Going to college is already a big transition in life, not to mention when it includes attending a college in a different country. While international students may be worrying about their new life in the States, most colleges have already got that covered, from academic to physical needs. There’s no need to panic.
Here are some of the types of aid and support that most U.S. colleges provide to international students, so ask the schools you’re considering which they offer.
1. International student advisers: Reporting to the international student service office is the first thing you should do when you arrive on campus. Every international student is assigned to an adviser.
They help you to maintain lawful immigration status and handle all your visa-related issues such as off-campus employment, changing major, financial deposit, traveling documents and more. Contact the international student service office at colleges you’re considering or where you’ve been admitted to learn more about how your advisers can help you.
2. A college or major adviser: College and major advisers assist students on mapping out an academic plan. They can help you declare your major, register for classes and plan for your graduation. They also give valuable advice to help you reach your potentials. Visit them at least once a semester to ensure you are on track.
3. Student mentors: In many colleges, incoming freshmen are assigned to a student mentor from upper classes, and at some schools, international students are paired with an international student mentor. They have been in your shoes. They can help with things like learning English, arranging study groups, buying groceries and meeting new friends.
4. Academic support center: Not sure about your major? Your college’s academic center can help you find one. You can also get study tips and learn how to improve your study habits here. Schedule an appointment with your academic center to start your college life right.
5. International student clubs or council: There are various clubs at colleges for all interests. Colleges typically have at least one club especially dedicated to international students. Students share their cultures and celebrate different cultural festivals. There may also be a club for students from your home country. Check out a college’s student activity boards to learn more.
6. Gym access: Have you heard of the freshman 15, the weight many students gain during their first year of college? I didn’t believe I would gain weight when people warned me at the beginning, but I have learned that lesson. The school gym is there for a reason. Go there regularly every week and you will thank me later. Getting good grades is important, but so is staying healthy. Students have free admission to the gym.
7. Meal plans: Grocery shopping is hard when you don’t have a car, and that happens to many international students. Meal plans are available in most colleges, and they are a good option if you don’t want to worry about grocery shopping or cooking. Check with your college’s dining service to learn more about the available on-campus dining options.
8. Teaching assistants: Teaching assistants, also referred to as TAs, should become your best friends in your classes, if your university has them. They know your professors very well. They know how the professors write the exams, and they may even be the ones who grade your exams.
Talk to the TAs if you struggle in class – they are there to help you. I had some really nice TAs who would help with my grammar and let me know where I should focus my study on.
9. International student classes: Some colleges offer classes or class sessions especially for international students to help them adapt to the U.S. college life. These classes teach about American cultures and college writing style, often by professors who are also from a different country or are really familiar with different cultures. At my college, there’s an American Heritage class session that is especially for international students.
10. On-campus employment: For international students who wish to earn some extra money to support themselves without worrying too much about visa restrictions, the on-campus career center would be a good place to visit. I have worked at several on-campus jobs and earned enough to pay my bills.
Going to college is exciting yet worrying. We have been there. I worried a lot before coming to the States, but I quickly adapted to the U.S. college life with different help from the school. It will be a wonderful learning and growing experience.