Living and Learning in the United States: Considerations for International Students


As a student coming to college in the United States. from another country, you will experience a wonderful opportunity to study in a large and vibrant higher education system. At the same time, you will need to manage some adjustments or issues that your U.S. born classmates will not have to deal with. Living and learning in a new language, distance from home, unfamiliar culture, religion and social “rules”, even unfamiliar food might all be things you may have to deal with. But, you should also know that most schools that accept international students have pretty good resources and supports for you.

Here are a couple of ideas to help you manage the living/cultural transition:

  • Use official campus resources. Your school probably has an office of international students. Most of the time, these offices run lots of programs providing guidance around culture and adjusting to life in the U.S. These programs are both a great chance to learn about life in a U.S. college but are also a great chance to meet other international students.
  • Use student clubs. Many schools will have nation or religious based clubs which provide another opportunity to connect with students of similar backgrounds and many of these clubs provide support to help new students settle into life in the U.S. Some even have home-like and familiar events, socializing and food.
  • Use community resources. Many college towns have pretty diverse communities. Find out whether there is a community in your college’s town from your country of origin. This is another great way to feel at home and connected to others. This will also be a great way to find familiar food and ingredients.
  • Look for small ways to feel at home. Use food, music, art and other items to help you feel more at home. If you have a roommate from another country or culture, offer to share different types of food items. If you live in a dorm or apartment with a kitchen, plan meals or events where people can describe, play music from, share food from different cultures.
  • Work out a communication plan. It is great to arrange a plan with your family about how and how often you will communicate directly. So many people have access to online resources like Skype which make it easier and less expensive to stay in touch directly with family and friends from back home. Don’t forget about time zone differences when you are making your plans though!
  • Find balance in your activities. As you settle in to life at school, look for a balance of relationships and activities between people from your own background and a wider range of connections. This will help you adjust to life in the US but still allow you to keep connected with your own background and culture. It will also make the experience more interesting.

If you find yourself feeling isolated and lonely and the steps above have not helped enough reach out to someone at the international student office, your RA, your counseling center or the dean of student’s office. They are there to help you and want you to succeed and feel comfortable at school.

For more information about navigating college life in the United States as an international student, check out ISO – International Student Organization in the USA.

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