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2 Major Integration Challenges Faced by International Students

By Emeline Bilongo December 7, 2022

As an international graduate alumna, belonging and diversity are important to me. For many international students, feeling included is among the most important factors that influence where they decide to attend university or pursue a business school degree. Fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion is also important throughout the learner lifecycle, extending to how institutions support students around careers and as alumni.

Despite significant improvements made by higher education institutions over the years, developing rewarding student and alumni experiences remains a challenge. From conversations with my industry colleagues at the recent THE Campus Live event in London to The Salesforce Connected Student Report, this blog will address challenges international students face to unlocking success.

Institutions Are More Than a Place of Knowledge

Various challenges can influence an international student’s campus experience. These blockers have several variants, such as belonging, academic and careers support, language barriers, and more.

The higher education sector is experiencing greater internationalization. Therefore, establishing the right resources to ensure international students are supported throughout their experience and interactions with an institution is more than critical.

Many of us experienced the stress of accommodating to the working hybrid ecosystem within familiar environments – Let’s consider how complex it becomes if we’re away from our roots! 

In this context, promoting and ensuring student well-being and mental health must be the higher education sector’s up-front priority. Being an international student means experiencing a different culture and responsibilities often reinforced by financial insecurity. Many students have care duties and employment commitments which can reduce the time they are able to focus on schoolwork.

Our latest Connected Student Report highlights that students no longer perceive their university and business schools as a place of knowledge alone. Instead, they see institutions as a holistic support system.

In fact, 76% of students indicated that well-being is the top challenge to succeed in their program. Therefore, regardless of the size or renown of an institution, the ability to adapt and provide the best tools to international students involves tailored well-being services to support their campus experience and academic needs, and support for the career services that help forge connections to employers.

Student Integration or Cultural Compromise?

International students fear not fitting in. Notably, international students tend to focus on their integration into campuses, which sometimes involves the practice of “cultural compromise” to belong. This practice can lead to stress, making well-being and educational success challenging.

As our recent report highlighted, belonging influences performance, and students with a great onboarding are 35 times more likely to have a great overall university experience.

As many students feel isolated, lonely, or invisible, technology is here to help support institutions staff by providing:

  • Social and emotional support.
  • More help managing course load and work/personal life.
  • More well-being resources (e.g., mental health)

Julio Villalobos (Salesforce), with Liz Marr (The Open University) and Debora Kayembe (The University of Edinburgh), discussed the academic and non-academic challenges for institutions to be future-ready with technology. Without surprise, our education experts all agreed that personalization, intelligent mentoring, supporting programs, and equality remain central to fostering a positive student experience and resilience.

Check out the full Connected Student Report to learn how your institution can unlock opportunities to improve student experiences and drive inclusive career services.