Building Relationships

Center for International and Cultural Education

Building relationships on campus is valuable for international students’ linguistic and cultural development, and their wellbeing and satisfaction here. Relationships are also important for other historically marginalized groups. For example, many of our domestic multilingual students are students of color or first-generation students. Below are some actions you can take to foster productive and healthy relationships.

Students' Relationships with Each Other

  • ask students to lead discussions
  • use the "Think, Pair, Share" technique
  • put students in groups to problem-solve
  • try deep listening exercises in pairs
  • encourage study groups outside of class
  • ice breakers on the first day (can be related back to course content)
  • model high expectations and welcoming attitude to all students 

Students' Relationships with You

  • learn students' names, and how to pronounce them (can often Google it if unsure, or ask the student for help after class)
  • state your pronouns, and learn students' pronouns in a discreet way (can pass out notecards on the first day)
  • greet students as they enter and leave the classroom
  • use comprehension checks
  • require one short visit to your office hours at some point in semester (or small group visits, for large courses)
  • keep comments on essays short and direct, including what went well as well as what can be improved (avoid long rhetorical questions that require more interpretation)
  • have (and articulate) high expectations for students
  • tell students that failure and difficulty is okay, and even productive
  • take your share of responsibility in communicating effectively by practicing conversation with people of many different linguistic backgrounds
  • show interest in students' backgrounds, but avoid making assumptions
    • When you hear an accent that you think indicates a different background from yours, instead of asking "What country are you from?" you might say, "I'd love to hear more about you and where you grew up."

Related content:

"The Danger of a Single Story," Ted Talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"Don't Ask Me Where I'm From; Ask Where I'm Local," Ted Talk, Taiye Selasi

"Want to Understand Accented Speakers Better? Practice, Practice Practice," article by Melissa Michaud Baese-Berk

"Call Me By My Name. Here's How It's Pronounced," article by Roberto Ray Agudo

"Words We Left Behind: 4 Young Women on Growing Up with Two Languages," article by Rennie Svirnovskiy


Much content from this and the following pages is inspired by and adapted from portions of Fostering International Student Success In Higher Education (2014) by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly, and Zuzana Tomas, which can be found in our library, as well as Shawna Shapiro's faculty development workshop on supporting multilingual/international students at Macalester College, summer 2018.