Advising International Students

The University of Maine is home to over 500 international students from more than 70 countries. This is a page of resources designed to help University of Maine academic advisors and faculty to best serve our international student population. Each student will have individual needs and expectations that may not be covered here. Please reach out to the Office of International Programs as a resource.

The Basics
English Proficiency
Terms to Know
Enrollment Requirements
Communication Basics
Classroom Guide for Faculty

The Basics

International students face similar personal and academic issues that domestic students face. However, international students do have some additional issues that may face them while studying at the University of Maine, including:

  • Adjusting to a new academic system
  • Learning in a second language
  • Experiencing culture shock
  • Learning to live far away from support systems
  • Learning new business practices

Culture Shock

Cultural shock can be visualized by the U-shaped Curve of Cultural Adjustment that described the stages of adjustment people go through when living in a new culture by Sverre Lysgaard (1955).

Immigration Concerns

  • Full time enrollment is required by law:
    • 12 credit hours for undergraduate students
    • 9 credit hours for graduate students
  • Student employment is capped at 20 hours a week and is limited to on-campus employment.
  • Non-traditional course will only count towards 3 credit hours of their full time enrollment requirement.

Cultural Differences

It is important to be patient and understanding that students come from different cultural backgrounds. Mishaps and misunderstanding will happen.

Some students will use negotiation tactics:
  • “No means I should ask someone else.”
  • “No means I should ask again.”
  • “No means I should ask your supervisor.”
Some students will have different expectations of their advisors:
  • “My advisor should help me negotiate my apartment lease.”
  • “My advisor should help me maneuver the immigration system.”

English Proficiency

Students are required meet certain scores for English proficiency to gain admittance to the University of Maine; these are verified by the admissions team on either the undergraduate or graduate side.

Students who do passes these exams with acceptable English proficiency scores may still struggle to communicate. To learn more about how to effectively communicate with students who are not native English speakers please see our Communication Basics.

If you have any questions or concerns you can contact the Office of International Programs or the Intensive English Institute at

Conditional Admission

Students who do not meet the language proficiency requirement but have a strong academic record may be admitted conditionally. Conditionally admitted students enroll in the university’s Intensive English Institute for appropriate English coursework until suitable English proficiency is acquired.

Terms to Know

Immigration Documents

I-20: “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” This form is granted to all international students once they have been accepted to the University of Maine.

Visa: This is a document that is in the student’s passport. This form along with the I-20 allows the student’s entry into the United States.

F-1: This is the most common type of visa that our students carry. This is a visa for full time students.

H-1B: This is a work visa that allows a student to employed full time in the United States for a set period of time.

J-1: Students with this type of visa are typically exchange students, they have a set period of time they can study in the United States.

Other Forms

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Verification Form: This form is for students who want or need to gain academic credit for an internship. This will need to be approved by our SEVIS Coordinator, Brian Berger. The student will also need to file for an updated I-20.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Verification Form: This form is for students who are graduating at the end of the current semester. Students should apply for OPT two to three months before graduation.

Enrollment Requirements

  • All international students must have either a F-1 or J-1 visa, each of which requires students to be enrolled full time. Students have a required number of credits they must be enrolled in, if they are not they will no longer be in compliance with their visa. DO NOT advise students to drop classes to help their GPA if it puts them below full time status.
  • Students who need to drop below full time status will need to file a Reduced Course Load form with the Office of International Programs.
  • Summer course are OPTIONAL for international students, unless required by the students program. If the student enrolls in summer courses they will need to maintain a full time status, six or more credits.
  • If international students take a course without a grade, such as auditing a course, this will not count to the students full time status.
  • International students can only apply one three credit online course towards their full time status. This does not apply to blended course or courses with an interactive video component.


Listen and wait to respond

Often “Second language students often develop a “script” in their mind of what they want to say to you before they enter your office. Allow them to get through the script, so they feel certain that you have heard what they have to say. This can be difficult if the script is long and you can easily anticipate their question or issue.”

Avoid acronyms

We are used to using and understanding acronyms, abbreviations, and colloquialisms that often have no meaning to international students. These terms, including “ASAP”, “home run”, and “all set”, should be avoided or explained.

Checking for understanding

Out of respect or not wanting to admit that they don’t understand many students when asked if they understand will say yes, even if they do not. Asking a student to explain what you have just gone over in their own words is one of the best ways to check for understanding.

Cultural differences

“Frustration, taking offense, repetition, no response, inappropriate responses for the situation (i.e.,nodding continuously when clearly the individual does not understand, awkward laughter, ending the conversation abruptly, seeming distracted, etc.). Allow these indicators to remind you to take a deep breath and find a different way to approach the issue or explanation.”


Names: learning to say the student’s name will make the student feel welcomed and respected. Don’t be afraid to ask students to repeat their name or spell it out. Don’t be afraid of getting their name wrong at first, but always try to pronounce it correctly. Do not expect the students to select a US nickname or shorten their name.

Your name: let students know how they should address you, so that you and them are comfortable.

Be curious: take time to get to know about the student and their home country, culture, and language.

Stay up to date: it can be scary and stressful being so far from home. Stay up to date on what’s happening in your students home country and acknowledge how that might have an effect on them (e.g. natural disasters).

Don’t generalize: it can be easy to assume that all international students are having the same experience. This is also true for students who come from the same country. Every student has their own interests, personality, etc. just like domestic students.

US Culture: assisting students in understanding and becoming familiar with US Culture is opportunity to help them understand everyday interactions and make their transition living here easier. However, do not pressure students to change their personal behavior or viewpoints, try to talk through these differences with them to best understand each other.


  • Many of the tips above can and should be used in the classroom as well as the tips below.
  • Different learning styles. Use different methods of teaching including lecture, small group discussions, reading, writing, and speaking activities. This will benefit students from different education systems as well as the rest of the class.
  • Write out expectations for assignments, assignment timelines, and key concepts.
  • Talk about the importance of regular class attendance and being on time. Students may come from educational systems where this isn’t expected and may not be aware of the importance of punctuality in the US educational system.


This page was adapted from the Missouri State Academic Advising Center: Advising International Students resource.