Even though most international students prefer to arrive in the fall, some choose to register during the middle of the enrollment season. These students might not be so sure about studying abroad long term, and enrolling mid-season allows them to “test the water.” Some are repeating a grade level and taking this as an opportunity to adjust to the brand-new environment and to improve their English skills. Others might find this to be more convenient, as they might have plans for the upcoming school years but want to take this chance to learn and explore.
We don’t differentiate students who enroll in the fall versus those who register in the spring as much as we should. These students have far less time to adjust compared to others, and the difference does matter. Leaving one’s native country and adapting to somewhere entirely new is always tricky but doing so while trying to be academically successful in one semester can be even harder. These students face challenges including overcoming culture shock, making friends, and establishing study techniques.
Here are a few tips on how to help students overcome the difficulties:
Assign Peer Mentors
The primary purpose is to provide the student someone to talk to whenever they have questions, either academic or cultural. This mentor should ideally be an upperclassman and can be from the same country of origin or American per each student’s request. If the mentor is of the same nationality, they can help the student overcome shared experiences of adjusting to a new culture and identify solutions to these issues. A mentor with an American cultural background, however, can help the student better understand cultural differences and master English as a second language. Although, providing additional resources to aid student adjustment while aboard is a top priority, please don’t forget to ask for the student’s opinion before assigning a mentor. We want the students to be able to get help when needed, but not to feel burdened by another required activity over the semester.
Regular Check-ins with Teachers
Proactively reaching out to teachers is not common among international students. International students tend to be shy. Even when the students are aware of an existing issue or difficulty, it’s very likely that the students would spend more time at the library alone trying to figure it out, rather than talking to their teachers about it. Thus, setting up regular teacher check-ins can be very helpful, as this provides the student with one-on-one time with a teacher in a private and exclusive environment. Students are more likely to open up and share in this way. As a part of our Happy Student Initiative, Cambridge provides weekly in-person check-ins with our staff and an online curriculum focusing on the practical needs of international students. Hear our students, staff, and school partners share their thoughts on our new initiative.
Encourage Students to Step out of the Comfort Zone
It’s human nature to get cozy in our comfort zone. Chinese students, especially newcomers, are often found hanging out with only fellow Chinese students, or hopping between classrooms, dorms, and libraries alone. Encourage your international students to try several sports and extracurricular activities, which is an excellent way to relax and bond with others. Just as international students need to adapt to new learning environments, our collective processes also require careful reflection and change to empower students both in and out of the classroom.
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