The school does not prepare us for a culture shock

The student transition from secondary school to higher education is complex enough. When you factor in moving to another country, students often have to consider a new cultural environment alongside managing their finances, maintaining their grades, organizing day-to-day chores, making friends, and taking care of their well-being.

In a recent CIS project, we asked students from schools and universities about their experiences. Their insights will help practitioners in schools and universities understand the needs of international secondary students transitioning to higher education. The insights will help them consider how to best meet student needs through their transitions programming, drawing on data provided by 94 international students. 

Recommendations for secondary schools include:
  • introducing transitions care at an earlier stage
  • facilitating small group discussions with students about their transition
  • strengthening connections with alumni
Recommendations for universities include:
  • a review of orientation and induction processes
  • expanding university practices to be more inclusive of diversity
  • greater logistical and practical support

Students from both sides of the transition experience said that they would have liked more support related to social, emotional, intercultural and life skill development. You can start by reading the highlights and then go deeper into the insights. Plus! If you work at a CIS member institution, you can also fully explore the student responses and recommendations in the CIS Community portal:

What next?

We have now embarked on the second stage of this project, working with the Center for International Higher Education. We’re exploring the strengths and challenges that schools, parents and universities face as they seek to support international students through their transition. CIS member schools and universities that would like to participate can contact us to learn more.