Eight Things International Students Should Know Before Attending College in the U.S.
1. Get out of your comfort zone
Being in a new place, far away from your family and friends might be overwhelming. You don’t know many people and at first you probably feel lonely, even though you’re surrounded by around nine thousand other students. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to change that – you just have to get out there. Join various student groups, sign up for university trips, or just get to know the people who live on your dormitory floor. After all, you’ll see them probably every day for the next few months.
2. Be yourself
Way too many people make the mistake of trying to fit in and as a result acting like someone they’re not. It’s understandable that you want to make friends as soon as college starts but don’t force it. The right people will come to you. It’s better to feel comfortable around people who like you for being you rather than trying to impress others by being someone you’re not.
3. Don’t be afraid to meet new people
Keep one fact in mind – other freshmen are in the same situation. They’re in a new place, they most likely don’t know anyone, and they’re looking for friends just as you are. Don’t be afraid to talk to that girl sitting next to you in one of your classes, or ask that guy from your dorm how he’s doing. Small talk can sometimes be awkward but it can also be a start of a new friendship.
4. Open up to the American culture
Being in a college in the U.S. is the best way to learn about American history, culture, and the people. Go to museums, parks, concerts, and any place where you can experience American life. Become familiar with what the people here do- how do they celebrate 4th of July or Halloween? What does Thanksgiving mean to them? Learn as much as possible about numerous traditions and actually become a part of the community. It’s a great way to meet a lot of new people and another way to make you feel more at home.
5. Try new things
Don’t be afraid to try new food, new activities, or anything you haven’t done yet. Sign up for boxing class or try playing soccer, who knows, you might end up finding a new hobby. Trying new things will help you learn more about yourself, you’ll meet new people, and you’ll enjoy your time ten times more. However, you don’t want to get in trouble, so don’t do anything you feel pressured to or something you know might end badly.
You’re in a new place and have the perfect opportunity to find a new go-to spot, a place that serves your favorite food, or a place where you can relax and read your favorite book. Don’t spend your free time watching TV shows in your small dorm room. The more familiar you become with the city you live in, the more it will feel like home.
7. It’s okay to miss your family and friends
Don’t feel ashamed for calling your mom ten times every day. If that’s what you need for some time, then do it. It’s also okay to stay in touch with your friends from back home. In fact, you should probably make sure you do. However, you shouldn’t hold on to that TOO much. You can’t spend every single day skyping your best friend from high school or chatting with your friends from back home. If you do that, by the end of your freshman year you’ll realize you barely made any new friends. Missing your family and friends is perfectly normal but eventually you have to learn how to cope with that and find happiness in your new second home.
8. Keep all of your documents safe!
Finally, making sure you have all the important and necessary documents, such as your I-20, is probably the most stressful part of being an international student. And getting all the signatures before heading back home isn’t fun either. To make sure you don’t stress over that too much, keep it all very organized. Dedicate one shelf in your desk to your documents and get all the papers signed in advance- not a day before you’re flying back home.