International Student Services: What You Need to Evaluate and Why
- Student Tips
From academic help to student life, and visas requirements to housing options, International Student Services offices around the world work hard to welcome and support international students from all walks of life. Finding a university that matches your interests—and your needs—as an international student takes a bit of work. We’ve put together a list of several factors for international students to consider when evaluating a prospective university. Take a closer look.
1. Numbers of Students
Generally speaking, if there are more international students on a campus, there are probably more resources. At schools with big international populations, like Polk State College, or Centennial College, you can expect to find services for admissions counseling, social services, financial aid help, and mentoring programs. One downside? Make sure schools with larger international student populations have the services that match the numbers, otherwise you may experience a backlog and not get the help when you need it.
Consider the benefits of schools with a small international student population, like Vilnius Business College in Lithuania or West Hills College in the US. Just because a university, like the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, has a small international population doesn’t mean that there are no services. It might just mean that the university has a smaller International Student Services office. Even small schools—some with as little as .5 percent of its population made up of international students—have services to help students with visas, travel, accommodations, the academic calendar, and familiarizing themselves with the community. You might also get more personalized attention than you would at a larger school.
2. Mentoring Systems
Think about how a university welcomes its international students from the get-go. International students at top-rated Lund University in Sweden are greeted by student mentors and staff when they arrive at the airport. Then they attend a fun social event where they meet other international students, and some of the faculty and staff in their programs. Lund’s two-week orientation for all students combines special topics for international students on Swedish culture and food. Scotland’s University of Glasgow offers international students a similar welcome—and continued support with programs on Scotland’s history, and even workshops on budgeting and saving.
Why is this important? You won’t succeed if you don’t feel welcomed by your new community. Look for a school that works to welcome you and to continue to help you acclimate to your new school.
3. International Students Associations
Are there any on campus? You’ll need more than just an International Student Services office—you’ll need the support of other international students. North Iowa Area Community College features an International Students and Friends Club for international and migrant students, as well as domestic students who want to get involved with the college’s international community. MITis another example of a campus with a vibrant International Student Association. In an effort to provide learning opportunities for all of its students, MIT allows domestic students to join the association also. Their goal? To promote cultural diversity on campus. Not only to they offer delicious study breaks and fun trips, they also encourage students to get involved on their campus and the local community.
4. Housing Help
You make “home” wherever you go in this world. It’s nice to have help, especially when you’re not just new to the school, but new to the country, too. Your International Student Office, like the ones at Western Iowa Tech Community College, College of Southern Idaho, Butte College or Bifröst University in Iceland, should be able to direct you to on-campus options—and should also put you in touch with other students, faculty, and even local families who may have rooms or apartments for rent. Think about what you want and how much money you want to spend. If you want to save money, consider renting a room from a local family or a faculty member. You can also contact your International Student Services office for help in finding a roommate.
Studying abroad is one of the most exciting options you can consider as a student. Bottom line? Do your homework. Research the schools where you might want to study. Visit, if you can. Talk to the staff at the International Student Services offices. Get a feel for what you want—and focus on what you need.
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.