To my foreign students
I know college can be difficult, and going away from home to a different country can make it even more difficult. To avoid making the same mistakes I did, take heed of these general tips that may make your life easier as foreign students. These tips can also apply to exchange foreign students and students doing a short course in another country.
1. Research the country before and while you’re there.
- Do research on the country’s culture. Do research what is seen as appropriate or inappropriate. Do research about what areas to avoid. Do research about the area which you will be residing in. Do research as much as you can.
- However, don’t research yourself into paranoia.
2. Make friends with locals.
- This makes assimilation into the new culture much smoother and faster. Ways to meet new people would be: joining clubs, volunteering etc. These meet ups don’t always have to be within the context of the school campus but if you do partake in extra-curricular activities outside of school, it is best to go with a companion.
- If the country you go to school in doesn’t speak your native language, please try to learn the local language as much as possible. It’s kinda rude if you don’t (at least try).
- Immerse yourself in the culture.
3. Make friends with people from your home country.
- Going to school abroad limits your exposure to news about back home and you may just get some news updates via your Facebook, Twitter etc. Having a network of your fellow countrymen increases the likelihood of receiving information about back home which may be useful to you.
- Also, since you’re not going to school at home, these people may be the only new friends from your home country that you meet during college.
- Fellow countrymen might know where to find things/places that remind you of home. For example, a club that hosts a dancehall night or a latin night or a soca fete.
- Join associations, student clubs or activities that are specifically for people from your home country or region.
- These friends may even be the source of remedies for home-sickness. If yuh hear seh Nicole’s mama always send she wid 3 box of bun and 2 Tastee cheese (from Jamaica), or doubles (from Trinidad) or oildown (from Grenada)… you betta be Nicole’s friend.
4. Play the naive student tourist card.
- This card is the best. Locals of the country you now reside in are often eager to show you the best of their country, once you ask them (sometimes you don’t even need to ask and sometimes you just have to drop hints).
- There are nice people out there who pity your state of confusion and naivety and are willing to help you get settled in.
- Turn up your accent if you have to.
5. Explore the country.
- You will regret it if you don’t. As you get older and start to do more adult-like things, you will have less free time and less motivation to take vacations.
- You may find this easier and cheaper if you join school clubs that go on hikes or do environmental work. Or if you join a reputable traveling/touring group.
- Turn down your native accent to avoid being a target for robbers/scammers and to avoid getting charged higher prices for things because you are a foreigner. You’re a student on a budget dammit and ain’t nobody got time fo dat.
6. Join an expat group.
- Finding expatriate groups online is easy, especially on Facebook. Just do a google search with “expat + country you go to school in”. For example, “Expat Jamaica” if you’re studying in Jamaica.
- Expat groups are a good source for networking and information.
7. Surround yourself with positive people.
You don’t want to get locked up abroad. You also don’t want to lose sight of the real reason you entered the country, which was school. Having good grounded people around to support you will aid you in getting through each school year. These types of people also can temporarily replace the support you are missing from your loved ones at home.
8. Have helpful apps handy on your phone.
Download applications that will aid in your cultural assimilation. Here is a short list of helpful apps:
- Waze – A traffic and navigation app
- F1rst – A navigation and activities/events app specific to the Caribbean
- Magic Jack – The free version of this app allows you to call the USA or other Magic Jack numbers for free.
- Hangouts (by Google) – The desktop or internet version of this app is available for free for non-Android users. It allows you to call the USA and other Hangouts users for free. Credit needs to be purchased for calls to anywhere else.
- LINE – Allows you to call and message other LINE users for free. Credit needs to be purchased for calls and messages to anywhere else.
- Google Translate – A translation app. It’s available for both Android and Apple phones.
- Voice Translator – A translation app for Android users. It allows two persons who speak two different languages to have a conversation. It also saves the conversation so you may read or reference it later.
I hope these eight tips were helpful to you. Just know that as a foreign student, you are awesome for getting into college, but you are even more awesome for choosing school in a different country. All the best in your studies!
Blogged by Gabrielle Beckford.
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