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4 Things International Students Should Know Before Their Freshman Year

Tran Nguyen | Posted on March 21, 2019


Terrence Antonio James

Leaving your home country and starting your new life in a foreign country is not only a brave thing to do but also very stressful. This is some advice from me, a barely surviving international student.

  1. Be more involved

It is a fact that freshman year is very overwhelming, especially for the international student. Not only do we have to stay far away from home and start our life from scratch but we also have to adjust to the cultural differences. As a result, most of us keep telling ourselves, “I’ll spend this year adjusting to my new life, next year I’ll be more involved in the university’s life.” Don’t wait! The best way to start your new life is through those “boring events.” It might seem boring for you to join that “Trivia Night” or “Chinese New Year” but it is the easiest way to find friends. Most of my current friends are actually from those “boring events” because these events are designed to help you socialize and get to know more about the culture. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to volunteer in any event just because you’re an international student and freshman. From my experiences talking with a variety of people from career advisors to sophomore students, most of the employers seek diversity. Therefore, the freshman international student is appealing under that degree.

  1. Stay out of your comfort zone

Notably, many international students feel more comfortable speaking and making friends with their same country friends. It is a common thing to make friends with people that you feel comfortable enough to speak your native English with or have the same sense of humor. However, you should avoid this circumstance because it will defeat your purpose of studying abroad. Not only will your English skills not improve but also you’re missing a chance to change yourself. In my opinion, everyone who chooses to study abroad has a similar purpose. It’s to change ourselves in a brand new environment.

  1. Utilize the university’s faculty

Every university has a variety of faculty as well as services that are designed to aid the student in every degree. If you’re struggling in English class or even your music class, there’s a teaching assistant, writing center, and UIC Global tutor to help with the academic issue. At first, I hesitated to share my problems to a complete stranger because I was scared of the feeling of stupidity. However, it’s only stupid if you’re not seeing those people. Not only are they the most helpful people on earth but also they are there not to judge but to help. Moreover, office hour is immensely beneficial as you get a straight answer from your instructor.

  1. Planning is everything

Study abroad is the first step to being independent. At home, most of us don’t have to worry about how much we need to eat or thinking should we get that Boba or not. Once you choose to study abroad, you have to restrict yourself and plan everything ahead while also thinking about your parent’s money. Restricting yourself doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have that boba tea anymore, it means you have to think if is it necessary for you to buy that boba tea. Furthermore, besides money management, time management is crucial in university life. You cannot watch Netflix for a whole night and decide to do assignments the next day. Managing your time wisely can help you a lot once you pass the freshman phase. There’s a phrase that I often tell myself “Don’t do anything that makes future Tran suffer.” If you’re successful in balancing these two, I promise you will have the best university experience.


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