Research Project: International Students and the Orientation Process

International students

“International students” by UNE Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Orientation is one of the most important resources for a first-year college student. However, in her article, “Taking My Parents to College,” Jennine Capó Crucet argues how college orientation for first-generation students does not fully guide them through their transition period. There is a striking similarity between international and first-generation students regarding college orientation. Due to international students’ presence in the U.S., colleges need to evaluate how the orientation methods provided for these students affect their performance and transition to college.

International students form a significant part of the United States’ student population. In his article, “Challenges of International Students in a University Setting” KiMar D. Gartman states that, between 2011 and 2012, they contributed 21.8 billion dollars to the country’s wealth (1). Additionally, Zi Yan and Patricia Sendall, the writers of the article “First Year Experience: How we can Better Assist First-Year International Students in Higher Education,” mention that 886,052 international students attended United States’ colleges and universities in 2014 (36). Besides their contributions to the country’s economy, these types of students also help improve higher education. According to Gartman, “international students contribute to America’s scientific and technical research and bring international perspectives into U.S. classrooms, helping prepare American undergraduates for global careers” (“Economic and Social Impact” qtd. in Gartman 1). This quote from the Institute of International Education shows that foreign students nourish American classrooms with their international input. In such an interconnected era, preparedness for global careers is crucial for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Despite the many benefits that international students present for the United States, they still face several challenges during their transition. In his article, Gartman seeks to reveal what those challenges are and how universities could better address them. He expresses that the five major areas where international students struggle are social life, cultural adaptation, language proficiency, academics, and finances (1). Out of those five areas, social life, cultural adaptation, and language proficiency constituted 68% of the students’ concerns (Gartman 3). Since international students do not speak English as their primary language, language proficiency takes place as one of the most significant challenges for them. However, this linguistic struggle leads to social and cultural challenges. Due to their concern/fear/shyness of speaking a secondary language, international students have difficulty socializing with their American peers, leading to cultural misunderstandings and possibly stereotypes. Gartman and other scholars argue that orientation and other activities oriented towards international students are the solutions to these students’ challenges.

Although a better orientation program for international students seems to be the solution for their problems, many universities have not implemented such programs. In her essay, Crucet expresses that “while [her] college had done an excellent job recruiting [her], [she] had no road map for what [she] was supposed to do once [she] made it to campus” (3). Many international students experience the situation portrayed by Crucet’s story. Colleges and universities advertise themselves and attract international students, but they do not fully meet their needs regarding assistance in the transition process. Transitions can be tough, especially when students leave family and friends to move into a completely new environment. Higher education institutions have decided to tackle the struggles that transitions bring with “college orientation.” For this reason, it is crucial to explore the effect (if any) that orientation programs have on international students’ academic performance and transition to college.

As stated before, most U.S. universities do not have special orientation programs directed towards international students. However, some institutions have developed these kinds of programs to assist their students’ needs better. In his article, “Rolling Out the Welcome Mat,” Michael Polito presents the procedures that the Fordham University in New York City implemented to assist their Fall 2012 international students during their transition. Polito discusses how the university created “The Global Transition Program,” which “offered a full week of events designed to help [international] students adapt to anything that might be unfamiliar, from academic expectations to the metropolis in which Fordham sits” (30). This program implemented at Fordham University focused on international students’ cultural and social adaptation, which are two of the biggest challenges for them. The result: fewer students dropped courses in Fall 2012 than any other Fall semesters, and zero international students were identified in an English course above their level (Polito 31). “The Global Transition Program” used by Fordham University proved that a specialized orientation program for international students helps them have a smoother transition and face the different struggles that this presents.

With Fordham University’s example, it would be accurate to conclude that an orientation program directed towards international students helps their transition to college. However, the effect of such a program on their academic achievement must be observed. In their article, Yan and Sendall study a First-Year Experience (FYE) course implemented in a Catholic Liberal Arts college that focuses on international students. The study showed that this orientation course helped the students “learn a lot about college, feel more comfortable communicating with their professors, adjust to American culture and to the American classroom, and to make more friends and understand more about themselves” (Yan & Sendall 39). In general, this specialized program also helped international students have a better transition to the college environment. However, “students reported that they did not feel that the FYE course helped their academic performance directly” (Yan & Sendall 43). In other words, although an orientation program highly benefited international students’ transition, their academic performance was not improved according to this study. Dr. Meltem A. Güvendir conducted a similar study in her article, “The Relation of an International Student Center’s Orientation Training Sessions with International Students’ Achievement and Integration to University.” Overall, Güvendir came to the same conclusions as Yan and Sendall: international students who participated in more specialized orientation sessions were more integrated into the university (Güvendir 852). Nonetheless, as Yan and Sendall concluded in their study, students’ participation in these orientations did not have a noticeable impact on their GPAs (Güvendir 852).

After the previous discussion, it is precise to state that orientation programs play a significant role in international students’ transitions. According to Yan and Sendall’s and Güvendir’s study, these types of orientations do not seem to have a direct effect on the student’s academic performance. However, all the researchers agree that specialized orientation programs help improve international students’ transition and integration to college. Although these orientations do not directly affect the students’ GPAs, they do improve their academic performance as they help lower the dropout rates. Finally, due to the improvement in international students’ integration, these programs may have a positive long-term effect on their academics.

 

Works Cited

Capó Crucet, Jennine. “Taking My Parents to College”. The New York Times, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/opinion/sunday/taking-my-parents-to-college.html.

Gartman, KiMar D. “Challenges of International Students in a University Setting.” Journal of Adult Education, vol. 45, no. 2, 2016, pp. 1-7. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/challenges-international-students-university/docview/1870958282/se-2?accountid=11226.

Güvendir, Meltem A. “The Relation of an International Student Center’s Orientation Training Sessions with International Students’ Achievement and Integration to University.” Journal of International Students, vol. 8, no. 2, 2018, pp. 843-860. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/relation-international-student-centers/docview/2067965125/se-2?accountid=11226, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1250385.

Polito, Michael. “Rolling Out the Welcome Mat.” BizEd, vol. 12, no. 3, May 2013, pp. 30–31. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=a9h&AN=87467412&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Yan, Zi, and Patricia Sendall. “First Year Experience: How we can Better Assist First-Year International Students in Higher Education.” Journal of International Students, vol. 6, no. 1, 2016, pp. 35-51. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/first-year-experience-how-we-can-better-assist/docview/1783942543/se-2?accountid=11226.

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