How international students can adjust to life on a college campus

“As an international student, that first session is crucial to your academic success”

Whether you’ve sat in a world history class or travelled outside your home country, you probably know that cultures and customs vary greatly around the world. College culture is no exception. For international students going to the US to achieve their higher education goals, adjusting to a new lifestyle and culture can be a shock.

Luckily, there are several ways that international student can adjust to life on a college campus. Here are just a few to get you started so you can start your college experience on the right foot.

Attend Events on Campus

Each college has its own unique events and traditions that shape the college experience for their students. This can include a host of activities during the first week of school, during homecoming, and other times throughout the school year.

When you arrive on campus, be sure to visit events like club fairs, welcome assemblies, residential hall meetings, and career fairs. This is where you will meet your fellow students and begin building relationships that may last a lifetime.

Introducing yourself and offering up what your major is a great way to start a conversation.

Go to Class the First Week

There is a myth that nothing important happens in class the first week, so some students are tempted to skip the first class session. As an international student, that first session is crucial to your academic success.

This is your first opportunity to meet your professor and understand what expectations exist in each class.

The professor will likely go over the syllabus for the term and give you a chance to ask questions regarding what is outlined in it. The academic culture may be different than from your home country. so ask any question you have to be clear on your role in the class before it’s too late.

“For international students going to the US to achieve their higher education goals, adjusting to a new lifestyle and culture can be a shock”

Here are some things you should be clear on that you can find in your syllabus for each class or by asking your professor:

Times, dates, and locations of all classes: You’ll want to note if your class is in another location for a session, so you don’t end up in the wrong place and miss something important. Also, knowing when a class isn’t held means you won’t waste time coming to class when you don’t need to.

Professors’ office hours and contact information: The first class session is not the only time you’ll be able to ask your professor questions. Office hours are generally held by all professors. Office hours are when you can ask for clarification on a topic taught in class, discuss something that is affecting your performance or gain hiring insights in your prospective major’s field. Also, you can typically email professors questions if you aren’t able to make office hours.

Exam dates and project deadlines: Knowing when you can expect to take an exam and turn in projects will help you schedule your time appropriately outside of class. You’ll know when to put extra time aside to prepare for an exam, when you schedule appointments so you don’t miss important due dates or exams, and manage time for completing projects.

Join a Club

It’s almost guaranteed that your college will have a club fair at least once a year. When you attend, look for clubs that spark your interest or are centred around hobbies you enjoy. There’s no reason you can’t join the Yo-Yo Club or Future Chefs clubs, so go for it!

Most colleges also have several cultural clubs made up of other international students. You might find domestic students in these clubs because they appreciate or are interested in learning more about the culture. If there isn’t a club for your culture, you can consider starting one.

Visit a Counselor

If you’re finding it is still difficult to adjust to your new life in college, consider visiting the counselling office. You can speak with a professional who will keep your concerns confidential while providing tips for you to be successful as you handle this time. If your college doesn’t have a counselling office, talk with someone you trust like your roommate, resident advisor, professor, or another staff member.

About the author: Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counselling and career services company that provides boot camps and tutoring on college applications, college essays, career development, and finding the right job or internship.