6 Tips for Adapting to College Life in the US
Having trouble adapting to college life abroad in the US? Try these six tips to help you acclimate more quickly.
Adjusting to college life can be a difficult transition for anyone moving away from home for the first time. But, for international students attending university in the US, there's a whole different set of challenges to overcome to fully adapt to studying abroad. From getting settled into a new dorm to navigating the day-to-day life of living in a new country, getting used to college life abroad requires a different approach than studying domestically.
Every year, over 900,000 students move to the US to begin their college life. Many of those students go through culture shock, which is a feeling of disorientation when someone is thrown into an unfamiliar environment or way of life. There's a lot of talk about culture shock when traveling and visiting other countries, but culture shock is a very real issue for many international students, and one that can make transitioning to college life harder. However, there are ways to make the college life transition happen more smoothly, and these 6 tips will help you adapt to life at university in the United States.
1. Prepare Before Your Leave Home
Part of feeling comfortable in a new place is knowing as much as possible about a location before you go. Many international students pre-empt their move abroad by creating a knowledge base of information about their new home, including local maps; lists of local grocers, laundromats, and other types of services that you'll need. Studying the local city that you'll be living in can help you feel significantly more at ease before you move, since it helps prepare you and lets you set some reasonable initial expectations.
2. Join an International Student Organization
One of the best moves that international students can make is to join the local international student organization at your college. Almost every university has at least one student organization for international students, and this is a great opportunity to meet other students who are studying abroad who can relate to you. In addition, international student organizations can help you get settled in and take care of the basics of moving to a new country such as setting up a bank account, finding a place to live or a roommate (if you aren't living on campus), among other things.
3. Find Clubs and Organizations to Participate In
Aside from your local international student organization, joining other cultural, language, sports, or arts clubs can introduce you to other students and offer options for socializing with different groups of people. It's important to start building networks soon after moving to a new country, so that you have a support network if you feel home sick or miss you friends and family from back home. Also, unlike international student organizations, other university clubs will likely have a higher percentage of American students and that can present additional opportunities to learn more about American culture and improve English language skills.
4. Attend Embassy and Consulate Events
One of the lesser known avenues for socializing at college life for international students is to reach out to the local embassy or consulate near your university. Smaller cities may not have governmental offices nearby, but if you're in a large coastal city like New York or Los Angeles, you can reach out and find out about events at your home country's consulate and embassy. This can also help you keep strong ties to your home, and introduce you to the international community in your new city.
5. Regularly Reconnect with Family and Friends Back Home
It's inevitable that you'll feel home sick occasionally, but that's normal. Make it a priority to keep in touch by scheduling regular phone or Skype calls with friends and family members. It's important to keep in touch and up-to-date with events and happenings back home, and having regular and consistent checkins can bring a level of familiarity and comfort to your new college life, helping you feel more settled.
6. Build a Routine as Soon as Possible
Once you settle into your life at university, begin building a new routine. Routines are an important part of building a new life in a new locale. Attending regular club meetings and getting involved in local university activities is a great way to start. But also, look for more mundane activities to build into your routine, such as finding a local grocery store and laundromat to take care of chores and errands. Or, find a coffee shop that you can go to every Monday morning before your first class. These types of routines give you something to look forward to each day and week, and also help create a level of consistency that might be lacking when you first move to a new country.
Daniel Bjärne is CEO and Co-Founder of SchoolApply.