6 Things You Need to Know as an International Student in the USA


It can be a great experience studying in the United States as an international student.  This yields an opportunity to study in a large, vibrant higher education system. At the same time, the adjustments you’ll need to make may not be the same as your U.S. born peers.  Some of these adjustments may include: living and learning in a new language, managing the distance from home, living in an unfamiliar culture, getting acquainted with different religious and social norms, and eating unfamiliar foods.  But rest assured that most schools have good resources and supports for international students in the USA.

Explore these ideas to help you manage the transition to college and life in the U.S.

A student talks to a new, international student about their experience at college so far and what  things they need to know being an international student in the US.

6 Tips for International Students in the USA

1.Use Official Campus Resources

Your school most likely has an office of international students.  These offices run programs that offer guidance around culture and adjusting to life in the U.S. These programs offer a great chance to learn about life at an American college and provide a chance to meet other international students.

2. Use Student Organizations/Clubs

Many schools will have national or religious-based organizations that provide an opportunity for students of similar backgrounds to connect.  These clubs support new students as they settle into life in the U.S. They may also host home-like events, socializing, and provide food.

3. Use Community Resources

Many college towns have 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.

A group of students sit in their classroom discovering ways to stay connected with their community as international students studying in the USA.

4. 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 play music and share food from different cultures.

5. Work Out a Communication Plan

It is great to arrange a plan with your family about how and how often you will communicate.  Skype and FaceTime are online resources that make it easier and less expensive to stay in touch with family and friends. Don’t forget about time zone differences when you are making your plans, though!

6. Find Balance in Your Activities

As you settle into school life, don’t limit yourself or those around you.  Try to find a balance between relationships and activities both within and outside of your culture.  This will help you adjust to life as an international student in the U.S. and 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 Resident Assistant, your counseling center, or the Dean of Students Office. They are there to help you. They 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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