7 College Orientation Tips for International StudentsJuly 29, 2014
It’s finally time to start your college journey, and the first step is completing your freshman orientation. For international students, this might be the first time you actually visit your school, so do a bit of research on the area where your school is located beforehand. This is an exciting opportunity to get a taste for what your life will be like in the next few years.
Three years ago, I remember being nervous about my first day at orientation. I thought that the people I met there would be my circle of friends for the remainder of my academic experience, but that could not be farther from the truth. Some of them remain close friends, but I met some of my best friends after classes started, and I still meet people every week.
The one thing to remember is that orientation is a time for trying new things, talking to new people and it is OK if you are nervous – everyone else will be too! When I reminisce with my friends about that week we all have a story of how anxious we were about meeting our fellow freshman students, and there are a few things I wish I had known before I started this exciting time of my life.
1. Pack smart: You should plan to wear practical clothing options because you will probably be walking around and taking part in icebreaker activities. These are simple games designed to make sure that you interact with other students and find what similarities you may have with each other.
So dress casually, wear comfortable shoes and remember to always check the weather. Musical preferences are great conversation starters, so if you have a T-shirt of your favorite band, it’s the time to put it to use.
2. Remember that everybody is in the same boat: It can be overwhelming, especially if English is not your first language, but take a deep breath, show off your best smile and say hi to others who are also looking a little lost. They will appreciate it.
On my second day I got lost trying to find the ice hockey arena at my school, where one of the orientation major events was taking place. I was mortified to be late for the event, but along the way I met other students who were also lost and we eventually found the arena together.
3. Keep up the good humor: Awkward moments are bound to happen. I met one of my best friends when he waved at me from a long distance – but the wave was meant for the boy standing next to me. I said hello to him anyway, and after a few minutes we realized we were from the same town.
He helped me navigate through orientation and register for my classes and we even went to a very awkward dance that was part of our orientation. We laugh about it now and agree that it was worth going through the awkwardness to find great friends.
4. Prepare to talk a lot: That’s what you’ll be doing nonstop through orientation, so be ready with your orientation script. It’s probably how every interaction will start between you and your fellow freshmen.
Be prepared to talk about where you are from, what your major is, which dorm you live in and why you chose to go to that school. As an international student, people will be curious about your background, so answer questions about your country and your culture patiently and politely.
5. Leave your comfort zone: Try doing things you would not normally do. Maybe that’s a movie marathon, rowing on your town’s river or even an underwear run – these are more common than you would imagine.
This is the best way to meet new people and find out what your college self is all about. Your school probably has some traditions already, which you can often find out about by checking social media. Give them a try during orientation and throughout freshman year.
6. Attend school sports events: You can find your college’s sports teams on their website, and it is a very effective conversation starter during orientation. One of my favorite parts of orientation was attending a hockey game. I had never seen a game before, and it surprised me how much I enjoyed being there. Not only because the sport itself is so much fun, but also because it helped build my school spirit.
So if you have a chance, attend a sports event with your new friends. People have been bonding over sports for centuries, and you might find a new passion.
Even if the sport is not something popular in your home country, you might be able to see it on a new light once you are in an university in the U.S. College sports are often taken very seriously here and there is typically a whole event surrounding the game itself.
7. Be open and thoughtful with your post-orientation friendships: My current roommates and I became friends when I went out with a group that I had met during my second week of classes. Don’t just restrain your contact to people within your clique. Keep the orientation mindset of being friendly and keep making connections.