PHOTO: YORK REGION DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD
language, and from pre-departure screening to transition
into university. “We don’t want anyone to fall through the
cracks,” a team member explains.
The multilingual team of the board is capable of keeping
communication with parents and custodians tight. But it’s
the orientation program that the team thinks is particularly
beneficial for students.
A few years ago, it was just a short orientation program.
Then the department ran a survey and asked some questions:
for example, how did you feel when you arrived here? The
responses from some of the children left the staff baffled.
“There were kids who said: ‘I had lunch in the bathroom
because I had no friends,’” a team member explains. “That’s
when we said: we can’t have just a one-day orientation, we
need to encourage relationships among students coming in.”
The team then developed its two-week long program,
which helps students get to grips with their transition into
Canada – and groups them by school, so on their first day
in the classroom they are not alone. “Our international stu-dents
continue to provide positive feedback about how the
orientation effectively helped them transition into their new
learning environment,” the team relates.
Trigger points for intervention
“We know from research that international students are by
far the most vulnerable in the Australian higher education
landscape because they are away from their families and
their support network,” James Adonopoulos, academic dean
of Australia-based Kaplan Business school, tells The PIE.
This school implemented Operation Student Support last
year: “The program is designed as an opportunity for us to be
proactive rather than reactive, with the explicit objective to
identify the triggers that signal to us that a student is at risk,”
Adonopoulos explains. It can be anything from a change in
attendance to something a student says in a conversation.
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At Memorial University of Newfoundland, the internatio-nal
team runs family programs for children and spouses of
international students, so they can get to know the city of St
John and learn what support is available for them. “A huge
focus is trying to help them find ways to feel they can belong
and feel comfortable in whatever situation they may find
themselves in the city,” says Knutson.
At the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, an “internatio-nal
baby shower” helps international parents-to-be become
aware of the support network that is available for them. “We
invite all different organisations that can help parents as they
are dealing with the experience of having a child in another
culture, where they don’t necessarily know what is available
to them,” Beisser explains. At the annual event, representati-ves
the local hospitals, the Women’s Centre, the university’s
children centre and other organisations are all invited to
connect with international students.
Off to a good start with premium secondary support
The importance of supporting the transition into a new
school system abroad is crystal clear to the York Region
District School Board, the third-largest board in Ontario,
Canada, looking after 200 schools and 127,000 students.
Its International Education Services team participated en-masse
in a Skype call with The PIE to explain what it’s like to
cater to the needs of K-12 international students.
“It’s quite an accountable framework which makes sure
that these students who come to us are very well taken care
of – we are dealing with a very different age group from the
one universities deal with,” one staff member explains.
“Some students come for a year, others come for their
entire educational career. Just yesterday I was talking to a
student about to graduate – when he came here in grade 1
he was crying for mummy every day!”
There’s anxiety, stress and there’s fear, the team explains.
Many of the students carry the burden of huge family ex-pectations
on their shoulders.
The support in place is ongoing and comprehensive,
catering for all needs, from medical needs to academic
students are by far
the most vulnerable
in the Australian
International students taking part in the YRDSB orientation program