The Ohana

Hannah Kinsolving Sp16-80By Hannah Kinsolving
Student, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

For a short time in my first year on this island, I lived in a dorm in Waikiki. The experience was bittersweet. I was miserable in my environment, but I also learned things about myself that ideal situations wouldn’t necessarily have revealed.

I had a small lanai. According to the house rules, we weren’t allowed to leave anything — furniture, clothing, towels, accessories — out there. Still, shortly after moving in, I began to dry my laundry on a rack on the lanai because the laundry room was constantly busy and at least three of the six dryers were regularly labeled with a handwritten “Out of Order” note.

OhanaDorm

I knew that a resident assistant would eventually come knocking on my door to inform me of my rule violation, so before answering the door I pulled my laundry off the lanai and hid it in the closet. When she asked if I had anything on my lanai, I would dutifully show her my empty lanai. In this way, I avoided all citations and fines concerning unapproved objects on the lanai. It was a small triumph, but a necessary one for my spirit at the time.

My version of squalor began the moment I landed on O’ahu and was taken to my new home. I looked out of the shuttle window in wide-eyed wonder at the streets of Waikiki. Kalakaua Avenue was bursting at the seams at every corner, tourists spilling out into the four-way intersections. Designer shops lined the hand-laid stone sidewalks, and street entertainers loudly announced their feats to the passersby, hoping to attract a crowd that would fill their hats sitting expectantly on the sidewalks.  Continue reading

International Students and the Need for LMS Orientations

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

You may be familiar with US News & World Report’s (USNWR) best college rankings, a resource that many people use for basic information about universities and colleges in the US. Like many media outlets, USNWR has established a presence on the Internet and features a number of blogs for matters related to education. Among these is one that focuses on education and the international student, the International Student Counsel. This blog is aimed at international students and their parents and provides advice about many aspects of education in the US, such as things to look for when researching universities, choosing a major, passing the TOEFL, and how to pay for college.

A July 7, 2015, post on the International Student Counsel blog, “4 Academic Surprises for New International College Students,” discussed some of the adjustments that international students have to make when attending universities in the US. The first item suggests that students must get familiar with the university’s online system to help manage homework and course material. International students and technology is a topic that I covered on June 10, 2015 (“Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges“), and again on July 9, 2015 (“Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges“).

I think the topic of international students in the US is worth revisiting for two reasons. First, the fact that there is a blog devoted to these issues in a major media outlet demonstrates that there is an audience for this type of information. According to a November 17, 2014, post, the Number of International College Students Continues to Climb in the US, and they and their parents have a need to know what kinds of issues may arise. Second, I think this blog is a resource that educators in the US should be aware of. If you haven’t had any international students yet, you probably will at some point.

Many articles about international students focus on what the student needs to do to adjust, but as important is for American educators to think about how they can help make the transition easier for their students. Does the international relations orientation include information about the university’s Learning Management System (LMS) — not just instructions on how to log on but demonstrations on how most professors and students use it? Does the professor assume all the students will know where to find class information or does he or she inform students of the class expectations regarding LMS use?

A few simple steps taken by educators at the beginning of the semester can alert international students to questions that they may need to ask and prevent issues from arising.

Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

International students in the United States, whether they are native English-speakers or English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), face some unique challenges when attending American universities. Jiongcheng “Arthur” Xu, in “Five Ways to Prepare for Freshman Year at a U.S. College,” encourages incoming freshmen who are international students to take advantage of technology to prepare themselves for their experience. I think two of his ideas are especially relevant for all international students whether they are coming to the US or going elsewhere.

His first suggestion is to practice writing. He rightly points out that the US educational system relies heavily on reading and writing, whether it is traditional classwork or communicating with classmates through FaceBook and texting. Recently, I was at a conference in Croatia, and one young woman shared her experience as an international student who had never used a classroom management system.

She did not realize at first that her instructors expected her to take some responsibility for her learning by logging on regularly and accessing course materials, reading and corresponding either through the site or through email with the instructor and fellow students, and participating in online discussions. Not only is the online learning environment a different paradigm than many international students are accustomed to, but each of these activities requires different writing skills and not always the 5-paragraph essay that students of English are often taught.

Another suggestion that he made was to find university lectures in English online and watch them. Not only will they improve their listening and note-taking skills, they will get an idea of how professors in the US conduct a class. I would also recommend that they try to find recordings of classes in which there is interaction among students. One of the skills that a language learner may need to learn is how much information to give and how long to talk before yielding the floor to another speaker. I have found that sometimes when international students have finally gotten up the nerve to participate in a class, they do not understand the unspoken rules of turn-taking and quantity of speech that is appropriate in certain situations.

What has your experience been with using technology for college preparation, either as an international student or as a teacher of international students?