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How Does Working With International Students Differ?

Although they're students just the same, there are extra steps and cultural considerations when working with international students. One expert weighs in.

Eileen Antalek, Ed.D.Eileen Antalek, EdD
Associate Director
Educational Directions, Inc.

A good consultant must be sensitive to the culture of their prospective clients, not only so they can help these students find schools that will meet their needs, but also so that they can help them learn a little about American culture as they head off to school. 

To give an example, when I worked at Clark University, I worked with students from many countries who were shocked when their professors gave them poor grades on papers when the students failed to follow MLA or APA guidelines. I had one young man argue with me for some time that “everyone knows” that he did not “invent” the research to which he was referring. After much discussion, I was able to convey to him that in his particular Eastern culture, it is accepted that when one conveys an idea in writing that they have read it extensively, and that their writing is a compilation of ideas; in Western culture, however, it is expected that the writer will pay respect to that literature or research by citing the original source. Neither way is more or less correct—it is just the practice of the culture. Of course, different Eastern cultures handle these questions differently! Thus, a good consultant needs to understand the culture of their students and make sure that a prospective international student understands they may have to bridge gaps as they come up, be willing to ask questions if they are unsure, and adapt to situations that might seem to run counterintuitive to the educational standards to which they have become accustomed. 

Of course, as a consultant, I want to ensure that international students do not feel intimidated—they should feel free to ask questions! After all, they may actually be on the right track but may not understand the exact nature of the problem as it is stated to them. In order to do this, a good consultant must be willing to listen and learn, particularly when dealing with a culture with which they are unfamiliar! 

For more advice specific to students outside the US, visit our International Students section.

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