TAGS: Understanding International Students

International students come to the University of Dayton through a variety of channels. Their language learning backgrounds, arrival times, and purposes for education at UD may affect their level of comfort in a U.S. university classroom setting. 

Common international student populations at the University of Dayton (data provided by the Center for International Programs):

International undergraduate student - International student working toward an undergraduate degree

International graduate student - International student working toward a graduate degree

Conditionally admitted international undergraduate or graduate student - International student admitted to an undergraduate or graduate program with the condition of achieving English proficiency. May be taking only IEP classes or a combination of IEP and undergraduate/graduate classes. Must either successfully complete the IEP or achieve a specified TOEFL score to enroll in undergraduate (or graduate) courses full-time.

Intensive English Program (IEP)-only student - Student enrolled in the IEP; typically leaves the university after completing Intensive English Program coursework.

Exchange and visiting student - Student from another university; typically here for 1-2 semesters; may come as an undergraduate or graduate student.

It is important to consider the students’ backgrounds when providing instructional support, as students in these different populations may have different needs, characteristics, and concerns. For more information about IEP visit their website >>

Cultural Concerns

Some of the challenges international students face while studying in the United States relate to differences in cultural and educational backgrounds. Many international students:

  • May be experiencing some form of culture shock. This is particularly the case for those who have not studied at the IEP before beginning university classes. This can lead to loneliness, a sense of vulnerability, confusion and anxiety. 
  • Have studied U.S. culture, but only understand it ona surface level.  They will continue to be uncomfortable in a variety of social settings due to different social codes of behavior and accepted norms.
  • May be unfamiliar with U.S. educational and classroom culture, leading to a reticence to interact with professors and ask questions in class.
  • May not be familiar with U.S. academic issues such as plagiarism and particular academic genres.
  • Often will not understand common cultural references.

Language Concerns

Although not all international students at the University of Dayton are non-native English speakers, most have learned English as a second or third language. Their experiences as English language learners can also affect their comfort level and academic performance in the U.S. university classroom. International students:

  • May have been learning English for a long time, but have had limited opportunities to interact in English with other English speakers. Often their knowledge of English comes through courses and textbooks heavily focused on grammar, with less opportunity for extended writing, authentic listening, speaking, or interaction in English.
  • Will often be overwhelmed by the cognitive and emotional demands of living in an English speaking context, particularly if they have recently arrived in the United States. Students often struggle with issues of identity when immersed in a new language; those who are used to being the outspoken leaders find themselves having to negotiate new roles. This can lead to uncertainty and anxiety.
  • May have an extensive knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical rules, but less ability to rapidly access that knowledge when writing and speaking.
  • Often struggle to understand slang, idioms, and different types of American accents.
  • May have learned different rhetorical patterns of organizing written texts.

In order to identify non-native English speaking international students who may need additional support, consider getting a short writing sample from all of your students in the first two weeks of the course. Also, administer a language and Cultural Background Survey (PDF) to all your students, and invite students to your office, who, based on the survey and/or writing sample, might require additional resources.