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Academic Coaching & Writing

I. Making a Success of Your U.S. Graduate School Experience

Oct 11, 2016 by Kathryn Kleypas

I have had the amazing opportunity, first in my teaching and now in my career as an academic writing coach, to teach and advise students at universities outside the US as well as countless international students at colleges and universities within the US. What I appreciate the most about working with international students is the different perspectives and experiences they bring with them. I love exploring and debating ideas, researching, brainstorming, and writing with people who have different points of view, beliefs, and world views than my own. I always feel like I come out of the experience having examined and reevaluated my own assumptions. I learn as much through these encounters as my students do and I believe the faculty, staff, and students at the institutions where international students study benefit in this same way. For this reason, I am extremely happy to see colleges and universities in the United States “internationalize” their campuses by actively recruiting more international students to their campuses.

Here’s a sample of mission statements from U.S. university web sites that illustrate the desire to cultivate global perspectives on their campuses:

  • “We seek to have students from other countries to expose our domestic students to different cultures and experiences that can be shared in curricular and extra-curricular contexts." (Arizona State University)
  • "Our vision is to design a distinctly ‘global’ educational experience and foster an inclusive campus community that infuses all aspects of college life with an international perspective." (Binghamton University)
  • “Encourage ‘Internationalization at Home’ through the design and delivery of programs and trainings which build global competence.” (University of Minnesota)

Have you taken a look at your university’s mission statement or five-year plan? Does it include any references to internationalizing or bringing about a more global perspective? Assuming it does, how do you feel about this mission statement? Where do you see yourself fitting into your school’s mission? What has your experience been so far? Do you feel a part of your university’s inclusive campus community?

I ask these questions because it takes a lot of work to create an inclusive campus community on both the part of the university and the part of the international student. One of the biggest issues international students speak with me about is the sense of isolation they feel on their campus and I encourage them to actively reach out to create this sort of an inclusive community.

In the blog series that follows, I will write about success strategies that I have observed working with international students studying at U.S. institutions, with a special focus on graduate students and their research-intensive agendas:

  • Battling Isolation and Creating Your Own Intellectual Community
  • Finding Your Own Voice as a Writer
  • Advancing Your International Perspective in Your Research
  • Bringing Your Authentic Self to the Classroom and to the Page

Discussion Question

What have you found to be most challenging as an international student at an American institution of higher learning? What has been the most rewarding?

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