What are the common problems faced by international students who arrive on university campuses in USA?
MBA Crystal Ball invited Abbey Rice, associate director of MBA global programs at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business to share her views on the topic. While some of the points are related to the Rice MBA program and Rice University, Abbey shares plenty that’s relevant for international students at other universities too.
3 Top problems international students face in USA
by Abbey Rice
This article includes perspectives from the Rice University Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS).
1. Immigration/Visa Status and Work Authorization (Employment After Graduation) * #1 for MBA
Problem: From the time they are accepted into the program, many international students are already worried about the options for internships and post-MBA job opportunity in the United States. The laws and processes change frequently so it can be difficult for even the administration to keep up. Students are responsible to understand their visa status and what it takes to obtain that status.
We work with them to provide an opportunity through the 2-year MBA program for an internship (CPT) and a 12 month post-grad opportunity (OPT). Students are only eligible for either of these if they land an internship or job. H-1B is only an option, not through the MBA, if they find an employer for sponsorship.
Many times students confuse federal law and Rice policy. They understand that there is a lot riding on the fact that they have to land those opportunities to even have the option to work here in the U.S. during their time here, and after.
Additionally, many students come into issues with different visa that may not allow them to participate in authorized work during the program. This is something that is typically understood too late in the process.
Suggestions: Take the time before you even apply to schools in the U.S. to understand all of the stipulations involved with working/studying on your particular visa. If possible speak to people you know who have gone through the process of studying in a foreign country.
Network from the very beginning and begin researching particular companies that sponsor international students in the industry of your focus. Once you’re accepted into the program immediately utilize all of the resources and departments at your fingertips.
Although the student is responsible for their visa status and understanding that, there are many offices and people on campus who want to help make the transition and process as smooth as possible.
READ, READ, READ. Read through all documents and guidelines given to you throughout the program. There are reasons these documents have been carefully put together and it’s important students understand and acknowledge what they are signing/agreeing to.
2. Language Barriers & Communication Difficulties
Problem: Many international students, although scoring high on the TOEFL exam, arrive to their programs under prepared in comparison to their classmates to perform at high level in writing and communication skills. This is due to English not being their first language.
It becomes extremely intimidating and can cause insecurities within the student early on in the program. Often times international students do not succeed at a high level in their communication courses and/or do not step up in leadership positions within group oral presentations.
Suggestions: Practice before you arrive. Challenge yourself to watch American movies and TV shows without subtitles, along with listening to English speaking music. Translate passages from an article in a newspaper.
Once arrived, befriend American students and surround yourself with them often. Hanging out with your peers most like you will not allow you to grow, especially with your communication skills. Many times your University will provide opportunities for Diction Coaching and/or communication workshops prior to school starting. Always opt into these.
Lastly, even If your communication program does not have one, adopt a mentor and have them coach you through presentations and have them peer review your writing. Practice makes perfect.
3. Understanding Plagiarism and Academic Honor Code
Problem: Believe it or not, many times international students are unfamiliar with the term and concept of plagiarism, at least in the way that we as Americans understand it. Working in groups can be very confusing for international students as they believe they are completing the assignment together, but may not understand that they cannot then copy verbatim their classmates work.
Cheating is seen as sharing.
Unlike American students who have been told and guided through what plagiarism looks like since grade school, international students are starting with a blank slate.
Perceptions of plagiarism are mostly based on historical and cultural assumptions. Many of the policies and guidelines set for students may not be specific enough for a foreign population. The language barrier can play a role in this situation as well.
Suggestions: Speak with your professors often. Utilize them as a resource from the very beginning. Familiarize yourself with well-known American plagiarism guidelines sites like Purdue Owl Writing Lab.
Speak with your academic advisors to gain resources provided by the university. The university should be speaking openly early on with international students about plagiarism and the severity of breaking an academic honor code in the states.