The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 3% to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year, according to the Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.The article notes that the top sending countries are China and India; with China sending 30% more than in previous years and India sending 2% more than in previous years.
In preparing to study abroad- what seems like a whirlwind of new processes, forms, tests, and policies introducing you to the culture of the college and the sending country start from the moment one decides to study abroad.
Educational consultancies abound with assistance on the ‘red tape’: tips on testing, filling out forms, preparing applications and coaching for the ‘dreaded’ visa interview. Rarely, if ever, do these programs give a holistic view – a before and after picture of the life of an international student in the USA. So, what is missing you may ask?
Cross-cultural adjustment tips in the destination country!
With all the focus on what needs to be done to get there, there is no importance or very little importance given by the agencies on
- How to adjust to the new culture
- Strategies for understanding the new culture
- Fitting in and making friends, how to get good grades
- Insight into American teaching strategies and classroom etiquette
- Accent concerns of students
- Grooming on how to be a good student in the USA
- Dispelling myths of studying abroad
- Utilizing free career, academic and personal services on campus
The one reason for this is that most Indians natural thought process is inclined toward using the study abroad experience for career development, job opportunities and ultimately immigration / migration abroad. City billboards, television and newspaper ads reflect this clearly. With all the focus on ‘how to get to the US’ before hand and getting the job after graduation, the ‘meat and potatoes’ or the real reason for being in the USA is lost- the actual studying, living and socializing part. Though one knows the culture will be different, and even possibly their identity will come into question, there is less awareness of how an insider understanding of the culture and mindset before leaving will help prepare one for the best success after landing. One may assume this can be learned as they go- after arriving it will naturally be understood. If this were true, would culture shock exist? Would issues of identity and fear of “over” Americanization be a real worry on people’s minds even before they go?
It’s not about becoming Americanized!
Isn’t that a relief!
It’s about learning to create a good impression. Learning strategies for cross-cultural adaptation and more over, identifying what can be adjusted, what is difficult to adjust to and what is impossible to adjust to before going to be mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared. Having a cross-cultural pre-departure training before going to the US is like a new employee training before starting the job- it’s awareness, it’s etiquette training, it’s understanding a culture and mindset to be more adaptable. When success seems challenging, tips from such trainings can be good to fall back on.
A student may ask, "Isn’t the international student orientation given by my college enough?"
International student orientations vary widely based on the colleges. Furthermore, though many colleges have these programs, some do not, and many are given only in Fall semesters. So, those entering during other semesters or trimesters or in the summer may not benefit from the usefulness of such programs. Additionally, some international student orientations may go into detail about the college facilities and what to expect on the college campus, but be abbreviated in hopes you will pick it up as you go along. Knowing it ahead of time and possibly hearing it again on arrival is not double trouble, but a good refresher of things to come.
A parent may wonder, "So many have gone from my country to US before and they have been successful. They did not tell us about culture shock or problems. Why should I pay extra money on this training?"
Well, everyone who has moved abroad has faced some kind of adjustment and possible some degree of culture shock. The thing is no one wants to call home and complain. This will upset the relatives back home and may make them think the person abroad is not able to cope or be successful. A lot is on the line: emotionally, socially (it's a status in many countries to come study in the USA), and of course economically. A child will keep all his or her problems inside so you don't worry about him or her. Allowing your child to sit in this kind of comprehensive workshop while deciding to study abroad or even after deciding to study abroad will help your child with coping skills, cultural adjustment skills and impression management skills. It's an enhancement to their soon-to-be American education. This class is worthwhile - it's educational.
So if you or your child will be going to the USA to study, you can check out our video for our comprehensive program “Chasing the American Dream: From Take-Off to Landing” that addresses before and after aspects of getting admission into your dream college in the USA!
If you’d like to attend this course in person (South India) or via a webinar (worldwide)– please contact me we are organizing this. ( authenticjourneys
Thank you for reading this article.
Open Doors 2010 – International Students in USA
Four Myths of Studying Abroad
How to Appreciate Home While Moving Abroad
Identifying if you or your child has culture shock
Setting educational and career goals (a worksheet)