Cal Poly welcomes international students from all over the world and values the contributions they bring to internationalizing the campus and community.

Identifying International Students

Some students may self-identify as international students while others may not openly disclose their visa type or status. Students on F-1 or J-1 visas are subject to enrollment and employment restrictions that faculty and academic advisors need to be aware of. They are identified in Poly Profile with a SEVIS Flag and need to consult with an international student advisor before making enrollment and employment decisions. Special considerations should be taken when advising F-1 or J-1 visa students to avoid any violations of visa status. Contact an International Student Advisor with any questions.

Considerations for Teaching International Students

The International Advisory Committee in collaboration with the CTLT (Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology) has produced this list of important considerations for faculty and staff to draw on when teaching and supporting our Cal Poly international students.

  • Be aware of the broad representation of international students present at Cal Poly. International students come from all over the world and are enrolled in all six colleges at Cal Poly. As of Fall 2021, there are 327 international students (both undergraduate and graduate students) and 34 non-degree students from 66 countries enrolled at Cal Poly. To learn more about the demographics of Cal Poly’s international students visit International Students & Scholars. Be aware that you may have international students in your courses who choose to keep their immigration status or international identity to themselves.
  • Correct the following common erroneous assumptions, which may result in implicit or explicit biases:
    • All international students went to high school abroad. In fact, a number of our international students are “domestically-educated international students” coming to Cal Poly from U.S. high schools or transferring to Cal Poly from other U.S. institutions.
    • All international students are here on student visas.
    • All domestic students went to high school in the U.S. In fact, some domestic students went to high school outside of the U.S. (internationally-educated domestic students) and therefore may also bring a wealth of international experiences to your classroom.
    • Language ability and immigration status define identity/intellectual capacity.
    • International students take seats away from domestic students.
    • All international students from the same country will act the same way and have the same experiences.
  • Value the unique contributions of international students. International students bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our classrooms and our campus community. Consider the ways in which international perspectives will enhance discussion around course topics and communicate that you are supportive of international students and welcome their feedback and input. Consider which course discussions/topics presume a nuanced understanding of American history, politics, and/or cultural references and ensure international students have access to the background information they need to learn and contribute.
  • Be aware that international students may be accustomed to very different hierarchical academic systems. Since international students have often been educated in different academic systems it is important to be transparent about your expectations for students. Clarifying expectations is a practice that benefits all students and may be particularly helpful to those students with experiences in different academic systems. For example, if you expect students to attend your office hours, give students an idea of what this time is for and what they should expect when they attend your office hours. If you assign group work, be aware that group work is conducted differently (or can be totally unfamiliar) in academic systems worldwide and that detailed instructions on how to divide up tasks and collaboration with others are important.
  • Assess international student writing in ways that support student success. Consider that multilingual students (both international and domestic) may have a written accent as well as a spoken one. When assessing student writing, it may be helpful to separate errors that get in the way of meaning from those that do not and allow students to submit revisions based on our feedback. You also might provide a grading rubric that clarifies the point value assigned to grammar, usage, and mechanics and/or have students analyze a model writing assignment to highlight features of effective writing in advance of assignment submission.
  • Clearly communicate about definitions of academic dishonesty/plagiarism at Cal Poly and in your course. U.S. academic institutions have different customs, practices, and consequences for plagiarism than institutions situated within other cultures (visit, for example, turnitin’s Cultural Differences in Plagiarism for more information). Give your students specific examples of what is / is not plagiarism in your discipline and consider providing them with links to resources to help them navigate this important element of academic writing. For example, international students may access the following resources:
  • Support international students who are adjusting to life at Cal Poly. In addition to U.S.-based academic culture adjustments, international students may be struggling with adjusting generally to life in a relatively small, coastal community with limited access to diverse foods, peoples and cultural activities. Challenges with cultural adjustment can be present for many domestic students too! Be aware of the many resources available to our international students and refer students to resources when needed, for example the Cal Poly International Center, Campus Health and Wellbeing, Writing and Learning Center, Student Diversity and Belonging, as well as many other student resources.
  • Learn about each student in your classroom. Opening space for students to tell you about themselves can help to dispel assumptions you may have and will give you more information about the learners in your classroom. You may have international students in your courses who choose to keep their immigration status or international identity to themselves, but it is important to create opportunities for all students to share their unique experiences and concerns with you. For example, consider offering a survey at the beginning of the quarter. Visit the CTLT’s Building Community and Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment for survey suggests and additional ways you can connect with your students.
  • Include syllabus statements that communicate that you value and support international students. Incorporate the sample language from the CTLT’s Inclusion and Classroom Climate Syllabus Statement in your syllabus. Also, consider adding the Cal Poly International Center Syllabus Statement (included below) to let students know that this important resource is available on our campus and provides resources specifically for international students.

International Center Syllabus Statement

The Cal Poly International Center connects students with opportunities to study, intern and research abroad, supports international students and scholars, facilitates international travel for faculty and staff teaching or leading student groups abroad, and more. The International Students & Scholars unit of the International Center provides services and programs aimed at meeting the unique needs of international students and scholars throughout their academic careers at Cal Poly. If you are an international student, please know that the International Center is here to help you every step of the way. Learn about student resources, visa requirements, and employment options by visiting the International Students & Scholars resources for enrolled students.