Retaining our international students

Early academic advising may help students make a better adjustment.

As many University of Minnesota students have learned in study abroad opportunities, traveling to a new country, learning a new language and adapting to a new culture can be incredibly rewarding. But it can also be a difficult challenge, particularly while completing academic coursework.

International students at the University undoubtedly face these same challenges, often for longer periods of time, with a degree rather than a few credits at stake.

In recent years, American universities have been focusing efforts to recruit the best and brightest international students and studying ways to keep the retention rates of those students as high as possible.

A recent study found that English language proficiency may not be as important in retaining international students as early academic advising and on-campus integration, the New York Times reported. Interestingly, C.K. Kwai, the study’s author and director of the Office of International Programs at the University of Maine, conducted the research as part of a dissertation he wrote in 2009 while earning a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota.

Kwai pointed out that some universities’ academic advisers do not have training to help with the barriers international students need to overcome for academic success. While the University has a special advising and counseling office for international students, International Student and Scholar Services states on its website that its advisers are not trained to help with class schedules or degree programs.

International students at the University and across the nation deserve unique access to academic advisers that can help them plan their degree and adjust to college life in the U.S.

College officials should work to create academic advisory programs specifically tailored for international students.