So, you are on your way to Study Abroad? Congratulations! Maybe you have been admitted to a foreign university in UK, USA, Canada, or EU. Being an international student can be an amazing experience. However, during my many years of teaching experience at foreign universities, I know that the first semester as an international student can be very challenging. Whether you are an undergrad or a post–grad, many students find the first semester to be very stressful. Often it’s a combination of being homesick and adjusting to a different culture. However, an important reason is also dealing with different systems of education. Your professors may have different expectations and your exams and assignments may be very different from the Indian examination system which you are familiar with. All this can be very daunting. To help students to prepare for the Study Abroad experience, this Blog offers some tips. The FAQs that Study Abroad students often ask me are:
- How should I prepare myself for Study Abroad?
- What should expect in Semester 1?
This Blog is based on several years of my own experience of lecturing at several foreign universities in USA, UK, and the Middle East. During these years, I have mentored 100s of students, many of whom are now scattered across the continents pursuing successful careers. Below is some important information about the timing
This Blog Includes:
‘FALL INTAKE’ vs ‘SPRING INTAKE’
Most overseas universities offer both. Choose the ‘Fall intake’ so that you begin studying in Sept-October. This is a bigger intake and universities are better organized to support international students. The US Fall semester begins in early September after the ‘Labor Day’ weekend – a national holiday. In UK, it begins approx. mid-October. This term ends just before Christmas, with exams and paper submissions for every course you take.
PACE OF WORK
Basically, most universities have a semester that is approximately 14 weeks.
During the Fall semester, US universities take a 4-day break for Thanksgiving Weekend (usually end-November).
Semesters begin slowly. The first 3-4 weeks might have almost no assignments because the courses are being taught and assignments are not due. This is the time that students need to optimize! Here are some strategies for the early weeks:
- Go to student orientation events: Learn about campus resources: Register with the Office for International students; Writing Center, Health Center, Counseling services.
- Meet the Librarian, introduce yourself: You will need their support when you begin to write term papers and need to find books and other sources for your assignments.
- Learn about the library databases at your university: Check how many books can be loaned—some universities have no limit!
- Explore the Library space: Most international universities have huge libraries spread over many floors with excellent spaces to read, write and watch special films and videos. Some have lounge chairs and Cafes INSIDE. The Library is where students spend many, many hours including discussing with classmates when working on Group Projects.
- Join student clubs: Both for recreation and network-building. Be sure that some student clubs are directly connected to your Study program.
- Attend Speaker events: This opportunity will broaden your horizons. It’s also great for network-building. Most campus speakers are accessible. Ask questions during QA. Meet them afterward.
- Keep a calendar: Work ahead for assignments. Professors expect punctuality. They also expect your assignments to reflect some research you have done. They expect Critical Thinking and a spirit of Inquiry which will show in your analysis regardless of whether you are doing STEM, Social Sciences, Liberal Arts, or Computer Science. Most important Plagiarism is severely punished!
- Reach out to Professors: Go to their ‘Office Hours” when they are available to meet students. You will need Professors to help you to find internships, give you LORs, maybe hire you as their Research assistant later on!
- Social and Cultural calendar: Use Fridays and Saturdays to discover the city in which you live. Go to cafes, Museums, and art exhibitions. Track the latest books. This will groom you to have better conversational skills.
- Keep a handy list of important numbers: Emergency contacts, Health services, etc.
Week 6-8 of the semester becomes very hectic with assignments and papers to write. End-November and December are extremely busy too because this is when there are deadlines for term paper submissions and exams are scheduled for each of the courses you have enrolled in. Thus, it’s best to make use of the above tips in the first 4 weeks of the semester to settle in and get organized.
Also, Check-Out: Liberal Arts Study in the UK
Two key skills you need all through the semester (and later in life !)
Plan your weeks wisely. Track deadlines. Work on your time ‘backwards’ so that you can finish well in time. No last-minute stress!
Stay conscious of your health. Keep slots for exercise, meeting friends, and De-stressing. Here is a parting shot: Remember that you have chosen Study Abroad, away from home to broaden your intellectual horizons, enhance skills and employability. So,
- Pace yourself
- Balance the learning and the fun
- At all costs, avoid burn-out. If required, take a Counselor’s support
Planning To Study Abroad Do Check-Out: (Study Abroad – Expert Guide for Indian Students), (Best Countries to Study Abroad Amid Covid-19 [Latest Updates])
This was all about how to prepare for study abroad for your first semester. Good Luck for an AMAZING semester. We will be back next Friday with another amazing blog from Dr.Maina Chawla Singh Till then, if you have any questions or suggestions, just drop us a comment and we will get back to you.
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