Living far away from your home country, family and friends can be very exciting – but it can also be difficult. Adapting to a new learning and living environment is never easy for anyone, but especially for international students.
Here are four tips to help international students thrive in the US.
- Adapt. The first day you arrive in the US, you may encounter culture shock! New and different lifestyles, customs, and languages might feel like the “honeymoon” stage where you become fascinated with every new adventure. A couple months later, however, many international students face anxiety and start to miss their old culture, and compare it with the new one. It’s essential that you become accustomed to your new life. Of course, you can cook your hometown food, but be sure to try American cuisine. And while you will want to make friends with other students who also come from your country, try to get involved in the American communities. The sooner you adapt to the new environment, the better you are able to reduce the uncertainty and the more assimilated you will become.
- Participate. Don’t hesitate to speak up just because you are not sure if you are “right.” You will never know if you are right if you don’t get your voice heard. For students who don’t speak English as a first language, don’t stop yourself from sharing your ideas. Students in the US understand this and want you to participate and become an active member of team projects and class discussions. Be confident that you can contribute to the diversity of the campus and bring different perspectives to the classroom; this is always appreciated by both your professors and fellow students.
- Gain independence. Filing your taxes, searching for an apartment, learning to cook, driving under different traffic regulations and dealing with visa status – you may never encounter these obstacles until you live in the US. While your undergraduate/graduate program may be academically challenging, learning to live independently is also part of the process. Do your research, join forums, get information from friends and ask for assistance from professionals. Try to be patient and the learning process can be very enjoyable!
- Utilize resources. Your university can always be a good resource when you need assistance. Almost all US universities have an Office of International Students and Scholars – the staff members can help you with your student visa, CPT/OPT, travel visa and even your career search! Universities also offer other great resources such as a writing center, career services center and personal academic advisors. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Perfect your papers by working with a writing instructor; work with career services to polish your résumé; and ask for assistance from your advisor if you are struggling in your classes.
Studying and living in the US can be an exciting and fulfilling journey if you are ready to overcome obstacles, adapt to new environments and enjoy the process of learning.