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Six Things First-Year Students Can Do to Adapt to Campus Life

International student services offices play a key role in helping foreign students with immigration, visa, orientation, banking and cultural issues.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   30-08-2019

First-Year Students Can Do to Adapt to Campus Life

August brings the familiar ritual of parents and college freshmen packing up for move-in day. For international students, fear of not belonging can arrive quickly in the initial rush to make new friends at college. Far from home and familiar social supports, many incoming students struggle with feelings of loneliness.

“At least 66.6 percent of surveyed freshmen “frequently” or “occasionally” felt lonely or homesick. It usually hits mid-Fall — after the newness fades into normal. You miss your bed, friends, pet, home cooking, and walking to the bathroom without flip-flops (and for God’s sake, always wear flip-flops in the bathroom — I can’t stress this enough),” writes Harlan Cohen in The “Naked Roommate: And 107 Other issues You Might Run Into in College.”

If it’s not be too late, grab Cohen’s book which prepares first-year students for everything, from sharing a bathroom with 40 strangers, to sharing lecture notes.

The most important thing Cohen emphasizes is that developing a sense of belonging and finding a support network are crucial to success. To make college feel a little more like home, students should get to know people on their campus and find their bearing.

Here’s a laundry list of people to meet on your campus, and things to do to better adapt to life on campus.

Resident assistants

There are definite perks to living in a residence hall during your freshman year: you will meet people without even trying in the halls, dining room, bathrooms. Most US campuses with residence halls have fun floor activities on the weekends. These can get truly esoteric: for instance, we are told that at the University of Miami, you could even stumble on to something like homemade lip-balm making.

When you are unpacking and settling into your dorm, your go-to person is the resident assistant, commonly shortened to RA, who supervises those living in a residence hall or dorm. They're the people you go to when something breaks in your dorm room, just as much as they're the people you go to when there's an emergency.

RAs are right down the hall and may have just the information you're looking for. They can be a first point of contact to answer a number of student questions and provide support or access to resources.

International student services

International student services (ISS) offices at US universities are a lifeline for foreign students trying to find their feet in a new country. It’s a place foreign students can turn to for help with their F1 student visa status, immigration regulations, and orientation. 

The New School, the well-known design and liberal arts university in Manhattan, New York says its ISS office provides both immigration advice and cultural support. The university which includes the Parsons School of Design, the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Performing Arts also holds regular orientation, workshops and seminars.

“We want The New School to be a home away from home and we are here to help students meet the challenge of stepping outside the boundaries of the world they know as they interact with other students,” said a spokesperson for international student services at the New School.

“We also advise incoming students on higher education practices in the US and other cultural adjustment issues.”

Academic advisers

Go all out to use academic advisers as important resources. Their responsibilities extend beyond helping students register for classes, as they also help guide them through degree programs, developing class schedules and keeping them on track to graduation. They are the ones responsible for helping students choose a major and a minor and ensuring that they meet all the requirements to graduate with a major in that field. At Barnard College for instance, you will have both a faculty adviser and a class dean to provide guidance as you develop your educational plans.

Building student-faculty relationships

"Have you talked with your professor yet?" is a question your academic advisor will often throw at you. More often than not, students tell their advisors that they have not engaged their teachers in meaningful conversations outside the classroom. Be aware that a good relationship with a professor can open doors to research projects and mentorship.

“A sense of connection with professors helps students feel like they belong at the institution,” says Adam Duberstein, academic advisor at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio.

“Advisors can aid in building this connection by helping students understand that they should get to know their professors, if only so that faculty can teach them better. Faculty members who understand the learning needs and interests of their students can appropriately tailor assignments, expectations, and conversations,” he added.

Join clubs and student organizations

As a freshmen resist staying in your room or living online to ride out homesickness. You risk missing out on people face-to-face and you risk not getting involved with clubs, activities and organizations.

College campuses offer all kinds of activities and clubs that you can join. “It’s a great way to make friends and they always serve refreshments! If you have travelled thousands of miles away from your friends, family and favorite foods then you owe it to yourself to have fun and explore new things,” writes Radhika Vaz in

Career services staff

You don’t have to wait until senior year to stop by the career services office. "You may be thinking your first year of college is a little early to think about your career, but those four years will go by faster than you think! Career Services can be helpful as soon as you get to campus and have services that go beyond giving feedback about your resume," Allie Harte, associate director of the First Year Experience at the University of Michigantold the “US News and World Report.”

It is important to keep in mind that career services can offer help with internships, summer work opportunities, practice interviews, job fairs, connecting with recruiters and more.



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