Gauge Diversity at U.S. Colleges as an International Applicant

March 24, 2014

After I was accepted into Northeastern University as an international student, I received what felt like a million emails about the different aspects of its campus life. In one of those emails, the admissions office told me that 16 other students from Brazil were also enrolling for the fall semester. 

The news made me even more excited for college, and here’s why: moving away from home is challenging, especially when the move requires you to be immersed in a whole new culture. Knowing that there are other people in the same boat as you are can help ease your mind. 

What I quickly learned is that there were several ways for me to find other international students and events in my school before classes began. And in the long run, finding diversity within Northeastern made the process of adapting to life at a U.S. college much easier. Here are a few things that can help prospective or admitted international students gauge diversity at a U.S. college or university.

• Student-run organizations: Every college, no matter how large or small, has clubs and activities run by students. And the best thing about them is that there is usually a list on the school’s website that spells out all of the organizations and what they focus on. Prospective students can check this ahead of time to see what is available at schools they are considering.

For example, Princeton University has a Chinese Students Association, where any student can participate in festivals, charity and volunteer opportunities and traditions from this culture. If you find no groups dedicated to your culture, you may be able to create one.

• Cultural dance groups and sports teams: If there is a specific dance or sport from your culture that you enjoy, chances are other people will too. For example, my school has an Irish dance team and classes where students can learn capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. 

These extracurricular activities bring students closer because they require group work, and it is a good way to remember and celebrate aspects of your country traditions. Look at the upcoming events section on a university’s website to find more information about these activities and what is available. 

• Social media: Social networking services open up so many possibilities for international students, and social media is usually a student's first contact with a prospective college’s culture. The entering class will probably have a group on Facebook, and talking with other students about about their various backgrounds is a great way to start a conversation. 

If you want to talk to other international students already enrolled at your university, try Tumblr or Twitter, too. Use hashtags related to your school to find current international students and ask them questions. We are always happy to share our experiences with our fellow students.

• University institutes and departments: Look through the website and brochures of the schools you're considering to find out if a school's offerings reveal anything about its campus culture.

For instance, Northeastern has the John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute, where students who are interested can go to in order to meet faculty, plan events and even discuss university-wide diversity issues.

Tagged: International Students

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