While college can be a difficult change for any student, this is taken on to a whole new level for international students. As if securing a visa wasn’t stressful enough, there are new challenges around every corner. Language barriers, alien customs, leaving your friends and family behind, and even the strange food can be difficult to stomach at first (and in some cases in a more literal sense, because campus dining isn’t always the best for foreign students). Homesickness is unavoidable, but there are ways to adjust to your new environment.
1. Keep in touch.
It’s seemingly counterproductive, but calling your parents before they beg you to may help you adjust to your new surroundings. After all, cutting off all contact from your home country will be too big of a leap for many, and keeping a safety net of friends and family overseas is wise in case you need guidance or advice. So Skype as often as you can, but don’t stay glued to your screen day and night (you’re going to need to time to study for midterms anyways).
2. Find a new niche.
Instead of just wallowing in your dorm room and wondering what your friends are doing back at home, go explore the campus. If that’s too intimidating, start small. Sit and do homework in your lounge instead of in your room, where you are guaranteed to meet a lot more people. Furthermore, though this tip isn’t a new one, it still remains applicable: go join clubs. Get involved. Go to as many first meetings as you can until you find a club that you can picture yourself joining. Do you click with the members? Do you agree with their philosophy? Does it seem like an interesting club? If so, join it! If you want to create your home away from home, you need to start from somewhere.
3. Connect with your roots.
In most colleges, there are many other students from your country, or at least from your surrounding area. You might even share a hometown with someone in your Chem class! Though you probably decided to study in a new country so that you could meet a diversity of friends, there’s nothing wrong with joining a cultural club. From dance clubs to religious fellowships to study buddies, cultural clubs offer more than just a way to meet people from a similar background. You could even explore cultures different from your own! As cliché as it may sound, the world is your oyster, and your future friends may just be right around the corner. All you need to do is get out of your bed, and truly put yourself out there.
4. Stay true to your own values.
If all of the people in your building are joining Greek Life or the Quidditch Club, it doesn’t mean that you have to as well (though if you are even remotely interested in anything, go for it!). In trying to fit in with the new culture in a new country, don’t lose yourself in the process. Everyone wants to reinvent themselves in college into a better version of themselves, but don’t get too carried away. When people tell you to try everything, they don’t mean everything. So go out and explore, but keep your own core values in mind.
With these tips, college can soon become a lot less foreign, and a lot more familiar. Now remember, if you ever feel lost or like you haven’t made a solid group of friends yet, don’t fret. Things will come together, no matter how slow it may seem, and I guarantee you that college will one day no longer feel like an extended vacation.