Internationalized education is gaining considerable popularity in many Western countries, including the United States. The number of international students in American universities is increasing and has already reached 5% of the total student population in the country (Tolman 522). One approach that educational facilities have taken to ensure the retention of these students has been to introduce various residence hall programs.
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Research has shown the benefits to students of a focus on such aspects as culture, social networks, and engagement. This paper addresses the impact of programs including roommate-pairing and thematized residence halls on the satisfaction of students and their adjustment to a new environment in terms of the three domains mentioned above.
It has been acknowledged that international students are under substantial stress, and this is especially true for freshmen. Apart from being outside their comfort zone and far away from friends and relatives, students are affected by their new environment and issues related to communicating and interacting with the representatives of other cultures. Tolman states that “residential experiences” and “social integration” play an important role in international students’ academic success (524).
According to numerous studies, students find it difficult to accommodate to living with a roommate, a situation that may be aggravated if the people cohabiting in one room are from different cultural groups. Several roommate-pairing programs that aim at creating the most favorable atmosphere for this population have proved to be effective (Tolman 525). Also important to consider is that international students benefit from living with peers of the same cultural background.
However, in some cases, living with an international student can be beneficial for all stakeholders. Such roommate-pairing projects can contribute to the success of efforts “to build healthy relationships and develop tolerance” (Tolman 525). Clearly, students’ peculiarities as well as readiness to participate in this type of intervention should be analyzed prior to assigning roommates. In the process, it can be helpful to consider different patterns related to roommate pairing.
Another common strategy employed to ensure an atmosphere of collaboration is the development of thematized residential halls. It is vital to note, however, that this approach has been associated with multiple positive and negative outcomes. On the one hand, areas where certain cultural traditions are manifested become safe zones for international students, helping them to feel at home. On the other hand, a focus on their own cultural backgrounds and values tends to have adverse effects on students’ collaboration and international students’ adaptation to the new environment (Alsahafi and Shin 56).
Freshmen are especially prone to the negative impact of thematized halls since they risk becoming reliant on others related to their cultural community. It has also been found that residential halls have a central role in the establishment of social links that are critical for student satisfaction, engagement, and academic performance (Tolman 525). Therefore, it is important to analyze exact forms of thematization that can be helpful for the target population in many respects.
Although thematized halls should be a part of the educational environment, they should not become ghettoes but rather facilitate the development of international social links. While Alsahafi and Shin claim that international students often need certain safe zones where they can communicate freely and feel at home (67), it is essential to make these locations open to intercultural communication and collaboration as well as places where students can improve their language competence. The latter point is especially noteworthy as a lack of language skills makes international students avoid contact with their domestic peers (Alsahafi and Shin 67).
Residential halls should offer a physical illustration of international communication; thus, these places should have elements of several cultures or places that invite the interaction of different cultures. Dietary patterns are also important for international students and have a significant influence on their satisfaction (Alsahafi and Shin 56). Dining zones can therefore serve as another physical area where thematization will work well.
At this point, it is necessary to analyze the influence of thematized halls on domestic students’ academic experiences. The outcomes for this population are more positive compared to those for international students. Thematization serves as a platform for the development of cultural awareness and tolerance (Tolman 525). Domestic students learn about other cultures and gain new social ties, which is beneficial for their academic performance. Residential halls are common platforms for informal communication between students who can address various issues. Students learn to communicate, resulting in a positive effect on classroom experience as students become prepared to interact with people of different cultural backgrounds.
On balance, it is necessary to state that American higher educational establishments should employ thematization of residential halls and roommate-pairing programs. These approaches have a positive impact on international and domestic students’ academic experiences. Thematized residential areas and proper roommate-pairing programs facilitate international communication and collaboration. The implementation of these programs should be evidence-based, and students’ particular characteristics should be considered in order to ensure the effectiveness of the strategies employed. Diversity is a feature of American society, as well as its competitive advantage, so it is essential to ensure the creation of a diverse educational environment for young people.
Alsahafi, Nisreen, and Seong-Chul Shin. “Factors Affecting the Academic and Cultural Adjustment of Saudi International Students in Australian Universities.” Journal of International Students, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 53-72.
Tolman, Steven. “The Effects of a Roommate-Pairing Program on International Student Satisfaction and Academic Success.” Journal of International Students, vol. 7, no. 3, 2017, pp. 522-541.