Leaving and beginning is always a difficult thing. Finding ways to say goodbye and then to say hello is not an easy task, and doing this across borders is especially daunting. However this can also have its advantages. When I left my high school in Nigeria where I knew everyone’s name, I was unsure of going to a new place, a new school, and knowing no one, not in name or even character. But instead of being scared (all the time) or being sad (most of the time), I told myself that this was going to be an exciting experience — in fact one of the best experiences of my life — and that there was absolutely no need to worry. But no matter how many times I reassured myself, I was not prepared for the huge change that Boston University brought to my life.
The advantages come when you realize that starting over is the best time to start afresh. You are in a new place with a new and promising path ahead of you, and this is your chance to make the most of it. Here are a few tips I would give once you start university in the U.S.
1. Find your Niche!
It is not the easiest thing to do but it is the most specific. On a U.S. university campus, there will be hundreds if not thousands of students milling around. The easiest way not to get lost in this roving mass is to find the core groups of friends that you know would go see a movie with you, go shopping with you or take train with you to a new city. Start from the first group of people you meet, your Orientation group or the people in your dorm and slowly work your way into getting those friends that you know will look out for you. This will help you stay centered throughout your entire experience.
2. Do Something!
Be a part of a sport team, a recreational club, a dance group or something! Try to do something you have not done before. This will be a blissful distraction. In these settings it’s not about how you fit in but about what you contribute to the group as a whole. So go out and have fun and do not dwell on the fact that this place may not remind you of home. The fact that this is exciting and adventurous will help you feel comfortable with yourself and the area you are in.
3. Don’t be afraid of class!
You may think that this is a new classroom and that you should not say anything, but this is the U.S.: most classes leave a lot open for discussion or questioning. Give yourself permission to talk to your professors, teaching assistants and fellow classmates about what you’re learning. The more you talk and the more you listen, the more you find yourself enjoying yourself and the classes you are taking. Though the educational system may be different, one thing remains the same: YOU are the one who has to stand up and make sure that you are gaining the most you can out of everything. So don’t be afraid to ask the question in class, after class, during office hours. Trust me, the professor is happy to help you and you will feel better knowing that this is the opportunity you have.
4. Bring a little piece of home with you.
I know I was just talking about getting out of your shell and embracing this new culture you’re in, but that doesn’t mean where you came from goes on the back burner. Who you are and where you come from never part; they just evolve. So, when you have a moment alone and you are a quiet place, feel comfort in the fact that you brought something meaningful from home. It will represent whatever happiness and joy you had and will have. It will complete the entire experience for you. Don’t leave home without it.
I hope this was helpful. I know being the odd one out as an international student may be difficult, but it just means that you’ve become the most interesting person around! It is something you should embrace; the U.S. is not so big once you get down to it. No matter what fears you have, as long as you have food to eat, a place to sleep and a few good friends, there will be and should be no reason to ever worry.
– Kamara Nwosu
Boston University student
Summer 2015 intern at EducationUSA Belgium & Luxembourg