If you’re an international student about to begin your freshman year at a US college, you’ve probably already studied some do’s and don’ts when it comes to school in this country.
But there may still be mistakes you aren’t aware of that many international students tend to make. If you want to have a great start to the school year, make sure you avoid these common issues when dealing with both your social life and academics.
Being Unprepared for the School Year
Some international students miss the first day of school simply because they have to travel and might not be in the country yet. But if possible, try to plan ahead and arrive at least a few days or even weeks before the first day of school.
You might not actually learn much academically on that first day, but you can expect to receive important documents, such as the syllabus and grading rubric. Plus, you only get one chance to make a great first impression on your professor, and you need to be present to do that.
Also, pay attention to when your school’s international student orientation is and make sure you attend. If you’re fairly fluent in English you might think you’ll be fine just attending the regular freshman orientation, but many international students who do this regret it in the end.
International student orientation not only addresses common issues like how your meal plan works, but also how the US grading system works as well as details about maintaining the status of your student visa. Plus, international student orientation is a great time to meet fellow international students.
Another important part of college that you don’t want to procrastinate on as a freshman is course registration. Try to register as soon as the registration process starts. If you wait until the last minute, the only classes that will be left will likely have odd start and end times, and that really popular philosophy class you had your eye on will definitely already be full.
Not Getting Involved at School
Sure, being a college freshman in a different country is hard enough without adding an extracurricular every day after class. But while you don’t want to over-commit to social activities, you also shouldn’t ignore them completely.
Participating in school activities as a college freshman is a great way to help you make some friends and also help make you feel more at home on your US campus. You can start by joining your school’s international student club, but its also a good idea to join some clubs where American students will be present. This will give you a crash course on student life in the US, which is important if you want to feel like you’re fitting in.
This is especially helpful if you don’t already have an American roommate to show you around. It’s much easier to connect with Americans as an international student when you have a few things in common with them, such as membership in a club or sports team.
Developing Bad Habits
As an international student, you will be faced with the same temptations as the typical US college freshman. For example, both the type and amount of food you have access to will be different. American colleges, unlike those in other countries, feature buffet style dinning halls, which means you can heap your tray full of as many french fries, slices of pizza, and scoops of ice cream as you want.
But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, and you will discover this quickly when you’re a college freshman. Overindulging in your favorite food and drinks can lead to the infamous freshman 15, which is the term used to describe the 15 pounds – or more! – that many students gain their first year at college.
You should also be wary of overspending while studying abroad. Many international students open credit cards in the US – an easy way to quickly rack up debt. If you decide that getting a credit card is something that will really benefit you in college, just make sure you find out all the relevant details first, such as interest rates and any additional fees that you could incur. Make a point of keeping track of all your purchases and paying off your monthly bill in full.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common freshman year mistakes that international students make. But remember, college is a learning experience so if you do happen to make a few mistakes of your own along the way just make sure you learn from them!