international studentsHere you are, freshly arrived to an American university, what now? Information is thrown all around you, people are speaking way too quickly and there is just too much going on. For most international students the first few weeks of a semester abroad are spent trying to adjust to a shockingly new culture, setting and schedule. Here are a few tips that will help you navigate your new school and your temporary home better.

1. Attend As Many Orientation Activities as Possible

It may seem useless, after all most of these activities are geared toward first year students. You already know how to manage your study time, budget your money and get enough sleep. It’s true, your needs are different, but that does not mean that Orientation is a waste of time. What bonds you most to these first year and transfer students is that you are all experiencing a brand new atmosphere; this commonality makes it easy to find great friends, vent your frustrations, or just feel less alone in that big cloud of confusion that is your first week on campus. Take advantage of this time, it may help you for the remainder of your time abroad.

2. Find Your Go-To Spots

In your home university, you know where to go for help with your studies, financial aid or health concerns; in a new place, figuring all this out might take a backseat to some more pressing issues. Don’t forget about these resources for too long, they can mean a big difference between doing okay and doing great. Think about it, finding out where to get tutoring before you need it can make you feel that much better about not understanding something in the first chapter; and knowing that there is an academic advisor willing to help you figure out your schedule can mean that much less stress on your already full plate. Gather your resources around you and you will have all the tools you need to succeed.

3. Explore the Community

Unfortunately, college students typically do not extend themselves beyond their campus gates. As an international student, however, you are not only experiencing college life, you are also learning about your host country and its culture. Sometimes a college campus is a very sheltered bubble, so burst that bubble and go explore! College towns are typically excellent sources of entertainment, art, music and foodie culture, so do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in all of that before it’s time to leave. Not only will you learn something new, but you will begin a larger sense of belonging and understanding.

4. Join a Club

This one seems like a no-brainer, but many international students steer clear of clubs. Yes, it might be uncomfortable at first, you may stumble on a few words or you may have some awkward silences, but ultimately a club is an excellent resource. You will meet people that share your interests, you will practice your English, and you will find yourself getting comfortable on campus with surprising speed.

5. Ask for Help If You Need It

This is a problem shared by all college students: a fear of failure. This fear will typically prevent you from asking a question, going to a professor’s office hours, or talking to someone when you are having a hard time. The most important thing to remember is that everyone, from professors to advisors to counselors to administrative assistants are here to help YOU. The entire infrastructure of a university is geared to helping you succeed.  Take comfort in knowing that more than likely you are not the only person to feel the way that you feel, to have that question, which means that there is an answer readily available and help is just a few words away.

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