Support for Students Studying Abroad

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Support for Bachelor Students Studying in the US

If you or anyone in your family is planning on studying abroad, there’s a lot to learn about how education works in other countries and what resources are available for students. Not every country has the same standards for pastoral care for students, and the resources available to see to the supervision and support of international students will vary when that happens. If you understand the various kinds of support you can expect from different offices at a school, it is easier to make sure you understand all the resources available at a school before you apply for enrollment.

  • 1. The International Student Office

    Colleges and universities seeking international student enrollment universally create a student affairs office dedicated to their support. In countries like the United States where students are largely independent in their educational careers, this office serves as a hub of information about everything from immigration issues affecting students to English language skill building and support, academic study support and tutoring, and even academic advising. This office will coordinate with you from the time you have applied through your acceptance, the establishment of housing arrangements, and your enrollment. Some offices have course requirements for international students that range from introductions to local culture and customs to language support services. Students with proficiency in English may be able to skip these even where they are required. Many international student offices also take charge of facilitating communication between the student, the family back home, and the university. This helps to make sure everyone understands when students working abroad have social and academic needs that must be supported by making sure that families and students alike are aware of the university’s deadlines and requirements, immigration paperwork deadlines, and other important aspects of the process of enrolling and pursuing the degree. These communication arrangements can vary from authorized communications about student progress to providing a secondary channel of communication for wellness check-ins if the student becomes uncommunicative with either the university or family back home. Local privacy laws and educational policies will affect the exact kinds of facilitation the office can provide and the information it discloses to families, but students and families who work with the office have less difficulty staying informed and ahead of the requirements of enrollment.

  • 2. Academic Advising and Curricular Support

    The international student office is not the only location for curricular support and care for international students. While it is an invaluable resource, academic advising that is based in an individual department or program of study is also vital. Finding the right adviser means more than just following the assignment at the university, because there are different advisers in roles that fill different needs for students. Understanding how these roles and needs interact will help you understand which advisers to build a relationship with as you progress through a program. Undergraduate advisers in major programs will often be your best resource for information about internships, degree requirements, electives that will further your goals, and other bits of information specific to the area of study.Academic advisers at the college or university level will make sure that all general education requirements and major requirements are fulfilled. They will also have more information about career opportunities, further education like certifications and advanced degrees, and the next steps students can take after graduation.Advisers provided by the international student office who can help students choose activities, elective classes, and other opportunities that will support their study goals by reinforcing professional and academic skills.

  • 3. Campus Living Offices

    When it comes to day-to-day pastoral care for students that includes supervision of living spaces, access to dining options, and the ability to handle the basic tasks of living like laundry, studying, and recreational activities, American universities tend to put that responsibility on campus living offices. Students who opt to live off campus will find some social programming options on campus that cater to them, but they will also enjoy a lot more independence and less oversight than on-campus students. Campus living offices and residence life departments provide this programming along with student government options that allow students to gain experience with parliamentary procedures and budget allocations. They provide conduct guidelines that are designed to promote safety and security, as well as staff that helps to ensure building access is limited to residents and their guests. Most of these on-campus living situations also provide students with access to some academic support services, whether it is through informal student-led study groups hosted by the facility or more formal programs that bring in university tutors for special sessions with residents. They also provide students with the opportunity to explore new experiences and new cultures, to find out about career opportunities related to their major, and to provide ways to unwind and meet others who share their interests.

  • 4. Student-led Organizations

    Along with the official avenues for care and support, international students can also find support and help from fellow students. Most larger universities have registered student organizations that provide outreach and support. This includes: Mixers where international and local students can share experiences and meet one anotherOutreach services to help with orientation and adjustment to a new countryMentoring between experienced international students and new enrolleesStudy roundtables for general education subjects that feature support for international studentsCultural programming by international students for others All these important social supports help to make the experience of international students at colleges and universities more successful by ensuring they feel integrated into the university community. That means more than just involving them, it also means giving them the chance to lead the programming.

  • 5. Work Study and Internship Opportunities

    While there are often strict limits on international students’ ability to work while studying abroad, there are often exceptions for experiential learning opportunities like internships and on-campus work-study opportunities. Very often, the international student office and individual degree programs will work together to make sure international students are represented in opportunities to access teaching assistant positions, laboratory assistant roles, research assistance positions, and other roles that are integral to specializing in an area of study.

  • 6. Language Acquisition Support

    The last area of pastoral care that international students may need help with is language acquisition. This is handled differently at different schools, depending on the student’s home country, proficiency on English aptitude tests, and the program of study. Some colleges and universities require students to be proficient in the language before they will consider an application. For others, there will likely be a referral to an English language program. For some schools, especially in the US, this means requiring a six- to nine-month stay at a university with a dedicated language program, like the CELCIS program for international students at Western Michigan University, which services not only that university but also a network of schools without their own institutes for teaching English as a foreign language. Often, students will complete CELCIS and then transfer to the university where they will complete a course of study without a break in enrollment. Similar programs exist around the country for students who need them. Schools that host these programs have an advantage for students who need them, because they often provide support for students who are in the programs while allowing them to begin work on their degree studies. Outside of the United States, attitudes toward English language proficiencies vary, with some English-speaking countries requiring all students be proficient in the language before enrolling, with no support offered to help bridge the gap. It’s important to do your research and understand what the requirements for language acquisition are before you enroll. The same goes for English-speaking students enrolling in universities in countries that primarily speak another language. Immersive language programs might be needed prior to embarking on a course of study, and understanding the options for these programs and the best way to coordinate between them and your degree-granting university is vital.

  • 7. Pastoral Care for Students

    While many countries have a unified concept of pastoral care for students with a clear line of responsibility and oversight, this is not universal. Countries like the United States split those care responsibilities among a variety of offices, and students need to work with a variety of resources to access all the support they need. Generally speaking, professional oversight and guidance within degree programs tends to be very proactive in higher-profile universities, but integrated housing and social oversight tends to be nonexistent in the US and similarly structured countries. Instead, those areas are either left to the student’s own purview or covered by offices dedicated solely to housing and social programming. Putting together a plan that sees to the needs of an international student means learning to coordinate between all these resources as needed, and that is different for each student. Factors that affect it include the student’s major course of study and career goals for after graduation, the country of origin the student hails from, and the language gap between the student’s native tongue and the language of an international education destination. For more information about the resources available at specific schools around the world, join SchoolApply, where you can research destination schools and apply for them all from one interface.

Levels Explained

  • Bachelor's

    A bachelor's degree (also called a first degree or undergraduate degree) is attained after receiving a post-secondary (high school) education and generally spans four years. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as bachelor or undergraduate students. A bachelor's degree is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university.

  • Master's

    A master’s degree (or postgraduate or graduate education) involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees. This degree is preceded by a bachelor’s degree and generally takes two years to complete. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as master's, or grad students.

  • Pathway

    Bachelor’s and master’s pathway programs are designed for international students who need additional English language and academic preparation before continuing to a degree program at a university. The purpose of these programs are to give students the confidence and skills needed to succeed in college.