Orientating International Students
One of the trends in American higher education is increasing numbers of international students earning degrees at our universities. With this comes the challenge of orienting newcomers to codes of conduct and community standards that may be quite different from those they are used to in their home countries. This orientation can take many forms.
On the one hand international students need to understand the new rules and regulations they must follow. Rules regulating the use and possession of alcohol and drugs are very different in many countries as are the sanctions attached to such violations. Academic integrity and dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, assisting) are often defined very differently and seen as lesser or greater violations depending on a student’s country of origin. In my own work I have talked with students who have explained to me that in their home country group homework and tests are common and the idea of doing ones own work is less prevalent. I have also met with students whose English grammar and writing skills are at levels that make them at high risk for violating our rules against plagiarism. On more severe occasions we find ourselves dealing with international students who have different values and ideas surrounding interactions and the appropriate treatment of other people, particularly with regard to romantic relationships. In these cases we are often forced to confront deeply ingrained cultural traditions and are challenged to recognize an international student’s previous experiences and beliefs while still maintaining the safety and security of the other members of the campus community.
On the other hand, it is equally important to educate international students about their new rights and resources under our student conduct code and the American legal system. The relationship between civilians and law enforcement can be quite strained in many of the countries that our students are coming from and it is important that we educate them on the way in which American citizens interact with police and that law enforcement’s mission is to serve and protect. In addition, students need to know that they can take action to stop a faculty or staff member or fellow student from harassment and go through the appeals process if they believe they are being found responsible for a violation they did not commit. International students also need to be aware of services and support that may not have been available to them in their home countries. Resources like Counseling and Psychological Services, Cultural Centers, Academic Success and Writing Centers, GLBT Support Services and Disability Access Services might provide necessary support for students dealing with issues (including those related to conduct), however they will be underutilized by these students unless they are made aware of them and made to feel comfortable seeking their services.
At OSU something that looks to make this situation even more challenging is the new move to introduce the services of INTO to the campus community. INTO is a business that will recruit international students to enroll in OSU this coming summer and fall. Some students will only come for a few weeks for intensive English training. However over 100 INTO students will be admitted at OSU this fall and with them will come an increasing need to create thoughtful, thorough orientations for these students. It will also be incredibly important to communicate OSU’s codes of conduct with these students and their families and make certain that all parties, including INTO, recognize that violations of the code will result in sanctioning that will not be lessened simply because a student has paid an outside company extra money in order to attend OSU.
Time will tell what new challenges await us in this arena, however this issue creates a great deal of opportunities for people who are culturally knowledgeable and sensitive to help conduct offices, new student programs and companies such as INTO create orientation programming that best addresses these issues in the most effective, efficient ways.