A monstrous way to treat international students?

The very fact that international students get a space on the website of this summer’s hottest animated release reflects their importance and value to universities the world over, says INTO University Partnership’s Internal Communications Manager Mary Kalmus. But is the Monsters University webmaster delivering the full student experience?

INTO’s international students usually arrive fresh-faced and eager, yet understandably nervous, in a strange land where the language may be a challenge, the food unfamiliar and the surroundings and culture vastly – or subtly – different.

But in Pixar’s fictional world, not only is the environment alien – so are your new classmates. As you look around the intake at Monsters University, you’re likely to spot rainbow-coloured beings of all shapes and sizes, boasting odd (or even) numbers of legs or limbs which they use to get around in a variety of ways – from slithering to creeping. Many of them may also offer a range of weird tics and unfortunate habits such as you have never come across before.

As for their voices – why, they croak, grunt, wheedle and whinge in what can most kindly be described as broken English. They may even give off a pungent, unworldly odour and have a nasty habit of sloughing off tufts or hair or layers of skins as you attempt to strike up a conversation with them.

All of which, of course, makes the challenges faced by our own international (human) students seem pretty trivial.

But regardless of who (or even what) your classmates, teachers and the local population consist of, there is an equally pressing need for international students’ initial and ongoing experience at their chosen study institution to be as fulfilling as possible.

For, if they are to achieve their study goals, all young beings share a need to fit in, find a friendly face to show them to the library etc, and introduce them to other students they can befriend.

So, does the Monsters University website deliver on such aspects? Well, having read the International Student Services  section on it – an extract from which is below – do you think you would feel supported enough to first apply to this institution, settle in, and do well in your chosen course of study?

“Monsters University not only has a rich diversity of student types, body sizes, colors, and appendages, but it also offers students from other countries a distinct opportunity to study near a major city, completing rigorous academics, all while making friends that will last a lifetime… The ISS office provides international students with help in schedule-building, roommate relations, and adapting to a new culture.”

While the website as a whole is crammed full of the priceless gems and quirky humour we have come to expect from this top-notch creative team, the amount of detail contained in the above section of website is, we feel, rather scant compared to the “world-class educational and cultural experience,” that INTO offers its international students in the UK, North America and China.

The overall INTO student experience has been carefully crafted to provide students with what they need in order to help our students to emerge with the skills, attitudes and aptitudes they will need in order to progress academically and make the most of their lives.

INTO’s centres have dedicated student services teams that offer young humans support every step of the way – from initial application, through visa clearance to graduation and beyond. There is also specialist advice and help on the practical aspects of life – from finding accommodation to sorting out financial and personal issues – as well as on academic issues should they arise. In fact, we have been so successful in this that a recent study revealed 90% student satisfaction across all our study centres. Click here for a fuller picture of our student offering.

The fact that international education gets a mention, however brief, in Monster University’s populist virtual world is cause for celebration in itself, though. In fact, the Pixar web team’s efforts are pretty laudable as, somewhat spookily, despite being intended as merely a bit of a scream, the Monsters University mission statement embodies some of our own, real-life aims – i.e. to create a global, inclusive learning environment for our students:

“What really makes us special, what makes us unique, are the diverse groups of monsters that teach and learn in the halls of our beautiful campus,” says Monsters University Principal Victoria Gross .

We in today’s real, increasingly globalised world, couldn’t have put it better ourselves…

Author: Mary Kalmus

Mary Kalmus is INTO University Partnership's Internal Communications Manager. A journalist and communications professional of many years' standing, she has worked widely across the consumer press and local newspapers and within the NHS.

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