There are many ways faculty and staff can help international students to thrive in the American university system and understand academic expectations at UCSB.

Educational systems in other countries vary widely. In many countries, including China, the emphasis is on memorization and working communally, rather than critical inquiry and independent thought.

Most of UCSB’s international students plan to earn a degree from UCSB and plan to be here for several years. A smaller number of international students are here as reciprocity students through Education Abroad Program, meaning they are registered students at a university in their home county who will be attending UCSB for 1-3 quarters and do not need to meet UCSB degree requirements. System-wide, about a quarter of UC international students will choose to stay in the U.S. after completing a degree. The large majority of these students come from China, with India, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and France rounding out the top five countries. The most popular majors are economics and accounting, electrical and computer engineering, and physics.

Academic Integrity

Some of the biggest concerns with international students involve plagiarism, citations, and independent authorship. International students are held to the same standard as all other UCSB students. That said, that standard may be different at UCSB than it was in a student's home country.

In other educational systems, collaboration may be expected and is an important part of forming friendships. Sharing work may not be considered cheating. Encourage or require students to attend CLAS or Library workshops on avoiding plagiarism and using proper citations. It is important to make your expectations for independent and group work clear. Put your expectations in writing. Use specific examples and confirm that your students understand what you expect.

If international students do not follow campus expectations for academic integrity, consult with Judicial Affairs.

Welcome Imperfection

International students may mask their confusion and appear more fluent in English than they actually are. It is difficult to risk making a mistake. Small things, like hearing a professor making an effort to learn students’ names and asking for help with correct pronunciation, can cue international students that they are welcome to ask questions. This can encourage students to take risks in participating during classroom discussions.

Classroom Participation

The interactive, engaged learning model that is taken for granted by U.S. students and teachers may be unfamiliar to international students. Participating in class discussions may be a new experience. Allowing students to work in small groups will help non-native English speakers rehearse their responses and clarify new terms before contributing to classroom discussion. If possible, discourage international students from clustering together and encourage them to work with native English speakers. Posting your presentations or lecture notes on GauchoSpace before class can provide students advance notice of new terms they may want to look up before a lecture.

International students may be more accustomed to an educational system that values memorization and respect for instructors above critical inquiry. Students may have deeply held beliefs that it is rude to question their instructors. Help students to understand that discussion and inquiry are expected and welcomed in your classroom.

Academic Writing

Grading international students’ papers can be challenging. As a teacher, it can be difficult to separate grammar errors from content. Some instructors suggest correcting students’ writing as you would correct their speech, that is, if the student uses the wrong article or preposition, try to ignore small errors and focus on the ideas being presented. If you need clarification to understand an idea, identify the error and let the student know—with as much specificity as possible—where the problem is and what is needed to correct it. Requiring a draft before the final assignment is due can provide an opportunity to raise major concerns while there is still time to correct course.

Additional Resources

Comments and Questions

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