Know your tribe: international students

Airplane wing viewed through a window

As students flock back to campuses over the next few months, we’ve put together this quick-fire guide to help you understand the value of international students and the key things you need to consider when creating your Gen Z marketing strategy. 

Over the last two years, students have contended with numerous challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For international students, Covid put a huge obstacle in the way of their education. Whether they were traveling for a year abroad, or to study full-term at an educational institution overseas, traveling between countries was incredibly difficult or altogether impossible for these students. Now, even countries like Australia, whose borders have been closed throughout the whole pandemic, are open once again – and just in time for Welcome Week, too. 

This means the situation is looking brighter for new and existing international students, as they look to enter the next academic semester under more normal circumstances – and, most importantly, in the country they’re college or university is actually situated! 

International students – in numbers 

According to a report by Open Doors, there were over one million international students enrolled at US colleges and universities during the 2019/2020 academic year – making up 4.6% of the total student population in the US. The same report reveals that for the 2020/2021 school year, the number of international students decreased to 914,095 – with the pandemic being one likely cause for this shift. 

In 2019/20 there were 538,615 international students studying in the UK. 142,985 of these were from the EU and 395,630 were from outside the EU. In both the UK and the US, students from China and India make up the largest cohorts. 

Over in Australia, where the student demographic sits at 1.5 million, Victoria and New South Wales carry the largest cohort of international students, with around 106,000 and 78,000 attending university in these states respectively. According to data collected by the Mitchell Institute, international students contribute over $38 billion to Australia’s economy each year and support over 130,000 Australian jobs.

Domestic vs international students 

The key differences between domestic and international students lies in their timelines and spending. Regardless of which territory they’re studying in, international students are likely to approach their semesters differently compared to the average domestic student. 

When starting college or University, students traveling in from overseas will likely leave most of their shopping until they arrive and get settled into their new accommodation. This means these students will be using their Back to School, Freshers, or Welcome Week period to do more than just meet new people and sign up for clubs and classes – they’ve got some shopping to do and a whole new country to explore and get used to! 

Group of 5 students walking together and laughing

A lot of international students also have a fairly high income to put toward their overseas education. Whether that comes from scholarships, family or their own savings, you’ll often find a large proportion of international students, especially those undergoing full-time study, carry a solid amount of disposable income to see them through their college and university years – which means they’ll be keen to spend on new brands and experiences. 

For those doing a year abroad, you can guarantee they’ll have saved up plenty to be able to live their best life. A year abroad might be centered around academics, but for most students, this 12-month period is about trying something new and enjoying a new culture. 

Marketing to international students

With so many international students heading to campuses across a number of key territories, it’s important to consider this cohort when planning your Gen Z marketing strategy – especially the differences they encounter in their college or university experience. 

We recommend starting with timelines. When marketing to students during Back to School, Freshers or Welcome Week, remember that not all international students will be doing their shopping in the 1-2-month period before, and, importantly, not all students will be aware of your brand if you don’t have an international presence. So consider the first few weeks of the semester a chance to really make an impression on these new consumers. Getting out of campus will certainly help to grab their attention and put your brand name front of mind, as well as online activity like social media ads to promote student offers. 

Throughout the year, international students are also more likely to remain on campus during shorter vacation periods like spring break in the US, or Easter in the UK and Australia. Be sure to align your messaging to suit every circumstance. 

Remember, starting college or university signals financial independence for the majority of students, especially those who are moving away from home. But international students face all the usual changes that domestic students contend with when transitioning from high school to university, with plenty of added extras that make this both an exciting and anxious time. The brands that make an effort to adapt their marketing strategy to suit international students will not just build new brand loyalties, they’ll also expand their presence across a global audience

Learn more about how Student Beans can help your brand expand across a global Gen Z audience.

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