Musing on International Student Advising and Cultural Adjustment

As I’ve mentioned before, work has been a bit busy. I’m an international student advisor at a mid-sized science and engineering school in Massachusetts, and during the past two-three weeks all of our new students arrived.

I work with graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world, helping with immigration and tax questions, cultural adjustment concerns, and international programming as well as religious diversity programming. The beginning of the school year is the busiest—orientations and lots of questions from all our new students, organizing events and programs, registering all the students in various databases. This year we had our biggest international freshmen class in the history of the college, 115 students… with another 150+ new graduate students. That means our school has approximately 650+ internationals this year. That’s a lot of people (at least for a small office).

I really enjoy working with international students. I like being able to make connections and help them with their tough questions. Although I’m often critiqued by family for not being “American enough” I feel that working with international students reiterates how much I have to think about American culture. Especially with the new students, we need to be able to answer their questions– everything from what is involved in signing a lease and opening a bank account and getting a social security number to answering questions on US classroom culture, explaining local, regional and national history, and musings on why Americans call football soccer.

One of the most interesting sessions (in my opinion) that we have for new students is a program on cultural adjustment and the phases of cultural shock. As part of the program we show a 13 minute youtube video that was taped during a Columbia Business School graduate international orientation a few years ago. The Israeli student presenter does a wonderful job talking about his own experiences, and putting cultural adjustment into a perspective. So I wanted to share.

Part I:

Part II:

There are more parts but you can follow the links on youtube.

Working with the students reminds me that P and a lot of our close friends were (and some still are) international students, and I know I would want someone at their schools to take good care of them and help them with their questions. So I aim to help the best I can to be there for my students as well.

So I guess that is my way of saying, schools back in session!

2 responses to “Musing on International Student Advising and Cultural Adjustment

  1. I watched all those videos – they are really good! I didn’t meet my husband until he’d been in American for almost 3 years, so I didn’t see his adjustment period, but I’ve heard it was difficult for him. Seeing my BIL go through it, though, you should know how very helpful you are for these students. My BIL’s school is quite large, but they don’t provide many opportunities for their incoming international students like you guys do, and I’m always wondering what it must be like for those who don’t live in a house with a born and bred American who they can call at any time if they have any questions, or who will take them to the bank and help them open their bank account. BIL’s school is really falling down on the job, and I only know that because of reading about how great YOU are!

  2. I too missed Abhi’s transition period, meeting him after he had already been in America for a year or two. I would love to find out more about how you ended up working in International Education and what it’s like. You don’t necessarily have to post on it but I’d love to be able to talk to you about it sometime.

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