First and foremost, all international students must be in a minimum of 12 hours for undergraduate students and 9 hours for graduate students in spring and fall semesters to maintain their legal immigration status in the U.S.A.
A minimum of 9 credit hours for undergraduate students and 6 credit hours for graduate students must be in face-to-face courses. Hybrid courses meet the face-to-face requirement.
Understanding immigration requirements and limitations:
Legal Program Completion Deadline
Every degree seeking international student has a legal deadline date for program completion. This is determined by the International Programs and Services office. Generally, a Bachelors degree student is given 4 years or 8 continuous spring and fall semesters to finish the coursework for a program.
Extension of Legal Date of Program Completion
The legal program end date can be extended for extenuating circumstances. A form to request an extension is available online at http://www.pittstate.edu/dotAsset/39826.pdf and must be completed by the student and must include the recommendation of the academic advisor. A valid reason for extension might include research problems, change of major, adding an emphasis, schedule issues (such as a course only being offered during the spring), or health/personal problems. Flunking coursework is not a valid reason for extension. All extensions are approved by International Programs and Services office.
Deviation from Full Time Course of Study
In limited circumstances, immigration regulations allow for a deviation from a full course of study. A student may request approval for a reduced course load by having the appropriate university personnel complete this form and then submitting it for review by an international advisor. Reduced course loads based on financial need OR to protect a GPA are NOT qualifying reasons. The Deviation Request form is available at http://www.pittstate.edu/dotAsset/39824.pdf.
Generally, international students who wish to work must be employed by the University. Off campus employment is not an option unless a student has received authorization from International Programs and Services. Employment off campus must be closely related to the student's major area of study.
Off-campus employment request forms are available online at http://www.pittstate.edu/dotAsset/39822.pdf.
Intercultural Communication Challenges
At the initial enrollment at PSU for an international student, it is extremely important that the advisor provides extensive explanation to the student. Advising an international student who has just arrived in the U.S. will typically take more time than advising a traditional domestic student. This initial meeting sets the tone for this student's first semester. Please be sure to provide more information and resources, including referring the student to resources on campus that will be helpful, marking the campus map when sending the student to another location on campus, and introducing the student to important people to know in the department, such as the administrative assistant and chairperson.
This level of care will make a difference in the retention of these students and to their satisfaction with their PSU experience overall.
- Speak slowly and use simple and direct language when discussing advising issues, course work, terminology, and referrals. One example of a consistently misunderstood term is prerequisite.
- When possible, provide information in written form. For example, give each student a program guide outlining the coursework in their degree; identify the courses they have transferred (if any) and the coursework the student has enrolled in for the upcoming semester on the guide.
- GUS is important to all our work regarding enrollment; be sure to show the student what you are doing in GUS as most students will be seeing the enrollment portion of this for the first time.
- GUSmail is required for all international students. Please reinforce that GUSmail is the only way PSU, and you as their advisor, will communicate with them.
Advisors need to be prepared to repeat information. International students may indicate understanding by replying "yes" to the inquiry from the advisor of "do you understand." The answer of "yes" is a polite response, but may be inaccurate.
Personal relationships and time are valued differently in other cultures. It is important for advisors to be aware of these cultural differences and relate to students accordingly. For example, advisors may want to take time to inquire about the student, their experience at PSU, and their family. This is good advice for all students, but particularly for international students who need advisors and mentors who are caring and are valued by the student as a role model.
Cultural norms vary by culture. Behavior typical of a domestic student may not be known by international students. As a role model and mentor, advisors should take every opportunity to help international students to become familiar with appropriate interaction in American culture. Every moment an advisor has with a student is a teaching moment. A discussion with the student would be helpful to that student as well as to the advisor's colleagues who will interact with that student in the future. Some issues may be particularly challenging. For example, in some cultures it is appropriate to make the same request again and again after receiving an answer that the student believes is incorrect or is negotiable.