25 June 2019

Creating a sense of community for your international students

“Simply having a diverse student body does not mean the education or even the campus is global in nature. What comes as an essential part of a global education is in the inclusion of international students in communities and classes.” 

That was the finding of a British Council report into the integration of international students into universities. Recruiting international students is one thing, but creating a sense of belonging that transcends cultural differences is the key to a truly global university. 

But the challenge is far from simple to solve. Anyone who has spent time on a university campus will no doubt reach the same finding as student Victoria Ngow: “students’ friendship groups are often defined by nationality.”

There were around 1.6 million international students studying across the European Union in 2016 – 43% from other EU states, 30% from Asia, and 12% from Africa. 

With so many international students studying across Europe, how can universities ensure those students are arriving at university feeling confident and prepared to immerse themselves into university life? 

The QS International Students Survey was released in May. It was clear that how you are communicating with international students is not just influencing their choice of university, but their confidence and sense of belonging. 

And from my own experience, I know how important peer-to-peer connections are. When I was deciding on my future university, I was bombarded with information but it felt like there was always something missing. I was moving countries and starting an exciting new chapter, and I wanted reassurance and the honest opinion of someone who had taken the same big step before. 

I really wanted to find out whether it was worth the investment for someone like me – had the move paid off for someone from my background? Would I be welcome there? Would I be able to mix with the local community and how did other people like me find the city?

So how can you convince international students that your university is where they belong? 

The key is to communicate to your prospects that your university is a welcoming, friendly environment. One way to do this is by showcasing your international students: who they are and what they’re doing. Encourage students from around the world to have a presence on your website and in your comms. Our partners do a great job of this by creating Unibuddy profiles or posting blogs, and it’s the perfect outlet for your international students’ voice. It also has the benefit of reassuring others who are considering studying at your institution. 

That peer-to-peer connection is so important for all students, but particularly students who are travelling across the world to join your university. Potentially unable to access Open Days due to the cost, they want to know what it’s like there. Current students can provide that authentic voice to inform and reassure. 

The data speaks for itself: 61% of international students want to connect with existing international students to ask their questions.

Unibuddy can provide this connection, straight from the University website (where a huge 79% of international students are going to find information!). 

You can also give your international prospective students the opportunity to connect with students from other countries, or domestic students. 

A great way to facilitate this connection is through a Unibuddy Live chat. Unibuddy Live is a fantastically flexible way to attract, reassure and retain your prospective students – that you can utilise at any point in the recruitment cycle.

The real-time chat enables scheduled group-chats or 1-2-1 chats between prospects, ambassadors and the university enquiry team. You can create live feeds to organise the Unibuddy Live Chat and control which ambassadors have access.

Invite ambassadors and prospective students from around the world to connect and create positive social encounters. Creating these connections is sure to have a positive impact on your conversion, too. When Middlesex University ran a Unibuddy Live chat, they found it to be twice as effective as any other digital recruitment method – and 86.9% of prospective students rated the chat platform “good” or “very good”. 

The facts are clear: “Internationalisation can improve HEI’s reputation and the quality of education” – but creating internationalisation and a truly global university is about more than getting international students through the door. You need to nurture a sense of belonging to facilitate integration and engagement. 

Unibuddy helps students thrive through sharing their experiences, effortless technology and the smart application of data.

Together, the platform and student ambassadors provide an outlet for an institution’s authentic voice, a deeper insight into the market’s motivations and foster a sense of belonging – even before applying.

Unibuddy is working with 150 institutions across the world, optimising conversion throughout the student application cycle, from lead generation through to enrolment, with some impressive results. But don’t just take our word for it. Have a look at www.unibuddy.com and find out what some of our partners say.

If you’d like to know more about Unibuddy’s peer-to-peer platform get in touch on [email protected] or book a demo.

About the author

Ilaria Giacon, University Partnerships Executive

A former international student (twice and across two continents), Ilaria now helps to drive Unibuddy’s future growth by building relationships with prospective universities and turning them into happy and successful partners.

Ilaria is a passionate volleyball player and never misses an opportunity to go backpacking somewhere fun.


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