The role of international student professionals
Jul 18 2016 0

Understanding the Critical and Ever-Changing Role of International Student Services Professionals

Digital communication has affected nearly every aspect of American life: More people than ever now pay bills on line, rather than via mailing a check. Email marketing is supplanting direct-mail marketing in many industries. People now socialize via text messages, social media and email rather than sending a letter.

In many ways, virtual communication has made life easier for millions of people. Yet certain situations still require the movement of physical information in the form of documents. When that physical information needs to move between countries, complications arise. Challenges posed by international shipping can range from regulatory compliance with the laws of multiple nations, and customs, duties and taxes, to currency conversions for postal rates in both origination and destination countries, selecting shipping modes, international date lines, and costs of third-party logistics managers.

These hurdles to successfully moving documents internationally are more relevant than ever due to increased globalization, and continued economic and political volatility in both developed and emerging nations. While technology has made international communication and even global selling easier, it has not necessarily simplified the movement of products and documents across international borders.

Challenges for many

Welcome to the inaugural eShipGlobal blog, where we hope to shine a light on international shipping and document delivery challenges, and help professionals across a broad range of industries find solutions. From entrepreneurs striving to expand their business globally, to researchers looking to move materials and samples between facilities in different countries, international shipping and mailing challenges affect a wide range of professions.

In upcoming blogs, we’ll explore the issues faced by professionals engaged in international shipping and share information on trends that affect their industries. In this first blog, we’ll focus on International Student Services professionals, the unsung heroes of university campuses. While their contribution to higher education cannot be overstated, ISS professionals remain largely invisible to the public outside campus settings.

ISS pros face a million-student job

Around the world, education is a pathway to a more fulfilled, financially stable and fruitful life. ISS professionals help international students who come to the U.S. for education as they navigate the practical and social challenges of studying in a foreign country. Their support in helping students navigate the complex requirements of studying abroad is integral not only to those students’ collegiate success, but also to their long-term success in life after leaving school.

In 2015, the number of international students studying in U.S. schools climbed 10 percent to nearly 1 million people, according to the Institute of International Education. More international students choose to travel to the U.S. for their educations than to any other country in the world, accounting for about a quarter of the world’s 4 million-plus international students, the IIE reports.

Students come from literally all over the world, and virtually every continent, including Europe, Asia, Africa, South American and Australia. While some come from first-world countries where a strong Western influence provides greater understanding of American culture, many come from countries where social customs and political climates are widely different from those in the U.S.

ISS professionals assist this diverse group of students in navigating the host of practical challenges they face in coming to the U.S.

“International student services departments support international students in many ways,” says Christina Khan, associate director, International Affairs and Global Strategies at the University of Central Florida.

“We help them with compliance to international visitor regulations and immigration rules, employment, and integrating into the university culture,” she says. “We’ve even assisted in making sure if they have scholarships from their home countries, they have timely access to the funds they need for their educations. Our jobs are not just data entry; we do a great deal of personal work directly with students.”

Making a difference

Colleges and universities have always been focal points where ideas converge, world views expand and imagination thrives. Globalization has made their impact more meaningful than at any time in human history. By shepherding international students through university life in America, ISS professionals are in a unique position to shape the future of globalization. Their influence in students’ lives contributes to the freer exchange of cultures, ideas, values and knowledge that is the hallmark of higher education.

Key roles of ISS professionals include, but are not limited to:

  • Compliance support. ISS professionals support students in achieving and remaining compliant with nonimmigrant visa regulations.
  • Facilitating visa applications and immigration paperwork. While travelers from certain countries who intend to stay in the U.S. for 90 or fewer days may be eligible to have visa requirements waived, international students must obtain a visa in order to attend college or university in America. In order to obtain a student visa to enter the U.S., international students must first be accepted by an eligible school. The process for obtaining a student visa can vary depending on the country of origin.[1]
  • Managing on-campus cultural programs. Many universities with a high number of international students sponsor on-campus cultural programs designed to help students integrate into the university culture. ISS professionals typically manage every aspect of these programs, from establishing budgets and program goals, to implementation and even hands-on involvement in student participation.
  • Navigating customs requirements. While a student visa allows international students to travel to a U.S. port of call, such as an airport, it does not guarantee entry into the country. Students must be aware of and in compliance with all regulations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in order to enter the country.[2]
  • Obtaining local identification. International students may wish to drive during their stay in the U.S., or may simply need a state-issued ID. ISS professionals help international students navigate the process of applying for and obtaining identification in their state.
  • Helping students understand tax requirements. International students who work in the U.S. must abide by federal and state tax laws.
  • Aid in obtaining Social Security numbers. International students authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to work either on or off-campus need to obtain a Social Security number[3]. ISS professionals often help authorized students apply for their SSN.
  • Facilitate access to counseling and tutoring. International students may need different types of counseling, such as career or integration guidance, academic tutoring and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) education. ISS professionals may work to connect students with appropriate resources to provide these services.
  • Provide job-placement support. Some international students in the U.S. on student visas will wish to remain in the country to begin their professional lives. ISS professionals help these students navigate the process of changing their visa status from a student to work visa, and may even help students find appropriate employment.
  • Sponsor and manage social programs. ISS professionals may spearhead on-campus social programs designed to help international students connect with each other and domestic students.

Emerging challenges

“The only constant in our field is change,” Khan says. “We spend a lot of time thinking about how to support international students in and outside the classroom. We’re thinking more wholistically, not just about academic performance and immigration status.”

The growth of globalization is driving change in the ISS profession. More international students than ever are traveling to the U.S. for higher education, yet ISS department budgets remain tight. Many in the industry see budgets failing to keep pace with the growth in international student populations.

Often, ISS professionals find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to advocate for their departments with both internal decision-makers and external stakeholders. A trend has emerged toward assessment of programs and their impact on students in order to justify budgets and resource allocations.

Unsurprisingly, tight budgets mean departments may be understaffed. Workloads are increasing for ISS professionals as they try to serve a growing number of students with limited staff and resources. Aspirants to the ISS profession must typically have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree; a survey of ISS professionals by the International Association of Student Affairs and Services found 90 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

In addition to formal education, ISS professionals need up-to-date, working knowledge of changes in immigration and visa regulations, as well as tax laws, and how these factors affect international students. As with budgets, changes in immigration laws have not kept pace with the evolution of higher education.

World events also impact the ISS professional’s job. With many international students coming from regions of the world where political unrest and even violence are common, ISS pros need to be cognizant of how those realities affect the students residing in the U.S. as well as their families abroad.

Finally, perhaps the most impactful change in the profession has been the trend toward thinking about international students in more holistic terms. ISS programs have begun to take into account the importance of international students’ emotional well-being and social success in addition to academic performance and immigration status.

Your call to action

eShipGlobal supports ISS professionals by providing software that automates and streamlines the time-consuming and confusing task of mailing documents internationally. We hope to help further by creating a forum where ISS professionals can find support, information and ideas. If you’re an ISS professional, you can join our International Student Affairs Community by filling out the short form. The eShipGlobal ISA Community brings together the very best ISS professionals in order to support, share, learn, and advance the efforts that go into building a better international community. Please contribute to the dialogue by letting us know in the comments section what issues you would like to see us address in this blog.

 

By: Evelyn Pimplaskar

 

[1] https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student.html

[2] https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student.html

[3] https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10181.pdf

 

 

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