International Students: Recognizing and Maximizing the Opportunities

Sometimes we take the obvious for granted, and fail to appreciate the potential value in things that seem ordinary and commonplace. For example, it may seem obvious that UNYP students are “international students” at an international institution. But what does it mean to be an international student, and how can appreciating this fact provide students with significant benefits?

International students are defined as individuals who move from their original country to another with the intent of studying there. International students make a significant contribution to the economies of many countries such as the U.S., U.K., and Australia (the top three destinations for internationally-mobile students) and are regarded as an important part of their education markets and national exports (Business, Innovation & Skills, 2013; Group of Eight, 2014). Unfortunately, many educational institutions and policy makers come to see international students primarily through this economic lens as potential cash cows, rather than as highly motivated learners who have made considerable efforts and taken significant risks to advance their learning and invest in their futures.

Often, colleges regard international-mobile students as short-term visitors. They label them “International Students” and in doing so, come to see them as different from other students. They recognize that these students will need assistance in adjusting, but feel that they are unlikely – perhaps even unwilling – to be fully integrated into the domestic student population. Many colleges treat their international students as strangers, sojourners, and as inherently different. In these situations, it is understandable that international students often feel isolated, alienated, and disconnected. Indeed, looking at the narratives of international students, Lillyman and Bennett (2014) observe that “much of the current literature relating to international students at university level tends to highlight their experiences from a deficit perspective and in some cases even problematizes the experience for the student and university” (p. 63).

But do you see your experiences as an international student from a deficit perspective, or find your experiences problematic?

I doubt it. Based on working with many hundreds of students at UNYP over the past fifteen years, I would imagine that your international student experience is exciting and positive. But why is your experience at UNYP more positive than the experiences of most international students on other campuses and in other countries, and how can you make your experience even more valuable?

  • First, UNYP is an international college that does not differentiate students according to their country of origin. There is no segregation between our domestic or international students: All of our students are seen as globally-minded and internationally-mobile. Students may have different backgrounds and come from different countries, but they are all are seen as having selected UNYP because of the quality international education that it provides.
  • Second, SUNY Empire State College, which partners with UNYP, often talks about offering an international program in Prague. However, this is not in fact the case. What ESC operates is a transnational educational program, which is an “award- or credit-bearing learning undertaken by students who are based in a different country from that of the awarding institution” (O’Mahony, 2014, p. 8). Transnational educational programs do not differentiate between domestic or international students, but they do appreciate that the cultures, aspirations, and future trajectories of these students may differ significantly from those located on their domestic campuses (Mellors-Bourne, Jones, & Woodfield, 2015).

As a student at UNYP and ESC, you are a very special and very fortunate kind of international student. You are not classified, constrained, or understood to be “inherently different”. You are recognized as a student who is globally-minded and internationally-mobile, because you have decided to be one.

So how can you take full advantage of being a truly international student in a bona fide international college?

  • Optimize your Knowledge of Other National Cultures: You are surrounded by friends and fellow students who come from other national cultures. Understanding different national cultures is critical for all students, whatever their academic major. By all means enroll in a Cross-culture Management course, but also expand your appreciation and working knowledge of other cultures by using the multiple national cultures that surround you. To understand a different national culture “it is imperative to delve into the underlying assumptions, which are typically unconscious but which actually determine how group members perceive, think and feel” (Spencer-Oatey, 2012, p. 3). Do this through conversations and interactions with your fellow students, as well as in the classroom. National cultural awareness and knowledge are highly valued by international employers, recruiters, and graduate schools.
  • Optimize Your Understanding of Subject Matter Difference: You are an international student, but your courses are also taught by an exceptional international faculty. The content, objectives, and scope of courses such as Management, Marketing, and HR Management taught in the U.S. will differ from similar courses taught in Asia, Australia, or Europe (Festing, 2012; Liang, Marler, & Cui, 2012). Most UNYP courses are based on what we might call standard U.S. assumptions, beliefs, and considerations. However, make use of the diversity and experiential richness of your international teaching faculty by encouraging them to share their non-U.S. understandings and experiences of the subject. This will allow you to develop a broader knowledge of how the subject is understood in different regions of the world. Exposure to alternative versions of the same subject is invaluable in providing a greater depth of appreciation, but you must be aware of this possibility and take advantage of the opportunities that surround you. You are in the perfect environment for exploring different international approaches to Management, Marketing, and HR Management, and these alternative perspectives will be very useful in your future professional life.
  • Optimize Your English Language Proficiency: One of the invaluable opportunities of being a UNYP international student is in perfecting your English language skills. Some claim that in the years to come, English will not be the major lingua franca of the business world in the future; there are certainly some powerful contenders (such as Mandarin and Arabic), but most predict that English will remain the dominant global language for the foreseeable future (Neeley, 2012). Improving and perfecting your English is not just something that has to be done to succeed in college – it will also provide you with significant returns in your future social and professional lives. Make full use of the opportunity to master the English language during your time at UNYP.
  • Optimize Your Czech Language and Culture Opportunities: You should seriously consider learning Czech, if you do not speak it already. Czech may not be a dominant global business language, but research indicates that future employers react very positively to candidates who possess multi-language competency (Harzing, & Pudelko, 2013). Even if you cannot claim professional Czech language proficiency on your CV, your efforts to learn the language will be viewed positively by employers and graduate schools who review your application. As Charlemagne said, learning another language provides you with another soul – a way of coming to a much deeper understanding of a culture. Learning Czech will help you understand Czech culture and will significantly improve the quality of your social life. You are in Prague – the perfect place to acquire this new language and to advance your social, cultural, and professional success.

There are challenges and difficulties associated with being an international student, but there are also many valuable opportunities. The first step is to recognize that you really are an international student on an authentically international campus, even if you were born and bred in Prague. The second step is to maximize the opportunities provided by studying on an international campus. The third step is to enjoy the experience, benefit from it, and goes on to fulfill your dreams – after all, international students are perhaps best described as individuals who are actively committed to pursuing their dreams, wherever those dreams may take them.


References and Resources

Business, Innovation & Skills. (2013). International education: Global growth and prosperity. Reference BIS/13/1081. London, UK: Author. Retrieved from

Festing, M. (2012). Strategic human resource management in Germany: Evidence of convergence to the U.S. model, the European model, or a distinctive national model? The Academy of Management Perspectives, 26(2), 37-54.

Harzing, A-W., & Pudelko, M. (2013). A comprehensive review and comparison of Anglophone, Asian, Continental European and Nordic MNCs. Journal of World Business, 48(1), 87-97.

Group of Eight. (2014). Policy note: International students in higher education and their role in the Australian economy. Turner, Australia: Author. Retrieved from

Liang, X., Marler, J. H., & Cui, Z. (2012). Strategic human resource management in China: East meets west? The Academy of Management Perspectives, 26(2), 55-70.

Lillyman, S., & Bennett, C. (2014). Providing a positive learning experience for international students studying at UK universities: A literature review. Journal of Research in International Education, 13(1), 63-75.

Mellors-Bourne, R., Jones, E., & Woodfield, S. (2015). Transnational education and employability development. York, UK: The Higher Education Academy. Available from

Neeley, T. (2012). Global business speaks English: Why you need a language strategy now. Harvard Business Review, 90(5), 116-124. Retrieved from

O’Mahony, J. (2014). Enhancing student learning and teacher development in transnational education. York, UK: The Higher Education Academy. Available from:

Spencer-Oatey, H. (2012). What is culture? A compilation of quotations. GlobalPAD Core Concepts. Available at


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