Last week I hosted a Twitter discussion about international student careers by hopping onto #IEW2015. The hashtag had a flurry of activity all week with over 1000 posts by international educators. Most of the content focused on study abroad initiatives and the results of the Open Doors report. My goal was to move the discussion from a focus on international student recruiting to best practices in international student success, specifically on careers.
Though the discussion was rather quiet compared to other discussions on the hashtag, there hasn’t been a better time to start talking about international student careers. With a ten percent increase in international students in the 2014/15 year, higher education has a lot of catching up to do to meet international student needs. Karin Fischer, an international reporter from the Chronicle summed it up best:
There are 1.13 million foreign students in the U.S., the vast majority in college-degree programs… That represents a 14% increase over last year, nearly 50% more than in 2010 and 85% more than in 2005. – International Students Stream into US Colleges
International student growth shows no signs of slowing down in the US. But with that growth comes new expectations from administrations and students alike. A 2014 NAFSA study found that international students identified career services tailored for international students as a best practice. In a fresh-off-the-press more recent study, QS found that “improving employment prospects and progressing on a current career path” were among the top reasons international students apply to grad school. Careers are clearly on our students’ brain. Yet career services staff and international advising professionals do not feel well equipped to provide this high-touch service. Unlike domestic students, the international student job search is not a straight-forward path. Their path is not as simple as submitting a resume and hoping an employer calls. Visa barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and language ability add complications to an international student’s job search. As an international student career coach supported by a stellar university career services team, I work with students on these challenges daily.
So to celebrate International Education Week, I’m launchingAdvisingInternational Students on Career Opportunities, a virtual professional development workshop designed to help higher education professionals better advise international students on career outcomes. I’m hosting an interactive webinar on December 10, 7:00 pm EST. You can look forward to a webinar that doesn’t suck! You read that right. No boring, one-way webinars here. Hosted on Crowdcast, you’ll have the opportunity to chat with one another, share your department’s best practices, upvote most common questions, and get answers to your immediate challenges in international student career advising. For free!
You might be a good fit for this course if you are
An international student advisor
A career services professional who advises international students
A dean or provost interested in improving international student retention
By participating, you will be able to
Understand the US job search from an international student perspective, including motivations and search process
Recognize barriers and opportunities in the international student job search
Help international students adapt to specific cultural challenges in the US job search
Evaluate current tools for international students in the US job search
Advise international students on best practices in their job search, in the US and back home
Create an advising framework that works best for your international student population
Make department recommendations on how to improve international student career outcomes
After the interactive webinar you will receive
Recording of the video
Curated resources to support international students in the job search
If you work in higher education these numbers are no surprise. There is plenty of discussion on international student mobility in the US, much of it centering on international student origins and destinations. Despite the increase in foreign students in US higher education year over year, little information exists on international student outcomes, particularly with regards to employment.
I’m researching the career paths of international students who remain in the US after graduation. Know talented foreign professionals who graduated from a US degree program and stayed in the US for work? Share this short introductory survey with your network so I can connect with them for a Skype discussion.
In a way, we’re kind of a lead generator… [t]here are many universities that are very well known in U.S. that are not very well known abroad, and the visibility they get through Coursera is in a way a very efficient way to reach new students. – Richard C. Levin, Coursera CEO in Wired Campus, As Coursera Evolves, Colleges Stay On and Investors Buy In
MOOCs as lead generators: I’d love to see this happen. And apparently so do Coursera’s investors as they just served up $49 million in VC funds to support Coursera’s new experiments in international markets. While most of the Coursera coverage focuses on MOOCs as professional development tools and mini-degree providers, the quote above introduces a new marketing tool for international admissions. Three-quarters of Coursera’s users are outside the US. For international admissions departments that are as open to experiments as Mr. Levin, the move raises loads of fun questions. A casual list:
How do you define an international student on Coursera and what are their motivations? How do online-learning habits differ by country or culture?
How do you identify a future international student – the one who is interested in attending the university hosting the course rather than just gaining new knowledge?
How are future international students using Coursera?
What’s the value of 40,000 student emails who signed up for a specific university MOOC but didn’t complete it? How does that value shift when 60% of that list completes the course? Would those who complete a MOOC earn a high value score and sky rocket to the top of your engagement list?
How would MOOCs change if part of the course goal was lead generation (i.e. would they include rockstar professors who have a knack for engaging across cultures and platforms? Would they include strategic university swag placement!?)
How will university departments – faculty and administration – muster the willpower, curiosity, and design-thinking skills to collaborate across departments to experiment with Coursera as a recruiting platform for future international students?
This last question might actually be the hardest to answer.
The first time I tried Ga-Jol, the salty licorice candy that Danes consume in massive amounts, I spit it right back out. My Danish friends laughed and accused me of wasting perfectly good candy. I protested, unable to rid my mouth of a taste similar to cough syrup mixed with dirt. It remains one of the worst things I’ve put in my mouth, right after the fish eyeball I tried in China. Danes, however, happily consume over 600 million of these candies a year. It’s their much beloved national candy.
My favorite part of living abroad is tasting (and commenting on) all the foods a culture treasures. So it’s a delight to see Buzzfeed has brought that experience to YouTube, minus the living abroad part. The series features people from one country trying snacks and meals from another country. It’s cross cultural exchange meets reality TV: cultural curiosity through food with exaggerated reactions for an entertaining effect.
Take a look. You might even find some of your favorite treats in here.
And it goes the other way too. Here are Americans sampling treats and food from across the world.
This post is the first in a series of three to show off new companies and ideas in international education for NAFSA 2015 week.
Credential evaluators say that any document that has been touched by a student is deemed unofficial. I think that’s what we’ll see with the financial component [in international admissions] as well. The safest and most secure way to transfer any data is a direct confirmation from the institution in response to a request for verification, over a secure platform. – Cheryl DarrupBoychuck, founder and chief architect of FundsV
“How do you intend to pay for tuition and living expenses?” It’s the question every international student must answer. And the law requires international admissions staff to verify that answer.
International funds verification isn’t the hottest subject in international education but it should be; it’s at the heart of global international student mobility. Students who pursue degrees abroad must show proof of their ability to support themselves while in country. Though the technology in international student recruiting has improved dramatically, the technology to improve funds verification and lessen the risk of financial fraud lags behind. The current state of funds verification is a chaotic solution of paperwork, ripe for fraud, and inefficient for all parties involved.
FundsV is changing the status quo. Designed to improve the efficiency and integrity of the funds verification process, FundsV is an electronic data transfer platform that empowers students or their sponsors to point their financial data to the authority who requested it. So when a student is asked to prove how they intend to cover tuition and expenses they can simply create a profile on FundsV and send their or their sponsor’s bank account data to the requesting institution. With 4,000 banks in the FundsV network and a goal to reach 10,000, FundsV is a simple and efficient solution to funds verification challenges faced by administrators and students alike.
Talking to Cheryl DarrupBoychuck, founder of FundsV, about the years of research and beta-testing is a fascinating journey into the unique intersection of international education and financial technology. After all, how do you solve a problem that involves gaining students’ trust, ensuring privacy and robust data security, all while engaging a network of banks across the globe?
Below is an excerpt from my interview with Cheryl about how FundsV is solving the funds verification problem, engaging the millennial generation, and what she’s learning along the way.
How did FundsV start?
FundsV stands for funds verification and it percolated out of USjournal.com. We serve US college and universities and English language programs who want to recruit international students. About ten years ago one of our advertisers did not renew, which is rare. So I wanted to get to the bottom of what happened. They said they appreciated the inquires that we generated for them but wanted to know if there was any way we could financially qualify students earlier in the process so they could dedicate their limited resources to students who were most likely to get approved for their student visas.
Back in 2006 I didn’t think it was possible. We had privacy issues and online banking wasn’t anywhere near where it is today. So we tried to ignore it but the whole concept kept percolating. With the ability to track and access bank account data it’s a whole lot easier now that the industry has matured. Consumers around the world are getting more comfortable with the technology. It’s very gratifying that the pieces are coming together and the market is ready.
How are university administrators integrating FundsV into their admission process?
Some campuses are integrating FundsV through their international admissions page. They tell prospective students that they must provide proof of sufficient funds and give two ways to do it: paper or electronically. But the law is vague by design. It says students have to prove sufficient funds, but the government doesn’t tell you how.
But we are finding that the greater opportunity for FundsV is integrating the functionality via an API within existing processes. So if an organization is using Terra Dotta or any of the other similar international student application management systems, the seamless approach would be to integrate a FundsV component into the software. In the future, the student and admissions counselor won’t need to go outside of their systems. So really it’s a matter of working with those larger clients; of course that takes more time, but that level of customization is really in demand.
Who is currently using FundsV technology?
There are a number of schools. Lewis University in Chicago is one example. Southern Illinois in Carbondale just signed on with us. There are also a number of beta participants.
How does FundsV minimize the risk of fraud?
Within FundsV’s network of 4,000+ banks, only data is transferred so there are no images to manipulate, there are no signatures to forge, no bank logos that can be photoshopped. Only the data flows. For example, for students who verify their accounts online, we can track when another user in the FundsV system accessed that same account. If you have a goofy agent overseas who might manipulate bank statements for 25 of his students, we can track that. That functionality has been used more often than I thought it would be. Credential evaluators say that any document that has been touched by a student is deemed unofficial. I think that’s what we’ll see with the financial component as well. The safest and most secure way to transfer any data is through a request from the owner over a secure platform to the authority who sent it.
Not all methods of funds verification are created equal.
What are some of the additional benefits for students and universities using FundsV?
In many countries millennials and students have never written a paper check. They’ve never received a bank statement in the mail. Colleges, universities, and other institutions need to ‘meet’ the students in their native online environment. And FundsV provides that convenience for students so they are able to complete an international student application in one sitting.
We’ve been exploring so many different options over the years and getting feedback from our beta participants to whom we will be forever grateful. They have found it really improves the efficiency and the integrity of the financial verification process but also in situations where a student has a status change or needs a tuition refund. Offices are also trying to go paperless so our functionality fits in well with advancing that goal.
What is your role like on a daily basis?
Busy! It’s really just identifying new opportunities to serve the market and identifying what tasks need to be prioritized. That’s really the challenge. Early on, as with many start-ups, I felt compelled to pursue every little tangent. As we’ve matured, we’re more disciplined and focused.
What have you learned throughout this process?
It’s all about the relationships that you build. We are based in Corning, NY which it’s gorgeous but it’s not exactly a mecca for networking with other financial services or international education colleagues. One of my original contacts with Bank of America from ten years ago was at a conference and approached this other data management organization. She told them they should talk with me and that conversation has just lead to one episode of serendipity after another. Clearly that opportunity would not have happened if I hadn’t shaken her hand. Our whole business is designed around technology but the bottom line is that you really need to hone those relationships and there is nothing in the world that can duplicate those relationships.
Forty-five (45) percent of foreign student graduates extend their visas to work in the same metropolitan area as their college or university.
The Brookings Institute released “The Geography of Foreign Students in U.S. Higher Education: Origins and Destinations,” early last week, a comprehensive analysis of the distribution and mobility of international students studying in the US. While that is noteworthy in itself what really sets this study apart is the tool they build to search the data. Accompanying the long form report is an interactive map and data tool to dig deep into the types of foreign students in the US. You can browse data by U.S. Metro Area Destinations of Foreign Students, Cities of Student Origin or Countries of Student Origin. The results are categorized in easy to read charts to give you a better picture of where and what students study. I particularly enjoy the stats retention stats that show what percentage of students stayed under OPT to work in their host city.
Results from searching US Metro area Philadelphia in the Brookings data browser tool.
Once you’re done playing with the data read the entire report as it’s worth the close read. I learned more than I have in most NAFSA posts on the subject. For instance:
UNLV is home to 94 percent of all foreign students studying in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Business and management is the most popular major among those studying for a BMD degree, accounting for more than 63 percent of all foreign students on F-1 visas….Given the large gaming and hospitality industry clustered in Las Vegas, the metro area is a top destination for foreign graduates to work under the OPT program after they graduate. There is a large demand by Las Vegas employers for graduates that are multi-lingual, especially those who can speak Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, or Korean to cater to the growing Asian clientele coming to Las Vegas casinos and hotels. Several Las Vegas-headquartered hotels also have a growing presence in Singapore, Macau and parts of China. Many foreign students studying at UNLV help fill these demands through their degree programs and the OPT program.
I’m a Las Vegas native and had no idea international students have so much potential in a city that isn’t exactly known for excellent education.
Here’s a snapshot of the interactive map.
University administrators, how will you use this report? To target your messages better in international recruiting? To support current international students in their search for employment? As a guide to find other universities for partnerships and sharing best practices? Let me know below or over on Twitter.
The struggle that is defending your culture while you’re here and defending Americans when you’re away.
This weekend I was in New York and played my favorite solo game, Name that Language! Which basically means I sit around listening to all the languages and guess which one it is. New York City is the best city for this game as you can’t even go a single subway ride without hearing a language that isn’t English. It’s a fabulous way to pass a long subway ride and its worth removing your headphones to play.
Now I no longer need to be in NYC to play it as I just found t The Great Language Game, a seriously addicting online language game. The premise is simple. Listen to the language clips, pick the corresponding language. It starts easy enough, offering a few choices of languages from familiar language families.
But the more you guess the harder it gets with more language choices and more obscure languages. I had no idea what Kannada or Dinka when I was presented with those languages.
This game is a great way to procrastinate your afternoon away. Or challenge your American friends to see how they do with foreign languages. Whoever loses has to cook the other a meal.