While starting university can bring challenges for anyone, for international students sometimes facing a new semester at university can be particularly daunting. International students can face adapting to cultural differences, overcoming potential language barriers, adjusting to a new style of learning, and figuring out the logistics of moving to a new country alongside the usual stresses and obstacles that come with uni life. Mentoring programs can be especially beneficial to international students as they take the plunge to study potentially thousands of miles away from their home. These programs can take the form of peer-to-peer mentoring, or a "buddy" program in which both partners are mentee and mentor at the same time, or a more traditional form of mentoring in which a mentee is placed with a more senior international student or faculty member. Here are just a few ways that mentoring programs, especially remote programs facilitated by SUMAC, can create a more inclusive and productive environment for international students:
Push past Language and Cultural Barriers
Language and cultural barriers can be particularly isolating, but a strong mentoring program can provide a pathway to connection. Mentors can provide insight into their own experiences coping with language differences or cultural barriers. They can also provide resources to connect with groups that empower judgment-free language practice or provide additional support with adjusting to a new culture. Peer mentoring is an especially effective approach to cope with language and cultural barriers because a peer mentor, rather than a university representative, may be more adept at navigating the specific cultural and social dynamics of that university.
Begin the Adjustment Period Before the Semester Even Starts
For international students, additional adjustment is often required before the semester even begins. Implementing a remote mentoring program like SUMAC can help to connect students across the world with resources and advice that could make their transition easier. This allows international students to face the start of the semester with greater courage and confidence than they would have otherwise. Additionally, a peer mentoring scheme ensures that students have at least one peer point of contact before they arrive, and this can make a world of difference when friendships begin to form during the early semester period.
Start the Networking Process Early
For many students, the reason that they brave the transition to a new country, far away from their family and friends, is the promise that they can find greater career opportunities in that country than the one that they traveled from. However, cultural and language differences can put those students at a disadvantage when it comes to applying to career-opportunities such as internships or local jobs. Implementing a mentoring program can help to make up for this initial disadvantage by connecting international students with career resources or even simply beginning the networking process early through connecting with a peer. Likewise, by providing support in navigating cultural differences early in a non-pressurized mentoring relationship, students can be more equipped to deal with those differences in a higher-stakes environment once they start their career.
International students are a valuable part of any campus community, and bring their unique insights and cultural perspectives to the classroom. However, a lack of support on campus for international students can lead them to feel stranded by their community and isolated in their new home. Fortunately, a mentoring relationship can help international students feel adjusted and confident in a new environment. With SUMAC, it is easier than ever to facilitate a mentoring programme internationally and on a wider scale, and therefore SUMAC is a particularly effective tool when seeking to implement a mentoring programme for international students.
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