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Advice for International Students for Their First Year of College in the US

Starting college is a significant life transition. It can be especially daunting for international students adjusting to a new country and culture. But with preparation and helpful advice for international students, you can enjoy a smooth and successful first year.

How to Survive College: Advice for International Students

Looking for advice on excelling in academics, socializing, or navigating your new home? These six tips can help you smash your first year of college.

  1. Create and Stick to a Reasonable Budget

Budgeting is an essential skill for all college students to master, but even more so if you’re studying abroad. International students must manage their finances carefully due to exchange rates and other financial considerations.

Make a Budget

Start by listing all your income sources (part-time jobs, scholarships, or allowance). Then, list all your expenses (tuition, rent, and groceries, for example). This gives you a clear overview of how much money you have coming in and going out each month.

Sort Expenses

Once you have everything laid out, determine what your most important expenses are (like tuition and rent). Prioritize the majority of your budget toward those. Then, allocate the remaining funds to your other expenses (eating out, personal care, and entertainment).

Cut Unnecessary Expenses

Look for ways to cut costs. For example, you might decide to cook at home more often instead of dining out. There are also cheaper alternatives for necessities like textbooks, so get creative!

Track Your Spending

Use a budgeting app or spreadsheet to track your spending and see where you can make adjustments.

Budgeting is a process. It may take some time to get the hang of it. Be patient with yourself and don’t be afraid to make changes as needed. With careful planning and discipline, you can stay on track and make the most of your money as a college student.

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  1. Pick Easier Classes for Your First Semester

Adjusting to a new country, culture, and educational system is tough. Starting with easier classes can help reduce some of that stress. Establish a solid foundation and get a feel for the academic rigors of college before tackling more challenging courses.

Enroll in classes you know you’ll enjoy, and explore subjects you’re good at. Keeping the first semester light can be a smart way to ease into college life and set yourself up for success in the long run.

  1. Make Friends with Domestic Students

Making friends with domestic students is a fulfilling study abroad experience. These friendships provide a sense of support during a time of transition and will broaden your horizons. Now is the perfect time to learn about different cultures and perspectives!

While it’s imperative to maintain your cultural identity, it’s also rewarding to expand your social circle. Forming friendships with domestic students can help you integrate into the college community.

  1. Join Cultural Groups on Campus

There are countless clubs and organizations on campus for international students. These groups provide a stellar opportunity for you to meet new people from various countries. Or, you can find a club that caters to students from your mother country. Bond over shared interests and experiences while learning about other cultures.

  1. Embrace New Experiences

Be open to new experiences and opportunities in your first year of college. Don’t be afraid to try something new, whether it’s an extracurricular activity or a hobby. College is much more than getting good grades in classes. Many international students enjoy playing intramural sports, joining a club, and picking up a side hustle. This is the ideal time to explore your interests and grow your network!

  1. Take Care of Your Body

As an international student, it’s normal to experience homesickness, culture shock, and the stress of adjusting to a new environment. Taking care of your body will make your first year of college easier. Without good health, it’s hard to do well in classes and enjoy all that college has to offer. Devote time to finding a great primary care physician, practicing self-care, eating nutritious meals, and getting ample sleep.

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Make Your First Year Studying Abroad Memorable

Beginning college as an international student in the US can be a stressful, yet thrilling experience. With the right preparation and mindset, your first year can be memorable and positive. From budgeting and making friends to prioritizing your health and joining cultural groups, there are plenty of ways to thrive in college!

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