Tips for Working with International Students


Welcome international students to your classes and offices

  • WMU is home to more than 1,850 international students representing about 100 countries, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles to be part of the WMU community. 
  • International students lend to the rich diversity we enjoy at WMU and they are very interested in making new friends, learning about U.S. culture, and sharing their culture.
  • Feeling welcome on campus is an important element of success for all of our students.


  • Understanding and pronouncing the names of people to whom you have just been introduced can be challenging, especially if a student is meeting multiple people at one time.
  • Listen carefully when meeting new international students for the first time, and then repeat their name back to them to make sure you heard it correctly.
  • If you are unclear on the pronunciation of the student’s name, ask them to write it down.
  • Be aware that social norms differ between cultures—some students may not be comfortable making eye contact or shaking hands during an initial introduction.

Speak slowly—be patient

  • It may take an international student longer to express thoughts or to ask questions if English is not their native language. 
  • Let students finish sharing their thoughts/questions/concerns without interruption. 

Providing instructions or directions

  • Simplify explanations
  • Speak a bit slower than normal.
  • Casually interview the student/s after you finish conveying the instruction/direction to ensure the student gained a clear understanding. Communicating with International Students Providing instructions of directions (cont.)
  • Assignments—ask the student to recap the directions for assignments. Follow up with questions to confirm understanding.
  • Directions—use campus maps and other graphic images to help convey your message. Ask the student to recap the directions. 

Providing instructions or directions—other tips

  • Divide information into “manageable chunks” to avoid information overload.
  • Repetition is key; Speak slowly, repeat often.
  • Avoid slang, jargon, idioms.
  • Use flowcharts, diagrams to explain steps.
  • Explain in different ways for different learning styles. Ex: Verbally, via technology, using whiteboard, etc.
  • Support verbal info with written.
  • Use direct/specific feedback; link to words on a website or document.
  • Make suggestions students can understand and do.
  • Don’t negotiate; explain, be positive. 

For more information about effectively communicating and working with international students and visitors, please review this presentation or contact:
(269) 387-4800

Support Resources

Immigration Services 

Offers comprehensive immigration advising and services to WMU international academic students, visiting scholars, foreign-national faculty and staff, and their WMU hosting or sponsoring departments.

International Admissions and Services

Offers walk-in advising and private appointments to assist international students and scholars at Western Michigan University with admissions-related concerns. 

Center for English Language and Culture for International Students

Provides instruction in English as a second language for non-native speakers who will use English to study at an American college or university or in their workplaces. 

Graduate Center for Research and Retention

Provides one-on-one writing support to WMU graduate students, especially those writing a dissertation or thesis. For additional information regarding the numerous resources available to graduate students, contact the Graduate Student Association. 

Writing Center

Provides free one-on-one writing assistance for class assignments or personal writing to WMU students in all disciplines. Graduate students enrolled in programs at regional campuses or in online classes may take advantage of telephone or Skype consultations. Visit the Writing Center website for more information or to make an appointment using their online scheduler.

Tutor List 

CELCIS prepares a list of private ESL tutors for for hire. Interested students may contact the tutors directly. Fees range from approximately $20 to $40 per hour. 

University Libraries

Offers a collection of resources for teaching international students.