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Tips and Resources for Working with and Teaching International Students

Tips for teaching international students:

Tips to promote listening comprehension

  • Slow down – enunciate carefully so that words are not run together.
  • Provide concrete examples for any difficult concepts.
  • Use visual aids.
  • Provide an outline of the lecture for students to follow or use for note taking.
  • Be aware that cultural references (including most jokes) will not only not be understood, but will make international students feel even more like outsiders.

Tips to promote student speech in class

  • Encourage students to speak. 
  • Provide opportunities for students to practice speaking with a partner or in a small group before speaking to the entire class. 
  • If possible, provide a list of discussion topics and questions before the day of class.
  • Because international students often sit together in class, it may be beneficial to assign students to mixed (international and domestic) working groups who they sit next to and collaborate with during class. Form the groups yourself, and make them intercultural.
  • Don’t ignore international students.

Tips for working with language learners' writing

  • For any written assignment, provide an explicit set of instructions for handout or download.
  • Provide at least one example of a final product (the same or similar assignment) and discuss it carefully in class.
  • Emphasize the importance of budgeting time in the writing process.
  • When reading and commenting on papers, focus on content.
  • Realize that rhetorical structure is not a universal—students may need help organizing the paper the way you want it, but this may not be a sign that they do not understand the content.
  • Try not to be distracted by surface errors and mistakes with articles, prepositions, punctuation, spelling, and grammar that do not obscure meaning. This is not to say that these misuses are ok, but that they should not be of primary importance.
  • Know a little about morphology. Many languages either lack prefixes and suffixes entirely (Chinese) or use them quite differently (Spanish).
  • It bears repeating that knowledge of English does not correlate to intelligence or potential.
  • Encourage use of the Writing Center, but teach students how to use it in productive ways such as taking a draft of your paper or a list of topics for review with a tutor.  

Tips to assist students' acculturation in UK’s academic culture

  • Allow international students to audio record classes.
  • Discourage note taking in the first language
  • Provide structure for group work by clarifying roles such as organizer, recorder, questioner, encourager, etc. to the class (or even assigning them to individuals).
  • Compile a list of relevant background information that you expect domestic students to bring to a class but that international students might not.
  • If a student is habitually tardy, please meet with this student (or refer him or her to UKIC) to discuss his or her reasons for tardiness and the significance of what the student is missing during the beginning of class.
  • Emphasize to students both the percentage of the final grade that assignments are worth and a suggested amount of time that students should use to complete the work.
  • Encourage students to teach each other about their cultures so that they can understand the cultural implications or background of what is going on.
  • Recognize factors in poor performance that might be attached to stress, such as an unwillingness to admit difficulty to their family back home, a scholarship that doesn’t allow flexibility in changing a major, culture shock or unfamiliarity with campus resources or U.S. academic culture.
  • Help international students to understand that U.S. universities often require assignments more often rather than just 1-2 exams in an entire semester. 
  • Discourage word for word memorization of content  whenever possible unless it's simply to learn vocabulary terms.  International students may be from academic cultures where memorization is highly valued while critical and independent thinking is much more valuable in a U.S. academic culture.

Advice to give international students:

Listening in class:

  • Carefully complete all assigned reading in advance of class meetings, keep a journal of new content vocabulary, and practice pronouncing these words. 
  • Participate in the International Conversation Hour – the best practice for listening and speaking is to listen and speak with a real person.
  • Ask professors if they will allow you to audio record class lectures. 
  • Watch English movies, and experiment with turning the subtitles on or off. 

Speaking in class

  • Don't be afraid to speak. Your pronunciation and grammar do not need to be perfect for you to be understood.
  • As with listening practice, reviewing and pronouncing content-specific vocabulary that is likely to be part of class discussion.
  • Form study groups with other international students or with native speaker classmates.

Writing

  • First and foremost, understand the assignment. If you have any doubt about what the instructor expects, ask him or her, and/or take the assignment to the Writing Center for help.
  • Writing a good paper requires much more than one night of work. Plan to finish a draft several days before it’s due so that you can visit the Writing Center at least once. Save the last day before the paper is due for editing: read every sentence carefully. Print your paper the day before it is due—never just before class.
  • Take a copy of the assignment, any class notes, and any outside sources with you to the Writing Center.
  • Carefully compare your paper to any examples that the instructor provides.

Reading

  • Keep a written journal of new vocabulary words. 
  • When you look up the meanings of words, use a monolingual “learners dictionary”—not a translator. 
  • Use wordandphrase.info
  • Focus on the grammatical subject and main verb of independent clauses—this is where the core meaning of English sentences is located.
  • Preview any reading by looking at the section headings to get an idea of what the chapter or article is about and how the information is organized.
  • Write a brief outline and summary as you are reading. Academic texts usually put the main ideas at the beginning of paragraphs, so focus on first sentences.

Making friends

Overcoming homesickness

  • Limit time spent online communicating with friends and family back home to a certain time each day (maybe one hour). 
  • Students can visit the Student Health and Counseling Center where a counselor can help them deal with their adjustment issues.
  • Meet one of your international students somewhere on campus outside of your office to discuss your class. Help students get out and experience their campus.

Resources for Working with International Students:

Common Visa Types for International Students
Most full-time degree-seeking international students at UK are eligible to apply for the F-1 visa and the majority of international students hold this visa status. Some students may also be eligible for the J-1 student visa, part of the exchange visitor program through the U.S. Department of State. This group of students may sometimes choose between an F-1 or J-1, or be required to have this status based on their funding requirements or government sponsor.  The differences are outlined here.

UK Counseling Center
The University of Kentucky Counseling Center tailors its services for international students. Counselors are aware of the many ways that being from another culture can impact a student’s experience at UK, and are available to help students with both academic and personal problems.

K Week International Orientation
International Student and Scholar Services provides new and returning students with a weeklong orientation that includes a number of events, including a check-in session, shopping trip, an ice cream social, the IHP and Rotary Club Picnic, The Late Night Film Series and many others.

Opportunities for international students to practice spoken English
Cultural Coffee Hour and the International Conversation Hour are on campus events that take place weekly and serve as a way for American and international students to interact outside of the classroom. Both events serve to provide students with conversation from an international perspective and are a great opportunity for international students to improve their spoken English.

The Cultural Coffee Hour is hosted by the VIP Center and International Student and Scholar Services. Cultural Coffee Hour takes place every Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Frazee Hall Basement. If you enjoy coffee and snacks or just enjoy good conversation from a multicultural perspective then the Cultural Coffee Hour is for you.

The International Conversation Hour (ICH) is hosted by the UK Writing Center. ICH provides a weekly informal gathering where students, faculty, and staff can relax and converse together. ICH takes place Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. in the Hub of the William T. Young Library.

Cross Cultural Workshop
The Cross Cultural Workshop is a day-long retreat sponsored by International Student and Scholar Services. The retreat is for international and domestic students and works to provide interaction and education across cultural boundaries.

International Hospitality Program
The International Student Hospitality Program (IHP) provides cross-cultural learning between American families and international students outside of the classroom. IHP works to create long lasting connections and friendships amongst Americans and international students. IHP also hosts a number of events for international students throughout the academic year (e.g. chili cook-off, Valentine’s Day party, and other welcome events).

ISSS Brown Bag Series
The Brown Bag Lunch Workshops are provided to help UK’s academic advisers learn and understand the process of working with international students. There are three workshops offered each semester.

HR Training Courses
International Student and Scholar Services offers courses which can be pre-arranged by request or by registering through the myUK self-service tab.   Courses include intercultural training, a visa series regarding the employment of international faculty/staff on the, H-1b Visa status, J-1 visa status, and lawful permanent residency status, and others.

To view current courses offerings visit myUK:

  • Under Employee Services, select Training
  • Under Course Catalog, select UK International Center
  • In the Assigned Subject Areas, select course you would like to attend and select To Registration
  • Select Book Course

International Student Scholarships
There are scholarships available for incoming and current international students at the University of Kentucky. Scholarships are available for undergraduate and graduate students in varying amounts.

Student Health
University Health Service provides multiple health services for students and faculty at the University of Kentucky. All international students are required to complete an online TB screening questionnaire shortly upon arrival to the U.S.  Based on this questionnaire, a student may or may not have to take a TB skin test at UHS. 

ISSS Presentation Request Form
Use this form to submit a presentation request