Crafting a Great Student Experience, Part 3: International Students

For a lot of universities, International students represent a way to increase international recognition and cultural diversity, as well as being a good source of income that can be transformed into offering a better education product and perform further research. It is indeed so that most universities strive to keep their number of international students high.

1300 international students gathered outside the main building of the Norwegian university NTNU during orientation week in august 2016.
Photo: Hege Førsvoll / NTNU

This blog post continues our series on how universities can enhance the student experience. We’ve previously discussed mobile solutions (part 1 and part 2), and in this post we will focus particularly on international students.

For international students, studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity to discover and learn about a new country, as well as learning a new language and widening their horizon. The academic level is of course an important factor when choosing a university to study abroad on, but the student experience is an extremely important aspect of the consideration process. The US International Student Counsel see the campus experience as one of the top 4 most important things to consider when studying abroad, and note that getting familiar with the campus area early on is important to feel comfortable.

Focusing on creating a superior student experience is indeed a very important step for universities to attract more international students. So, how can we facilitate a greater student experience for international students?

Besides the academic level, we believe there are two important aspects to consider; the university experience and the cultural/social experience. International students do not have the same natural social network as domestic students, and so it becomes important to also make it easy to have an enjoyable life outside of the university. At the same time, international students generally struggle more with culture and language barriers, so it becomes even more important to provide intuitive and swift campus services to make life on a new campus easier to adapt to. Here is a list of three things you should think about when creating an attractive climate for international students

0: Onboarding and orientation

As a new student - and particularily as an international student - you have a lot of questions and there's a lot of new things that you have to learn. The information you get at orientation week is thus of vital importance.

A good practice is to organize events and meetings that have the goal of spreading the basic necessary information, as well as integrate the students in the everyday student life at campus. Social events at the beginning of the semester is of crucial importance for the students to feel at home and get a student network, and is a great place to also provide practical information in a nice atmosphere. It also gives the university the opportunity to give a more personal welcome to international students.

Photo showing one of the orientation events for international students organized by the Office of International Affairs at the Norwegian university NTNU.
Photo: Hege Førsvoll / NTNU*

1: Smooth campus services and wayfinding

One of your biggest worries as an international student is to find your way around the large campus area. It’s hard enough to find the right buildings, but even harder to find the right auditorium or reading room. Universities should offer a fantastic wayfinding solution, with clear signs, self-service kiosks with interactive maps and mobile applications with campus maps.

Photo showing the dedicated campus map pages for the Norwegian university NTNU.

Photo showing the dedicated campus map pages for the Norwegian university NTNU.

“One of the biggest worries of an international student is finding your way around a large campus area” tweet

Universities should focus on making it easy for international students to find the services they are looking for, with clear menus and search functions on their web pages, and maps to get you all the way to where you’re going. Time tables should contain information on all classes, and directions for how to get to the relevant auditorium, especially if there are any last minute changes.

Illustration showing screenshot of a timetable system with information about room and a link to indoor maps

Illustration of the TimeEdit TimeTable system at University College of Bergen

It's also possible to think about making indoor maps specifically designed for Orientation week, with certain relevant point of interests marked on the map. You could even arrange a scavanger hunt, where new students need to find their way to throughout the campus area and get rewarded as they find their way around.

All in all, having smooth campus services makes the student experience on campus enjoyable and easy, and creates a fine international reputation for the university.

2: Facilitate a social life outside the university

Student associations and clubs are a great way for international students to meet new people and engage in meaningful and fun activities after school hours. The university should make it very easy for international students to sign up for activities with student associations. Further, affordable student housing with a mixture of both domestic and international students make it easy for international students to meet with other students and acquire a social network on their own.

Illustration of student associations at universities

Student associations and clubs is a great place for international students to meet friends and have meaningful activities outside the university environment. (C) ESPH, Switzerland.

Universities could spread information on social events and happenings through social media or university mobile applications to make all information easily available to international students. A strong focus on enhancing the social life of international students ensures a welcoming atmosphere for the students, and contributes to market the university and country as a great place for foreign students to study.

What do you see as the most important factors to attract international students to universities? Tweet us @MazeMap.

Would you like to engage in a conversation with us on how we can help you enhance your campus services? Contact us for a non-committal chat.

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