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3 tips to thrive in your first year as an international student

A group of international students studying. Source: Shutterstock/Dean Drobot.

Moving to university is both immensely exciting and a little scary. For many, it is the first time away from home. But what if you’re not just moving a few hours away? What if you’re moving to another country to study?

For those who become international students, this is the case – and while this may intensify feelings of apprehension, ultimately it only makes it all the more exciting.

As an international student, you have the opportunity of experiencing an entirely new culture, way of life and a seemingly unlimited pool of people.

At the beginning of the academic year, here are three tips to help you along the route to success in your new home.

1. Be yourself

You have probably heard ‘just be yourself’ countless times already. It is advice which is thrown around by just about everyone – but, despite the cliché, it’s true.

Being your wonderful self is one of the most important things you can do. Explore your interests by joining societies – and, if there isn’t one you feel like joining, throw your energy into setting one up! Smile and be friendly and you won’t have any trouble making friends.

2. Bring things from home but remember to try new things too

It may not feel like it at the beginning, because you have just embarked on a massive life change, but this country will start to feel like home in a few months.

When you first move, try to squeeze a few little home comforts into your luggage. Photos of family and friends will help your new room feel like your space. If you can fit it in, something like a small ornament or a string of fairy lights or (if you’ve got very generous baggage allowance) a small rug from home would make a great edition to your new room. If you’re really stuck for space you could even just ask a family member to write down some recipes which you can cook if you need some home comforts.

It is important to immerse yourself in the new culture you are going to be living in by trying new foods and exploring new places and meeting new people. But you also want some reminders of home to ease you in to your new life in your new country.

Find a balance between the two: your new friends won’t want to constantly hear about how great home is and how funny your old friends are, but naturally you will miss them and want reminders of them at hand.

3. Speak to everyone you can

Don’t be scared to talk to people. It’s easier said than done but communication is key. Your lecturers and professors will want to get to know you. Making yourself vocal during seminars can seem daunting but entering into a discussion will help you learn and hopefully enable you to make valuable connections with both staff and students.

All freshers, no matter where they are from, will be feeling the same way as you in the first few weeks; perhaps a little homesick, desperate to make friends and fuelled by a mix of nerves and excitement.

Speak to the girl you sit next to on the bus, speak to your flatmates loitering in the kitchen, speak to the group of students you see walking towards your lecture theatre. Everyone will be pleased you took the initiative to strike up conversation.

Remember, it is okay to feel a little scared. It is only natural and you are certainly not alone.

Becoming an international student is a grand adventure: relax, ask questions, try new things and most importantly, have fun!

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