You are soon going to start a new academic year at your university. College life can be exciting, rewarding, and fun. However, if you are not careful, it might also get stressful and challenging. The key is to strike a balance with everything you do. It is okay to feel worried about starting a new year in a foreign country. As you begin your journey, here are a few tips to make the transition easier.
Seven Tips to Get You Going in Your New Academic Year
- Pack strategically
As an international student, you may want to bring as much personal stuff as you can. While it is tempting to do so, you will have limited space, both while traveling and in your dorm. One of the perks of a global marketplace is that you can get the same products across different countries these days. So, bring only two weeks’ worth of essential clothes to see you through the first few months. You can buy additional clothing and personal items as the need arises.
Weather can be a concern for those traveling from warmer climates. Carry enough winter clothes so you can dress in layers. Avoid carrying expensive jewelry or electronic items that could be stolen. Whatever food items or snacks you were thinking of bringing, you will probably find them in local stores.
- Live on campus
At least for your first year of college, opt to live on campus, if your school has provisions for it. An on-campus residence comes with a lot of perks, including affordable and quality accommodations, networking opportunities, etc. Your residence hall places you right in the middle of vibrant campus life. You will have easy access to college resources like libraries, gyms, labs, etc. You will also be plugged into the college community at all times.
On-campus residences are also much safer than off-campus housing for obvious reasons. Most colleges in the U.S. have their own security protocols inside the campus to keep their students safe. Also, you won’t have to worry about missing early morning classes due to travel distance.
- Handle roommate issues with patience
Studying abroad often means having to share your space with completely new people from different backgrounds. Whether you choose to live on campus or off campus, you will probably be moving in with strangers. While it may be stressful for a first-timer, here are a few tips to get it right.
Be openminded about your fellow roommates. Ask pertinent questions about their lives to get to know them better. Be respectful of unfamiliar traditions and customs. Establish boundaries right from the start. Agree on some basic rules and chores. You don’t have to change who you are to fit in, but you do need to be adaptable. Practice patience and deep breathing when things get intense.
- Manage your finances
It may be difficult to figure out an exact budget during the first few weeks, but you can always set a fair estimate and tweak it later. Follow your budget, and live within your means. That may sound simple, but often students get carried away while having fun. While it is good to have a credit card to establish a line of credit, be scrupulous in your spending to avoid piling up debt. Allocate a part of your budget for savings. This could be useful to you later as emergency funds.
If you have an internship or a part-time job in the U.S., you will be subject to federal income tax. The laws that apply to international students are not the same as those for U.S citizens. Get to know the applicable regulations and learn how to file your own taxes.
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- Pick up a few life skills
As you enter college, you will be tasting your first rush of independence. Be a responsible adult, and pick up a few life skills that will serve you beyond your time in college. Learn basic cooking, take driving lessons, and learn how to do your own laundry and cleaning. Develop your communication and critical thinking skills.
Time management will be progressively important to you in your future career. It is important to learn how to prioritize and multitask while still in college. Avoid procrastination and learn how to accept criticism. This won’t be the last time your work will be judged. Constructive feedback is essential to improve performance.
- Try to use an active study method
You don’t need to spend all of your free time studying in the library. Research has shown that successful students actually spend less time studying than their peers. Instead, they study with greater intensity. Adopt active study techniques to enhance your productivity.
Use flashcards, self-quizzes, spaced practice, retrieval practices, and mind-mapping techniques to get you started. Color-code your notes to speed up recall time. Research other active study techniques like the Leitner System, the Feyman Technique, etc.
- Get an internship
Studying in the U.S can get quite expensive. Even with a scholarship, expenses can pile up and affect your budget. Approach your college administrators to seek internship opportunities. They can also help you with a list of available part-time jobs off campus. Before you jump into work, understand your priorities. Balancing an internship or a part-time job can get overwhelming quickly if you fail to practice time management.
Finding the Right Balance
There will be a lot of new things for you to learn and adapt to during your time in college. Almost every college student struggles to find that perfect balance between academics and social events. For international students, it is doubly true, since they are thrown into an unfamiliar situation right from the start.
Learning how to balance your daily schedule will require some trial and error. Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore. Always ask for help when it gets overwhelming. Turn to your academic advisors, professors, and even upperclassmen to troubleshoot problems.
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