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Students working together at Columbia university hackathon 2013
What Can Ivy League Schools Do to Help International Students Make New Friends
Coming to a new country can be particularly intimidating when the only thing you care about (ppffff…. Who cares about academics, the weather, or the food, amiright or amiright?) is making friends. The scary part might not even be talking to someone new but rather seeing if you can fit in a culture that is stereotyped to have such a rigid culture and structured (albeit potentially progressive) social scene. Meaning, the problem isn’t too big when you look at it from an individual perspective (ie the ability to make at least one friend), but rather if you can make a security network (ie a group of friends) in a foreign community despite a possible language barrier.

Well, if it makes you feel any better, the whole country is feeling this problem. The majority of colleges have a division between domestic students and international students. Not only does this mean that international students are feeling a disconnect between themselves and the school (as in they do not affiliate good times to the academic institution), but these students aren’t receiving the experiences they deserve and domestic students are missing an opportunity to diversify their perspectives.

So the question becomes, what can Ivy League schools (which tend to have at least around 12 percent of their student body coming from outside the US) do to erase this divide and help international students make friends with students who speak their home language as well as with those who don’t; here are a couple of options.


OPTION #1 CREATE A STRONG INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ORGANIZATION
Personally, I go to a small school, with a student body of approximately 1,800 students, 1,300 students if you exclude graduate students. About a quarter of the students who go to my school are citizens of a country outside the United States. Because, proportionately, we have more international students than the Ivy League schools and less individual students, my school has a relatively strong International Student Organization. International students who attend the college arrive a week before the other freshman. This first week of orientation includes separate discussion and seminar sections guiding them through some of the expected trials and tribulations of international schooling. Not only is this helpful in navigating a completely different world but also in establishing helpful relationships with international students from your own country and eventually those from other countries. The pros to using this method to create friendships between international students is that it is very helpful and usually makes international students happier in their environments (especially with proportionately large international student populations) but this method does not connect international students with domestic students.

OPTION #2 CREATE SMALLER GROUPS (POSSIBLY ONE ON ONE) OF DIVERSE INDIVIDUALS INCLUDING BOTH INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AND DOMESTIC STUDENTS
Because it is harder for larger groups of people to organize, finding an optimal group size (maybe five students) and creating a meeting time as well as something to do can be helpful for international students to find domestic friends. In my personal experience, international students usually don’t spend time with students from the United states because they get tired of constantly trying to keep up with the fast paced English and “slang vocabulary” that American students sprinkle in their language like five year old children do on their cupcakes. More exposure to this sort of language and patient domestic students can easily develop a repertoire of American slang for international students with enough contact, communication and bonding. The pros to this method include a greater amount of communication between international students and domestic students establishing more cultural education for both sides. This program would include more resources from the Ivy League schools in order to create these groups and activities.

Regardless of the complete plan, it is important for international students to receive the experience they have imagined and create these bonds that they may utilize in their futures. These methods would also help domestic students digest the increasingly globalized world many domestic students face, particularly when entering the business world, and not remaining culturally ignorant to some of the most successful nations in the world. Ultimately, this movement to integrate international students into the Ivy League community at large is an obligation that should not be taken lightly by these schools.


Photo Credit: hackNY.org

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Portrait of a Woman Blogger on an HP Laptop after Frederick Carl Frieseke
Top 5 International Student Blogs
International students are faced with many new things when studying abroad: a new city, back to back colorful and ornate concrete structures, each containing a different ambience with music overflowing through the orifices onto the street, new people, unrecognizable eyes, noses, and lips shuffling past in an amiable yet distant way, and a new language, an unfamiliar dialect entering your ear and moving past comprehension. Breaking through the social barriers of a foreign land poses challenges for an international student, but with a willingness to adapt, there will be an awakening of the senses by experiencing life in an unfamiliar way. The blogs listed below help to connect international students to each other, and the nation they are studying in, by covering topics like Visa/immigration, competition, daily experiences and career choices.


Top 5 International Student Blogs
  • Study Link
    Studylink provides a blog covering a wide variety of topics, with career tips, cost information, and information on how to fit in while studying abroad. Studylink allows you to search distinct courses offered around the world for individual study programs. They also have an advice section with specific concerns about financial information, entry requirements, visas, and pathways to study abroad.

  • International Student
    The blog at International Student is organized into categories, directing your questions, concerns, or curiosity toward a link containing information on scholarships, study sections, ESL, and student travel. As a member with International Student, there is an open forum for students to post thoughts or questions based on the area/nation of study or general topics and communication with administrators within the site.

  • I-Student Global
    This blog contains student posts about day-to-day things like balancing full time school work and having a job, interviews, and career paths all from the perspective of international students traveling and studying abroad. I-Student Global also gives insight to specific degree programs and scholarships offered at schools internationally.

  • CollegeXpress
    Membership with CollegeXpress grants access to a blog with articles about a range of topics, from cultural immersion to finding the right college for an individual path of study. The CollegeXpress home page makes finding the answer to any query simple, and contains listings for school rankings, scholarships, and graduate and summer programs.

  • Top Universities
    Top universities’ website blog addresses what it’s like to study at a certain university with first-hand accounts produced by international students. This website also has a university ranking system- ranking the university by subject, faculty, country, or city with additional application and financial information.



  • Photo Credit:Mike Licht

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Woman Writing International Resume on Lptop
International Resume Writing
Whether you are writing a resume to work abroad or a resume to a company based internationally and hosted domestically, it’s important to know the differences between how one would write an international resume and how one would write a resume for US employers.


TIP #1 International companies are looking for employees with skills they can’t find near them.
For a country to approve an international employee for a company placed domestically, the company must prove that an international applicant is more qualified than candidates applying domestically. That means if you are applying to a company in a country that speaks a different language, you should be proficient in that language. Similarly, you must prove in your resume that the job is good for you (in addition to you being good for the job), and your objectives both career and value wise should match that of the international company.

TIP #2 There is a difference between the English we use in the United States and British English.
If you are applying for a position in an international English speaking country, make sure to find out which type of English is commonly spoken in that country. There are notable written and spoken differences between the various different versions of English, which are separated into three general categories: British Isles Dialects, North American Dialects, and the dialects of Australasia, according to Wikipedia. Most European countries use the grammar and vocabulary of the United Kingdom Standard English, so if you write a resume in American English, it may appear sloppy and full of typos to somebody who is more familiar with Canadian, Australian, or British spellings.

TIP #3 Send a paper copy.
It’s always a good idea to send a paper copy in addition to an electronic copy to make sure that your resume gets received. The electronic copy should be in an internationally acceptable format. If you haven’t heard back from your company in two weeks, it’s a good idea to check up with them to ensure they received your email and ask if they would like any additional information or references. Don’t be worried if you are not contacted for months after submitting an application, the process to go abroad often takes much longer; use this time to apply for a visa if you haven’t already.

TIP #4 Your resume should concentrate less on your technical skills and more on your ability to adapt to change and accept other cultures.
Highlighting your “personality and cross cultural skills” is important to international hirers. Hirers want to know you won’t be stumped by an overwhelming culture shock or language barrier. Concrete examples of experiences you have had in other countries adjusting to outside cultures, tolerance to cultural difference, adaptability to language divisions, acceptance and appreciation of relevant backgrounds, etc. will all benefit your resume and prove to your employer that international work is the best option for both the company and the applicant.

TIP #5 Be aware of different resume standards across borders.
According to Jean-Marc Hachey, a well-recognized career advisor, “ninety-five percent of the international jobs open to entry-level North American university students looking for professional international work will be with North American based employers or international organizations.” Regardless of where your country is based there may be differences in resume standard. Most companies abroad will accept longer resumes (up to 3-4 pages) because of the information they expect you to include regarding cross-cultural experience and personality traits in addition to your technical skills. Some international companies also expect a photograph of the applicant on the front of the resume. Some countries also use different terms that mean the same thing like “cover letter” in some countries mean the same thing as “letters of interest” and “motivation letters” in others. Mary Anne Thompson, the founder of www.goingglobal.com, also suggests someone that speaks the same language as where your company is located should review the document if possible to check for culturally appropriate and relevant language. She also advises applicants to review the standard paper size in the country you are sending your document to (not everyone uses 8.5x11), so that no information from your resume is missing when the company prints it out.


Writing a resume can be challenging and frustrating, so make sure you reread and edit, reread and edit, reread and edit and give it to as many people as you can to reread and edit. Double check spelling and grammar (some of the simplest errors are sometimes the least obvious) and triple check you’ve spelled all proper nouns correctly and used the proper pronouns (name of the company, name of the recipient, and name of the applicant are all super important). Make sure you end your resume with a bang: match the objective of the company with your own goals and you’ll have that international job in no time.


Photo Credit: Sascha Pohflepp

lrngo users in over 190 countries

International College Student Paperwork
Getting into US Colleges for Chinese Students:Top 3 Tips
When I was a prospective college student, I knew I wanted to get away. Away for me was about 1,200 miles from my home town in Houston to a college in Pennsylvania. The differences between me and the people I met from the northeast were recognizable but not astonishing: generally, they were better at living in the cold and worse at cooking Tex-Mex, better at living in stressful environments and worse at holding the door open for the people behind them. They still spoke my language, our cultures weren’t too distinct, and we did similar things growing up that landed us at that particular college.

Even so, getting in to a college in the Northeast was an intimidating endeavor for me. For some Chinese international students travelling half way around the globe for a similar college experience, the process of admissions into a US college or university can be even more daunting. Thus, this formidable process requires some tips to help navigate the sea of applications and admittance boards.

TIP #1- Test scores really do matter.
From 7.0 grading scales, to 5.0 grading scales, to high schools that refuse to rank their students, it really is no wonder that colleges have a difficult time interpreting domestic student transcripts. Chances are, accordingly, not in the favor of international students when it comes to translating a transcript from an overseas grading scale. With so much variance, it can be near impossible for a college admissions board who read an average of 600 applications each year. Thus, these admissions officers pay more attention to the test scores of international applicants. SAT scores become incredibly important in interpreting how hard a student worked for the grade they earned. Similarly, the International English Language Test System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are very important. Colleges and Universities want a guaranteed score, proving that admitted international students will be able to communicate efficiently in English, both written and verbal, in the classroom and in their classwork.

TIP #2- There are more schools than just the Ivy League Universities.
Most international students apply to the big name schools (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc.), and ignore the possibility of leaving the northeast and/or attending a liberal art school. Many Ivy League schools have an acceptance rate that sits consistently below ten percent, but other traditional top schools and big name universities are either adding more seats to their undergraduate classes or being added to the list of high ranking colleges and universities. According to Scott Farber, a Harvard graduate and the founder of A-List Education, “there are 55 percent more seats at top colleges than there were 30 years ago.” This opens up more seats for international students in the undergraduate classes who meet the standards of admissions, thus allowing more international students to study in the US even if they don’t get accepted into Ivy League schools.

TIP #3- This is your time to gloat.
Write about your extracurricular activities, the instruments or sport you play, a job you had, your leadership positions in school and out, community service, or volunteer work. Stacey Kostell, director of admissions, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, suggests including “a program of study that qualifies you for admission to selective universities in your home country.” This should prove your college readiness to attend a top US college or university, and could help prove your proficiency in English. Make sure your admissions essay(s) follow the same train of thought: a college wants to admit you and wants you to be happy there, and you have 500 words to prove to them how you will do so and how you will be an asset to their campus. Triple proofread your essay and give it to five other people to proofread. It’s all about the gloating.

Ultimately, the admissions process might be a scary path to walk down, especially for international students fighting a shark tank of systems and tests. However, knowing the purpose of this system makes the tests feel more meaningful, especially when success means a four year achievement to a life time goal.


Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Baskin Robbins Ice Cream over textbook book
I am an International Student Living in the US
The first time I ordered a meal here, I realized that life as I knew it was going to be different. Vastly different. I mean, when you come from a place where a burger is simply a burger and not an entity larger than your face, the latter comes with a bit of a shock factor. And it wasn’t just the American Stacked Burger that galvanized my revelation, it was accompanied by the ‘large’ Dr. Pepper, which in truth was not merely ‘large,’ but more like gallon-sized. It might sound silly to the average American, but to an international student moving to the land of the free, portions are only the beginning of a series of gasps and adjustments that, even as time passes, keep reminding me and many in the international student community of the unfamiliarity we sometimes experience. Living in the US is all good fun, though it is kind of annoying when you can’t share the fun with your parents and friends who are currently snoring it up half-way across the world.

Up to the second when I received my diploma and graduated high school back in 2014, I had not panicked the slightest bit when thinking of my nearing transition into college. But when I got that diploma, the smile I’d been practicing for the pictures nearly failed me as I thought: ‘Oh no, what now?’ I know now that the feeling I was feeling was also being simultaneously felt by the people next to me. Anxiety stricken and thought-filled, we all managed to walk down the aisle and finally obtain the liberty we’d all been craving. Except now, we almost wanted our principal to take it back. What do we do now?

The U S of A. How would people treat me there? Would they be nice? How about food? Would I ever find a place with food as good as my mom’s? These were just some of the thoughts racing through my mind and that of my 120 peers, many of whom were embarking onto the university experience in the same new country in which I would. At least that was comforting.

Now that I’ve been here for a while, it’s a little easier for me not to scream out native slang, or get annoyed with people that seem suspicious towards my lack-of-accent English. The everlasting pain of having to fill out visa paperwork and constant worry of a sudden (yet reasonless) deportation, however, are a bit harder to get rid of. I’m not gonna lie, adapting isn’t easy. You don’t just move here and suddenly feel at home; for months I still secretly wished that every restaurant suddenly underwent a transformation and became a Malaysian Mamak stand. I kicked and screamed in frustration every time the Skype call to my mom went by unanswered because she was currently in her fifth sleep cycle. It was a struggle. But after getting over certain things (like the food) that I was holding against it, the US became my home. I don’t think twice about portion sizes anymore, and there’s even room for ice cream after dinner.


Photo Credit: Mooss

lrngo users in over 190 countries

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