How International Students Benefit From Pre-Departure Preparation


International students benefit in many ways from traveling to the US for their tertiary education, and the academic institutions benefit from increased diversity. The cultural transition can be very hard, but with the proper preparation, the experience can be made much smoother, so that students can better focus on their academics.

This preparation involves:

  • Mandatory, for-credit pre-departure transitional courses. These courses should last around four weeks and include culture, language, academic and professional preparation. Here the Cultural Navigator can be of great use, especially the Cultural Orientations Indicator and Country Comparison Reports.
  • Mandatory on-campus courses. These courses, which are given after the student arrives, include the topics of diversity, leadership, management and communications.
  • Continued support from university faculty and administration.

According Tara Madden-Dent, PhD, who studies the cultural adjustment of Asian international undergraduate students, those who attended preparatory courses reported having:

  • More cultural knowledge, awareness and sensitivity
  • More self-confidence to converse and engage with US locals
  • More culturally accurate expectations of initial interaction with US locals
  • An ability to formulate cross-cultural management strategies to bridge cultural differences that they perceived as challenges.

Moving to a new culture is challenging for anyone, but international students have to contend with not only their psychological discomfort with change, but also the different academic expectations. Pre- and post-departure cultural trainings are necessary to help international students learn about the different cultural orientations in US academic institutions, and to help them bridge cultural gaps so that they can better focus on their school work. Programs that include the unique resources that are part of the Cultural Navigator are the best way to realize the results that international students – and their academic institutions – need.