So you’ve done everything required and now you’re on your way to the USA as an international visa student to start your first day of classes - in another country!
First, it’s okay to panic a little, maybe a lot. Sure, you’re adventurous and obviously smart, and you’re willing to really deal with learning and building a career from an abundance of work and experiences you will love - that’s what college is supposed to be anyway!
And you want to make friends, lots of friends. And you want to network and make connections; connections which can help you make more friends as well as introduce you to mentors and people who can help you on your way up. And there’s so much to do!!
So how can you give yourself the appropriate shot at loving your college experience?
Sit, walk, then run.
You can’t run before you decide to walk, and you simply can’t walk before you sit up and pay attention to where you are and exactly what you doing this very second.
Slowing down life bit by bit is sometimes extremely helpful, but you’d be surprised how few people do it often.
The best way to get the most out of your time in the USA in college, is actually quite possibly the most scientifically proven techniques for getting your brain and body in the best shape possible; simply learn to quiet your mind and relax. Meditation. Praying. Mind Melding together with the Universe…
It’s the exact same activity as far as brain waves are concerned. And science shows it gives the same results.
Learn to do this first and everyday challenges won’t cripple you, and many of them won’t even slow down your progress.
Make as many friends as you can.
Now you’re relaxed enough to listen to the next piece of guidance. The best way to enjoy your college experience is to go out of your way to make lots of friends.
You won’t let all of them friends influence your decisions unless you know them pretty well, but having friends in several areas of your life will be more helpful than you can imagine.
Study friends, breakfast or early morning friends, friends from your classes, friends you meet when you go out to socialize, friends at your part-time job, friends who will show you more friends.
And don’t keep your smiling face just for other students; make adult friends of all sorts too - teachers, mentors, and locals in your neighborhood. You get the idea.
No matter how shy you feel and how terrified you really are in your new surroundings, smile when you're able to and don’t fall into the trap of being too cool for anyone to see that you are open and approachable.
Reach out and talk and ask them about who they are, what they are studying - show a genuine fascination with them and almost 99% of people will return the favor.
Get out of your room, often.
It’s important not just to make friends, but to expand your world as fast as you are expanding your brain in all of your classes. Don’t fall into the emotional trap of putting so much energy into your studies that you don’t put the equivalent amount of energy into your time off from studying.
- Walk to a new coffeehouse and talk to whoever is working there.
- Search for new art to see and new ideas to check out for fun.
- Keep up with local papers and events and especially your campus news and events.
- Join a club or a few clubs if you can schedule enough time.
- Become involved in organizations, do volunteer work, start a new hobby that takes you outside.
The goal for your first few months is to try and match all the new growth that is occurring in your brain with new experiences and new emotions - that should balance your emotional and soulful growth.
Get a job
If your international student visa allows it, find a part-time job. This helps you correspond with others which will improve your English and help minimize the isolation you will certainly be feeling.
There is a ton of research on culture shock and how it can depress people to varying degrees, but did you know it generally wears off and will allow you to begin feeling better and more positive anywhere from four to six months?
A job will keep you busy and also provide a little more money that is just yours along with giving you experience you can put on your resume when the time comes. You could always put volunteer work on your resume too.
Find your school’s International Program center
Nowhere will you feel more welcome than your campus’ International Student/Exchange Program. Meet the people and students who work in this support services program, and join the international student club.
You may even meet students who speak your native language, and you will probably definitely meet students who have been on campus longer and some who have just arrived too.
Talk and ask questions and be sure and tell them about your experience also. Sharing and understanding where you are right now may also help other students going through the same transition challenges you are experiencing.
Pay attention to what this student says about asking for help from your professors by dropping by their office during their office hours.
Office hours are amazing, it also helps you to connect more with all of your professors. I'm on a first name basis with all of the professors in my department. Getting to know them also helped me to get a research position with one of them over this past summer. Last year I also took an economics class just for fun and I ended up talking a lot to my professor and he waived a bunch of requirements for me to get into another one of his classes that was typically only for seniors in Economics or Business and it turned out to be really interesting (I didn't even ask for it, he invited me to his class). I'm looking forward to this next year.
Keep up with your studies
Not to sound like your parents, or your bratty brother or sister, but you can reduce your already seriously-stressed out college life if you do the work you need to do when you need to do it.
Put your studies first and your anxiety will be much more manageable when you’re prepared. In the event that you are falling behind on your homework or you don’t understand a lesson, communication with your professors and with the tutoring center at your college are very important.
Know your way around your library, know your professor’s and their email addresses and hours - it’s up to you now to keep your grades up and sustain your scholarships, etc.
You must find the strength to approach your teachers and get help (tutors are cheap and plentiful on all campuses) if you are falling behind in your studies.
Your family is expecting you to prevail, you’ve proven you can pass the tests and do the work; you owe it to yourself to get help when you need it.
There’s so much more to do…
When you feel like you just can’t take it and home seems a lifetime away, be gentle with yourself and go back to the first rule: relax.
College is going to feel like it is crawling slowly but you will stop one day and look back and be astonished at what you’ve accomplished in a few short months.
Ask any student, from any country in the world, regarding college experience and they will probably laugh and begin telling stories that may seem impossible to believe, except that you underwent the same things when you went to college or you will be going through examples of the same craziness soon.
It can be an amazing experience that you will remember and share for the rest of your life.
Slow down when you must, understand how to relax, make friends and colleagues, stay prepared and open to new experiences, and your college experience will go by so fast that one day you may consider going back for your graduate degree.