Student Voices: Findings

  1. Challenges around learning in a second language
  2. Comparing the University of Minnesota to your previous school
  3. Interacting with University of Minnesota professors and staff
  4. What are the major problems you see for international students who are adjusting to being at the University?
  5. What would help international students adjust more easily during their first year?

What would help international students adjust more easily during their first year?

Overview and Key Findings

The third open-ended question of the survey was “What would help international students adjust more easily during their first year?” Two hundred and twenty-six respondents (97%) answered this question. Respondents provided feedback for faculty, staff, and future international students on how the transition into the University could be eased for international students, and for how the University community could benefit from further integration of international students. Recommendations for faculty and staff were:

  • create structured opportunities for integration
  • be aware of the cultural background differences within the classroom setting
  • encourage international students to utilize campus resources

Advice for future international students centered on:

  • ways to navigate differences in academic and classroom culture
  • tips for general cultural and social adjustment

5.1 Create structured opportunities for integration

Thirty-four respondents commented that more structured opportunities between U.S. and international students would help them in their adjustment. Through socialization they could share one another’s cultures, develop friendships, and build English language skills. As one respondent stated:

Student quote

Respondents suggested structured opportunities such as small group discussions, peer-to-peer programs, or study groups as possible examples. Fourteen respondents suggested a college-based peer mentor program. One respondent described it this way:

Student quote

The respondents recognized existing on-campus opportunities for interaction, and encouraged incoming international students to take advantage of extracurricular activities to support their adjustment and learning. One student advised:

Student quote

Similarly, one respondent addressed how opportunities for integration need to include international and domestic students:

Student quote

This respondent goes on to suggest how the University can be supportive:

Student quote

5.2 Awareness of academic differences and support

Respondents frequently commented on the need for professors and teaching assistants to be more aware of the specific academic challenges that international students face as they adapt to the U.S. higher education system. These suggestions pointed to a strong interest in creating stronger connections with instructors. Suggestions from respondents included:

  • “The professor speaks [more] slowly”
  • “Don’t use slang while teaching or making assignments.”
  • “I think lecturers can ask if everyone knows what they are talking about when they decide to give specific examples. Also, one day it would be nice to experience an international student day.”
  • “…more love and interest from the teachers.”

Based on the differences in academic systems across cultures, several international students suggested that professors and TAs could be more explicit in their expectations of the academic classroom culture. For example, one respondent noted:

Student quote

Another respondent pointed to difference in expectations for student presentations:

Student quote

Several respondents also suggested that it would be helpful for instructors to provide a preview of their lectures before class.

5.3 Utilizing campus resources

Respondents strongly encouraged instructors to help students build awareness and encourage the use of campus resources. Many respondents pointed out that it was difficult to know what resources were available and when to utilize them. One explained:

Student quote

Another stated:

Student quote

5.4 Peer advice for new international students: Academics

Respondents provided feedback on what new international students could do to improve their transition to the U.S. higher education system. They suggested that consulting with professors and teaching assistants, though difficult, best facilitated their academic transition. One respondent stated:

Student quote

Another respondent agreed:

Student quote

Many suggested that new international students meet regularly with their instructors. One respondent shared how it helped in his situation:

Student quote

Respondents also encouraged other students to consult with academic advisors for understanding the choices of classes and resources around campus, and using the Graduation Planner tool.

5.5 Peer advice for new international students: Tips for adjustment

Many respondents felt that new students themselves were responsible for their adjustment by just trying harder or being more open-minded. Some comments that illustrate this point are:

“[They need to] try to face their fears as that’s the only way they will feel comfortable.”

“Be brave.”

“The willingness to learn a new way of doing things has done wonders for me.”

The three main suggestions for new students were to join more social activities, participate in more conversations, and socialize beyond their own cultural groups. Respondents believed that through these interactions, new international students might build more confidence in themselves and find support as they adjust to life on campus.

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Report Content

  1. Abstract
  2. Background
  3. Methods
  4. Findings
  5. Discussion
  6. Recommendations
  7. Limitations and Directions for Future Research
  8. References


Beth Isensee
Director of Student Engagement, International Student and Scholar Services