Kick-starting your academic journey in a foreign country can be exciting as well as unnerving at the same time. Coming from a different culture and background, international students will have to get accustomed to many new things that come their way. While you acquaint yourself with everything new, your character building, networking, internships, and of course, your career line all depends on your first year at your university.
In this blog, we have attempted to outline the ten tips that can help an international student, especially a student from India, clear all doubts and make the most of the first year at the university. Consulting your seniors, parents, professors, your comrades will also get you the best advice for a successful start of your academic journey in the USA.
Ten Tips for a Successful First Year at your University
1. Arrive Before the Classes Start
Generally, students think that nothing happens in the first week at your university or in the early few days, but that is definitely not the right thought.
In the USA, some universities start their classes from the very first lecture and distribute necessary materials too. Primarily you are an international student and will represent your country so the first impression will have a lasting impact. If you arrive late, you will not have the time to get adjusted with the new surroundings and will be tired within the first week itself. Falling asleep, not engaging yourself, and the fact that you do not have any known friends in the USA can create problems in your studies and makes you gain the attention of your professors immediately- and definitely not the kind of attention you want of course! You would definitely not want to be in their “not so good” books after all.
So, come a bit early, plan things better, know your surroundings, meet your professors, and work your way accordingly.
2. Attendance is Important
In India, you can still manage to attend exams and even pass with good scores, without attending classes. However, this may not work in your favour in the US, as you may miss out on important lectures and valuable lessons. There are marks for class participation, even attendance in the course curriculum and you would definitely not want to lose out on them!
3. No Phones Please!
We all know that we have become addicted to our gadgets, but also are aware that they distract us from our primary focus. Checking your phones for messages or social media every now and then will disturb your concentration. Ultimately, this lack of concentration will result in poor performance. Try and avoid using phones in your class, or even after your class. Limit your phone usage to only for what it is required – attending important calls or referring to study material online, but otherwise, stay away from gadgets. This will save a lot of your time and ultimately help you stay focused and succeed.
4. Take Breaks
Monotony creates boredom and continuous studying and work clogs your brain. Studies have suggested that taking breaks in between work makes one more productive by breaking the monotony and refueling you to absorb information.
You can either go outside for 15 minutes, get some fresh air, or do something unrelated to your studies like stretching, meditation, taking a stroll or whatever that makes you feel light.
5. Get some Work Experience
Starting your classes in the USA as a fresher is very challenging to get any work at first. Try to gain work experience during the first year itself. Internships, even if it is for a few hours in a week, do count and can help you land an excellent job post completion of your studies. Part-time jobs or internships help you in getting you the organizational exposure that comes in handy when interviewing for full-time positions after you complete your studies. Balancing work and studies keeps you focused and will eventually help you succeed at your university.
Read this blog for information on internships in the USA for international students.
Coming from India and having a sleep pattern utterly different from the time of the USA becomes difficult to manage at first. Do not let your jet lag last more than 3-4 days. Waking up late and missing your 9 a.m. lectures will become a pattern if you do not set a regular sleep pattern. Sleep early and wake up early! Being an early bird is definitely a stepping stone for success.
7. Join Student Groups and Study Groups
Join student clubs and societies as you would meet other students probably from the same background or domain. Networking is a great thing when you are outside in a foreign land, and it sure does help you out in any unforeseen situations. Student groups are very helpful in resolving any university-related or even personal concerns that may crop up.
All universities and colleges have student groups for organizing different activities. It would help you to not just socialize but also help build your resume. Just keep one thing in mind that you should not overcommit as studies are going to be your main priority.
8. Save Money
The USA is an expensive place to live, and your program fees could be quite high too. Education in the USA does not come with a small price tag. Hence, plan your budget from the very beginning. Save money wherever possible. Cook at home to avoid spending money on eating outside. Pack your lunch, avoid unnecessary shopping and get your essentials from supermarkets that run deals and discounts. Use food and grocery coupons which could save you a great deal. You can also consider doing odd jobs to take care of your daily expenses, reducing your cost of living to a large extent.
Know more about cost of living in the USA with tips on how to save while studying in the US.
9. Stay in touch with your Professors and Academic Advisors
Moving out from India and landing in the USA and getting used to the new environment can be a major challenge. However, your university professors can be actually quite friendly and render guidance whenever you need it. Networking with the professors, meeting them on appointments and building a communication channel with them will definitely prove beneficial in the long run. A lot of professors are very active on e-mails and you can use that as a mode to connect with them. Association with the professors will come in handy when you apply for internships or for any assistant job at your university.
Consider taking the help of an academic advisor who can help you select classes, prerequisites and provide additional support if you are struggling. Academic counselors provide valuable advise for all academic-related matters, do make use of them if need be.
10. A Healthy Mind is a Wealthy Mind
American fast food is definitely tasty but not something you can eat regularly. Eating out everyday is unhealthy, especially burgers, fries, or donuts. Fast food is not a wholesome meal and can make you feel uneasy, tired, exhausted and will even affect your finances. When in college, you need to maintain good health, so eat home cooked nutritious food, take your vitamins and get your daily dose of exercise. A balanced and healthy lifestyle will positively help you succeed in the first year at your university and the subsequent years too.
Do talk to classmates even when you feel not to mingle as you will often get assignments which you will have to work on in groups. Classmates help you out and also support you in preparing for exams. You would know the tips and tricks for cracking the exams and in assignments too. Plus, with different people come different perspectives and so it will be good to interact.
First year at your university is the adjusting period, and if you are successful in the first year, the following years will be a breeze. The ten tips outlined in this blog are just general suggestions and are aimed at giving you a direction for a successful first year at your university.