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Undergraduate Student Advisement

International Student Advisement

ETSU values our international students and strives to empower them toward self-sufficiency.

Advising Basics 

Advise international students just as you would American students except

International students encounter academic and personal difficulties while pursuing their studies just like domestic students. However, in addition to the traditional issues faced by domestic students, international students are often adjusting to additional circumstances:

  • Adjusting to a new academic system
  • Learning in a second language
  • Experiencing culture shock
  • Learning to live far away from support systems
  • Learning new business practices

 Major Immigration Concerns

  • Full-time enrollment is legally required:
    • 12 hours for undergraduate students (9 of the 12 credits must be in regular, on-ground courses;  3 hours may come from an online course).
    • 9 hours for graduate students (6 of the 9 credits must be in regular, on-ground courses;  3 hours may come from an online course).

 Cultural Differences

 International students come from a variety of cultural backgrounds that sometimes allow for cultural mishaps on both the part of the student and the advisor. The following examples illustrate this dynamic:

  • directness
  • personal space differences
  • male and female roles
  • links to cultural differences like books, articles
  • for some - one-on-one conversation means more than written information - i.e. emails, letters, etc.
  • Saving face - they feel like they did something wrong

 Different student negotiation tactics:

  • No means I should ask someone else.
  • No means I should ask again.
  • No means I should ask your supervisor.

Different expectations of the advisor: 

  • My advisor should help me negotiate my apartment lease.
  • My advisor should help me maneuver the immigration system. 

 Student Resources

International Student Pre-Arrival Guide   


Template Forms for SACM used for students from Saudi Arabia  

 ETSU International Programs and Services forms: 


  • Immunizations
  • Housing
  • Learning Support Assessment
  • ENGL 1006/1007 and 1008/1009  English as a Second Language
  •  Money/fund issues - referrals 

 Terms international students may need to know- 

  • Major
  • Minor
  • General Education
  • Applying to a program vs applying to ETSU 

Communication Tips 

  1. Reach out to new students before they arrive on campus: new International Students may think that they can take care of administrative processes once they arrive on campus but we know that is frequently the cause of much stress.   You are encouraged to contact new international students as soon as possible after they are admitted to encourage them to register before they arrive on campus.   (do we need to provide a sample first email? ). You will have access to a list of international students admitted to their colleges/programs of study starting in early summer for fall students and early November for spring students. 
  2. When meeting in person or talking on the phone, LISTEN: Second language students often develop a script in their mind of what they want to say to you before they enter your office. Allow them to get through the script, so they feel certain that you have heard what they have to say. This can be difficult if the script is long and you can easily anticipate their question or issue.
  3. LIMIT: Limit the use of acronyms, abbreviations, jargon, colloquialisms, and idioms when speaking (or writing) to international students, even if English is their first language. Terms like ASAP or on target or home run or all set are U.S. culture-based and may have little meaning to an international student.
  4. POSSIBLE CULTURAL DIFFERENCE INDICATORS: Certain feelings and behaviors (both yours and/or the person with whom you are communicating) can be indicators that cultural differences are at play when interacting with someone from another country: frustration, taking offense, repetition, no response, inappropriate responses for the situation (i.e., nodding continuously when clearly the individual does not understand, awkward laughter, ending the conversation abruptly, seeming distracted, etc.). Allow these indicators to remind you to take a deep breath and find a different way to approach the issue or explanation.
  5. CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING: After you have discussed an issue with a student or explained a procedure, ask for an explanation in his or her own words. Don't just ask the student if he or she understood everything you said. This question may not confirm his or her level of understanding, since the culture of some international students dictates that saying they don't understand shows that either you failed in your explanation or they have failed in understanding. Do you understand what I told you? will often be answered with a polite Yes, thank you as the student walks away without the vital information he or she needs.
  6. NAVIGATING BUREAUCRACY: This process is not the same in every country or culture, because strategies for getting a favorable response vary. Some approaches include working up to the most senior person in the office or organization, only accepting the answer of someone in charge, asking repeatedly until a favorable response is received, or only accepting the answer from a male staff member. Be clear in your message and be certain the student has understood what you said. Be patient because you may have to repeat yourself to emphasize that there are no exceptions to the policy/procedure/answer and that the answer will be the same no matter how many times the question is asked. Talk with your colleagues and supervisor about how you will deal with requests to talk to a higher up.
  7. HELP: You should assist international students as they work to understand U.S. customs and how things are done here, but do not pressure them to change their behavior or viewpoints unless the change is absolutely necessary for academic or social success or to avoid serious conflict. Consider whether the situation could be better resolved if you changed your own behavior or viewpoint.
  8. NAMES: Learn to say the names of international students correctly. Do not expect the student to select a U.S.-based nickname or shortened version of his or her name. This effort will go a long way toward making the student feel welcomed and respected.
  9. BE CURIOUS: Take the time to learn at least a little about your students countries of origin, customs, languages, and the larger issues of concern in their home countries (i.e., current events).
  10. DON'T GENERALIZE: Don't assume that all students from a particular country or culture will behave or respond the same way. Likewise, do not expect a student to know what everyone in his or her country thinks about a particular topic. Like in the U.S., perspectives vary from region to region and group to group in any country.                 

Enrollment Requirements

Exchange/non degree seeking students 

  • All international students on F-1 or J-1 visas must be enrolled as full-time students during the fall and spring terms. If a student withdraws from a course and falls below the minimum number of credits, he or she will be under-enrolled and out of status. DO NOT advise a student to drop a course to save his or her GPA if it puts the student below full-time status.
  • Summer enrollment is OPTIONAL, unless required for a graduate assistantship position or if summer is the first semester of a new level of study. In these required situations, full-time status is also required during the summer (6 credit hours for both undergraduate and graduate students).
  • If students audit a course (take a course without earning a grade), the course will not count toward their full-time enrollment. 

English Proficiency 

Proof of proficiency in English is required if the students primary language is not English. Students who have completed one or more years of university-level study in the U.S. may be exempt at the discretion of the advisor. The following table shows the three types of English proficiency requirements international students must meet in order to be admitted to ETSU:  

Advisors can visit for more information about how to interpret TOEFL scores.  

International students will probably not have ACT or SAT scores to indicate their math and English placements.


Advising an international student

  • If possible email student prior to arrival
  • Inform the student as an advisor "I will help you register, etc.  Clear terms on what an academic advisor does vs. international advisor.
  • inform them of any program requirements
  • Degree Works information 
  • Launch
  • Advisement holds
  • Need to know who to refer for Visa and other questions  (knowing requirements for Int. Programs)
  • Is a P.O. Box needed - student can request a box at the post office

Referrals:  For students that need help with housing, meals, and other basic needs refer to Undergraduate Student Success Specialist  or    International Programs  

 **Non degree seeking students - does not have to do Launch and should not have an advisement hold.






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