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Surviving the First Month
Tips for International Students

Planning to study abroad?

Well, this is a big step that will bring a lot of enrichment to your life, but there are several tips that I want to share to help you in your adaptation process. Besides taking care of your student visa, admissions requirements and any other legal paperwork, you also need to be mentally prepared for a change in atmosphere and culture. Most international students agree that surviving the first month is very hard and that there is a lot of confusion and psychological pressure involved.  I would like to add that these external factors are normal; they shape up the adaptation process. The key is how you, as an international student, handle the situation and approach this new phase in your life with courage and enthusiasm. Without a doubt, studying abroad is an amazing experience full of excitement. The exposure to new concepts will give you a unique advantage that will enrich your personal and professional path. Studies have shown that employers have preference for candidates that have been internationally exposed. The reason is because an individual gets to develop a lot of skills through the process. This action demonstrates that the person is capable of adapting and being in charge of new and different situations in life. Believe me, the experience is worth it.
 Are you still thinking about it? 

Here are some tips to follow that will help you handle the first month’s challenge:

  • Familiarize yourself with the culture: Before your trip, read articles about current events that are happening in the area. Study the region’s history and learn about the culture in general.
  • Network: Use the Internet as a source for networking with people in the area. Just be cautious about where and with whom are you networking.
  • Get a sense of location:  Make sure you are familiar with the geographical location of the city, the climate etc. Also, before your arrival, it would be a good idea for you to study the area’s major roads and forms of transportation.
  • Choose your place:  Where are you going to live and what do you want out of this place? Ask yourself several questions such as what is the location, cost, safety, Internet access, transportation accessibility, nearby hospitals, stores, etc.  Living in the right environment is vital for your adaptation.
  • Attend the University’s activities: Go to the student service department and ask about different activities such as: Open Houses, Student Orientations, and Special Events, among others. Make sure you get involved and participate in these different activities. They are excellent tools for networking and familiarizing yourself with the system.
  • Be part of a group:  There are always clubs and organizations that you can join. Explore your areas of interest and see if there is a match for it.
  • Be productive: Are you good with numbers, science or language arts?  See if you can get a part-time position as a tutor at the campus. This will allow you to develop camaraderie among the university’s faculty, staff and students and of course, money is always welcome.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore: Go and see the city’s main monuments, museums, parks, and attractions. Don’t go alone, get together with other international students and make trips to different places. Ask the university if they provide transportation or packages for these types of activities.
  • Be flexible with your surroundings: In other words, be open to new textures, colors, flavors and ways of thinking. Be open to trying different things. This is part of the experience.
  • Don’t judge and don’t stereotype:  Stay away from all the feelings that will prevent you from growing as an individual and experiencing a new way of life.
  • Search for your customs: The world is getting smaller and smaller. I am sure that you will find people from your country that can give essential tips and help you through the process. What about finding a restaurant where you can enjoy a traditional dish just like back in home?
  • Understand that it is fine to feel alone sometimes: Do something about it; don’t take it personal. Remember this is part of the process.
  • Have a clear goal:  Go for it.
  • Last but not least, HAVE FUN AND LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!

Are you ready?

Pack your bags and start the journey.

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