While being an international student has been one of my favorite experiences, it has come with some learning curves, too. I learned that there is a great deal of preparation needed before embarking on this journey. Through this blog, I hope to share a few things I wish I had known before my transition to the United States as an international student.
- Getting homesick is real
Leaving the home you have known all your life to go and basically start a new journey somewhere else can be a scary experience. It can be emotionally draining while missing your loved ones back home. Make time to call them. Do not let the physical boundaries keep you from communicating with your people. You may need to download apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, since they are used worldwide, in order to get a clearer connection.
- Culture Shock
It is real! Coming from Mukono, Uganda to the US was a complete culture shock. There are so many things that do not translate in all cultures. At some point you will either question the things you were taught growing up or feel like everyone around you is doing everything wrong. It can be easy to get carried away in the new culture because you are trying to assimilate and adopt. Remembering your values is important so that you can know where you stand when it comes to making ethical decisions.
- Getting a job off campus can be difficult
The only place that someone with an F-1 Visa can work at is at the university. Make sure that you take advantage of the jobs that are available on campus so you can earn extra cash. Areas like the dining hall and the athletics department provide great work opportunities that can be scheduled around your class times.
- Networking and making connections
Relationships with host families, professors, or others on campus are extremely important in helping you navigate through your new culture. Some schools even have events or gatherings just for international students to build relationships with one another. These connections are important and will also help build long-term relationships that can last a lifetime.
- Traveling back and forth can be expensive
We all want to see our family as much as we can over the breaks. However, the travel fees can be expensive for international students. My suggestion would be to save all you earn from your campus job to use toward buying plane tickets or other travel expenses. Also, make sure that you look at the academic schedule beforehand and see what the most convenient times are for you to travel.
- Your host families become real family
While you leave your loved ones back home, you will probably get plugged into a host home. The host family may have children that are the same age as you or younger. Embrace them and build relationships with them as they welcome you with open arms. Your host families are there to love you and help pursue your dreams–they become family.
- It is never too early to think about post-graduation plans
If you are not planning to move back home immediately after graduation, I would strongly encourage you to start looking at post-graduation plans. One of the options that is available to international students is getting a 1-year Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows you to work in your field of study for a year. Also, there are companies that will sponsor a work visa for you. There are many other options that require just a little research.
I’ve enjoyed my experience as an international student and hope some of these valuable tips will help you. Most importantly, I’ve gained many friendships and connections while pursing my business degree and look forward to seeing what the future holds.
Milly Namukasa is senior business management major at TMU.Return to Blog Archive