1. Prepare before you leave.
A smooth arrival can set the tone for a successful experience. Know what to expect from the first day you plan to arrive in the U.S.A. Here are a few things you should prepare for before you arrive:
- Immigration procedures
- Local weather
- Airport pick-up
- Payment arrangements for tuition and living expenses
- Health insurance
- A local contact (an official, student or host family at your chosen school)
Ask the school you are planning to attend what services they provide and how they can assist you.
2. Attend orientation.
One of the best ways to get off to a good start is by attending orientation. Most orientation programs include advising and registration, a campus tour, opportunities to meet staff, and the chance to make friends before classes start. For example, at Green River Community College, we offer international students a comprehensive, one-week orientation including a free overnight camp and a trip to Seattle.
3. Develop an educational plan.
An educational plan is like a roadmap to your future. It should include your long-term goals as well as the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. It should be written in pencil not stone because your plan is something that you’ll want to change, revise and update as you go along. Before you arrive, you should have rough draft plan that includes what you plan to study, where you might want to transfer to, and what you plan to do after graduation.
4. Understand the U.S. education system.
The United States offers a large selection of educational options. The more familiar you are with the various institutions and programs the better you will be able to find options that match your interests, background, and financial ability.
5. Use your advisor.
International Student Advisors are available to help you with many different aspects of your education. They can help you understand the system, prepare your academic plan, register for classes, choose a major or even help you with culture shock or personal issues. Get to know your advisors. The better that they know you the better they can help you! Services vary at different colleges.
6. Practice your English.
Take full advantage of being in an English speaking country and practice your English whenever and wherever you can. If you need to improve your English, enroll in an Intensive English program. Regardless of your level of English, try to use English whenever you have an opportunity—with your host family, in class, at the cafeteria, and at the grocery store. If you have friends who speak your same native language, encourage them to speak English when you get together.
7. Participate in class.
Here in the USA, teachers expect students to participate in class. Often your participation is factored into your final grade. This may be very different from the style of instruction you are used to. Don’t be shy. There are no right or wrong answers. Raise your hand and share your comments and opinions
8. Experience the culture.
Of course, your number one priority should be your studies, but the opportunity to experience another culture firsthand plays a significant role in your overall study abroad experience. So, when your homework is done, be a tourist. On the weekends and during scheduled vacations get out and explore! As much as your budget can afford, see the sites both within your local area and around the USA.
9. Get involved.
Your happiness and ability to adjust to the new culture will depend to a large extent on your ability to get involved. Whatever you got involved with at home, do it here. Or try something new. Whether you want to play sports, participate in a club, or be a leader in student government, get involved early and often. Make friends and develop your own support network.
With so much to see and do and with parents far away, it is often easy to become undisciplined with your study habits. Don’t! Good study habits are a key to student success. Schedule your study time and stick with it. Let your friends know what your study schedule is and when you are available to get together or talk on the phone.
Most important, have fun! Take risks, make mistakes and then laugh at yourself later! Studying overseas can be a wonderfully memorable experience. Enjoy every moment and it is certain to change your life!