Getting Through the First Month
Tips for International Students
Study abroad is an amazing experience, full of adventure. The exposure to new concepts and cultures will enhance your personal and professional pursuits throughout your life, but along with the excitement comes the stress of adapting to an unfamiliar environment.
Most international students agree that getting through the first month is hard, and you might experience confusion and psychological pressure. Please be reassured that this is a normal part of the adaptation process. The key is how you as an international student handle the situation. If you acknowledge the difficulties and prepare yourself for them, you’ll be able to approach this phase of your life with courage and enthusiasm.
Here are some tips to help you successfully meet the first month’s challenges.
Familiarize yourself with the culture: Before your trip, learn about the culture of the United States and Miami in particular. The International Student website offers extensive information on life in the United States geared specifically to students like you. Visit the Things to Do section of the Miami Visitor’s Bureau website to see the many cultural and recreational offerings in the area and learn about the city’s history and heritage.
Get a sense of the location: Make sure you’re familiar with the geographical location of the city, the climate, and other practical considerations. Miami has tropical weather, so leave your down parka behind! The Plan your Trip section of the Visitor’s Bureau website has helpful information on the weather, along with many other tips.
Choose your neighborhood: What kind of housing do you prefer, and what is important to you in your neighborhood? As you would at home, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors, such as cost, safety, Internet access, and proximity to the Albizu campus, shops, cultural and recreational activities, and medical care. If you’re not planning to buy or rent a car, you’ll want to look at the public transportation map and schedules and figure out how close you’d need to be to bus stops and how long it would take you to travel by bus to the places you’ll need to go. Being happy in your living environment is vital for your adaptation.
The International Student website includes practical tips on off-campus housing, transportation, and safety issues. To help with your search, the Rent Jungle website provides a map of the greater Miami area with icons for every apartment and house currently available for rent, including those in Doral, the neighborhood where Albizu University is located. Click on the icon to obtain basic information about that particular unit (such as size and price) and a link you can follow to learn more details. If you’d like to try to find a roommate, bring a flyer with relevant information to the Office of Student Affairs, and they’ll post it on a bulletin board for other students to view.
Attend University activities: Stop by the Office of Student Affairs or give them a call (305-593-1223, ext. 3102 and 3208) to ask about activities for new students, such as Student Orientation. The office also plans many special events each semester. Make sure you get involved and participate in these activities. They’re an excellent way to make friends and to familiarize yourself with Albizu University.
Join a group: Albizu University has a number of student clubs and organizations that you’re welcome to join. Click here to view the current list and see if there’s a match for your area of interest.
Don’t be afraid to explore: Enjoy getting to know Miami. Now’s your chance to explore the neighborhoods, museums, parks, beaches, and other attractions you learned about before your trip. Ask other students if they’d like to go along with you on day or weekend trips to places such as the Orlando theme parks or the Florida Keys.
Be flexible: Keep yourself open to new textures, colors, flavors, and ways of thinking. Try different things. This is all part of the experience of living in another culture.
Don’t judge and don’t stereotype: Leave behind any feelings that will prevent you from growing as an individual experiencing a new way of life.
Take comfort in your own customs: Keeping in touch with your own customs can also be a helpful part of adjusting to living abroad. Albizu University may have other students or staff members from your country who can provide tips to help you through the adaptation process. See if you can find a restaurant where you can occasionally enjoy a meal just like you’d have back home.
Understand that it’s fine to feel alone sometimes: Remember that this is part of the adjustment process, even though it might seem at times as though no one understands you. Your international student advisor at Albizu University is always ready to talk things over with you when you need a friend. To fill some time in a way that benefits others and reminds you of all you can accomplish, consider volunteering at a local library, art museum, hospital, senior living facility, outreach center, or other venue. The organization VolunteerMatch enables you to match your interests to volunteer activities in the Miami area.
Have a clear goal: You’ve decided to study abroad for a reason. Embrace your decision, and go for it!
The guidelines above have been adapted from an article by Albizu University Recruiter Dayanes Rodríguez, published on the Albizu website in August 2015.