The integration of international students is key to ensure their domestic counterparts benefit fully from having them on campus, education stakeholders have heard.
Domestic students benefit from the exposure to the outside world when international students enrol on their courses, a Canadian student advisory firm has reminded, which in turn helps them become more competitive in the global job market.
The students develop interest in global affairs including politics, history, geography and pressing issues such as climate change. They also boost their global view and intercultural awareness, EduCulture said at a recent workshop on internationalisation of higher education in Africa.
Besides increased awareness of international socio-economic systems, they learn new languages and traditions, and increase their knowledge of foreign cultures, Karen Strang and Melanie McVeety, founders of the company added.
“International students have many benefits besides what we normally see or observe, they have an important impact on domestic students helping them develop intercultural competency skills through active engagement,” they noted.
In addition, they get to understand and view their own societies differently using the eyes of the foreign learners, who will always bring an independent view of their new home.
As such it is always important for institutions to help the foreigners adjust and integrate in their new setting as quickly as possible, so as to help them not only focus on education, and integrate with their new colleagues.
Adjustment to a new culture, and style of student life, professor and student relations, class participation, testing and examination procedures, money and payment systems and rules and taxes are some of the challenges that international students face when they enrol in a foreign university but which can be eased by university administrators, the pair noted.
“Access to healthcare and other sources of medical support staying safe in a foreign country, adhering to new rules and regulations plus new methods of communication, for students coming from places such as China where social media is heavily regulated by the state also pose a challenge,” McVeety observed.
It was therefore important to take care of their social and emotional well-being, helping them make friends, build networks and generally engage with the broader host community, she counselled.
“As an institution you ought to consider a more integrated approach to student engagement, and incorporate cross-cultural awareness and skills-building into the global classroom,” said Strang,
“Consider activities to integrate domestic and international students”
“You should also encourage group work and assignments amongst international and domestic students, consider activities to integrate domestic and international students, such re-inventing and expanding peer-mentoring,” she added.
The institutions should as well ‘re-conceive’ student orientation as an ongoing, ‘non-linear’ process, and strategise on how to address barriers to participation for international students, especially at the beginning of semester.