Being aware from the beginning can save one from many things. There are many things international students don’t know about when they first come here and I think knowing these stuff would be really beneficial in the short and long run.
I wish I knew….
I wish i knew about Undergraduate Research opportunities earlier. It is better to start research earlier because professors want students who can stay many years and research gets more interesting as you stay longer.
I wish I knew about Rebtel phone service. At first it wasn’t easy to communicate with my family in Africa, because it was expensive to call there. But later on I found out about a cheap phone service for International calls (Rebtel) and since then I am hooked to it.
I wish i knew about scholarship opportunities. Before coming to the US, it would be really wise to look for scholarships especially private scholarships (see link for different types of scholarships http://jmuiscblog.com/how-to-get-a-scholarship-as-an-international-student-in-america/). At first I didn’t know international students could apply for scholarships but if i knew that i would have spent more time looking for it before coming here.
I wish I had brought more stuff from back home (bracelet, snacks, food, clothes etc…). “You don’t know how much you love something until you lose it” . Before coming to the US for a long stay, it would be nice to bring a lot of souvenirs from back home especially when we can’t go home during breaks.
I wish i knew about more job opportunities on campus.It’s true that international students cannot work outside of campus but on campus we are all in the same boat. Moreover getting a job allows us to get a social security card which opens even more doors in America.
I wish i knew about the importance of on campus organizations. Joining an organization is not a waste of time. On the contrary, it’s a way to have access to some information that we wouldn’t know where to look. It’s a way to get involved in the community.
Things that one should know…
Freshman year we usually live on campus so we are not concerned about the struggle to find a place yet. Many students complain about their off campus place during sophomore year because they were in a rush and had to make a quick decision. If we plan to live off campus, we should look for places 9 months in advance because apartments fill up really fast.
In America people like to have their own space. Most people are not really touchy here. Having that in mind before coming here saves us from causing discomfort in people. In my culture people are really touchy when they talk so over there it is more common to see it happen.
In America people usually do not to talk about people’s appearance even as a joke in order to avoid offending or hurting the other person’s emotions because some people are really self conscious.
In America especially at JMU it is expected to hold doors for the person walking behind you. At JMU it is even impolite not to do it.
In Africa people have the tendency to say yes when they are asked about something even when they cant do it because they don’t want to be seen as weak. When you come to the US with that mentality you are going to suffer a lot because people will put their hope in you and give you more responsibilities than you can so you have to be realistic before engaging and consider his own capabilities when it comes to that.
Some helpful notes…
In America you always need to have money on you or money in your savings. You will always need money. There are always some expenses to make so it’s better to be ready.
One important thing about America is that from the day you step on the American soil, you have to take your initiatives and be autonomous because here everybody is busy and nobody has the time to guide you step by step so you have to look for it and be dynamic.
Freshman year is the year to knock yourself out getting the best GPA you can. It is the easiest semester so getting a 4.0 GPA isn’t unrealistic. Doing good during freshman year may give us the opportunity to get an invitation in the honors program or be eligible for some jobs on campus such as tutoring or Teaching Assistant.
I wish i was more cautious with the diet. We may not realize it until we see it on the scale. When we come to University we get so busy with school work and we stress so much that we gain a lot of weight. In JMU we are even more vulnerable to a weight gain because our on campus food is irresistible (#5 campus food in the Nation!)
Be really careful when you receive random emails or calls not to give away your information like that because identity thief does occur here.
Living in the US can be challenging for some people. Getting to know your environment first can bring a completely different experience and make your stay more enjoyable. I found out about most of these stuff my freshman year because i was curious and I reached people. That’s why i said it’s important to socialize freshman year otherwise we may miss a lot of opportunities.