9 Things Any International Student In The U.S. Should Know

Attending school in a new country is a terrifyingly exciting experience, no matter where you come from or where you’re going. New cultures, new people, a new way of life – it’s a truly exhilarating opportunity. However, it can also come with a bit of stress and fear of the unknown; so I’ve broken down some things that any international student in the U.S. might want to keep in mind as they prepare for their journey to the states.

1. Prepare yourself mentally.

We all know it is tough to leave your comfort zone, your family, and everything you were so used to, and move to a new country on your own. Prepare yourself mentally that things will be different from now on. Do not expect your life in the U.S.A. to be the same as they were at home, because it won’t be. Often times you’ll feel home sick and wish that you could eat your favorite ethnic food, speak your native language and enjoy the weather you had at home. However, never let all of those factors stop you from realizing that you now live in the land of freedom and opportunity; so go ahead and take advantage of those opportunities.

2. Do your cultural research.

The U.S. is a big country. Despite everything that the media at home ever told you, American people have their own distinct culture. You might be surprised but their culture also varies depending on the geographical regions. There will be many things that you will find funky and odd throughout your life here. For example, when I first came to South Carolina, I had major culture shock when I kept seeing people wearing cowboy boots and listening to country music. You will also notice that certain things that are considered strange in your home country are quite normal here. Coming from a fairly conservative country, it took me a while to understand the sexual freedom that many students practice in college. Similarly, certain things that you find acceptable could be considered rude here. My friends from Asia would often find it normal to comment on other people’s physical appearance (especially their weight and body shapes) which is a huge “no-no” here in the United States!


3. Put yourself out there.

I remember myself as a freshman in college. Honestly, it was quite a nightmare. Not knowing anyone is already quite overwhelming. Being a kid from the complete opposite side of the world in the freshman hall makes it even more terrifying and hard to blend in. It is easy to just stay in your room and hang out on skype with your friends from home, but if you really want to find your group of friends and meet interesting people, you have to put yourself out there. Freshman orientation is a great opportunity to go and talk to a bunch of strangers and not come off as a weirdo. Don’t be shy and give it a try! We all need friends!


4. Become friends with Americans.

One of the most important things you need to realize when you get off the plane is that you did not come all the way to the U.S. to only hang out with people from your own country. We get it, it is so much easier to stick to your own people, but if you want to learn new things, explore new culture, go to cool parties and see new places, you need to become friends with the locals. As mysterious and exotic as international students can be, American students generally have a better idea about what is going on and what you need to see. Becoming friends with American students increases your chances of getting invited to Thanksgiving dinners, big college parties and secret societies. Do not become one of those international kids who turns away from international students though. Try to find a social balance and you will learn a lot more in college than you expect.


5. Get involved.

Fine. It is clear that we all need to make friends and meet new people. But how do we generally do that? There are only so many strangers that we can talk to in one day, but how do we meet people without being awkward and creepy? The best way is to get involved on campus! Find clubs and organizations that you think you might be interested in and attend their meetings. You would be surprised how many people with the same interests you can meet. Clubs and organizations create opportunities for you not to only improve your leadership and project management skills, but also to meet new people and bond with them while doing what you all are interested in. Whether it is an astronomy club or a sorority, get involved to make your college experience complete!

6. Watch your weight.

Now that we have discussed some social tips, let’s move on to health. You have probably heard about the “freshman 15,” which implies that you will gain, on average, 15 pounds your first year of college. It is not a secret that many college students gain weight their freshman year. I, myself, gained 18! That happens from constant stress eating during exams, free food that appears all over campus, unlimited meal plans, partying and more. Gaining weight is easy, losing, not so much. As stressful as college can be, do not forget to exercise and eat healthy as regularly as you can. It is important to keep your body healthy in order to fight exams and fully enjoy your time in college.

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7. Find a learning method that works for you.

The American educational system can be very different from what you were used to back home. Depending on your schedule, involvement, major, and the size of school you go to, there can be many different study methods that you can stick to. Some people like to study outside, some people like to hide all day in the library. Some people prefer to study alone and some people enjoy big study groups. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of all the resources that your school has to offer such as tutoring or writing consultations. Find something that works for you!


8. Seek help if needed.

Nobody ever said that college will be easy. Sometimes things happen, and there is nothing wrong with seeking help when you really need it, especially when you are so far away from your family. Whether it is something academic or personal, never be too shy to talk to someone. I personally always found it helpful to talk to my professors about my academic success and personal goals. The medical staff at our health center was always willing to talk to me about my health concerns. I also remember many of my friends talking to the counseling center when their lives got too overwhelming. Being stressed and worried is an essential part of your college life. Never hesitate to ask for help!


9. Don’t forget to enjoy your college life.

Academics should always be your priority, however, we only have so much time in college. Studying in the United States is a privilege that not everyone is given. Do not forget that these are supposed to be the best four years of your life. Enjoy every minute of this experience because trust me, these years will go by very fast!

Have something else you think and international student studying in the U.S. might want to know? Share in the comments!

Featured image source: huffingtonpost.com