Tips for International Students on Smooth Transitions

Tips for International Students on Smooth Transitions

1)    Don’t forget this is not only you experiencing transition issues in the first year of college. The transition period is defined by William D.Taylor as “ stepping stones to maturity and new stages of life…” which means the majority of first-year students are changing from adolescents to young adults.

Technically, there are 5 STAGES everybody experiences. Understanding those stages will help you to anticipate and manage the fear or unknown.

2)    Let me remind you that pre-college programs and college visits during your junior and senior years were to help your transition during the first year in college. Now that you have selected and been admitted to a college for the next four years, it will be a great life experience.

3)    As every student goes through distance and separation differently, it is common to have different conflicting emotions or reflections. As humans, we need to grieve for our losses. Don’t forget that grief validates all the good in our lives. Force yourself to come face-to-face with your failures by putting a name on them and moving ahead in your life.

After this whole transition period the outcome will be beneficial for you as you will:

● Feel more confident

● Be more mature

● Be more adaptable to different people and places

● Experience different ways of living and seeing the world from different perspectives.

4)    Before you leave, don’t forget to tell others how much they have meant to you. Also, regardless of how painful it may be, you need to say good-bye.

5)    The most important point is to plan ahead. To have satisfactory answers to your concerns about college, research before you get there. The best way is to email students from your home country attending that university; ask them about their experiences and how they tackled the first year challenges.

● Find out as much as you can about your school and city in which the institution is located; Try to understand how the city and school interact.

● Email, Skype or chat with the counseling service of the school and learn about the FYP, what they offer to new students, and how they approach new international students from the first day they meet. Don’t hesitate to ask whatever is on your mind for fear of sounding stupid.

● Learn what you’ll need during the school year and make your list accordingly. Learn about the transportation details, banking needs and the communication system you’ll use to contact family back home.

6)    When you first move to the new culture, you may find everything is new, fun, and exciting. Over time this euphoria gives way to feelings of irritability and hostility. You may even feel marginalized, like a minority. You may have an enormous urge to return to the culture from which you most recently came. Or, you may become depressed or angry. Knowing this will pass should encourage you to be patient and look for resources to help you get through it.

As the time passes you may have feelings of self-doubt like:

● “Everyone here is so much smarter than me.”

● “I chose the wrong school.”

● “Everyone seems to be doing well but me.”

● “Everyone else has found friends. Why haven’t I?”

● “I don’t belong here. I want to transfer.”

You might feel:

● Fear

● Disappointment

● Low self-esteem

But give yourself time and remember: “This too shall pass “

Your perspective will change as you process and balance present experiences with past experiences.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions to understand the culture better.

7)    Homesickness is tough to avoid not only for international students but also for local students.

● Have a good cry. Put on your favorite music. Plan a time when you don’t have to be anywhere for a while and chat with your old friends. Call home. It is okay to cry rather than trying to beat it back. Don’t forget that your roommate is at this difficult stage also!

● Engage in activities that bring you joy.

● Look for volunteer opportunities such as community service projects—colleges are full of them.

● Get your mind off things by going to a comedy film or out with new friends.

● Push yourself to go out and socialize even if you don’t feel like it. It usually turns out to be a better time than you thought.

● Try identifying all the good that has come from this change in your life.

It will be all too easy to isolate yourself or use other methods to escape reality when the blues set in, and you are feeling overwhelmed. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and stay healthy. For example, get enough rest, eat well, exercise, listen to music, but then get back out there and stay connected with others.


Listen To Your Body / Signs of depression:

● You may be sleeping too little or too much.

● You may feel soothed by overeating or have little appetite.

● You may have lost weight without trying.

● Your mood is impacted – the things that you used to enjoy you no longer do.

● Irritability is common when depressed.

● You may have difficulty concentrating on your academic life.

● You may experience low energy or fatigue.

Visit health professional immediately. Understand the difference between grief and depression.

● Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) depression set in during the winter months when the daylight is shortened, be sure to get exposure to sunlight and get plenty of exercise.

● Use the health professionals. Unfortunately, international students are hesitant to use these services, do not know about them or do not understand them. This is not a failure, weakness or a shame to feel about.

● When your car needs repair, what do you do? Do you wait or just call the mechanic to have it fixed? How about your mental health? Is it something less important than your car?

● Dean of International Students, Dean of First-Year Students Dean of Students, Resident Advisors (RAS), Students Advisors (SAs) and the counselor are there waiting for help.

● When you make an appointment with a counselor ask for someone who has had experience living internationally.

What You Should Know:

What’s Normal:

–    Cluelessness

–    Chaos

–    Fear

–    Uncertainty

–    Emotional Instability

–    Disappointment

–    Full of self-doubt

–    Lack of self-esteem

What’s Not Normal:

–    Deep sadness that does not go away

–    Lack of joy in what used to bring happiness

–    Failure to move ahead

–    Paralysis – difficult to get out of bed or go to class

–    Homesickness you can’t shake

–    It’s not just you – all first-year students are likely feeling the same way.

–    It’s only a stage, and it will pass unless you get stuck and then you need to seek help.

–    Resources are there for you – Student Advisors, Resident Advisors, Deans, friends, coaches, student counseling center – use them.

8)    How to interact successfully

● Listen to your peers’ stories to understand them, everyone has his/her own story.

● You can ask questions to keep on hand when socializing. Ask things like:

⦁ What type of music do you listen to?

⦁ Do you play any sports?

⦁ Do you enjoy playing video games? Which ones?

⦁ What were your reasons for choosing this college/university?

⦁ What is the farthest place you have traveled to?

⦁ Have you lived in any other places?

● Social Acceptance is very important for all of us. Those first weeks at college/university you might be worried about things like “Am I talking too much and too loud? Do I need to speak up more or laugh more?” It takes time to win friends and to be accepted. Here are some effective ways to develop relationships:


⦁ Be truthful, even if it hurts.

⦁ Be polite.

⦁ Be honest. Maintain your integrity.

⦁ Be reliable.

⦁ Be humble

⦁ Don’t be judgmental.

⦁ Be sincere

⦁ Be responsible. Be on time for class or a job.

⦁ Be a good listener.

⦁ Pay attention to your personal hygiene.

⦁ Don’t talk about people. No one likes gossip

⦁ Be helpful. Lend a helping hand where you see the need.

⦁ Put a smile on your face to appear friendly and approachable. A smile makes the person look more attractive.

9)    International and Outdoor Orientation

The International Orientation is very useful in that it is a great way to meet others in the same boat. Also, your International Orientation leader may turn out to be the perfect mentor for you. This is the time to ask any questions coming to your mind.

The outdoor orientation programs are more popular among schools where outdoor recreation is an essential part of campus life. You don’t need to be an athlete to participate in them. These programs will engage you emotionally, physically and mentally. In this program, you will be in a small group for four to five days and the people you meet there may very well become your new best friends.

● Don’t forget to find out from your college or university what orientation and pre-orientation programs exist for first-year students. Then take advantage of participating in one. Sign up early as some programs have limited space and may be on a first-come-first-served basis.

● Another way to be engaged in social life in your college/university is to join clubs/organizations search for the clubs and organizations which you used to have in your local school. You can make a start by meeting new people who share the same passion as you.

● Colleges/universities mostly have international clubs or organizations, especially for international students. You can email them and learn students from your home country or join these clubs and meet them. If there is a particular activity you enjoy, but your university doesn’t have it, approach the student activities office and start a new organization which many schools help you to set up your own club/organization.

● Don’t forget to use your school’s online communities. Facebook, blog, flicker, tweet.

● Lock your room any time even you’re visiting a friend next door.

10)    Campus Safety

● Many colleges and universities have set up detailed and intricate systems of immediately notifying students (as well as their parents) if an emergency is taking place, complete with information on where to go and what to do.

You may be asked to give your school your cell phone number so you can immediately be notified if there is safety violation on your campus.

If you change your number, be sure to inform campus security and administration.

● Most campuses, whether urban or rural, have security “ blue lights” set up so students can call security for rides or problems. On a very large campus response to blue light is two minutes.

● Take a self-defense class before heading off to college.

● Don’t go jogging late at night or early in the morning unless you are in a group.

● Be sure to put the campus security emergency call number into your cell phone for easy access dialing.

● Know how to call and who to call should problems and concerns arise.

● Make a list of all your valuable items along with a description or photo and serial number and keep it in a secure place.

11)    Eat well, sleep well, study hard, stay safe, and be social whenever possible!

Don’t forget this first year is a great experience for your future.