Did you know that the United States continues to be a top study abroad destination for international students? There have been significant enrollment increases of international students in the U.S. higher education system over the past six years. In fact, there was a 6.5% increase in 2012 from the previous year reaching a record high of 764,495 international students studying in the United States. Overall, by 2025, more than 8 million students are projected to be studying outside their home country. The largest international student population studying in the U.S. is Chinese students. Twenty-five percent of all international students studying in the U.S. are from Mainland China and Taiwan. Research suggests that this increasing trend will continue.
But does this matter and is it this trend a good thing? Yes and yes. International students heighten global diversity awareness on campuses helping colleges and universities achieve their diversity missions, contribute to high quality research, and provide significant financing to institutions and to the U.S. economy. Did you know that international students are a foreign policy asset contributing almost $22 billion annually to the U.S. economy? Yes, I said $22 billion.
But in order to maintain status as a top study abroad destination, the U.S. needs to begin investing in intercultural and cross-cultural research as well as specialized cultural services to address international student needs.
You see, there’s a large array of transitional difficulties impacting international students’ academic, social, and professional success. These students often struggle with language barriers, transportation challenges, social relationships, cultural differences, healthcare options, work (or lack thereof), life planning skills, new living conditions, and other cultural stresses. Many international students have described their campus’s services as limited and often inconsistent in helping with their cultural adaptation. In fact, most cross-cultural competency training only begins after international students arrive to their U.S. campus during their stressful first semester.
Cultural competence training does contribute to greater intercultural sensitivity and cross-cultural adaptation. In fact, cultural preparation and training supports student academic success and their overall wellness.
In addition, earlier cross-cultural preparation and more experience with or knowledge about a foreign culture, can help international students transition into the U.S. culture faster. So, we know what needs to be done, what are some ways to implement earlier and more effective cultural preparation for this emerging student population?
There is one academic pedagogical model, grounded on cross-cultural adaptation theory and student development theories, that prepares international students for successful cross-cultural adjustment and academic success: How Leaders Should Lead Institute (HLSL Institute). HLSL Institute has studied the unique needs of international students as well as campus best practices to address their unique transitional needs. Its programs are organized in three cross-cultural phases to meet this demographics unique academic adjustment needs:
- Predeparture cross-cultural training before international students come to the U.S.
- Post-arrival cross-cultural training during their studies abroad
- Repatriation preparation and/or professional development
Becoming a significant resource to improve study abroad, HLSL Institute works with public or private, two-year or four-year, traditional or online institutions to attract, recruit, retain, and graduate successful international students. As study abroad enrollment steadily increases, so too will the demand for higher quality cross-cultural student services.
In addition to students, HLSL Institute serves all new international travelers, expatriates, or persons relocating to a new culture in the U.S. To contact a program director or learn more information about HLSL Institute, visit www.hlslinstitute.org.