How to Ace Your First Weeks in School As an International Student
If you are starting your studies abroad this autumn, your mind is surely racing wild right about now. In just a few weeks, everything will change and nothing around you will be familiar anymore. But don’t worry. With this checklist, your new life abroad will be off to a great start.
Starting your studies at a new school is always exciting but also nerve-wracking, as you have no idea what to expect. When your future university happens to be in a foreign country, this adds a whole other layer to the experience. In fact, you probably feel very overwhelmed by it all. Tons of questions fill your mind: what will your first day at your new university be like? Will you understand your teachers, who may speak a foreign language? Will it be easy to make friends?
Here are some steps you can take to ease your worries while you get ready to start your studies abroad.
1) Visit the campus beforehand
You will probably arrive in your university town at least a few days before the official school start date. Use this time wisely. While it is tempting to sleep in and spend time organizing your new room, it is smarter to go out to explore your new campus. Go introduce yourself to the staff of the international student office, find out where your classrooms are located and check out the offerings of the school cafeteria. This way you will feel less stressed on the first morning of classes, as you will already know your way around a bit.
2) Wake up earlier than usual
Depending on where you flew in from, you may feel jetlagged during the first week of classes. However, you should make an effort to get up early so that you can adapt quickly to the local rhythm. On your first few days, you should also reserve extra time for your morning routines and your school commute - you definitely do not want to be late for any of your introductory classes. First impressions are everything. Rushing into the classroom at the last minute with greasy hair and mismatched clothes is never a good look, both from the perspective of your teacher and your new classmates.
3) Introduce yourself to teachers
We are not saying you need to become the teacher’s pet, but it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the professors whose classes you will be taking. The best way is to do it is to go up to them after your first class. You don’t need to say much – just tell the professor your name and where you are from and mention that you are new in town. It’s always good for the professors to know that there are foreigners in the classroom so that they can make an effort to speak more clearly and to explain complicated concepts thoroughly. Once they know you are from another country, the professors may also be more understanding if you make small grammatical errors in your essays or don’t remember the exact names of local politicians.
4) Be more social than usual
You are going to meet a lot of new people during the first few weeks of school, both in and out of the classroom. Engage in conversations as often as you can, and try to have a positive, friendly attitude towards everyone. Attend different types of events, student club meetings and freshman parties, even if only have time to stay for a short while. These early weeks are a great time to make contact with your peers. But stay realistic: you are probably not going to become best friends with anyone right away, nor do you have to. Human relationships take some time to develop, even in school settings. Just be yourself, focus on doing well in your classes and be social when you get the chance. Eventually, you will find the people you click with the best. If it takes a few months, so be it.
5) Keep up with your studies
You may think it is no big deal if you don’t do your homework during the first weeks and if you fall just a little bit behind on your readings. After all, you have all semester to catch up on this stuff, right? Wrong! If you don’t keep up with your studies from the beginning, you will have a very hard time getting back on track later. Bear in mind that as the semester progresses, your assignments will only become more demanding. Do yourself a favour and get into a good study routine right away – you will thank yourself later.
About the Writer: Mirva Lempiäinen is a US-educated freelance journalist from Finland. After calling New York City home for about a decade, she now resides on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.