International Student Resources

Challenge: Confusing Information and Unclear Processes

We've all been there. Whether it's trying to figure out how to get a driver's license or setting up internet service, institutional systems and processes can be confusing and, frankly, frustrating.  Federal immigration rules, university processes, and department policies can be confusing and conflicting for international students. Navigating these three separate yet related paths entails a careful understanding of how each one affects the others; however, the immigration rules for international students are particularly complicated. With various knowns and unknowns, international students must determine the best way to manage all three paths throughout the course of their programs.

Approach: The Adviser vs. Student Perspective

Working as an international student adviser, I was well versed in the intersecting and conflicting policies that students had to navigate. While the office had some general information sheets about different procedures, these handouts were overloaded with information and did not outline a clear process for students. What were meant to be helpful guides were nearly as complicated as the situations students were trying to navigate! After hundreds of student appointments, I was able to anticipate common questions, areas of confusion, and developed a script-like process to highlight the most important and relevant points. But, I didn't stop there. I turned to my colleagues and asked them about their own experiences working with students, and together, we brainstormed key aspects of processes that needed to be explained better. As a team of advocates for international students, we understood the difficulties and our collective knowledge ended up leading to a comprehensive overview of the processes that our students desperately needed to understand. 

Solution: Simple as 1-2-3

With all of the details and nuances of processes written out, there was one problem: these lists were too long and were reminiscent of the materials we already had. As a design challenge, I devised several versions of lists, infographic-style documents, and combinations of both, but the information proved to be overwhelmingly complicated. Being well-versed in federal immigration policies as well as university and department procedures, these versions made sense to me; however, things needed to be simple for our students. What could be more simple than a to do list? And how could a to do list be organized to ensure that students understood the various levels of a process? One would think it would be as easy as 1, 2, 3...

Outcome: Procedural To Do Lists

Designed to be printer friendly and ready for any advising appointment, the refreshed international student handouts served as visual check lists that provided structure to conversations between advisers and students. By whittling the information down to the bare essentials, each handout outlined the various considerations and definitions as they related to each procedure. The information and 1-2-3 checklist approach simplified the processes and provided a tangible procedural to do list for the student to refer to during the advising appointment with our office, as well as other visits with their academic departments.

Extending the Work: Passports

Studying abroad in a foreign country is a challenge in and of itself, and keeping track of what you have to do before, during, and after your academic program can be difficult and confusing. Extending the idea of a procedural checklist, I created the passports as quick summaries of the international student experience. Similar to the student handouts, these passports provided tangible resources for students during their programs. Printed as 5"x7" brochures, these passports became staples at new international student check-in, orientations, and advising appointments.

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