Each summer, international students make preparations for their journey to the U.S. to begin their academic studies. Once settled on campus, students should take advantage of freshman orientation to start their school year off on the right foot.
“International students, do not miss this!” says Jennifer Ann Aquino, education consultant and author of “The International Family Guide to US University Admissions.”
“Sign up, apply and attend. This is critically important.”
Whether freshman orientation is one day, three days or even a week, the sessions will have valuable information and resources to help international students ease their transition to U.S. college life, experts say.
As international students prepare to attend their school’s freshman orientation, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Remember That Everyone Is in the Same Boat
Although international students face the particular challenge of adjusting to life in a new country, keep in mind that everyone else at freshman orientation will be new on campus, too.
“Those who are organizing and running these orientations know what they are doing. They will make you feel welcome, at ease, help you meet others and show you the ropes,” says Aquino.
Most schools have additional orientation programming specifically for international students, says Mary Nellis, director of the international services office at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. She encourages international students to attend these sessions as well.
Aquino agrees, adding that attending international orientation is the “best way to start to meet other people and those who will be sharing experiences similar to your own.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Orientation is the perfect time to ask questions about the essentials of your new life on campus, from transportation to campus security to banking.
“Orientations are an important way to meet other international students who may have the same questions and worries that you do,” says Nellis.
Aquino says students will also get to meet faculty and “loads of allies who are in administration such as your academic adviser, your international student adviser, the entire team in the international student office.”
At orientation, international students will likely be a part of a small group, Aquino says, and “get undivided attention, be able to ask any and every question.” So don’t be shy.
Attend at Least One Mixer
International students can attend mixers during orientation week to meet other students and grow their social circles.
“Mixers are great icebreakers and a great way of meeting new people whom you might never have an opportunity to meet in the classroom setting,” says Olivier Nizeyimana, executive director at IGN Educational Consultants.
Nizeyimana says mixers can help students make new connections on campus and are the best way to integrate into a new school community and feel a sense of belonging.
For example, during the first week of school at Woodbury University in California, new international students can attend Welcome Week events on campus and take group tours of local attractions with other freshmen, says Lauren Seo, senior international student adviser at the school.
Join Campus Tours
While many universities have virtual campus tours on their websites, students can plan on attending an in-person tour once they physically arrive on campus.
“Students sometime make mistakes of thinking that they know the school, as they might have already toured the school during the application process,” says Nizeyimana.
However, Nizeyimana says orientation campus tours are very important because they help students locate classroom buildings and familiarize themselves with other important venues such as gyms, student activity centers and other resources.
Attend School Sports Events
While sports may not be your favorite pastime, sporting events are good ways to meet other people.
“You may not be interested in attending a university sports event, but realize during orientation that this is one of the best ways to embed yourself into your new community. Go try it!” says Aquino.
Nizeyimana says attending school sports events can help make a student feel more connected to their school, “experience the school spirit, meet alums and feel a sense of pride of belonging to your institution.”
He notes that some schools offer free tickets for students to attend school sports events, but adds that if students attend a big school with expensive tickets, “it is worth it to even attend just one game before you graduate.”
Maintain Post-Orientation Friendships
Attending freshman and international student orientations means you will likely meet many people and should continue growing those friendships beyond orientation.
“I met one of my close friends in the orientations,” says Neha Vignesh, from India, who is studying for a bachelor’s of architecture at Woodbury University.
Vignesh says orientation is a good place to meet students, counselors and international peer advisers who can be helpful throughout a student’s academic life.
Nizeyimana adds that college is one of the best places to network and that keeping in contact post-orientation, even if just on social media, can be a great way to know what is going on in your community.
Through those connections, he says, students can learn where people are interning, who is hiring on or off campus, events taking place, recommendations for things to do or classes to take, roommate swaps, event tickets for sale and more.
The connections international students make during orientation, experts say, can lead to new experiences and help students make the most of their time at a U.S. university.
“Remember that the most powerful undergraduate experiences come from being an active member of the community,” Aquino says.
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6 College Orientation Tips for International Freshmen originally appeared on usnews.com