Advising International Exchange Students

Target Learners & Contexts

This case study was created for student services professionals in higher education settings (e.g., Academic Advisors, Career Advisors, Study Abroad Advisors) for their professional development purposes. However, it could also be used in other settings (e.g., a higher education administration course, an inclusive teaching workshop for faculty and TAs) with or without modifications.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this case study activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify key concerns around inclusion and equity in the case scenario
  2. Develop strategies for more inclusive and equitable outcomes

Instructions for main facilitator:

Ahead of the workshop

  • Review the case study scenario(s) and adapt them to your context if necessary.
  • Review the talking points, which are suggested points for discussions. You may want to adapt the talking points (e.g., modify the language, make additional points) to your specific context.
  • Consider how you would like to facilitate the activity by thinking of the following questions:
    • Would you like to identify people who are going to facilitate small group discussions ahead of time so that you have a chance to discuss key points to be covered in the small group discussions? Or will the session participant work on their own in small groups?
    • Will someone be taking notes during small group discussions? How can these be shared back with the whole group?
    • Would you like to have students read the case studies and discussion questions ahead of time as “homework,” or do you have enough time to do that during your session?

During the workshop

  • Divide participants into groups of 4 or 5. You may want each group to include a facilitator with knowledge of the issues discussed in the scenarios, and who can help guide the conversation.
  • Give groups 10-15 minutes to discuss each scenario. You may want to give each group a large piece of paper where they can write 3-4 things that they would do in response.
  • Debrief as a large group. One by one, read the case studies before inviting each group to share what they discussed before opening it up to a discussion among the larger group.

Instructions for learners:

Read the case study that has been shared with your group. Take a moment to think about the discussion question then discuss them with your group.

In your work with students who study abroad, you have noticed that some of them return with impactful experiences around privilege and discrimination from the time in their host country. Usually, they speak about these themes by positioning themselves as a foreigner in the host country. They seem able to see how power and privilege play out when they leave, but have more difficulty seeing it from within their own culture. Recently, Sara, a student who spent a year in India, shared similar reflections, sharing with you comments like, “discrimination still happens there,” “racism was a problem over there,” and “we live in a bubble over here.” You want to support her ongoing reflective process; however, you are unsure how to engage with her comments and questions. How might you help her reflect on her positionality and the issues around power and privilege that exist in Vancouver and Canada as well? How can you take learning done abroad and apply it to the local context here?

  • From your lens as an Advisor, what issues does this scenario highlight?
  • As an Advisor, what is your role and responsibility?
  • As an Advisor, how should you respond at this point? What could have been done differently to support the students in this scenario? Consider these questions at both the local level (e.g., what you can do in the moment or in a short term) and a broader level (e.g., long-term, structural changes).

These talking points are meant to help the facilitator generate meaningful conversation with the group. There are not final or comprehensive answers!

Encourage further self-reflection

Validate the student’s interest in issues of equity and inclusion. Ask questions to encourage her to reflect on her positionality and think about how insights she got as an “outsider” may be able to teach her about what she may not be able to see as an “insider” in her home context. Here are some examples of questions to explore with the student:

  • Why do you think you noticed these things there?
  • What helped you notice these things? Is it something about your home country environment (e.g., socio-economic conditions, demographic composition of the community, cultural norms), and/or is it something about you (e.g., how others saw you, what you did there)?
  • How do you think your position as an international student shaped what you experienced abroad? How might your experience there have been different from the experiences of other international students with different backgrounds?
  • Did you talk to local community members about what you noticed? Did they notice the same things, or different things? Why do you think that is?
  • Do you think students who come here on exchange might notice similar things here?
  • How do these reflections help you think about the inequalities that you may not easily see here?

Learning about power and privilege

Part of the journey towards understanding the issues of power and privilege is having the vocabulary to talk about these issues and the space to reflect on them. When students show initial interest, you can work to extend their learning by directing them towards learning opportunities that are based in their home context. Encourage their further self-reflection on their own power and privilege in both local and global contexts. (Check out opportunities through the UBC Equity & Inclusion Office as well as local organizations; Vancouver-based examples include UNYA, YouthCo, Check Your Head, PeerNetBC, etc.).


People are complex and often experience privilege in some areas while experiencing marginalization in other areas. You can encourage students to reflect on these tensions in their daily lives here - which parts of their identity are always included in conversations, classroom materials, media, and which ones are not? Sometimes it is easier to notice inequality in areas where we feel left out, and that experience can be a starting point to identify inequalities in other areas, even locally.

Additional programming about equity and inclusion

How could international programs better encourage and support all students’ learning about issues of equity and inclusion? Some ideas for how this could happen:

  • formal modules or workshop before leaving and after returning
  • opportunities for informal conversations with students who have gone abroad, returned, and developed deeper forms of engagement with these questions (Equity Ambassadors, Global Lounge, etc.)
  • readings that make connections between the places that students know and the places that students will visit
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When re-using this resource, please attribute as follows: "developed by Go Global: International Learning Programs and the Equity and Inclusion Office at the University of British Columbia."


Post image:  By UFV Study Abroad Expo via Flickr.  CC BY-SA 2.0.