“Where’s the beach?” “What health insurance?” “Do I need to bring any spending money?”
Do these questions sound familiar? If so, you may be one of the many study abroad advisers who work with “Generation Z” students, a group of young people born anywhere from the early 1990s to the present day.
Because they suffer from information overload, tend to be overcommitted to activities, and rely extensively on their parents, Generation Z students typically do not take the time to read materials, such as predeparture packets, checklists, or even e-mails, in advance. This can be a challenge for advisers working with high school or college students who are getting ready to go abroad, noted a panel of international educators recently at a session during NAFSA’s 2013 Annual Conference in St. Louis titled “How Study Abroad Advisers Reach Generation Z.”
So what’s an adviser to do? Here are a few strategies offered during the session by Amanda Lord, campus relations coordinator for The Education Abroad Network, Maureen Gordon, associate director for Temple University Education Abroad, and Deborah Lake, coordinator for marketing and freshman initiatives at University of Maryland-College Park Education Abroad:
- Rework materials on your website to better engage students: Include step-by-step instructions and small, bullet-pointed chunks of information; make information accessible via fewer clicks; engage students with video clips and short self-assessments.
- Use social media to better connect with students: Set up a Facebook account to interact with students; use Twitter to share information with other advisers at your institution so that they can then pass on reminders and resources to students.
- Consider using text messages, not e-mails, especially for younger students (high school students tend not to read e-mail).
- Rework print predeparture materials so that they are less dense.
- Be purposely redundant with critical information and share across multiple platforms.
- Use a three-pronged predeparture advising approach: personal, electronic, and print.
- List all dates and deadlines clearly.
- Have clearly written policies that address common issues (and enforce the policies).
When advising Generation Z, provide as many opportunities for engagement as possible throughout the predeparture period, urged panel members. And change your thinking and approach to better align with the Generation Z mindset.
Doing so will positively affect students’ ability to succeed while abroad, help safeguard students’ health and safely, and ensure greater overall satisfaction with the study abroad program.