international students

The View From Campus – How Do U.S. Universities Help International Students on Campus?

This month, we hear from Krista McCallum Beatty, Director of the International Students and Scholars Office, at Michigan State University, on the very timely topic of the ways international offices assist overseas students adjust to life on a college campus

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A Top 100 Global University

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

Michigan State University is known worldwide as a top research university, home to renowned scholars and scientists from around the globe and a vibrant and diverse community of undergraduates and graduate students. MSU has a legacy of collaborating with international partners to create new knowledge and explore innovative and practical solutions to the world’s most pressing problems—particularly in the areas of food and agriculture; education and capacity building; global health and nutrition; and water, energy and the environment.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad and grad)?

Michigan State University is ranked in the Top 100 universities globally. Individual academic programs ranked number one include:

  • Supply Chain/Logistics
    • Elementary Teacher Education
    • Higher Education Administration
    • Secondary Teacher Education
    • African History
    • Nuclear Physics
    • Industrial and Organization Psychology
    • Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Agricultural and Applied Economics Departments (Global)

In addition, Michigan State University has over 30 individual academic programs ranked in the Top 25, and many more academic programs ranked in the Top 100.

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

The countries with the most students enrolled at Michigan State are China, India, Korea, Taiwan and Canada.

Q: How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

Michigan State University uses IELTS scores to determine whether an international student whose first language is not English meets the university’s English proficiency requirements. Assessing English proficiency is essential in helping international students to be successful while studying at Michigan State.

Q: What is the role of an international student office on campus?

At Michigan State University, the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) is a comprehensive office, meaning we provide a wide range of support for international students and scholars. Examples of the support OISS provides include new student orientation, immigration advising, assistance with obtaining a driver’s license, individual support for students experiencing personal difficulties, lots of great social activities including trips around Michigan, leadership development programming, and a weekly Coffee Hour, that is a long-standing tradition.

Q: What steps do universities take to help international students feel welcome on campus?

Universities start helping international students feel welcome before they even arrive in the US. For example, at Michigan State new international students complete an online orientation program prior to traveling to the US. Once students are on campus, universities provide an orientation program that includes important information about classes and immigration regulations as well lots of information about student life, other laws and policies, and lots of great opportunities to meet other new students, both international and US. Universities also have many staff committed to helping international students feel welcome and part of the community. Many of these people work in a department commonly known as student affairs or student life. International student offices work very closely with student affairs offices to help international students feel welcome on campus. Examples include opportunities to be involved in student organizations, social events, trips, leadership programs, and campus traditions.

Q: How seriously do U.S institutions value having international students on campus? Give examples.

International students are highly important to colleges and universities. They enrich the campus in so many ways – through their academic work, their leadership, sharing their perspectives which may differ from domestic students, and the many informal and formal ways they contribute to all students learning about the world.

What advice would you give prospective international students considering U.S. colleges to help them understand what life would be like for them in the U.S.?

Do lots of research! The U.S. is a large and diverse country and there are many different colleges and universities to consider. Don’t make your decision based on rankings and cost alone. Those are important factors, but you should also consider the academic programs, size, faculty to student ratio, opportunities to get involved on campus, leadership programs and career development support, living arrangements, and opportunities for research. Whenever possible, try to talk with a current student and a graduate of the university to learn first-hand about their experience.  Alumni are a great resource not only to learn more about the university, but to network after graduation and stay in contact with your alma mater. Michigan State has a large and active alumni association with local chapters all over the world. In addition, the alumni association offers many opportunities for alumni ranging from social activities to career support and networking events to opportunities to mentor current students.

Q: What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges?

International students will face challenges adapting to the US. However, international students face different challenges depending on their backgrounds and experiences. Common challenges include:

  • adjusting to being immersed in an American English language environment 24/7;
    • learning to eat new foods and at the same time find ways to get familiar food from home;
    • making new friends, often from around the world;
    • adjusting to different culture norms.

The best advice I have for meeting these challenges is to be patient. You will be in the US for several years, and with time you will adjust and thrive as a student here. You will be amazed at how much you learn studying in the US not only about your area of study but about the world and about yourself. My absolute favorite part of my job is talking with students about their experiences and listening to them reflect about how they have grown during their time here.

It is the end of the academic year at Michigan State University right now. This is a joyous time on campus when we celebrate our students, especially our international students. The campus is filled with students getting ready to graduate, and the commencement ceremonies are about to begin. Families and friends have travelled from all over the world to celebrate. Students are walking around campus taking photos in their favorite places, while reminiscing about their time here. They will carry their stories of the ups and downs of life as a university student with them the rest of their lives, knowing that they have grown and changed for the better.

The View From Campus: Why life on a U.S. college campus matters

This month we hear from Marty Bennett, award-winning international educator who has directed international student admissions and student services operations at several U.S. colleges and universities, worked with the U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA network or advising centers around the world, and now consults with the British Council on U.S. higher education opportunities for IELTS test takers.

For many years I have asked new international students what has surprised them most about their time in the U.S. so far. One answer repeated more often than any other: “it’s not like what I’ve seen in the movies and on TV!” While there may be some appeal to living the life of a TV celebrity or movie star, this is not how the greater majority of people live.

When it comes to understanding what life will be like on a U.S. college or university campus, most international students have only what they’ve read or seen online. Very few have actually visited U.S. colleges before they enrol. As a result, many international students may rely on what the normal university experience is like in their home countries. To help give perspective on what it’s really like, I’ve been asked to respond to these five questions:

What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the environment at U.S. colleges?

Adjusting to the lack of formality in relationships is perhaps the most difficult challenge to overcome. Not only do U.S. students have very informal connections with each other, but the student – professor relationship can have a really friendly and casual feel. This can be very hard to understand. There are many ways that international students experience a very different classroom environment that they may be used back home. From how well they participate in classroom discussions being a percentage of their grade, to how terms like plagiarism and academic dishonesty are defined will leave new internationals struggling to adapt.

How would you describe the life of an international student on a college campus?

Get used to most people you pass on campus saying “Hello!” “Hi, how are you doing?” and “Whassup?” and then keep on walking without stopping to have a conversation. This behavior is normal. Don’t be offended. In reality, international students at many colleges in the United States have access on campus to services, social events, advising, clubs, and activities that simply do not exist in most other countries.

How seriously do U.S institutions take the responsibility of providing for a great variety of students’ needs and interests while they live in and around campus?

For many colleges, they are the home away from home for their students, especially international students. As a result, U.S. institutions tend to provide a full range of facilities, activities, event, organizations, and services to their students. Unusual offices that help students with everything from resume crafting and interview training, counseling services for mental health concerns, to special interest clubs, to intramural sports, and dozens if not hundreds of service opportunities for students wishing to do volunteer work, U.S. colleges cater to the full range of students’ needs.

What do most international students find most surprising about what happens on campus outside of the classroom?

Other than the friendly “hi’s” and hello’s” they will get from most students on campus, the sheer scope of different events, activities, and clubs available to join is what is most surprising for international students.

What advice would you give international students to best prepare them for life on campus?

Perhaps the best advice I would give to students about coming to the United States for a college or university degree, is twofold: 1) keep an open mind – expect to be surprised by what you encounter, and 2) if at all possible, talk to current international students from your country or region of the world before you go, so you can get the perspective of someone who has been through what you are about to experience. Good luck!

The View From Campus – How Public Universities Make Admissions Decisions

This month’s article is featuring Robert Hardin, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for International Recruitment, at the University of Oregon

About the university

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?
A:
Green, unique, groundbreaking, welcoming, and thoughtful.

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?
A:
The University of Oregon has alumni from around the world that have made an impact, including: Phil Knight (founder and president of Nike), Daniel Wu (actor), Renee James (former president of Intel), Ann Curry (journalist), Ken Kesey (author), and Chuck Palahniuk (author) to name just a few. UO is also known around the world for having successful sports teams and individual athletes.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?
A: The University of Oregon’s top academic programs are: Accounting, Architecture, Education, Psychology, and our sciences, particularly Biology and Physics.

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?
China, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. We are an international university with over 3,200 international students (about 14% of the student body) from 103 different countries.

Q: How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?
IELTS is one of the few ways we allow students to prove English proficiency. It is a helpful and valuable tool for us to determine if a student has the level of English needed to be successful at the University of Oregon.

Making admissions decisions

Q: Do most public universities have set deadlines for international admissions?
A:
Yes, most US public universities have deadlines. However, some deadlines are more flexible than others. At the University of Oregon, we accept applications after the deadline if there are spaces available. However, if you want to apply for scholarships, you will need to meet all posted application deadlines.

Q: What are institutions looking for in an application essay/statement of purpose?
A: We want to get to know a little about the applicant. The essay is your opportunity to tell us something about yourself other than your grades and test scores.

Q: What needs to be in a letter of recommendation that my teachers/professors are asked to write?
A:
Teacher letters of recommendation should go beyond what grade you received in a class. We want to know more about how you performed as a student. For example, a letter of recommendation from your maths teacher talking about the hard work and effort it took to earn your grade in the class will help us better understand your true academic potential.

Q: How important are test scores in university admissions decisions?
A:
In the US, there is no standard practice for admission decisions, so each university sets different expectations. However, the vast majority of US universities value your class grades more than your test scores or other factors.

Q: What are the most important factors public universities use to determine admissibility of international students?
A:
Grades are usually the factor that public universities consider the most important.  At the University of Oregon, our research shows that high school grades are the best predictor of success for new college students. Test scores are often the second most important factor. After test scores and grades, it is common for public universities to use other factors such as grade trend, strength of curriculum, extracurricular activities, essay, and teacher recommendations.

The View From Campus – How international students can best prepare themselves for jobs (2)

In a previous post, Christopher Connor, Assistant Dean of Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, shared with some of the resources many U.S. colleges offer their students to prepare them for work. This week we continue our interview, in which he gives us more information on the topic.  

Q: When students finish their studies, what is legally available to students who wish to work?
A: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than three months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to work for one year.

Q: What is STEM OPT and how can international students qualify for it?
A: STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization available to F-1 students who graduated with U.S. degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. It is important for students to double check with programs they are applying to whether their program is eligible for STEM OPT as it may not always be clear.

Q: Talk about the importance of a resume and cover letter in the job/internship search for international students?
A: Having a well thought out, clear concise resume and cover letter that appropriately showcases and quantifies their abilities is extremely important. The goal is to be recognized with a combination of translatable skills that will differentiate from other students you are in competition with.

Q: When there are jobs/internship fairs on campus, what tips would you suggest students take on board to improve their chances of finding a position?
A: It is important for students to keep in mind that the job search is many cases a relationship building process. Let the company representative talk (but listen) and pick pieces of “common ground” knowledge out of the conversation.. Use the “common ground” to your advantage. Listening is a key ingredient to these interactions.

Q: In your experience, how can international students make themselves standout most when beginning the job search?
A: International students should leverage any resources or events that are made available to them to help promote professional and personal growth. Students should attend job fairs and networking events well before they are ready to actively begin their job search.

Q: Do you feel that prospective employers value what international students can offer their companies?
A: Employers are looking to hire the best qualified candidates for potions and there is a known skills gap for countless positions in the US. Given the gap, International students help bridge that gap by offering many benefits to companies.

Q: Interviews can make or break an international student’s chances of securing their dream job. What advice would you give them as they prepare for this important step?
A: Practice, practice, practice. Make sure to leverage free services such as mock interviews. The more practice you have, the better you will do when it matters most.

Q: If students who are looking to develop a plan B for work after graduation (if not in the U.S.), what would you suggest would be good first step?
A: Keep your options opened. This includes looking not only in the US but in other countries for opportunities including your home country. Starting your career somewhere can help you obtain valuable experience to increase your future career mobility.

The View From Campus – How international students can best prepare themselves for jobs (1)

For many prospective international students considering the United States for higher education, the opportunities for work experience in their field of study is often an important consideration. This month we take a hard look at how U.S. colleges and universities are preparing their international students for work. Christopher Connor, Assistant Dean of Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, shares what is possible for international students in the United States.

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?
A: Premier global innovative research university

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?
A: Students and faculty from across the globe come to our school to conduct high-impact original research in science and engineering, to become leaders in engineering disciplines and related fields.
Our School also offers the SEAS 360 Professional Development program, a unique cost free professional development training for our undergraduate and graduate students to better prepare them for the workforce.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?
A: – Industrial Engineering
– Civil Engineering
– Chemical Engineering
– Aerospace Engineering
– Computer Science/Computer Engineering

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?
A: India, China, Iran, Taiwan, and S. Korea.

Q: How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?
A: Our university accepts IELTS for English Language proficiency and requires a minimum 6.5 with no sub score below 6.0. Students meeting this criteria have been successful in completing their graduate studies.

International student work-related questions

Q: What resources are generally available on-campus for students to help prepare them for work?

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. have Career Services offices that offer assistance with:

Power or Soft Skill Development – Many colleges and universities and in some cases individual academic schools/programs offer their students cost-free workshops to develop soft skills or what employers have not deemed “power skills.” In some cases students may even be able to obtain an additional credential such as a certificate or a micro badge to include on their resume.

Career Decision Making – Self assessment tools to examine your values, personality, interests and abilities and making suggestions on which type of careers you might be best suited for.

Resume and Cover Letter Writing – career services offices help students write their resumes and cover letters. Additionally, they conduct workshops and provide one-on-one sessions during which they critique resumes and cover letters.

Interviewing – Campus career offices usually sponsor workshops to help students learn how to present themselves well in a job interview, from what to wear, to what questions to expect.

Recruiting – Career services offices host job fairs during which employers visit the campus to recruit students who are about to graduate. The offices sometimes maintain student files containing letters of recommendation from faculty, which they can then forward to potential employers and graduate schools upon the student’s request.

Networking – Career services can also  help students find networking events, where they can connect with professionals in their potential career.

Internships – Many academic units may have their own separate office that handles internships but career services offices also often work hand-in-hand with companies seeking college interns and internship advisers.

Q: As it stands now, what do international students in the U.S. have available to them to work in their field during studies?
A: US colleges and universities may have funding research, teaching  or student assistantship positions available. Additionally, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary employment authorization for F-1 visa non-immigrant foreign students in the United States while enrolled in a college-level degree program. CPT permission is granted through a college or universities International Students Office or equivalent upon approval of advisor, based on the regulations established by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.


Why Work Part-time When Studying Abroad (Part 2)

In a previous blog post on the topic, we identified two benefits of picking up a part-time job while at university: improving language ability and getting to know more people.

Here are some more reasons why working part-time can be good for you.    

Becoming culturally aware

When living abroad, especially in a country whose culture is quite different to yours, there could be umpteen ways in which your words or actions may upset those around you. This is because what is seen as normal behaviour in your country may be considered inappropriate in another society.

One of the quickest ways to improve cultural awareness is by being in a cosmopolitan work environment, where you get to observe people from other cultures first-hand. Often work stress brings out the worst in people, highlighting differences in how cultures cope with tricky situations. You get to know why different people behave the way they do. In the long run, this will enable you to respond appropriately to cultural differences by being more sensitive to them.

Now, there’s no doubt that most universities too have diverse international student communities. However, students often confine themselves to small groups which make them feel comfortable. The workplace, therefore, is a much better place to learn about cultures, as it forces you to work with all kinds of people, even those whose behaviour you might find odd or annoying at first.

Getting introduced to the world of work

Working part-time is a great way of getting to know the world of work and the challenges it throws up, before formally beginning your career. For one thing, you become aware of various do’s and don’ts when working for a business. As well as this, you also learn to deal with office politics, which is an absolute must to survive as an employee. And if you don’t happen to enjoy certain kinds of part-time work, at least you’d know what to avoid later on in life. 

Overall, part-time work experience is invaluable, as it helps you understand yourself as well as the workplace better. So, when such opportunities come your way, make sure you grab them with both hands.    

Why Work Part-time When Studying Abroad (Part 1)

Looking for a part-time job is one of the very first tasks that international students take on once they set foot on foreign soil. For many, it generates a handy income that can go some way towards helping them meet their expenses. Some use it to fund activities which they think are beyond their limited student budget.

However, if you thought money was the only motive behind this, think again. Even those with the means to put themselves through college comfortably apply for part-time vacancies. Wondering why?

Here are some pluses of working part-time as a university student.  

Improving language skills

As a foreign student, the chances are you may not be fluent in the local language, whether it is English, German, French, or Polish. Being at the workplace presents the ideal opportunity to hone your language skills, as it is usually full of native speakers.

There’s enough evidence to suggest that putting yourself in real-life situations and forcing yourself to communicate is perhaps the best way to learn a foreign language that you barely know. When you are thrown in at the deep end, you may struggle initially but will very quickly learn to cope. That way, you learn a language faster than you would ever manage in a classroom. 

Meeting new people

Undergraduate or postgraduate students make up a sizeable proportion of part-timers employed by businesses such as pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, and call centres. So, if you’re feeling all lonely in a new country, your workplace may be the best place to start looking for like-minded people. As many among them may be facing the very same challenges as you, it becomes easier to connect with one another. What’s more, mates from work are usually more fun, as you tend to forget academic pressures in their company.

And don’t be surprised if some of these friendships last a lifetime. Many international students continue staying in touch with their foreign friends even years after returning to their country.

We’ll be back soon with more on the benefits of working part-time while at university.                     

6 Things to Pack When Going Abroad to Study (Part 2)

 

Picking up from where we left off in a previous post, let’s look at us some more essential items that would help an international student settle in quicker at a foreign university. 

 

3. Formal wear

Being a graduate or postgraduate student is more than just coping with academic demands. Thankfully, it also offers opportunities to socialise, helping students find the right balance between work and play.

Depending on where you’re studying, some of the campus events you get invited to may have a strict dress code, such as dark suit for men or evening dress for women. Formal clothing doesn’t come cheap, so it’s sensible to buy something appropriate beforehand.

 

4. Over-the-counter medicine

University life is a whirlwind of activities, and a lot of it is fun. That said, the exertions of such a busy life can leave you exhausted, so be prepared to deal with minor ailments. Most people have a list of go-to medicines that they take in order to fight minor illnesses such as the flu or cold. Such medication may be hard to find in foreign pharmacies, especially if they happen to be herbal, so carry adequate supplies along.

 

5. Raincoat, anorak, or travel umbrella

No matter which part of the world you choose to study in, the possibility of rain can never be waved aside. Unless you don’t mind being caught out by unexpected showers, get yourself a raincoat that’ll protect you from the elements. If you prefer something shorter, anoraks may just be the thing for you. And for those who do not like the idea of walking around wrapped in plastic, a quality travel umbrella should do.

 

6. Universal plug adaptor

There are several gadgets out there which are designed to ease academic work, and all of them are powered by electricity. The trouble is pretty much every region across the globe has a different shaped power outlet. Voltage requirements vary too. A universal plug adaptor can be a lifesaver in such situations, as it lets you charge multiple electronics simultaneously irrespective of the design of the power outlet.

 

All in all, studying abroad does throw up challenges, so do not forget to take along a positive attitude as well. Good luck!

Six Things to Pack When Going Abroad to Study (Part 1)

 

Being a foreign student can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. It’s one exhilarating journey, along which you make new friendships, explore new places, and experience different ways of life. And at the end of it all, you earn yourself a valuable degree that opens doors for you.

 

Prepared for the journey?

As exciting as it all sounds, it isn’t uncommon for students to feel a tad worried on the eve of departure. The thing is, stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new things can appear daunting. And the best way to avoid a jittery start is by simply being well-prepared for life in a foreign land.

In this post, you’ll read about some essential things you should pack before catching that international flight to your study destination.

 

What to pack?

1. Daypack

Student life abroad is hectic and packed with activities, many of which entail travelling short distances. For example, if you live off campus, you’ll need to travel to university or the place where you work part-time every other day. Obviously, right from day one, you’ll need something reliable to carry your bare essentials in (e.g. handhelds, water bottle, uniform, books).

Invest in a decent daypack, the smallest in the backpack family that can hold most items you’ll need over a day. And remember to choose a design that fits your needs, not something that just looks great.

 

2. Portable charger

The twenty-first century student has a range of electronic devices at their disposal to help them achieve academic success, be it a smart notebook, tablet, or portable printer. Now, the thing with devices is, they all run on batteries that need frequent recharging, depending on the extent of use.

Imagine you are in a packed lecture hall, and you notice your smart notebook’s battery dwindling. All you could possibly do is watch the device die in frustration, as you’ll have a better chance of finding a date for the weekend in such a place than an empty wall socket. Such a scenario is all too common on campus, so a portable charger is a must, especially if you use a lot of technology to study.

 

We’ll be back with some more must-haves for students hoping to study abroad.

The View From Campus – Participating in New International Student Orientation

Image courtesy of Jirka Matousek via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

As the new academic year begins at many U.S. colleges and universities this month, we hear from Dr. Patriece Campbell, Director of International Programs, Millersville University (PA), on the very timely topic of the value of participating in new international student orientation on U.S. college campuses.

 

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A: Comprehensive, Safe, Affordable, Supportive, Suburban

 

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

A: Millersville University is recognized for offering a variety of programs with a great campus location and high return on investment

 

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

A: – Undergrad-Applied Engineering & Technology Management, Biology, Business, Meteorology, Education, Music Business Technology, Education

– Graduate – Education, Clinical Psychology, Innovation and Technology

 

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

A: China, Saudi Arabia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia

 

Q: How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

A: We currently accept the IELTS at both the graduate and undergraduate level. We look at the overall score.  The requirement for undergraduate admissions is 6.0 and the requirement for graduate admissions is 6.5.  If a student does not have sufficient scores/English proficiency then we can offer conditional admission through our English Language Institute.

 

The Importance of International Student Orientation

Q: After students have gotten their visas to come to the United States, what next steps should they take to get ready?

A: It is important for international students to become as familiar as possible with the institution. Since most often, international students may not have the opportunity to visit campus prior to arrival, They are encouraged to keep in touch with their admissions counselor or international office regarding pre-arrival information and updates. They will be available to assist you with information needed as it relates to what to bring etc. Ask about special programs that might be available, such as peer mentors, host families, faculty/staff mentor, and even free airport pickup.

 

Q: What steps do universities take to help international students feel welcome on campus?

A: Many students create a series of communication to help guide the students to programs and activities (and people) that will serve as resources and be a huge impact on their life on campus. Each semester will have a variety of programming through the International Office and Student Engagement department to encourage student involvement. PARTICIPATE!

 

Stay tuned for the next “The View from Campus” post, where Dr. Campbell speaks about the role of international student orientation, how important it is for new international student and shares advice for prospective students on student life in the USA.

Pin It on Pinterest