Looking out across America these last few weeks, the excitement on college and university campuses is high. With the anticipation for the start of a new academic year and, for international students, the opportunity to realize their dreams. Unlike last year, when most international students began their studies online from their home countries, this fall in the United States, new overseas students have been able to return to campus with more normal circumstances.
Adjust to your new environment
More than anything else, once your arrive in the United States for studies, getting over jet lag (travel fatigue) is priority one. There are many strategies out there, but one that seems to work well is on your first day, to go to sleep at a time (in your new time zone) when you would normally do so. By any measure, getting yourself on a schedule is an important first step. The climate may also be very different from what you know, so your body clock may take some time in making that adjustment.
One item that may very well be in place at your U.S. college or university is for new international students coming direct from overseas, is a quarantine period. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not require travelers to quarantine if they have been vaccinated, those who have not yet been vaccinated are strongly recommended to get a Covid-19 test within 3-5 days after arrival and self-isolate for 7 days. Some college campuses may still have a required quarantine time, particular for unvaccinated students. Typically, this would mean isolating in university housing for a short period before you would be able to join in regular activities.
Get Settled on campus
While most new international student orientations this fall have been in person, some may still have elements that will be held virtually. These virtual orientations may mean that initial movements on campus will be limited as facilities are re-opened slowly or in phases to further limit the spread of Covid-19.
One way to get to know your campus, if you haven’t already done a “virtual tour” of campus, is to get a virtual map of your college or university (from the website or college’s mobile app) on your phone and/or tablet and wander around campus to find the buildings you will be using most often.
Learn the rules
As a new international student on campus, one of the most important sessions you will need to attend is on immigration regulations. While not always the most exciting topic, pay attention to the requirements your college sets out in this session when it comes to maintaining your student status. Besides immigration rules, health insurance also ranks up there as a critical component that you may not know well. The U.S. system of health care relies on primarily private insurance to cover the costs involved. Most all U.S. colleges now require students purchase such coverage while they are in the country.
Other than immigration and health care, the most significant area of rules that can directly impact international students are the academic policies of your institution. From Issues of classroom attendance, the course syllabus, exam policies, plagiarism, to academic integrity violations, knowing these guidelines will ensure a smooth passage through your academic career.
Make lifelong friends
What really makes your time at a U.S. college memorable are the people you interact with on a regular basis. For many international students, their fondest early memories of being on campus are the shared experiences they had with other students from overseas. Yet, for many, the relationships you get to establish with your U.S. classmates are the most impactful. Not only will you get a chance to make American friends, but you will get to share your culture, your history, your experiences with them as they learn about the world outside their own borders.
Broadening your horizons at a U.S. college will be much easier than you think. Especially if you choose to get involved in clubs and organizations on campus, you will find multiple opportunities to make your experiences at your college more fulfilling than you might ever have expect. So, even if you’re a bit shy or worried about your English ability, take the chance, get involved!
Whichever way your U.S. college or university is starting its academic year, make the most of this time. Getting off to a good start makes all the difference in how successful you will be in your classes, on campus, and in the community. Good luck!