Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are some ways to get international students involved in the greater student body?
A: Begin with faculty and staff education. Help them to understand the barriers that English and cultures as well as being a shy teenager present, and give them tips to encourage participation in the classroom, on the fields, in the dorms and in the community.
Beginning with orientation, set expectations for all students about involvement in all aspects of the community: residential life, service, jobs on campus, academics, athletics and more. Communicate clearly how, where and when to participate in activities at school in written form so that the student can re-visit the information as needed.
Q: How do you best combat stereotypes about international students among students and faculty? What are some key points to teach your school community to promote a healthier space for all students?
A: Combatting stereotypes is central to an education: the curriculum, leadership should be diverse and celebrate diversity, helping all students to have their voices heard. Educators need to learn what schools of the sending countries are like, to help bridge international students into American schooling. Here, international students can be the teachers. Understand “I am not my country.” Avoid western-centrism, be cognizant of idioms in and out of the classroom.
Q: How do you combat the desire of many international students to socialize only with their international peers or speak their native language?
A: This is a false assumption. International students are eager to socialize with American students but the universal fear is that they will be laughed at because of their English skills.
At the same time, use of their native language(s) at certain times e.g. mealtimes, can be a necessary relief from the stress of doing everything in a language not their own.
Schools need to establish appropriate policies for speaking a non-English language – such as English only - whenever in a setting with people who don’t speak the same language (class, dining hall, sports and clubs). Train American students to reach out and help international students master enough English to be comfortable using it socially. Work on cultivating skills for speaking English throughout the school day.
Q: What should you do for international students that are experiencing bullying on campus?
A: Bullying is bullying across any culture. However, there may be issues within certain foreign cultures that are culturally acceptable back home, but which constitute bullying in the US. Certain cultures, for examples, have an acceptable hierarchical structure in secondary schools that allow for such customs as younger students waiting on/running errands for older students that is not acceptable here. This should be dealt with sensitively and expeditiously during orientation.
Q: How can I internationalize my campus as a whole?
A: Globalization is cool. Establish internationalism at the top – school leadership. The curriculum, school trips, exchanges, clubs, presentations, assemblies, sports, service: all are ways to inject global issues and understanding into the school community.
- The American Council on Education's Model for Comprehensive Internationalization is one resource to consult.
- Talk to your local community about your students and brainstorm ways in which local stores and organizations can help. Community Service? Can the local Chinese take-out host a special night and/or deliver to the dorms?
- Encourage international students to organize campus-wide events to share their culture and unique holidays and celebrations with their fellow students. Start an international cultures club. Host an international dinner for the school, and if appropriate, the community. Celebrate each holiday.
- Consider special training for your school’s counselors/therapists for working with students that are coming from conflict areas. For more information, check out this UNICEF study on Children and Conflict Zones.
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