Every year thousands of international students arrive at American colleges and universities to complete their higher education degrees- sometimes for bachelor or graduate programs, other times as part of a shorter study abroad program offered by their universities back home. Whatever the case may be, it’s an exciting time that can have a great impact on international student’s lives.
You might not know what to expect out of your time studying in the U.S. We have some advice! Here are some common mistakes made by international students at U.S colleges, that you should avoid:
Missing College Orientation
Although some international students don’t make it because of timing issues, others often miss orientation because they think it won’t make a difference if they go. This is a mistake. College orientation is an opportunity for new students to get introduced to the college campus and atmosphere; you get guidance on how to pick your courses for the semester, as well as the rundown on how things work and where to get different kinds of information if you need it. It’s a great opportunity to transition into college life.
Missing orientation often leaves international students disoriented when they arrive on campus; plan accordingly and try to be there: it’ll be much easier to pick your courses, be settled in before the semester begins, and even begin to meet other college students.
Not Asking Questions
When you’re in a new country, your survival instincts kick in; social norms vary from place to place, and international students can feel a bit weary when it comes to asking questions or reaching out for help. You don’t have to prove that you’re capable of doing things on your own. If there’s something you don’t know, just ask. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and you’ll learn a lot along the way. Tip: keep in mind that most people WANT to help you. Plus, it’s also the best way to practice the language, if you need to, and make new friends!
Only Hanging Out with Other International Students
“Birds of a feather flock together,” and it’s only natural for international students to stick to each other. You’re living through a similar experience: being away from home, relating to a new culture, figuring out how the system works. There’s nothing wrong with that, but connecting with students and people from the U.S is a great way to learn about and immerse oneself in the culture. After all, the point of studying abroad is to have an experience that is different from home.
Don’t be afraid to get involved in campus activities: bonding over a shared interest is one of the best ways to meet locals and have an authentic experience where you live.
Not Looking After Your Health
Studying abroad, whether it’s for four years or just a semester, can sometimes feel like going on vacation, and it’s easy to fall into the “I’m just here for a while” trap. With that mentality, many international students forget to take good care of themselves. You get excited about trying all the food you don’t have at home and start taking on too many activities because you think you have a limited amount of time to make the most of your experiences. This can quickly lead you to wear yourself out- physically and mentally. The truth is, you won’t get to do (or try) everything, but that doesn’t mean your experience will be less exciting!
A great way to keep a balance is to find activities that are new while helping you keep healthy habits. Take advantage of the university recreation facilities, or join a sports club, and be conscious of the types of food you eat!
Limiting Yourself to the College Area
The greatest thing about studying in a different country is being able to explore new places. Because college towns tend to have everything you need in the campus area, international students can limit themselves to what is there. It’s understandable! It can be scary to discover other places when you don’t know what to expect, and sometimes there’s not enough information to incentivize international students to do so.
To get your exploration motor running, find out more about the city you’re living in. Search for things to see or do, learn about its history, or talk to locals for recommendations, and plan a weekend outing based on what interests you. Once you’ve gotten out of your comfort zone, you can expand to nearby cities in the same state, and even nearby states in the U.S! There’s plenty of cheap transportation options like Greyhound buses, ZipCar, and GetAround, which allows you to rent cars from people nearby, to make getting around easier.
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