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4 Keys to International Student Success

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Campus shutdowns, classes flipped online, border closures, and even virtual graduations, international students of all ages and backgrounds have wrestled with major disruptions to their university study during the pandemic. What could have been a transition nightmare, has instead showcased the value of the four keys for academic success.

Key #1 Opportunity – Coaching

Coaching is a strengths-based approach designed to bring out your best. Coaching makes a difference because it offers you dedicated time to connect with how you feel and think about, “What really matters to me?”

Did you know that 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence and that over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills (International Coaching Federation, 2009)?

A coach provides you with a macro lens to help establish goals, identify your strengths, recognise challenges, and a micro lens to challenge your thinking and assumptions plus give you practical tools and strategies.

As Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Key #2 Awareness – Visioning and Goal Setting

Coaching is a process that invites you to discover by posing powerful questions to empower your thinking and learning. A coach creates a safe space to build self-awareness starting with your big picture vision and goals that resonate with the priorities in your life and allows you to grow in a supportive environment to develop and sustain your best way of being.

Internationally recognised executive coach Timothy Gallwey and author of The Inner Game of Work explains that “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance…helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

Key #3 Activation – Planning and Motivation

Understanding and managing stress and motivation in your studies improves learning and wellbeing. Coaching has your interests at heart and supports you to craft meaningful and effective plans—day, week, semester, year—using SMARTER goals to support adaptability and reduce anxiety by strengthening your organisation, collaboration, and time management capabilities. What this looks like is being able to establish and take actions towards achieving your goals, becoming more self-reliant, and gaining more satisfaction with your work.

Key #4 Utilisation – Implementation and Reflection

A great coach works with you to improve your performance and wellbeing by helping you find ways to be happier, more fulfilled, and more productive. Coaching builds awareness of existing and developing capabilities to allow you to understand their value, transfer, and use. This is important because awareness of capabilities influence your feelings of competence, resilience, and autonomy. In other words, when life gets rough you can face those challenges, manage anxiety, be proactive in getting support, and know the value in persisting; you know you will, and deserve to, succeed.

Mings coaching story…

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Unsplash @brookecagle

In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, an international student was faced with a serious study challenge. Ming had returned to her home country and had one remaining subject to complete, a Masters degree capstone. The capstone was offered as an internship, and Ming now had to find a workplace that would accommodate its completion remotely online.

As Ming explains, “In these circumstances, it was a bit challenging to find a remote internship at first. However, I was determined to find an internship in Australia even when I had flown back to my home country”.

When Ming contacted me for coaching, she told me that she faced a significant setback, was time poor, and felt frustrated that all her hard work seemed to have hit a dead end:

“I never stopped applying, cold emailing organisations, messaging HR reps on LinkedIn, and asking referrals from colleagues and previous lecturers. I almost secured one [an internship] at a tech company when at the last minute, they decided they could not accommodate an internship.”

When one door closes another door opens.

Of the four keys for academic success, Ming’s strengths were Key #2 Awareness – Visioning and Goal Setting and Key #3 Activation – Planning and Motivation. Yet Ming couldn’t seem to shift her gaze from that closed internship door and hoped that coaching could make a difference. With the semester starting in less than a week, we started by checking-in on her vision and goals: “What really matters to me?” using the GROW Model.

I asked Ming what she wanted to achieve, what the bigger picture looked like, and this gave us the opportunity to identify the inspirational goal that would drive success and maintain energy and motivation that had suffered a blow. Next, Ming talked about what was happening at the moment and I asked what impact this was having on her and other areas of her life.

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones
Unsplash @aronvisuals

A lack of time was a very real problem but it seemed to be consuming her thinking, so I asked Ming how she would tackle this if time wasn’t an issue. This proved to be a breakthrough moment because Ming visibly relaxed, was silent for several minutes, and when she spoke it was about another internship opportunity an academic in a previous subject had talked about.

Before our next coaching session, Ming contacted the academic lecturer for details, organised a meeting with the potential organisation, and successfully secured a new internship:

“Thankfully, another opportunity opened up. It was a project that was meaningful and that allowed me to add value to the organisation by helping them build their culture.”

As the internship progressed, Ming used our coaching sessions to help her plan and take actions towards achieving her goals, work more easily and productively with the team and organisation, and communicate more effectively as a leader.

And the result? “Leading a project remotely was a great learning experience as it really pushed me out of my comfort zone – I had to navigate working with a team I had met only online, I had to learn how to build relationships from afar, and I had to adjust to the different time zones! Looking back, the internship experience would probably be one of the highlights of my degree.”

And yes, Ming successfully completed the virtual internship and graduated with her Masters degree!

woman in blue dress walking on hallway
Unsplash @pattybphoto

*Client name has been changed

Are you a student or academic interested in the rise of virtual internships?  Here is what Forbes had to say: The rise of the virtual internship is not just an opportunity for young people to beef up their remote-work skills. It’s a proving-ground for companies to embrace the new virtual workplace and take remote productivity to the next level. 

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