As a Thai student (ISB) who just finished her first year of college in LA (USC), I’d like to believe that I am an expert in this topic. BUT take my advices with a grain of salt; these are just what I experienced in my first year. Hopefully, this will be useful for all you incoming freshies!
- You might, naturally, take longer than others to adjust. It’s not just a new school you’re at; it’s a whole different country. Not only are you trying to adjust to a new lifestyle and newly gained independence in college, but you’re also adjusting to living in a new place. Everything is different: food, people, culture, norms, language, etc. Chances are your family and everyone you know is across the ocean and in a different time zone. It’s going to take you a while to adjust to this new life, especially figuring out the time difference and not accidentally calling your mom at 2am.
- If you went to an international school, you’ll lose touch with more friends than you thought. Many of your friends will be moving back home as well and you won’t see them during breaks anymore since you have different homes. You’ll lose touch with many of them, sadly. However, you’ll also make a ton of new friends in college so don’t worry, you’ll be okay.
- You’re going to be homesick quite a bit as you adjust. As your friends go home for long weekends or breaks to visit friends and family, you might still be stuck in school. Home might be too far to go back for a four-day weekend. But give it some time and you’ll either enjoy staying in school for the break and exploring the city with other friends or you’ll be invited to visit your friend’s home for a little bit. One way or another, you’ll adjust to only being able to visit home once or twice a year and hopefully, you’ll enjoy exploring the country you’re studying in since it will be your home for the next few years.
- The paperwork is SUPER annoying. Don’t forget to get your I-20 signed every winter break or it’s going to be a hassle to get back into the States. And, contrary to popular beliefs, international students can get on-campus jobs. It’s just going to take a while to fill out the paperwork, get a social security number and set up your payroll. Get used to it though, lots of paperwork is coming your way.
- Time difference is going to mess you up. Depending on how bad the time difference is, it’s going to take you some time to adjust. Presumably, your friends are going to be all over the world as well so FaceTime becomes harder and you actually have to plan out days in advance. Also, you’ll really feel that time difference traveling to and from home (jetlag is great).
These were just five things I learned from my first year of college. However, the most important thing I learned is that a year passes by extremely quickly. It sounds cliché but in all honesty, make the best of your time. College is only four years; I blinked once and now here I am, a rising sophomore. Good luck with your future endeavors and get ready for the best four years of your life.