Simple things that you can do to make a smooth transition to university life as an international student
Every year large numbers of Indian students apply to study in universities overseas. Migrating to a new country as an international student can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can also be daunting. Most international tend to put so much focus on ‘getting there’, that they rarely stop to think about what will happen once they arrive. On reaching the new country and joining university, many students find themselves culturally and academically at sea. However there are some simple things that you can do to make a smooth transition to university life as an international student.
Culture shock is normal: If you experience culture shock, don’t be dismayed. Nearly everyone goes through it in a new environment. Initial excitement and fascination with the new place can quickly transform into homesickness and frustration. Strategies for dealing with culture shock include having a regular routine, exercising, engaging in social activities and making friends with local students as well as those from back home. Attend all the orientation events and take a campus tour if the university offers one. Orientation events are great places to make friends and to get a feel of university’s academic and social environment.
Familiarise: As you move around the city look out for street names and signs. Also learn to read maps. If you use public transport, get a guide to the bus, train or metro service. It’s a good idea to take a tour of the city in the first week that you’re there. This will enable you to get orientated to the city, learn about its history and become familiar with major landmarks; you’ll feel a lot more confident in the new environment.
Take precautions regarding your safety: Familiarise yourself with various routes from the campus to your residence and find out the transport options available after dark. When going out at night always remain within a group, avoid walking home alone and take a taxi if necessary. Remain alert in public places, especially at parties or while out clubbing and don’t leave your drink (whether alcoholic or otherwise) unattended.
Be economical: It is important to find out where you can shop economically, especially for food. Ask local students about various supermarkets and the kind of prices you can expect to pay in each. Indian food is probably one of the first things you will begin to miss, so find an Indian/ Oriental supermarket in the area. Also look out for bargains in terms of books, computer accessories, electronic equipment and kitchen supplies. Many universities have a ‘small ads’ service or a store through which students and staff buy and sell books and CDs second-hand. Outlet malls (usually located away from the main business district) are also a great place to shop — particularly for woollen wear, sturdy boots or that one winter coat that you will use every day.
The academic experience: Finally, be prepared for a different academic environment from the one you’ve been used to. At university you are considered an adult scholar. You will be given lists of books and articles to read on your own. These will be discussed at seminars and tutorials where you are expected to share your opinions of what you read. This requires good time management and organisational skills. Challenging the opinions of fellow students and teachers is acceptable as long as you do so politely. Try and participate in class discussions — it’s one of the most effective ways of learning.
You are at the beginning of a very special journey — one that will definitely change your life. You will find yourself growing more confident and self-reliant over time. And most importantly, you will learn to appreciate your own culture in a way that would not have been possible had you remained at home.