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How to Adjust as an International Student in America

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

When you got your acceptance letter to an American university, it opened up the world. You’ll soon study in one of the best educational systems and have access to unique opportunities that could launch your career. It’s something people around the world dream about, but it’s also a life-changing experience that will make everything new and unknown.

It’s normal to be nervous about your big trip, but you won’t feel that way forever. Check out how to adjust as an international student in America so you can get used to your new city and life as quickly as possible:

1. Schedule Family Time

After the excitement of your initial move wears off, you may feel lost and isolated. When everything around you is new, it’s difficult to ground yourself and fight off reoccurring waves of panic. Scheduling family time can help with that.

Whether it’s once a week or once a month, make sure you schedule a video chat or phone call with the people you’re closest to. You’ll always have something to look forward to that can remind you of how it feels to be surrounded by people you know. Going to college abroad is a marathon, not a sprint, so plan to do this for the long haul and give yourself time to adjust. 

Pace yourself with plenty of conversations with your loved ones, and the time between breaks won’t feel so long.

2. Learn About Your Region

Consider the region where you’ll go to college. The Southeastern United States is very different from the Northwest, like all big countries. Research the city and state you’ll live in so you can catch up on their local holidays and traditions. This isn’t a typical piece of advice for international students in the U.S.A., but it’s a simple way to immerse yourself in your new home.

National holidays are easy to remember because you’ll see storefronts and product shelves change with the passing months. More unknown holidays may be equally important where you live but may not get as much flare, so read about unique celebrations and their origins so you can feel part of the community all year round.

3. Observe Your Classmates

Some countries have stringent rules regarding how students and teachers interact during school hours. You may not find that to be true at the American university where you study. It depends on the campus culture and code of conduct. During your first few days of class, watch how other students question or interact with your teacher. Note how they dress and behave while they’re listening to a lecture or hanging out after hours. You’ll quickly get the vibe and learn how to fit in.

How To Move Forward With Study Abroad Plans

4. Socialize on Your Campus

It’s tempting to stay in your room alone when you feel consumed with loneliness or homesickness, but don’t give in too often. Make sure you socialize on your campus with your roommates or friends you make in class. Take advantage of on-campus activities, especially during welcome week. You’ll make new memories that will help make the school feel like a home away from home. 

Plus, socializing provides many mental health benefits like stress relief. It’s scary to try something new when you don’t know anyone, but socializing leads to a bigger friend group and more joy in your daily life.

5. Join a Few Clubs

If you want to know how to adjust as a student in America, one of the best tips to follow is to join a few clubs. Campus organizations will connect you with people who share your same interests and hobbies. You could bond with people as you try something new, like a different sport than you’re used to playing. 

There are also likely a few clubs just for international students, even from your own country. It helps to know people who are going through the same experience because you’ll be able to bond over something not many people can understand.

6. Jump Into Your Community

It’s great to get involved with campus organizations, but it’s also smart to jump into your community. Research volunteer opportunities, student internship openings and even part-time jobs if you have the right visa. As you get to know the city and learn your way around, you’ll make new memories and meet more people who will make you more comfortable with the area. Plus, community involvement and new experiences build your character and improve your attitude in life.

This is something people often skip during their first year in school, so push yourself to get off campus occasionally and make your mark on your new community.

7. Check In With Yourself

You may not always be able to identify what you’re feeling. Adjusting after a major move involves many different emotions that can blend together. Check in with yourself as you adapt, so you know where you stand and what you need. If you’re not sure how to do that, make a list of questions to run through when you feel lost. Write your responses to visualize what’s happening in your heart and mind. 

You can use your answers to build on your well-being and lead a more meaningful academic life.

8. Learn Your Limits

The best advice for international students in the US is to learn your limits. You may reach a point where you feel too lonely and isolated. A phone call home or an afternoon with friends might not fix it. When that happens, identify your limits and reach out for help. Your resident assistant or school counselors have likely helped international students through this situation before. Every time you learn more about yourself and how much you can handle, you’ll become stronger and more comfortable with your new life.

Give Yourself Time

As you learn how to adjust as a student in America, you’ll experience many ups and downs. Give yourself time to live in the moment and remember the big picture. The lows won’t last forever, and you’ll gain many things from the years you spend with your school. You’ll learn how to feel comfortable and succeed during this new venture in life.

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Author: Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is a college, career and education writer with a special interest in student mental health, study abroad and learning. Her work appears regularly on education sites like HerCampus, Teaching Channel and CollegeXpress, among others. Follow her on Twitter @alyssaabelblog or read more on her website, Syllabusy.