Helping International Students Adjust

11/19/2014

To compete in our highly diverse global economy, today’s college students must effectively demonstrate intercultural skills in order to communicate with people and navigate within different environments. One way to gain cultural competencies is through international study abroad. As demonstrated over the past several years, international student enrollment has continuously increased in the United States and is projected to continue. This influx of international students has created complex matrixes of cultural interactions directly impacting academic success, retention, health, safety and overall student satisfaction.

But adjusting to not only a new school but also a new national culture is very demanding. One way to help international students adapt to and engage with their new surroundings and peers is through the development of cultural knowledge and skills. Of great use in this is the Cultural Orientations Approach (COA), which allows international students to understand their own cultural preferences so that they can understand others’, and it gives them the tools they need to gain cultural competence. The Cultural Navigator platform, which is based on the principles of the COA, also offers extensive background on dozens of countries and their national cultures, which international students – whether they are US-bound or heading somewhere else – can leverage.

Prospective international students should also consider attending institutions that provide cultural bridge services (for example, pre-departure cultural instruction, post-arrival cross-cultural workshops or classes), some of which may be offered for course credit.

Leveraging the COA and Cultural Navigator in tandem with any bridge services offered by their academic institutions facilitates international students’ building of cross-cultural skills, and helps them make the initial transition and adjust to their new atmosphere.

Diana Anderson