Helping students to settle in
Most international students are happy with their first few days at school in New Zealand.
The results of the 2015 International Student Barometer (ISB) survey for the school sector found 81% of students were happy with their first few days at school.
However, the figure is a 2% decrease on the 2012 survey, and lower than students’ satisfaction with their learning experiences, living arrangements and support services.
Students were most likely to be satisfied with their welcome into the school, and with understanding their timetable. They were least likely to be happy with opportunities to meet other students and make friends.
The survey suggested putting more attention into integrating international and domestic students, and making international students feel more welcome.
Education New Zealand commissioned the survey to investigate the decision-making, expectations, perceptions and experiences of more than 2,000 students aged 16 and over.
Mount Roskill Grammar School, Epsom Girls Grammar School and Birkenhead College - all high scorers in the arrival category - share their tips for helping students to settle in when they arrive in New Zealand
Looking at students’ whole-of-life experiences
Mount Roskill Grammar School
Customer service is at the heart of Mount Roskill Grammar School’s approach to supporting new international students.
“In 2013, we developed a new strategic plan based on good customer service. That’s the starting point for us as a team,” says International Director Wendy Reid.
“At the entry interview, we give students a list of choices - ways they can achieve what they want to achieve. The flexibility of the New Zealand education system makes that possible.
“Because of our focus on customer satisfaction, my staff look at students’ whole-of-life experiences. We ask ourselves whether students are making friends and getting on with their host family, and how much value we can get from the money they have.”
Wendy believes international departments need to have a good understanding of their school’s strengths and limitations, and how it will meet market needs.
Her team regularly reviews its strategic goals, and achieved its five-year goals in half the time.
“You can’t ever lose your focus, though. You have to always be looking at your programme from the point of view of students, parents, agents and the school,” says Wendy.
“I focus on making sure staff are happy, because if they feel supported they will want to support the students. We work as a team.”
Buddies help to reduce stress
Epsom Girls Grammar School
It’s very important to the international team at Epsom Girls Grammar School that their students have a good first few days adapting to their new life in New Zealand.
To help with settling in, the Auckland school assigns each student a buddy. Buddies are Year 13 international students who are members of the school’s international committee.
Students are assigned buddies months before they arrive to give them time to ask questions in advance, which helps both new students and their parents have peace of mind. The senior students apply to be buddies, and attend the school’s three-day orientation with the new students.
“Students love having a buddy before they arrive at orientation, and they love the different activities and the pace of those activities. No-one is stressed, and having the international students arrive before the rest of the students makes it easier for them to talk to the international team,” says Terry Kraettli, Director of International Students.
Three or four weeks after orientation, Terry has a one-to-one interview with students to see how they’re integrating into the life of the school.
Some students consulted about their arrival experience reported that they got lost around the school’s large campus when they started, so the school is now looking at ways to make the area easier to navigate.
Terry says it’s important for students and their families know what to expect when they arrive at the Auckland school.
“We work on a policy of no surprises and no last-minute information”.
Students greeted with welcome letter
International students at Birkenhead College in Auckland are sent a welcome letter before they even arrive at the school.
International Student Manager Sally Baker says the welcome letter lets students know who will pick them up at the airport and what they will do on their first day at school.
Birkenhead College used to ask homestay families to pick up new international students from the airport, or have them picked up by a homestay company. The school now takes responsibility for the pick-up, and has a driver who greets students at the airport and takes them to their homestay.
Three or four weeks after students arrive, they’re taken on a day trip to Auckland attractions such as Sky Tower, Mission Bay and Auckland Museum. As well as showing international students the sights of their new host city, the trip is an opportunity for students to get to know each other.
Top tips for improving students’ arrival experience
● Make sure students and their families know well in advance what students should expect when they first arrive at school.
● Plan opportunities for international students to meet other international and domestic students.
● Take the time when students arrive to learn what they want to achieve, both educationally and personally.