Tag Archives: University of Nevada Reno

Video Interview: International Student Transition

Thanks to Trudy, my UNR student, for conducting an interview with Alex Ngo, an international student from Vietnam.  Alex revealed many interesting topics and challenges that one faces when traveling to the United States from another country. These cross-cultural challenges bring many opportunities for new programs and ideas to help ease the transition into our very unique culture.

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Video Interview: International Transition

Thanks to my UNR student Jessica for conducting an interview with Alexandra who came to America from El Salvador.  Alexandra revealed many interesting challenges that one faces when traveling to the United States from another country. These cross-cultural challenges bring many opportunities for new programs and ideas to help ease the transition into our very unique culture.

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Video Interview: Korean Student Transitions to Reno, NV

Thanks to my student Yujin Kwak for conducting an interview with Woong Kim, an international student from Korea. Woong revealed many interesting topics and challenges that one faces when traveling to the United States from another country. These cross-cultural challenges bring many opportunities for new programs and ideas to help ease the transition into our very unique culture.

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Can a hug discriminate?

Students at the University gave free hugs to strangers throughout Reno

 

Hugs on campusStudents from the University’s College of Education dispersed throughout Reno with “Free Hugs” signs to study preconceived prejudices and confront their fears. More than 700 voluntary hugs were given to strangers.What if a stranger offered you a free hug simply as a gesture of love, connection and comfort? What factors would impact your decision to accept or deny the embrace? Would it make a difference if the hug came from someone who looks like you instead of being a different race, age, weight, social class or culture? If so, why does it matter?

Students at the University of Nevada, Reno set out to personally experience this interaction through a Free Hugs activity that investigated the demographics and reactions of random strangers who accepted or denied a free hug. Students held a sign that stated “Free Hugs”, and waited for volunteering strangers to participate at various Reno locations.

The purpose of the assignment was two-fold.  First, students observed the behaviors of strangers’ who participated in the hug, avoided or dodged the hug, and those who only watched curiously from afar. Second, students reflected and analyzed their personal experiences before, during and after the activity including any concerns, prejudices or feelings.

The analysis resulted in several conclusions, including the acknowledgement of apprehension and identification of prejudices.

“There was a man that came up to me who wore a turban,” one student who conducted her activity at Truckee Meadows Community College said. “He asked if he could get a hug with his arms stretched out wide. I was nervous, but pushed that aside and said yes. The hug was normal like if I had hugged a friend. That surprised me. My rush of nervousness left as he walked away, but that’s when I felt bad.  That was the first time I had ever hugged someone wearing a turban and it was then, I was aware of my bias.  Seeing the turban made me think of September 11th and terrorism, because that’s all I’ve seen portrayed on the news.”

All students who participated experienced fear, anxiety or prejudice. As strangers approached for a free hug, students became aware of their apprehensions connected with certain groups of people, took note of how they felt and what they thought, and then reflected on why they experienced those effects. Students identified that most of their ingrained fears stemmed from ignorance about the stranger’s culture. Additionally, students mentioned that their prejudiced thoughts linked back to negative images they had seen on television news stories and movies. These unwarranted fears contributed to why students may have been divided from the strangers their whole life.

“I thought he might be a homeless guy,” another student recounted. “He got up and started to walk toward me.  My heart started to pound because I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would he smell bad or say something inappropriate? Surprisingly, both answers were no.”

Free Hugs

This activity also required students to identify their own prejudices and make a choice: allow their fear to control their actions before denying the stranger’s hug, or decide to expand their cultural awareness by “embracing” the moment and experiencing a heightened sense of vulnerability and inclusiveness.

“As a visitor from Pakistan, this may have been the only hug I would ever receive my entire life from a stranger, especially a female stranger, since it is not allowed where I’m from,” a man who chose to accept a student’s hug said.

All students reported feeling excitement, joy, connection and/or accomplishment by the end of the activity.

“I’m going to save my Free Hugs sign and use it again, not for an assignment, but just because it made a difference in my life and many other lives,” one student said.

“Even after I had more than enough hugs to write about my experience, I wanted to stay out longer because it felt good,” another student said. “I could tell by strangers’ hugs, smiles and words of encouragement that others were feeling good too.”

By the end of the exercise, 700 – 800 hugs were exchanged around Reno.

This College of Education multicultural capstone course taught by Tara Madden-Dent is highly innovative and effective to incorporate empirical research with personal reflection. Students reported they had never taken a cultural studies course with such personal conviction and enlightenment as they studied similarities and differences between cultures. Tara Madden-Dent teaches Human Development & Family Studies and Education courses at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her educational blog can be found at https://taramaddendent.com/.

Original Article posted on UNR’s news website Nevada Today.

 

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Study Abroad in the U.S. with HLSL Institute

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.

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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.

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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?

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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:

  1. Predeparture cross-cultural training before international students come to the U.S.
  2. Post-arrival cross-cultural training during their studies abroad
  3. Repatriation preparation and/or professional development

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 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.

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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.

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International Graduate Student Interview: Cross-Cultural Adaptation (China)

I’d like to thank my student Sarah for her excellent final project: International Student Interview.  I would also like to thank Lai Wei for sharing her story with us.  Because of their hard work, we have access to the cross-cultural experiences of a UNR international student from China.  I hope that this helps students coming to America as well as educators in America better prepare for study abroad’s challenges and rewards.

Many of Lai Wei’s cross-cultural adaptation and transitional challenges are shared among international students.  The following key points are from the video:

  • Cross-Cultural Challenges: Culture differences & the language terms and phrases.
  • She copes with challenges by asking lots of questions about the culture, working hard, and by practicing English with roommates, friends, and student colleagues.
  • She likes the U.S. culture, friendly people, food, education system, technology, & shopping.
  • She recommends that international students know the language, be open-minded before you arrive with flexible expectations of what students will experience.
  • It has been a challenge not having family living in the U.S. but she did have friends from China studying in the U.S.
  • She uses Q.Q. (like Skype) and email helps to connect her to friends and family back home.  (Time difference is difficult).
  • Study Abroad Rewards:  New language skills, professional development, access to good education systems, cultural awareness.

To provide more stories about study abroad in America, I will post a new international student interview from a different country each week for the few weeks. Check out previous interviews students from Beijing, China, Vietnam, Bangkok, Thailand, the Congo, Japan, Mexico, London, & Netherlands.  Hope you find this helpful and please comment if you do.  Thanks.

Also, HLSL Institute is a helpful resource for international students, travelers, expatriates and expatriate families coming to the U.S.    Check it out if you want help with cultural transition, language, transportation, and acculturation development.

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International Student Interview: Cross-Cultural Adaptation (France)

I’d like to thank my student Adriana for her excellent final project: International Student Interview.  I would also like to thank Mathieu for sharing his story with us.  Because of their hard work, we have access to the cross-cultural experiences of an international student from France.  I hope that this helps students coming to America as well as educators in America better prepare for study abroad’s challenges and rewards.

Many of Mathieu’s cross-cultural adaptation and transitional challenges are shared among international students.  The following key points are from the video:

  • Cross-Cultural Challenges: Culture differences, English language terms and phrases, making friends, separation from friends/family from France.
  • He coped with challenges by studying hard, working on his English accent, communicating with Americans the majority of the time.  Living with American peers, playing tennis, and being in high school helped adaptation.
  • Food was much different/ a challenge.
  • He likes the U.S. culture/diversity
  • He recommends that international students get involved with local people, groups, and culture as soon as they can.  Learn the language and adapt.
  • Skype and email is fast and personal communication to connect with family/friends back home.
  • Study Abroad Rewards:  New language skills, professional development, job opportunities, access to good education systems, cultural awareness.

To provide more stories about study abroad in America, I will post a new international student interview from a different country each week for the few weeks. Check out previous interviews students from Beijing, China, Vietnam, Bangkok, Thailand, the Congo, Japan, Mexico, London, & Netherlands.  Hope you find this helpful and please comment if you do.  Thanks.

Also, HLSL Institute is a helpful resource for international students, travelers, expatriates and expatriate families coming to the U.S.    Check it out if you want help with cultural transition, language, transportation, and acculturation development.

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