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Tips on Adjusting to Life as an International Student Inside the US

Posted on August 25th, 2015 by Bryanna Davis

If you’re an international student you know that becoming one is not an easy process. You must provide numerous paper work, attend interviews, and show proof of a variety of items- anywhere from test scores, to proof of funds. With all of this work, it’s easy to forget that the end goal is to not only learn abroad, but to experience life abroad. Because of this, international students should make time to research what to expect during their time as an international student in the US. To help provide new international students with tips on adjusting, last week our hangout addressed this specific topic. If you missed this this hangout you can still get these tips by either watching the video, or you can continue reading for a recap on the five tips we addressed during our hangout.

The first item discussed is that the education style inside the United States will vary from the education style in your home country. At the beginning of the semester students typically receive a checklist of items that they can expect throughout the semester from each class, this list will consist of projects, tests and reading assignments. Although this will not be the full list of what’s required of you (pop quizzes will occur), it’s a good place to start. Most (if not all) professors will have designated office hours. These office hours allow students to speak with professors to address any problems or questions. If you have questions on assignments or if you’re falling behind during your adjustment period, utilize your professors’ office hours.

The second item that you need to prepare yourself for is having a roommate. Not only will you more than likely have a roommate, but instead of sharing an apartment (flat), if you’re living in the dorms you will share one room. If you and your roommate become close friends this living arrangement will work out great. If you find that you don’t have too much in common it might not be quite what you had hoped for, but you can still make it work, and these tips might help:

1. Bring a small gift from home to break the ice and start off on the right foot.
2. Be understanding and make sure you don’t start a fight with your roommate about everything.
3. Be respectful. Sticking to the phrase “treat others as you wish to be treated” will help you live happily with your roommate.

The third thing than many international students often stress about is how to react in certain social situations. For example, when meeting up with friends what is a common greeting, what should you bring, what is the dress code, etc. Small items that came natural to you in your home country will throw you for a loop in your new host country. Although there is not one “correct” answer to these items as the answer will vary from one social group to another, there is one secret that can help you gain better insight into what to expect: watch others.

The fourth change that will require an adjustment period is your new campus. At first you won’t know where to find any of your classes, dining halls, libraries, computer labs, gyms, etc and you might let lost a few times. The best way to conquer your campus is to explore on your first day. You will more than likely want to take a nap right after you arrive, so exploring your campus is a good way to distract you from just how tired you are. Grab a campus map from the front desk of your residence hall or print and bring one from home, and begin your campus journey.

Fifth on the list: you won’t know anyone and that will be difficult. Becoming an international student is a very exciting time, but it’s also attached to a lot of big changes. Back home you had family and numerous friends that could relate to you in most situations, but during your time in the US you won’t have a support system that is going through the same experiences. Although this will make the adjustment period difficult, it will also give you the chance to “start fresh.” Not knowing anyone means that you can be whoever you would like to be. You might be tempted to not make new friends until you know exactly how to handle each social situation and until your English is perfect, but don’t let these small items hold you back. Your first couple of weeks in your host country will be a very important time to establish friends- so make friends as soon as possible.

If you’re not going to be an international student this semester but would like to be one in the future start by finding a college or university!

Written by Bryanna Davis

Bryanna joined EIC in 2011 after returning to the United States from teaching English in China. Her interest in international education, sparked initially by her own study abroad experience in Wales, led her to the company. Bryanna is originally from Missouri and is a graduate from the University of Central Missouri.

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