Moving to the US for higher education is very exciting. But the sheer number of things you need to do can be exhausting to remember. Here are a few pointers to help guide you through the new landscape of your American university.
As the eldest kid in my family, I always felt the need for an elder sibling who would grant me their wisdom and advice, be it for career related stuff or matters of the heart. Since I did not get one, I made sure I passed my learnings from college and work to my younger brother. This post comes from the same motivation – us and your seniors in US universities have seen and made mistakes that they do not want anyone else to make. Like a wise person once said: It is good to learn from your own mistakes, but it is better to learn from others’ mistakes.
So here are some of the key tips from a senior who has been through it and lived to tell the tale!
Take Care of Your Health
It is understandable to go for the easily available, supersized fast food that USA is famous for. After a day of classes and assignments, you just want to relax. You can’t deal with cooking as well, on top of all other pressing duties, so you go for the easiest option. But soon, you gain weight, or feel weak, or both – all because of a bad diet. I know it can be hard to juggle all duties and chores, but if you must prioritize some duties, keep good, healthy food high on that list.
Learn how to cook simple, healthy meals. Prep your meals by chopping vegetables in advance. There are better resources on the internet if you search for college meal prep, which will tell you how to use your time efficiently so that you can still eat a warm, nutritious meal everyday.
Manage Your Finances
Managing your money well is one of the most important skills you will need to learn. Here are some tried and tested things you should do when you arrive and settle in to your routine in the US:
Get a campus job
On-campus jobs can give you enough cash to cover most of your monthly expenses. Graduate assistantships can be a good way, but keep in mind that these might be limited in number depending on the professor. Other campus jobs include working in the library, or at the campus café. However, if you feel that these jobs are costing you too much time leaving you unable to focus on studies, always prioritize academics first. That is what you came here for.
Keep a track on spending - Don’t be too extravagant and don’t be too stingy
You will have to figure out the Goldilocks zone for yourself. What this means is that do not spend a lot on a fancy car but do go out for things you used to do back at home, like going out for a movie occasionally. We understand the urge to convert everything to your home currency from dollars, but know that you are going to be there for a long time, and treating yourself once in a blue moon for all the hard work put in by you might just be the thing you need. While buying a coffee, offer to buy one for your friend occasionally too. A good friendship is more valuable than a few dollars.
Start building your credit history as soon as possible
You can check out our article that talks about how important it is to build a credit history for you as soon as possible. Many financial products are available to international students at good rates only with a good credit history. Zolve helps you build that from Day 1.
Embrace the Cultural and Social Aspects of American Life
Many seniors we talked to regretted not exploring and embracing the American culture while they were in grad school. The following are their words of advice for you.
- It can seem a little intimidating, but never feel that you don’t belong there. You have already achieved a lot and put in a lot of hard work to deserve your spot at your university.
- Also, do not hesitate to ask for help. You have moved to a new country, and it is very understandable that many things will be shockingly new to you. Reach out to your friends, university admissions office, or even classmates. Remember, there are no stupid questions.
Be open to the new culture
It may be different, but do not be quick to judge it. Instead, try to understand what makes people here do things differently.
Don’t isolate yourself
The newness of everything will become overwhelming for you. With your support system in the form of friends and family back home, the first few days can seem tough. It is important to not go into your shell. Be open to meeting new people, classmates, professors. Talking to them over a cup of coffee or just simply hanging out for a few minutes would be a pleasant surprise. Making new friends is the best antidote to homesickness.
While making new friends, try not to stick to just those from your culture
You will have fellow students from many countries in your class and university. Take it as an opportunity to mingle with people from different cultures. Locals will also help you with tips and tricks that only they would know. Interacting with different people will also enrich your network, and may come in handy in times of need, like during your job search.
Focus on Your Academics
- Reach out to your professors or academic advisors if you are facing any problems academically. Highlight any confusion you might have well before in advance to them. Professors in the US are usually friendly to students, so there is no need to be nervous about reaching out to them.
- Take an extra-curricular activity or two on campus. Join some of the various clubs that American universities have. They range from dance, music, theatre, writing to thoroughly science or math ones. There is something for everyone – and these clubs are another way to network, and have fun!
- You can try taking a few classes outside of your major as well. Not only will you gain a different perspective, but it will also again help you interact with a diverse set of people.
Be Prepared for the Move to the US
I hope this article will stand you in good stead. It is always better to prepare ahead of time, and learn from other people’s mistakes. However, don’t be afraid to make your own mistakes too! After all, to err is human. You will be embarking on a new journey, so learn as much as you can, have fun while doing it, and don’t let any mistakes hold you back!
Follow this space for more posts like this. We hope they will help make your life more comfortable in the US.