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International Education | Articles

What type of international student are you?

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As an international student, you already know that your motivations, priorities and preferences can differ from your domestic classmates. Afterall, moving to a completely new country for your education means that you bring a different perspective and as the numbers of your fellow foreign scholars rise, universities and colleges are adapting to better fit your needs. To gain a deeper understanding of students like you, Western Union Education Payments commissioned a study which revealed five distinct types of international learners. Though many of you will identify with several aspects, these categorizations help institutions better prepare to understand your unique passions and act accordingly. Where do you fit in?

Social Engineers

These students are activists and motivated by their desire to make a positive difference in the world. Decisions for this group, from buying products to selecting a school, will be influenced by that organization’s alignment with their personal beliefs. Recipients of the study were passionate about social and environmental issues such as sustainability, gender equality and politics. In fact, nearly three quarters of these students felt more engaged with educational institutions that were vocal on these issues.

In fact, this socially conscious factor is a growing considering for students from Asia and Africa, where female empowerment is rising. In a study, one in four African international students chose to student abroad, rather than domestically, because of the welcoming political environment, compared to a miniscule number of European students. This trend will likely continue to increase as a report from the Institute of International Education (IIE) shows more and more women selecting to student abroad rather than locally. In India, the female international student population rose 7% in just two years, according to DreamApply.

What to look for in an institution?  The key driver for this type of student is “purpose,” as in making decisions thoughtfully and carefully with intent. Those wishing to find a school that matches this ideal will not have to look far: many colleges and universities are becoming more vocal about the values they consider important. If you consider yourself a “social engineer”, there should be a wide array of institutions that cater to your interests.

Greener Graduates

Sustainability and environmentalism are critical concerns for many, and a growing number of overseas students would avoid schools with a lack of focus in this area. These scholars want more than sentiment and look for institutions with accessible public transit and effective policies. For one third of Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009), the environment is their top priority.

For these scholars, green living is more than an idea, it’s a firm principle. In fact, 58% of international students would boycott a school with a bad sustainability record. Why is that? As overseas attendees, you may understand your carbon footprint better than others as travel will be more regular during your academic career than most domestic students.

 What to look for in an institution? If you are among this type of individual, know that many schools publish their green efforts in annual reports or otherwise make their initiatives available for your review. In the future, well-established universities may look to build campuses in their growing Asian markets or collaborate with local schools, to make it even easier for foreign students to attend – and reduce their environment impact. Growing digital capabilities also make it easier to enroll in an international institution without needing to travel.


Mindful Scholars

Emotional wellbeing and mental health were not always openly discussed topics on campuses, but today’s students are vocal about the importance of these issues. From a rapidly changing job market, political climate and social media, it can be challenging to be an international student today. Add impact from Covid-19a majority practice mindfulness as a core principle of life, not just an afterthought. In fact, 84% consider wellbeing as more than an activity squeezed into their busy schedule, but an aspect that is part of their daily life.

In essence, this group is conscious of their mental wellbeing and actively aims to pursue balance and resilience. This is understandable as living in a new and unfamiliar country can very easily lead to feelings of isolation and academic pressure. Though it may seem at odds with a digitally-focused generation, 66% have taken a digital detox of 1-2 days, showing that while technology is important, mental health is equally so. In the future, schools could take a more holistic approach to education to ensure that students can thrive in a rapidly changing economy.

What to look for in an institution? According to the American College Health Association, rates of depression, anxiety and stress are rising at US and Canadian colleges. As such, schools are responding by placing a greater focus on support for mental wellbeing and other emotional tools. When you begin a semester, consider joining a cultural association or language club on campus to connect with others. Most schools will also have resources available.

Digital Learners

How often do you glance at your phone? For many, technology is an integral part of life and for digitally-minded students, online experiences are just as important as physical ones. At the same time, they also actively take breaks from their devices in order to achieve a balance.

In a survey, 58% of international students like you consider their online and offline presence to be equally important. On average, the respondents admitted to checking their devices every 39 minutes – does this sound like you?  As workplaces and careers become more digitally inclined, it makes sense for savvy students to seek likeminded schools.

What to look for in an institution?  With COVID-19 shutting many campuses around the world, students are already experiencing e-learning and other virtual styles of education. Though some institutions were investing in remote technology prior to closures, prolonged quarantines have forced all schools to consider this alternative way of teaching. Students looking for digital-first campus in the future will likely have an easy time finding resources.

 Hybrid Thinkers

This global generation blurs the lines between work, rest and play. They’re unlikely to settle for a single career which is smart, as the workforce today will probably look very different in the future. These scholars are looking for flexibility in education and value outside of the classroom.

This group is considered the first global generation as technology has made borders less concrete and these individuals are easily connected to friends and resources from around the world. International students already have an advantage in an increasingly global economy. Luckily, schools seem to be adapting to the changing nature of careers and reducing the rigidity of programs.

What to look for in an institution?  Jobs of the future will require flexible thinking, adaptability and will likely be less formalized than today. Schools will need to rethink their offerings if they are to truly help students succeed. Look for skills-based learning options to better help you with hybrid careers and flexibility in classes. Some schools even partner with employers so that the curriculum can match what they are looking for or give students a chance to obtain an internship or other opportunity.

The goals and preferences of each international student like you are unique. Because of the growing impact and importance of foreign attendees on campuses across the world, Western Union commissioned a study to identify core beliefs and categorize the profiles accordingly. There are five major considerations, though you likely identify with more than one. These outlines are meant to help universities and colleges better understand your needs and shift their focus to provide you with a better learning experience. You too can use these concepts to clarify your most vital principles and use this knowledge to select the best school for you.