with students. Keep in mind that international students may have
to make academic decisions to protect their immigration status. In these cases,
it's best to advise students to seek help in the international student office.

-University of San Diego, Office of International Students and Scholars



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