international student counseling office

helping international students

How to better understand and support international students

Here are some hints for recognizing warning signs often seen in students who are having trouble, and advice on how to communicate with those students when you have seen some of these signs.

If you notice that international students are feeling unwell

As advisors work closely with international students, they may be the first to notice when a student has problems. If they have a good relationship with their students, they can use it as a basis to provide students with appropriate resources and introduce them to our counseling office. Here are some typical signs during the initial periods of illness.

  • Being late and/or absent frequently
  • Bad academic performance
  • Talking less and/or having no energy
  • Making more mistakes
  • Inattentive or not able to concentrate
  • Becoming aggressive without reason

If you identify students who may be troubled with grades, their careers or future, relationships, personality issues, or cultural adaption problems, please ask them to come to the International Student Counseling Office.

When recommending international students to get counseling, please keep these points in mind

When encouraging international students to visit the counseling office, please tell them that it is natural (no reason to feel embarrassed) for students to make use of the counseling office. Please explain to them that the counselors are experts in clinical psychology, and after listening to the problems of international students they will work with the students to find some solutions and coping strategies. Their privacy will be respected and that the counselors are obligated to keep all sessions confidential. If necessary and if the student consents, then advisors may also come with the student to sessions.

Scolding may be counterproductive

Even if at a first glance, international students may seem to be defensive, in reality, they may feel very depressed or anxious, so it is counterproductive to scold them. It will be easier for the students to listen to you when if you speak with them in a calm tone.

When the international student refuses counseling

Sometimes international students are extremely afraid of being “sent back” to their country or of “disappointing their teacher.” If an international student refuses to talk to you about difficult matters or to get counseling, it may be because the students misunderstands that if they admit they have a problem, they will be sent back to their country. They may also feel worried that their advisor will think badly of them. Please talk to the student about why they are refusing counseling on order to resolve any misunderstandings they may have.

Following up on the progress of international students

If you are become aware of changes in an international student and are worried about the situation, please bring this up to the student in a direct manner. For example, “I’ve been worried lately because you have missed many classes/You don’t smile much recently/I feel that something has changed.” In addition, if you are aware that the student cannot sleep well or cannot concentrate, please advise them in the following way: “Since it seems hard for you to sleep, why don’t you go to the counseling office to talk about it?” If you encourage visiting the counseling office in line with the problems of the international students, they may be more willing to get counseling.

How can people around the student help them

If an international student is hesitating about getting counseling, faculty/staff may suggest going together with them to the counseling office. This may help international students feel safer about deciding to visit the counseling office.

If you would like to ask for advice about an international student, please call and make an appointment for a consultation.

Related information

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare provides many resources to help people recognize signs of mental illness in order to decrease the suicide rate.

As part of this effort, you can access the following videos and reading materials in order to learn how recommend counseling services to students who are feeling depressed.
Example of how to recommend counseling services ③ (9) Student Consultation
Text of “Gatekeeper Training”

Useful Resources

The international student counseling office has compiled a list of useful links about cultural adaptation and support for international students’ daily lives. Please take a look at these resources in order to better understand their experiences and how to support them.

International Student Counseling Office TOP Useful Resources by International Student Counseling Office

Become a peer supporter

Hokkaido University takes applications for peer supporters at designated times throughout the year. Peer supporters are paid part-time staff (administrative assistant) of the university. Check out the peer support unit web site or come to the Center for more information.

Thinking about visiting us?

If you would like to make a counseling appointment, please call us, email us, or even just drop by in person. Students with appointments are given priority, so we recommend making an appointment.