International students in the United States will soon realize that the first year of college flies by faster than they imagined.
Many international students who are upperclassmen find there were many things they regret not doing in their freshman year of college.
Check out a few examples below of common mistakes international students make so you can plan ahead.
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1. Not getting involved in campus activities: If you are persuading yourself you'll get involved in campus activities next year once you have improved your language skills and have more friends, stop! As the saying goes, "tomorrow never comes." There is no better way to practice a new language and make more friends than by simply throwing yourself into real campus life.
Maybe you will discover that your school has a small karate club when you attend the school club fair. Maybe you will find a friend who is as crazy about hip-hop as you are at the school dance festival. Maybe another shy international student is out there waiting for you to share your common fear about this crazy adventure abroad.
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As you get involved in more campus activities, those "maybes" will not stop. By attending a public relations club at my school, I found great fellows who are always willing to give me insight about the field. My friend who loves event planning was so happy when she finally found the campus activities organization, where her creative and dynamic ideas inspire like-minded people.
You can always find your own spot with people like you on campus. And if you haven't found the right one for you? Start your own organization like my friend Ian, who is trying to start a club for students who love tea and funny stories.
2. Not going to professors' office hours: Lots of my professors have told me that they usually read journals to kill time because no students go to see them during their office hours. Yes, that fixed time called "office hours" stated in your syllabus is not a joke, and your professor is not a monster waiting in his or her office to hear your truly big and difficult question--once you find one to ask.
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Relax and knock on the door. Your last paper or some materials covered in class might be a nice way to start the conversation. It is even better if you write a short E-mail to let your professor know in advance that you plan to visit.
3. Not spending more time with roommates, floor-mates, or dorm-mates: Roommates, floor-mates, and dorm-mates are actually the people you see the most during your freshman year. They are the golden sources that help you become familiar with American life quickly, even if you do not realize it.
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You will improve your English in a fantastic way while talking to them and listening to their stories. Remember, your residential assistant (also known as an RA) is someone you can always contact if you need any friendly advice.
As a freshman studying abroad, ask yourself: "What would you do if you were not afraid?"
Mai-Linh Bui, from Hanoi, Vietnam, is currently a junior at Drexel University studying Communications, French, and International Area Studies.
- International students