International students can wholeheartedly agree on one thing: pursuing a college degree while learning how to adapt and settle into a different country is tough. 🧳
Navigating the world of higher education is already hard on its own, but imagine having to deal with visa applications, unfamiliar weather, homesickness, and massive culture shock (among other challenges). 🤔
But fear not! These timely tips for international students in the US can help you thrive academically, socially, and culturally.
- 1. Accept That Culture Shock Is Normal 👍
- 2. Set up a US Checking and Savings Account 💰
- 3. Familiarize Yourself With Visa Requirements 🛂
- 4. Apply for Financial Aid 💸
- 5. Take Up Extracurricular Activities 🧗
- 6. Connect With Other International Students 🤗
- 7. Prepare for the Weather 🤧
- 8. Study the Healthcare System 🩺
- 9. Learn Local Laws 🚨
- 10. Enhance Your English Language Proficiency 🗣️
- 11. Look After Your Mental Wellness 🧘
- 12. Explore the Local Area 🚶
- 13. Learn a Recipe From Your Hometown 🍲
- 14. Set Realistic Academic Expectations 📑
- 15. Maintain Constant Communication With Family 🤳
- 15 Tips for International College Students in the US: Frequently Asked Questions
1. Accept That Culture Shock Is Normal 👍
No matter how much you feel that quickly adjusting is what you need, getting settled on your own time is important for international students.
Culture shock is a natural reaction when big changes suddenly happen in your life. And while you have to be open-minded and independent to survive, forcing yourself to adapt immediately can be detrimental in many ways. 😰
So, how do we deal with all that? First, you must recognize that you’re not exempted from the experience and accept that you have to deal with it.
Then, try immersing yourself in how locals live and go about their day, like common verbal expressions and practices. By embracing new experiences and being open to different cultures, you can feel more at ease and confident. 🙆
2. Set up a US Checking and Savings Account 💰
We’re coming through with one of the most practical tips for international students: open a US checking and savings account to manage your allowance (if you’re supported by parents back home) or part-time income. 🧾
A US-based account allows you to deposit, withdraw cash, and make purchases without incurring international transaction fees. It doesn’t hurt that having a local account simplifies tuition, bills, and rent payment (as well as other necessary expenses). 🏧
Look for banks that have student accounts with low fees or no minimum balance. Also, take advantage of online banking and mobile apps so that you can make transactions whenever, wherever.
TIP: Research banks that offer special accounts for students where maintenance and ATM fees are reduced. You’ll need your passport, student visa, and proof of address before you go to the bank.
3. Familiarize Yourself With Visa Requirements 🛂
International students planning to study in US colleges need an F-1 visa which allows them to stay in the country and apply for internships. ✈️
To apply, you must provide your passport, a completed visa application form, a certificate of eligibility from your university, and proof of financial support. 📋
It’s crucial to research the visa requirements early, ensure that your information is accurate, and apply for your visa well in advance of your scheduled trip to avoid delays or complications in the application process.
4. Apply for Financial Aid 💸
Some can say that the biggest hurdle for international students is the hefty tuition that comes with studying in the US. Not to mention the expensive textbooks, dorms, and meals you also have to provide.
Luckily, there’s an endless list of financial aid available to foreign students. An obvious choice would be to find the perfect scholarship, grant, or fellowship that takes care of your demonstrated need. 🔎
READ MORE: How to Apply for Scholarships and Grants: All You Need to Know
If you’re not sure where to find one, your first stop should be federal and state government websites. Then, move on to your desired college or university’s website to see what financial aid they offer (and what terms are included).
And don’t forget about loans! While they may require repayment, student loans are a valuable tool for financing your education. 💲
READ MORE: 11 Things to Know About Student Loans Before Going Into Debt
TIP: Carefully review the eligibility requirements and application deadlines for each scholarship or loan. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the financial aid office of the university for assistance.
5. Take Up Extracurricular Activities 🧗
College is about more than just hitting the books — it’s about self-discovery, lifelong connections, and having fun along the way. Diving into extracurricular activities makes all this possible!
Not only do these out-of-the-classroom activities give you a chance to pursue your passions, but they also help your resume stand out to future employers. 🖌️
Join a foreign language club or a sports team to have time for new hobbies and meet new friends. You can also find time to volunteer in non-profits with causes that speak to you. These experiences can help get your serotonin levels up in a land that’s so unfamiliar. 🤽
6. Connect With Other International Students 🤗
Seeking the company of those who are or have been in the same boat will be a lifesaver in the long run. Why? Because they are the best support system. 💑
Make friends with people in your university who are also from different parts of the world. This will open up your social life and give you access to resources and wisdom to help you settle in a new country.
And who knows what you’ll discover? You might uncover some amazing new cultures and perspectives you never would have encountered otherwise! 🤩
7. Prepare for the Weather 🤧
The weather seems like a trivial concern until you’re actually there! The four seasons can be wild if you’re not used to them, and forgetting winter clothes in some of the states here in the US can be the worst mistake.
Speaking of clothes, you need to make a checklist and then pack accordingly to the state where you’ll study. 📦
If you’re headed somewhere chilly, bring along heavy-duty boots and cozy coats, and layer up with socks and scarves to stay warm. ❄️
For sunny climates, lightweight clothing and lots of sunscreens are a must. And if you’re venturing into areas with the potential for wild weather, like tornadoes or hurricanes, make sure you’re well-stocked with emergency supplies.
8. Study the Healthcare System 🩺
You’re about to be in a new place for four or more years, and knowing how the medical scene in the US works can be a matter of life or death.
One of the tips for international students in the US is to learn how the US medical system works so you’re prepared for routine check-ups or emergency room visits. 🏥
Several US colleges and universities offer basic medical care services for their students at a lower cost than private hospitals.
For instance, the University of California system and the University of Minnesota offer health insurance that covers a student’s basic medical and mental health needs.
Good to know: Before choosing a health insurance plan, research the different types available and figure out what works best for you. Aside from that, you’ll also want to find a doctor that you trust and understand the process of making appointments and getting referrals.
9. Learn Local Laws 🚨
We’re not asking you to suddenly become an attorney and memorize every law in the land. But, it’s important to understand the basic rules and regulations in the US.
Each state and city can have different legislations, so put in the effort to look up those that are relevant to college students (like traffic laws, alcohol regulations, and international student rights). 🚦
Remember that violating the law may impact your legal standing in the US; and, ultimately, your college education. ⚠️
One of the helpful tips for international students studying in US colleges is to utilize online tools to get familiar with US laws.
There are a variety of resources available that can help students understand their rights and responsibilities, such as the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of State‘s website.
10. Enhance Your English Language Proficiency 🗣️
Learning and improving your English is a non-negotiable for international students. ✅
Honing this skill can give you the confidence to explore and interact in the city, and most of all, you’re able to communicate with professors and classmates to improve your academic performance.
If you have a bit of time on your hands, enroll in English language classes offered by the college. You can read English books and articles, attend language practice groups, and use language learning apps to hone your language skills in your free time. 📱
These are casual and doable steps to improve your language proficiency while gaining insights into American culture.
11. Look After Your Mental Wellness 🧘
There are so many unrelenting anxieties, fears, and doubts that come with studying in another country, so it’s important to take care of your mental health. 😰
Whether it’s homesickness, academic pressure, or the language barrier that’s draining you mentally, there’s no shame in reaching out for help from your school’s counseling center or looking for community-based mental health services. 🧑⚕️
Try to establish healthy habits in your daily routine. Make sure you take regular breaks, get enough sleep, exercise frequently, and carve out some time for relaxation and self-care. 💤
Remember, taking care of your physical health can do wonders for your mental well-being; it’s also essential for your academic success!
12. Explore the Local Area 🚶
You may have a stunning campus, but exploring your local area is a fantastic way to heighten your college experience and find out if any of the shops nearby offer awesome student discounts.
Take a stroll around your neighborhood and get familiar with the cafes, bookstores, or restaurants nearby — you never know what hidden gems you might discover. 🌆
You can also check your school-organized guided tours or excursions to nearby attractions. If walking around isn’t your cup of tea, sign up for a local cooking class, join a college club, or attend a cultural event — anything to get you out of your comfort zone. 🧑🍳
Remember, knowing your locale is a great way to become a part of your new community, and it might even lead you to new friends and interests.
13. Learn a Recipe From Your Hometown 🍲
Homesickness is a common experience for international students, but there are creative and effective ways to cope. 🏡
It starts with recreating a little piece of home abroad. Learn a recipe from your home country and cook it up in your dorm or apartment. Not only will it satisfy your cravings, but it will also give you a sense of comfort and familiarity.
You can also explore your new surroundings and find places that remind you of your home. Plus, seek out cultural events on campus where you can engage in activities that make you feel less isolated and homesick.
Whether it’s a restaurant serving your favorite dish or a park that resembles one back home, these familiar spots can provide a sense of comfort and keep those nostalgic blues at bay. 🏞️
14. Set Realistic Academic Expectations 📑
Understanding course requirements is key to academic and career success — it’s why international students move in the first place! While it’s not the most thrilling, it’s crucial to learn what’s expected of you.
By grasping the requirements, you can navigate school with ease. After all, you don’t want to be that student who accidentally misses a crucial class or gets caught plagiarizing. 🙀
Make sure you’re fully aware of the rules for class participation and attendance. Some professors consider these as big factors when grading you.
Also, familiarize yourself with the grading system and academic integrity standards and ace your studies with confidence. It may take some getting used to, like learning a new language, but with the right resources and preparation, you’ll be a pro in no time! 🗃️
15. Maintain Constant Communication With Family 🤳
Grab your phones and kick homesickness to the curb when you install Viber or Zoom!
College can be downright stressful, but it’s worse for international students. So, keep your spirits high by scheduling regular video or phone calls with family and friends back home. 🤙
Not only will this help alleviate homesickness, but it can also provide you with much-needed emotional support. You can rant or cry about anything that’s been bothering you, or celebrate big or small milestones, with people you love and trust the most. 👪
And why stop there? With everyone online, you can even start a weekly game night or set up a cooking competition with a family recipe. The possibilities are endless!
You can even plan a trip together for when you return home. Remember, distance doesn’t have to mean losing touch. Stay connected and keep those bonds strong! 🥰
The entire process can be daunting, especially for international students, but by following these college admission tips, you can make your transition to studying in the USA as smooth as possible.
Remember to stay organized, be proactive, and stay positive throughout the process. Good luck! 📣
15 Tips for International College Students in the US: Frequently Asked Questions
Is it harder for international students to get into a US college compared to domestic students?
Yes. It can be more challenging for international students to be admitted into colleges in the US because their admission process involves additional steps and requirements.
There are some colleges that require English language proficiency tests, additional standardized tests, a student visa, and higher grades.
Additionally, colleges and universities may have limited spots available for international students.
What is the best visa Type for international students in the US?
The best visa for international students is the F-1 visa — a non-immigrant student visa allowing foreign nationals to enter the US as full-time students at accredited academic institutions.
F-1 visa holders must maintain their status by attending school full-time and following all other visa regulations.
To be eligible for an F-1 visa, yous must be accepted by a US educational institution and prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your studies.
F-1 visa holders usually work part-time on-campus during their stay and are eligible for internships and practical training opportunities related to their field after completing their degree.
How much cash can I carry to the US on an F-1 Visa?
The total amount of cash that F-1 visa holders are permitted to carry into the US is not explicitly capped.
But the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) states that anyone entering the country with more than $10,000 in cash or other financial instruments must declare it to a CBP officer.
Cash, traveler’s checks, money orders, and other forms of cash equivalents belong under this category.
What do international students need to enter the US?
International students need to present a valid passport, a student visa (F-1 or J-1 exchange visitor visa), an acceptance letter and Form I-20 issued by the college that they enrolled in, proof of financial support covering tuition and living expenses, and a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee receipt.