Excitement, relief, anticipation are a few of the emotions that many students have to adjust to when they begin student life in the US. Panic, fear, and homesickness are somewhere in that mix too.
Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. It’s a new phase of life and if you feel like a mixed bag of emotions, everybody else does too! But you’ll adjust to college in no time with the help of friends, creativity and a little organization.
Student life in the US is bound to be a cross-cultural experience that you can learn a lot from. For many international students, adjusting to this new life isn’t just about what they learn. It’s also about how they learn. The culture in America is very diverse, and you may run into more non-Americans than Americans. Adapting to a new culture is a continual process that lasts throughout one’s stay. It is important to hold on to one’s basic values, while inevitably assimilating to some new cultural values as well. Understanding the adjustment process helps both international and U.S. students accept these cultural differences.
In your first few months of college, you’ll face many things which are unfamiliar. Living in student housing communities, instead of your own bedroom. A cafeteria or shard kitchen, instead of home-cooked meals. And of course, college courses with hundreds of students instead of 20 or 25.
But you’ll soon see that these are the experiences that make college life so memorable and also prepare you for the big bad world outside. Be open to new experiences, give everything a chance, and you’ll find what you disliked at first is sort of growing on you.
Meeting new people and making friends might be the quickest way to begin adjusting to student life in the US. Observe the people around you, you’ll find all types of people at your university. To minimize any culture shock, keep in touch with friends and family from home often and be a part of similar-interest groups in your area so that you can reach out to them easily. Participate in student activities, join student clubs and talk to people in class. Don’t be shy. Suggest a visit to the coffee shop or grabbing a bite to eat together. Many of your classmates will know just as few people as you do.
Seek out students who have similar interests, but don’t ignore people whose views are different than yours. College truly is a time to explore new ideas.
When you’re in class, be an active participant. Many professors in America make education a “two-way street,” with information and ideas flowing between professors and students. To fully adjust to student life in the US, you need to be engaged, share ideas and ask questions in class, and take responsibility for learning. Taking initiative is very important, professors rely on you to tell them if you don’t understand something. You won’t look silly or seem dumb. As the saying goes, “The only stupid question is the one that goes unasked!”
Student life in the US can be quite expensive, so it is important you learn how to be self-sufficient and economical, especially when it comes to household chores (like cleaning, laundry, and cooking) and for errands (like shopping, paying the bills, and budgeting funds). Many students find part-time jobs while studying to help finance themselves. Some students even have two to three part-time jobs and work in shifts.
The thing to keep in mind is that student life in the US will be much better off if you are prepared to temporarily let go of things you are used to doing and having in your country, as this will open your mind for a whole new experience, an experience that will enrich your life. Take advantage of the wonderful experience, that is being a student abroad. Using these resources will help you adapt faster and better to a new culture and definitely give you a greater perspective in your academic experience.
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