It’s the end of the summer and your freshman year at University in America is creeping up on you. New experiences, new classes, and new friends. So exciting, but also a little intimidating. As an international student, you may be feeling overwhelmed, but don’t worry you’re not alone. Even the local first year students are feeling exactly the same; you’re all in the same boat! Consequently, people are very interested in making friends their first year.
Here are a few different tips to making friends in your first year at University.
Be Yourself & Take advantage of your culture
No matter what University you decide to attend, there will always be people who share similar interest as you and even meet your personality type. Whether you’re into sports, theatre, or art, there will always be someone to share your interests with. Yes, you come from a different culture, but in my experience, Americans love internationals. You are new, different and exciting! Take advantage of it.
Take advantage of the dorms
Dorms are filled with other freshman going through the same experience as you. Everyone is eager to make friends. Many dorms have common rooms where you can watch tv and play games. Something simple as joining a few kids at a game of table tennis or watching a program on TV is a great way to meet someone new. Remember that even though you may be farther away from home than many of your peers, it’s likely that they are missing home just as much as you. Bond over shared feelings like this.
Don’t stay in your room
Although the dorms are an awesome place to meet friends, don’t limit yourself, and don’t lock yourself in your room all day! Get out and be social. There are so many events happening around campus all the time, especially for freshman. Check flyers on the walls and your school email, there is bound to be something to do. Universities are always having events, especially for freshman, whether it’s a weekend picnic, game night, or movie night; there is always something to do.
It’s okay if your roommate isn’t your best friend
Having a roommate, you share common interests with certainly makes things easier, but don’t fret if you don’t click. There are so many students on campus, don’t stress if you don’t find your best friend in your roommate your first year, I certainly did not.
If there are clubs based on your interests, do it! Joining something you love with others can help create a bond with other students and it makes for great conversation and long lasting friends. You may even meet older students who can help you get adjusted in your first year.
Do your research before you go
It is impossible to predict what type of people you’ll meet or what conversations you’ll have, however, knowing just a little about the things people talk about can prepare you for any introduction. For example, you may not know every NFL football team in America, however just knowing what American Football is may help you in a conversation.
Americans also use a lot of different slang and phrases. For example, if someone was to ask you “pass me the ball” some Americans may say something like “let me see that ball”.
Preparing for a few small differences like this may help you when adjusting to your new temporary home at university. If you don’t understand something someone says, don’t fret! Just ask! No one will judge you for not understanding.
Eat Meals with people
Since the dawn of time, people have always bonded over food. Just like how families should sit down to have dinner together, so should friends. College is no different; a meal is a great way to bond and get closer to a new friend or even chat with an old one. Just met someone new? Ask them if they’d like to grab lunch with you at the cafeteria, or local shop.
Ask the usual questions
It may seem obvious or Cliché, but small talk is important when meeting someone new.
For example: “Where are you from?” “How do you like it here so far?” “What classes are you taking” “What’s your major?” “Are you involved in any clubs or sports?”
These are just a few small basic questions that prepare you for any conversation.
Invite people to do your regular activities with you.
Perhaps you work out or do yoga every day. Invite a friend to join! Even if it’s not something they have done previously, they might be open to trying something new. Vice versa, if someone asks you to do an activity with them, even if it may seem strange at first, try it anyways! You never know, you could really enjoy it.
This may seem like an obvious topic, but it’s important. We all have different personalities. You may be really sarcastic and like to joke around and that is okay! Always remember to be yourself, just be aware of how far to take it. I’m not saying you need to be a people pleaser, that may be a step too far, but just be aware of your friend’s feelings. It’s very important to care for them. You will notice how your attitude towards them can reflect their attitude towards you.
All in all, studying in a different country is just that. Different; but don’t be afraid. Be outgoing and get involved. Remember that everyone is just as nervous an eager to make new friends as you are. You WILL make friends, and soon enough you’ll get used to the different lifestyle America holds. As different as it may be, different is okay. At the end of the day you will have had an amazing and unique experience, and will have made so many wonderful memories along the way.
University Interviews are something most South Africans students are not used to, but if you are looking to study in the UK and the USA, interviews play a significant part of the admissions process and can be the deciding point between acceptance and rejection. Top international universities get many more qualified applicants than they can accept, so interviews are a way of seeing if you will be a good cultural fit. Below we have put together a few steps to help you ace your interview.
It goes without saying that you should always prepare for an interview, regardless if it’s for Harvard or to work the drive-through menu at McDonald’s. By demonstrating an interest in the history of the university, it is a good way to show that you will be a good fit. Just because attending Stanford would be cool, and it will impress all your friends, that is not a good enough reason to be accepted. Failing to learn about the university is one of the most common mistake students make.
International students may or may not have the interview in person. Sometimes, the interviewers will conduct a Skype/FaceTime meeting, or have alumni meet with you at a coffee shop. Do not let this informal setting confuse you, the interviewer may be friendly and laid back, but you must be professional.
When answering questions, you need to be professional in your approach and concise in your answers. Show evidence of your successes without being arrogant and demonstrate a personality of selflessness and emotional intelligence. It's important to note that you must not have a prepared speech, which will come across as cliché, but you should have a list of points that are relevant to the university and why you will be a good fit.
Before the interview, write out your achievements and what you are most passionate about. Then clearly identify the value of those achievements and what they will bring to the university. Next, visit the school's website and see if the university has clubs, organisations or projects where you will be able to contribute in those area's. Remember your achievements need to make you stand out and show what makes you different!
CV or Resumé:
In South Africa, we use CV’s to display experience, while in the USA they use a Resumé. The nice thing about a Resumé is that it is a summary of your achievements which can be used all over the world. CV’s are going out of fashion, due to the twitterisation of the modern world. Interviewers write a recommendation to universities, by providing them with a resume it will ensure they know your skills when drafting the letter.
The interviewers look at three main things during your interview, 1) Depth of commitment to something other than academics, 2) Intellect and, 3) Personal skills. If you can clearly express something you care about, show evidence of initiative, and demonstrate thoughtfulness, you will have had a successful interview. Remember that most of the interviewers are not being paid, meaning they have given up their time to meet you! Generally, interviewers are nice; they love meeting new people and will enjoy learning from you. All you have to do is explain yourself in a clear, concise manner and they will send a positive letter to the admissions committee.
The college interview process should be a fun experience where you get to meet a person who wants to be your champion at your dream university. If you are prepared and confident, they will help you get in! So congrats if you have earned yourself an interview, just follow the points above, and you will be well on your way to acing the interview.
Many of Aspire Atlantic's students will embark on their college careers in the USA this August. Being a freshman (1st-year student) comes with great perks, it is the first real taste of freedom, of being an adult and it will set the tone for the remainder of a students college experience. Athletically, If a student is on a sports scholarship, they will be held to a higher standard and expected to perform at a higher level than their teammates because they are being paid to be there. Because of these athletic demands, performing academically and socially can be daunting, so we have put together a list of Top Tips that students can use to make a success in college life.
1. Hit the Gym
College gym's in the USA are referred to as, "The Rec Center". The Rec is a great place to spend your time not only to get in shape but to be social. Apart from providing weights, there are many free classes and activities to get involved in like Zumba, Yoga, and Spinning. If you are more of a ball sports kind of person, join in on a game of basketball, kickball or volleyball. Even a game of social cricket has been known to frequent college campuses in the USA. These types of informal games are called "Pickup Games" and are known for their spontaneous creation. All you need to do is not be shy and join in on the fun.
2. Boost Your Marks with Free Tutoring
USA College Athletes can’t play without good marks, so to maintain your sports eligibility, you have to get a certain Grade Point Average (GPA). Don’t wait until its too late to rescue a subject, if you are struggling, go straight to the Student Success Center and ask for some help. Here you will get high-level tutoring services for free. This is also an opportunity to be social as your tutor will most likely be a 4th-year student. Who knows, you could start a fantastic friendship by getting a little help.
3. Take Advantage of Free Food
Every freshman in the USA will quickly learn that almost every day there will be events or social activities that give away free food. That's right; college calendars are packed full of awesome events designed to make the college experience as fun as possible. If it's not Springtopia or the Midnight Pancake Breakfast, there will be speakers, talks, seminars and networking events offering free stuff. A personal favourite is during exam time; many college libraries give away free pizza and coffee every night! Who wouldn't study more with free pizza at the library? Awesome!
4. Get a Headstart at the ISO
For the first couple of months of your freshman year, the International Student Office (ISO) will be your second home. Getting a bank account, medical insurance, social security and securing an on-campus job can be a daunting task, especially for an international student. Don't stress, the good people at the ISO will be there to help, and it is all free. So relax and visit the ISO.
5. Explore Different Classes
As a student progresses through college, their classes will naturally get harder and more demanding. A major part of a USA tertiary education is having the flexibility to choose a class outside of your field of study. If you have a passing interest in a certain area study that you would like to explore, you can do so by using classes called electives. Students get up to 10 electives over their four years of college. If you are not sure what you would like to study why not pick a bunch of courses that you may be interested in. For example, if you love CSI Miami, take a course in Forensics or if you have never seen snow before, you can take a Ski Class. That's right; students can spend their late afternoons on the slopes learning how to ski.
6. Get Social
The first couple of weeks on campus can be a daunting time. A great way to make friends at a new school is to join a campus organization or campus club. Don't worry about not finding a club that you are interested in as the options are practically limitless. There will be hundred's of fun things to do with like-minded people, here are a few examples of clubs across the USA that you can partake in; Surf Club, Cheerleading, Activities Programming and many religious organisations that will cover most of the major beliefs. For athletes, we would not recommend joining Greek Life organisation such as Fraternities and Sororities as there is a high level of commitment required by these organisations which will conflict with your responsibilities as an athlete. If you are not on a sports scholarship then, by all means, join Greek Life.
All blogs are written by former student-athletes. If you would like to learn more, please leave a comment below and the author will respond to your questions.