Diaries of a first-year international student

Anurika Onyenso - November 2nd 2020 - 3 min read

Hello Brilliant Minds,

We all know university ranges from overwhelming to exhilarating; so as a recent second-year student, I decided to share some of the tips I learned as a first-year international student.

1. Picking a Course is Harder than it seems

+ As a first-year, I remember it was so hard for me to understand what my academic requirements were, and that’s when I was advised by others to meet with my academic advisor. It probably didn’t help that I resumed in the Winter semester and also had a minor. Luckily for me, my advisor was so helpful.

+ Also, I would recommend looking at the professor’s rating before registering for the course - read the comments and use your discretion.

+ Make sure the time apart between your courses fits your needs to avoid getting over-stressed or missing class entirely.

2. The stress is real!

I would always, always advise that your class schedule fits your pace. If you know you can’t take a full course load, maybe because you have a job or other commitments, then don’t. It’s never worth it. You could always do Spring or Summer classes.

You should never feel obligated to finish in; for instance, the four years required for your program is just a guideline. That may be your goal, but you have to understand that sometimes things don’t go according to your plan, and that’s okay. Look at COVID, for instance; if the course you registered for ends up being harder than you expected and you’ve looked at all your resources, and it still isn’t enough, always remember that it’s better to withdraw. Finally, it is crucial to prioritize your mental health over everything. If you have any issues or bumps in the road, don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources your school provides.

3. You Have to Be Independent

One of the reasons why we’re excited for university is that independence- freedom away from home. Now that you have it, you have to understand that sometimes you’re going to be homesick, and that’s okay. You’re going to be in charge of creating your own balance and schedule for your studies, free time, and maybe even work. You can’t party your whole first-year away, no matter how enticing that may sound, so it’s up to you to create that balance for yourself at the end of the day, or else you’ll drown. After all, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” - Peter Parker.

4. Be open-minded

University gives you the privilege of being a part of a diverse community. You have the unique experience of making connections and friendships with people from around the globe. It’s important for you to join clubs and take advantage of all the university’s resources, whether it is a study-abroad program or a student job position. However, it’s also important that you understand just how diverse your community is. People are coming from different backgrounds and cultures, so it’s important to be open-minded, tolerant, and understanding of everybody’s views and opinions.

5. Textbooks!

Your textbooks may not be included in your cost of tuition because they may not always be necessary. I’d always advise that you wait until the first day of class to find out whether you should purchase a textbook or not. It’s also possible that students may be selling their textbooks at discounted prices online, or the school’s library may own a copy of it that you could borrow.

6. Visa Issues for International students

As an international student, my advice with visa issues that result in you coming late is to re-plan. You may have to do an extra term or take Spring and Summer courses if you resume late and miss some classes. But, no matter what, ask your academic advisor for help, don’t stress, study hard, and you’ll be fine.

In this online and blended learning system, things may be a bit more confusing and more challenging than they used to be. Remember your capabilities, and always prioritize your mental health!