Navigating academic culture with international students

When international students move from one academic culture to another, they encounter differences with the students at their new college or university. The main difference we often focus on is the language proficiency of international students compared to domestic students. However, there can be deeper philosophical and cultural differences in terms of learning and teaching; the creation and ownership of knowledge, teacher-student relationships, the characteristics of a ‘good student’, expectations of assignments and homework and communication styles.

High vs. low context cultures

An understanding of high and low content cultures is helpful to understand the barriers to communication across cultures. In high context cultures, in order to make sense of the communication you have to interpret the culture; the context, who the participants are, their identity and relationship – context says more than words. For example, if an international student from a high context culture emails you a paragraph long email about asking for a letter of recommendation, but they don’t exactly specify that they want a letter of recommendation, you need to make some assumptions that this is what they are asking for. In low context cultures, the words says more than the context.

When it comes to communication, high context cultures need to establish social trust first and value personal relations and goodwill. Negotiations are slow and ritualistic. By contrast, low context cultures get down to business first and negotiations are as efficient as possible. Learn more about the implications for teaching students who come from high versus low context cultures with Bal Sharma below:

Explore the slides from the presentation below:

Case study: graduate students from a Balkan country

Emilila Jovanovska and Mikayla Sievers present their research study into how students socialize through discourses of respect with their peers, teacher and subject materials. Learn more about the study below:

Explore the slides from the presentation below:

This lecture is part of the The University of Idaho Global Student Success Program Spring 2019 Lecture Series. For more information about this lecture, please contact Margot Volem, or share your thoughts and ideas on supporting international students to socialise into their new context via YammerTwitter or LinkedIn.