Tips for making your students feel welcome and engaged at your institution
Fostering a sense of belonging and integration into the social fabric of the institution is essential to ensure student success. Below you will find ideas for initiatives and group activities that will see your students committed to their studies.
There are probably as many options on how to feel engaged as there are students. One of them is the feeling of being part of a team or group. If the group is close to one’s own interests as well as inclusive enough to also address a relevant number of students, it is very likely to be successful. If your institution does not yet host different teams or group activities, you can find some ideas here. Maybe you can motivate students to create new groups!
They can be responsible for almost everything from scholarship distribution to support in curriculum development, from raising their voice for students in any committee or organisational unit within the university to current political discussions on a national level. Students working within the student union can get free or reduced tuition, credits or extra semesters for studying.
Example European Student Union: https://www.esu-online.org/International Student
If their main goal is to find internship places, connect international students, organize trips or find funding for students in need is in this case the secondary aim as all of them wonderfully engage students and help them find friends within the university and maybe even internationally.
International Association for the Exchange: https://iaeste.org
Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales: https://aiesec.org
International Student Network: http://www.isn-edu.com
Erasmus Student Network: https://esn.org
If students are able to play a musical instrument or sing, why not encourage them to start a band? They could do their first steps in cooperation with a local band or even together with some teachers or under supervision of a close musical university. Maybe a student who wants to become a music teacher or the leader of an orchestra, a conductor or a composer is available to get it all started? As soon as this is done, invite the band for more or less official university gatherings or parties, ask them to perform at the one or the other occasion, in a home for the elderly or in a kinder garden, organize an event for new students and have them playing or simply have them on your webpage. Who wouldn’t like to join in on that? Clubs for different music styles. Not only those actively producing, but also those listening to special kinds of music like to connect – offer a party for world music, for rap, traditional, dance floor, techno, electric music or help your students form a group where they can talk about and share musical pieces or just listen to music together.
Equally important and just as much bonding is to do sports together. Ranging from climbing, yoga, soccer, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, dancing, pilates, riding, biking, swimming and chess to any other sport activity, almost everybody can find something to join in. Additionally to university-organized sports offers, you can provide soccer and volleyball fields, swimming pools and archery places or just a lawn and some equipment and students should follow. Completely self-organized is just as good as the “official” invitation to meet at a certain time for a certain sports activity. And maybe your students even make it here: https://www.fisu.net
To use Apple, Linux or Windows is not only a discussion about practical matters, but it is a battle about ideology – why not connect those who wish to learn from each other in one or the other area?
Quite similar, there are no “bad” computer games, but just fans of one or the other kind of games. You can offer a video games night either just with students’ own computers or by even displaying different items that computer gamers like to try. Next time the former shy student sees someone who was at the “Gaming Night” with him*her, s*he might be daring enough to say “hi” – and you know you’ve accomplished a stopover!
You are the only one of your colleagues or friends who has this one special favorite movie. What a pity! Why not connect with others who also like this genre? Watch the same movie over and over again? Have a movie evening and talk about what you saw. You are a drama player yourself? You already did a small movie as a director, camera operator or you were responsible for the music in the movie? Analyze what you saw, organize a competition with audience voting and ENJOY!
It is not only a great experience to go taking pictures together and afterwards compare what each of you saw and photographed on the way. Also talking about individual pictures or photos of masters of photography or just about the best camera to use for one or the other occasion – to do that with others who know what they are talking about – is a lot more fun than talking about it with your friends who just don’t have an idea!
To be “different” than “the others” in this area is not always easy and fun and sometimes it is just good to have somebody with similar experiences and problems. If the members of this club don’t want everybody to know that they are part of this group, just officially inform all students about date, time and place of the meeting – probably in a spare room of the university or student hall. Also official talks from “experts” can be used as a starter to find interested students for the first meeting. To know that there are other students (and maybe even staff!) that feel the same (whatever “the same” in a diverse group as that is!) can be relieving in an uncertain and new situation.
As “normal” as international students can behave and feel, they have something in common. They are new to the country and they sometimes find it really strange what the “natives” are doing there. If they don’t have the chance to meet by accident, invite them to a “Welcome Dinner” in order to allow them to start forming a group. Or offer a WhatsApp group for everybody interested in connecting with them. Even locals might be – then the projects starts to be integrational as well – great!