The United States of America has the largest international student population. The USA has come a long way in terms of its diverse student body and international education. Applying as an international student is a long and tedious process, but once it’s complete, you may begin feeling a little nervous about going to a completely different country all by yourself. International students entering college have it a little tougher than the rest. Not only is going to college a new and challenging experience for them, but international students are also thousands of miles away from home and their family.
You have to adjust to new people, a new environment, new traditions, a new education system, and for some, a new language. It’s a lot of change all at once, and hopefully after reading this, you will be a little more prepared for some of the adventures you will encounter while broadening your education and life experience in the United States.
Here is a guide to everything you will need to know as an international student – once you are ready to start college!
Understanding the American culture is a good first step for international students. International students can have a tough time adjusting to the American culture. The American values and customs might be very different from those in your hometown, therefore, making yourself a little familiar with some of the culture in the States might be helpful in order for you to have a smooth transition into college.
One of the most common difficulties international students face is dealing with culture shock. Culture shock is a feeling of perplexity when experiencing a completely new way of life. A lot of international students have a hard time adjusting to the American lifestyle, however it is imperative to understand that new experiences come with new challenges. In order to avoid culture shock, keep yourself occupied with classes and other activities. Carry on with your days with an open mind, and allow yourself to understand this new way of living. Another way to get around the culture shock is by maintaining habits. Continue with your faith and other practices that you used to follow back home. It might comfort you to do some of the things you enjoyed doing in your home country.
A big concern for students getting ready to start college is the issue of safety. This is particularly true for international students who are not familiar with the culture and safety issues of the country they are planning to study in. Before beginning college, familiarize yourself with the types of transportation available near your college town/city. And as always, remember to stay vigilant and be careful, whether you are alone or with a group of friends. It is critical that you feel safe, especially when you are half way across the world from your country. The safer you feel, the faster you will adjust to college and feel comfortable in your new home away from home.
It is also important to develop a social life as an international student. Your social life is an essential part of your stay in the United States. During your orientation week or your first couple days of college, you should have an “International Student” meeting or orientation. Attending this would be a great idea, as this is the perfect place to meet the college’s international student advisor as well as the other international students in your year. Remember to form deeper friendships with your fellow classmates. Additionally, it might be helpful to surround yourself with other international students – as you will have similar challenges and experiences in the first couple of days of college.
Even though you might have family members or close family friends living near your college, you should still try to stay on campus for at least the first year – especially if you are an international student. There is no better way to get used to an American college lifestyle than living on campus and experiencing it every day. Staying on campus is convenient to both academic and social activities, and you will not need a car to commute to campus.
If you are an international student studying in the United States, it is vital that you know all the requirements and limitations regarding your visa. The majority of the international students coming into the U.S. receive an F-1 visa. This type of visa allows students to work part-time, and allows on-campus employment, for a limited amount of hours. There are other types of visas that offer different facilities and have altered restrictions.
Finally, stay in touch with everyone from back home. When you study far from home for a long period of time, you will of course begin missing your hometown. Feeling homesick is completely normal. The best way to overcome homesickness is to talk to family members or friends from back home. There are plenty of ways you can keep in touch with everyone. Viber is an app that allows you to make free calls with Wi-Fi or data connection, and WhatsApp is a free texting app that also uses Wi-Fi or data connection. These two applications are available on Smartphone’s and they require both parties to have the app installed on their phones. They are two of many ways to keep contact with people in different parts of the world. Additionally, colleges usually have long enough winter and summer breaks, in order for international students to go back home and visit friends and family for a couple weeks. Use that time to rekindle with everyone back home and share your adventurous stories.
Being an international student myself, I truly believe that being able to continue your higher education in the United States is a very beneficial opportunity. Once you are all settled in and become accustomed to this new way of life, you will begin understanding the value of learning with and from your fellow peers from around the world. It is an opportunity and experience like no other!
Ria is currently a student at Sarah Lawrence College pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing and Sociology. She enjoys spending time with friends and family in her free time. She also has a bad habit of starting new tv shows at the most inconvenient times.