You’re finally here. Your first day of college is right around the corner. You’ve taken all the tests, been accepted to your dream school, found a place to live, and you’re ready to get your academic career started.
No matter how prepared you are, it’s natural to have some concerns heading into your first day of college as an international student in the U.S. After all, you’re in a foreign country, surrounded by students speaking a different language, and you have some culture shock to overcome.
However, by taking the following steps, you can be prepared for your first day of college, and hit the ground running as an international student.
Before Your First Day of College
Some college and university campuses are quite large. The last thing you want to do is feel lost and turned around when trying to find where your next class is located on your first day of college. Try to arrive at campus at least a day or two early, and spend some time exploring.
Locate the buildings where all of your classes will be held, student common areas, the library, dining halls, and the international student office.
If your school offers a campus tour for international students, be sure to take it. These tours are great ways for international students to not only learn the lay of the campus, but also meet other international students.
Most larger colleges and universities have international student orientations that are put on by their international student office. These orientations will provide valuable information about the resources available to you, and you should do everything you can to attend one before your first day of college.
In addition to important information, orientation will give you another opportunity to meet and network with your international classmates. Remember, your classmates are the people you will be studying with and attending social events with for the next four years. It would behoove you to become friends with at least a couple of them.
Who knows? The new friend you make at orientation could be the reference that gets you your dream job a few years down the line…
Work Out Your Commute
Do you know how long it will take you to get to campus, or get to classes on your first day of college? If you live on-campus, this can be simpler. But even then, make sure you know how long of a walk or bike ride it will be, so you aren’t late.
If you’re living in off-campus housing, make sure you have your route and mode of transportation nailed down well before your first day of college. If you’re taking the bus, make sure it drops you off with plenty of time to make it to class. The same goes with trains.
If you’re driving, bicycling, or walking, make sure you are certain how early you need to leave your residence. Take local traffic into account, and err on the side of caution. There’s nothing wrong with being early, and it’s far better than being late.
Buy Your Textbooks
Don’t be unprepared when classes start. The right time to purchase your textbooks is well before classes begin, not a day or two after your first day of college.
Your campus should have a student bookstore and library that has most relevant textbooks available for purchase or lend. If not, your professor should provide you with information about any additional courseware you need to have on the first day well ahead of time.
If you’re willing to search online and rummage through off-campus bookstores, you may very well be able to track down used versions of textbooks for much less money. However, you’ll need to start your search early. Don’t wait until the day before classes begin to track down your books.
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On Your First Day of Class
Few things can add to your stress level more than running late on the first day of college. You’re already a ball of nerves. It’s only worse when you’re behind schedule, and have to sheepishly sneak in to your first class after the lecture has started.
Plan to be everywhere on campus for your first day of college at least 15-30 minutes before you have to be there. At worst, you’ll be waiting around a bit. However, if you spill coffee on your shirt, have trouble remembering where you put the key to your bike lock, or can’t find a decent place to park your car, you’ll be glad to have those extra few minutes in your pocket.
No, you don’t have to put on a blazer and tie, or a dress (unless your school’s dress code requires it), but first impressions matter. And no, you probably won’t get kicked out of class for wearing sweatpants and the shirt you slept in, but why draw a professor’s ire on the first day?
Casual clothes are fine on most campuses, but make sure they’re clean, free of wrinkles, and devoid of any symbols or sayings that anyone could find divisive or offensive. A clean pair of jeans and a nice top or button-down shirt are appropriate for nearly every situation during your first day of college.
Sit Up Front
Does this sound a little childish? It shouldn’t. Sitting up front on your first day of college can actually do you a lot of good.
If English is not your first language, sitting up front can allow you to better understand your professor, free of distractions. You’re less likely to miss important information when you aren’t stuck in back with classmates whispering and talking.
If you get distracted on your first day, you might miss important changes to the syllabus that could negatively impact your academic performance. You’ve come all this way to study in the U.S. Why hamper yourself on your first day of college?
Introduce Yourself to Your Classmates
It’s understandable to feel nervous in a new place surrounded by strangers. But guess what? All of those strangers feel just as nervous as you do!
Besides, those “strangers” are the very same people you’ll be working with on projects, and forming study groups with.
So, go ahead and introduce yourself. A stranger today could very well become your best friend later in the semester.
If you haven’t guessed already, preparation, punctuality, and paying attention are the keys to acing your first day of college as an international student.
Will you make mistakes? Of course! But the key is learning from those mistakes. Don’t expect to get everything right on the first day, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you run a little late, go to the wrong building, or stumble when having a conversation. Mistakes are learning experiences. As long as you learn from yours, you’re well on your way to succeeding as an international student in the USA.
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