The first few months of college are difficult for any new student. For international students starting college in a new country, this time can be even more challenging. It is important that college orientation staffs do whatever it takes to get international students acclimated to their new home. Read on for tips about how to orient students from other countries to life at a United States school.
Hold a mixer
Fellow international students are likely the best friends for new students from abroad. Make sure international students meet one another by holding a group dinner or meet-and-greet event. This is especially helpful for people who do not speak English as their first language. Finding friends who know the same native language can make the experience of studying in another country much easier. If you do hold a mixer, be sure to invite upperclassmen from other countries too. These experienced international students will be able to guide their new counterparts through their first days of college.
Assign a friend
Sometimes, an American friend is what it takes an international student to learn his or her way around a new city. You may want to give international students a native roommate. Alternatively, you could assign a friendly American student to meet with an international student one a week. Either way, make sure there is someone available who can explain the ins and outs of life in the States. It can be difficult for a new foreign student to learn about things like tipping in restaurants, grocery store behavior and other tasks we take for granted. A good guide will help alleviate most of these problems.
Give a tour
Any new student needs help finding classrooms their first day of school. This is especially true of international students who may have problems with English. Help by showing each new student where his or her classrooms are the day before the first day of class.
Assist with contacting home
Most students will have computers and cell phones, so contacting home should not be too much of an issue. However, some things are different in the United States, and it cannot hurt to make sure international students know how things work. Give a guided tour of how to use your school’s email system, how to use pay phones and how the post office works. All of these things may be difficult for a student from another country to navigate at first.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to orient international students is to have a member of housing staff available at all times for any questions that may come up. International students often need extra help the first few days of school. Reassure them that it is okay to have questions. Direct international students to offices where they can find help and give out phone numbers and email addresses too.
After the first month or so of college, most international students should be fine on their own at a new school. Nevertheless, do not assume that everyone will acclimate to life abroad the same way. Keep checking up on new students and schedule regular social events after their first mixer. With good planning, international students will love their time abroad.