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How to Take Care of Your International Students: International Student Care Guide

March 28, 2018
3 months, 3 weeks ago

Oh, international students! Those precious creatures we all want to adopt into our universities and colleges. They require exclusive attention and constant TLC, and as Generation Z-ers, they want to feel special. So, how do you give someone exclusive attention when that someone is…a mix of cultures?

Let’s be positive. Your geographic location can work in your favour, right? For example, if your school is located in Montreal, Paris, London, Seoul, Melbourne, Berlin, Tokyo, Boston, Munich, or Vancouver, you’ve hit the jackpot since these are the most popular cities where international students want to set up their tent (or at least, this was the case last year, according to the QS Best Student Cities 2017 index).

You can’t put all your hopes in the hands of geography, though. Being based in a multicultural, bilingual, and student-centred city will definitely do the trick and draw young people to study there. But let’s be honest: you don’t want internationals to study in your city. You want them to study at your institution!

Here’s a little 101 guide of tried-and-tested ways on how to ensure a welcoming stay for your international students from start to finish (regardless of your GPS coordinates).

Everything happens before they arrive

It goes without saying: having an all-inclusive international student enrolment page on your website, along with digital brochures in different languages, is a must-have. How else would students find out about your institution and apply to study there? To this, add virtual reality tours of your campus and show off your library, study rooms, cafeteria, etc. Why not get inspired by New Zealand’s Otago University’s virtual tour?

But don’t stop there. Design a welcome app where international students can access all the necessary information at any time, and include everything from a pre-departure checklist and airport guide to an elaborate campus map and FAQ sections. Combine the power of digital strategy with good ol’ human touch every step of the way. Take the app we produced and designed for the University of New England in Australia as an example:

UNE Welcome App

Remember this before you meet international students face to face: don’t take them for granted, and don’t treat them as one-time visitors. Think about how important your input will be for their future. You might be nurturing world leaders, Nobel Prize winners, and ambitious inventors who will open your eyes like you’ve opened theirs from the moment you sent them that acceptance letter.

Be there when they’re there

It’s probably their first time in the country, they’re often jet lagged, and they are definitely vulnerable. When an international student steps out of the plane, train, or bus, you should be the first entity they see. Send uni representatives, staff members, and/or student ambassadors to welcome them. Top up your game and wear branded T-shirts while you’re at it, and make a whole day of it like the guys from the University of Bristol, UK, did:

Open Day Ambassadors

Whether it’s a peer-mentoring service to improve academic performance through peer-assisted study sessions or a more social-gathering type of community, a global network with national and international students is also a great way to make them feel supported right from the beginning. Check out Griffith Mates network from Griffith University, Australia:

Griffith Mate

Keep your fingers on the pulse

Your institution’s support to its international students needs to be an ongoing service. You are their mentor, and they should feel confident that you can provide them with what they need, including:

  • Assistance and continuous guidance to help them achieve academic potential (workshops, extracurricular programmes, study tips)
  • Info on visa and health care services
  • Clubs and organisations that represent their interest on campus (language group discussions, networks where they can explore their passion)
  • Career advice (especially if they want to remain in their country of study after graduation)

As soon as your prospective students become current students, maximise their presence. Have them share their journey and uni experience, and let them become your partners in promoting your brand. You can even dedicate a social profile on Facebook and/or Instagram and show testimonials of current students to internationals. Here’s an example of a student testimonial from Murdoch University in Australia:

Murdoch WhyStudyHere

If you are a small school with a tight budget, we feel you. But there’s no need to spend a lot of money to make your international students feel taken care of. Some small colleges in the US host gatherings within their facilities where students bring traditional dishes from their country, make presentations about their home countries, and get to know each other. Why not follow in the footsteps of Wesley College in the US and host an annual dinner at the President’s house?

Wesley President's Dinner

In essence, remember that these young people have travelled from far away to study at your institution. They’ve probably placed a bigger trust in you than your national students. Their families, their friends, and their whole support system is hundreds of thousands of miles away. They only have you. No pressure.

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