Students from other countries face many obstacles when they come to the U.S. to study, from getting a visa to acclimating to an all-new environment. Colleges and universities offer programs and resources to help their international students adjust to life in the U.S., and the students have a successful education experience. Colleges and universities employ international student advisers to provide immigration assistance, counseling in nonacademic aspects of student life and sponsor activities on and off campus.
Primary Job Responsibilities
International student advisers serve as their school's Designated School Official, or DSO. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires the schools it certifies for accepting students on academic, or F1, visas and vocational, or M, visas to have a DSO. In this capacity, the international student adviser counsels students on visa documentation, explains immigration compliance requirements and maintains records in the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS.
When students arrive, the international student adviser meets them at the airport. From their first day until they depart, the international student adviser becomes their go-to person for advice on housing, class scheduling and how to adjust to the cultural differences they experience. The international student adviser prepares and presents orientation sessions, keeps lists of housing contacts, doctors and lawyers and organizes social activities to make their stay more enjoyable.
This position requires cultural sensitivity, strong communication skills and an ability to relate with students from a variety of backgrounds. Some institutions seek multilingual candidates; all look for well-organized individuals with an attention to detail. The ability to juggle multiple tasks and set priorities characterize successful international student advisers, as do problem-solving abilities and remaining calm during a crisis. Because of the personal information they have access to and the fact that students confide in them, these foreign student advocates must respect confidentiality.
Education and Skills
International student advisers must have a college degree -- preferably a master's -- as well as an understanding of and ability to use SEVIS, gained through at least two years of experience working in university student services. Employers want candidates with one to two years of experience advising students and familiarity with federal immigration regulations and policies. Technical proficiency with education management software programs and basic computer usage round out the qualifications for this foreign student services position.
Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.