Studying abroad is always full of surprises and expectations! However, behind the sugar coating of the excitement and new feelings, studying abroad is full of difficulties and challenges.
Are you having trouble with cultural shock, and wish you could bring your hometown friends with you?
Are you trying to make friends with local students but feel so blanked out when trying to start a conversation?
Do you feel upset when seeing the number on your bank account keeps shrinking?
If you are an international student in UMass, you might resonate with the problems listed above! Don’t worry because you will find some helpful solutions below.
Adapting to the Culture
No matter where you come from, culture shock will always be the first difficulty you have after getting off the plane. No more familiar language around you, and no parents or close friends to pick you up at the airport. Congratulations, you are now officially on your own.
Try to use any small opportunity to talk in English as soon as you land in the U.S. Whether asking about directions for transportation or buying a hot drink at the coffee shop, small talk will slightly help you adapt to speaking another language!
When your first semester starts, try to make as many friends as possible! First year is the golden time to expand your friend circle. Everyone is eager to meet more people! It is very easy to make friends who speak the same mother language as you, and it could provide you with a sense of home. It is great to have many friends like that resemble your friends from home, but don’t forget to walk out of your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to other students who live on the same floor, attend the dorm room activities and meetings, go to class 10 minutes early and chat with your classmates before class. Don’t be afraid of embarrassing yourself when you speak English. Keep in mind that understanding English as your second language is already impressive, and the more you practice, the better you will be in the future. Try to join clubs you find interesting; students in the club will share similar interests with you, and they will be more likely to become your future close friends. Some clubs might have events or activities that can expand the circle even more.
Get used to using inches, foot, yard, and mile for distance. It is always the simplest things that makes life difficult. If you are using a metric system as your distance measurement, you have to switch your habit to the U.S. standard length so that people can easily understand you. A quick way of doing it is that if you see a length description in feet, divide it by three. Roughly three centimeter make one inch, and about 1.6 kilometers make a mile. Similarly with ounces, pounds, quats, gallons, all kinds of spoons and cups.
There will be moments that you can’t help but feel depressed about staying away from your home. You could go to a restaurant for the same dish over and over again just because it tastes like your parents’ cooking specialty.
Make sure you stay in touch with your people back home regularly. Remember the time difference and find the right period to call your family and friends. You don’t have to hold a long and meaningful conversation, just exchanging about your daily routine will make you feel less estranged from your loved ones back home.
Cooking is unexpectedly helpful for relieving homesickness. Ask your parents about their recipes for your favorite dish and start to make the dish by yourself. Once the delicious and familiar taste fills your mouth, close your eyes and imagine that your home is just a few inches away.
Bring something special for you that reminds you of your home. It could be a small pillow, a light blanket, or an old teddy bear. Having these cuddly things in your dorm or apartment will make your sleep swifter and cozier.
Dealing with Academic Problems
Not everyone is a genius. When it comes to studying, struggles always appear, not to mention you are in a completely different environment.
Try to utilize the benefit of having a big campus, by finding your favorite study spots and downloading the type of music you like. These spots could be the seats behind the big windows in the Design Building, the quiet study areas on the library’s top floors, the cute little greenhouse behind Franklin DC, or the gorgeous UMass Hotel lobby. Once your body and mind adapt to the studying environment in these places, you will soon realize that you have fewer distractions and feel more concentrated on your work.
Use academic assistant services provided by the campus. There are several services that you can use to improve your school practice! The writing center in the W.E.B. DuBois library is one of the most helpful services you should use. Register for a session online to work on your research paper, and get inspiration about improving your writing in the future. If you need help in a specific field or concentration, contact your professors or TAs, go to the office hours with all your questions, and don’t feel embarrassed by asking for an explanation of the simplest problem or concept. When you have trouble building your class schedule or feeling confused about your future career path, try to book an appointment with the advisor in your department. You will receive helpful suggestions, and maybe even make some life-changing decisions.
Facing Financial Problems
Money money money. No matter where you go, you can never stop thinking about your expenditures. When you spent your first U.S. dollar, how many of you tried to convert the amount to your home countries’ currency? When you are using the credit card you bought from your country, is there any time the silly cash register doesn’t recognize it? If your answer is yes to these questions, you probably should get a credit card in the US! Local banks in downtown Amherst are convenient. A U.S. bank account will not only help you save money by avoiding transaction fees, but it also will save your time by providing a super convenient online bank app for transactions. Venmo is a very important transaction app you don’t want to miss out on. Paying rent and splitting the dinner bill will get much easier and quicker once you have this magic app on your device. The setup only takes a few minutes, and the money will deposited right into your linked bank account.
Limit your grocery spending to a certain amount every week to save money. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Sometimes we buy way too much produce and bread to finish, and end up watching our money get spoiled and moldy. To improve this condition, make lists of what you need for the week. Download the app for your favorite grocery store, check the prices and discounts, and adjust your list based on how much you want to spend weekly.
Find a job. Unlike local students, international students will have a difficult time having any part-time job in the US. However, finding an on-campus job at UMass is not as hard as people think. Working as kitchen staff at any UMass dining area is the fastest and easiest job to find. You hand in your application, get the right signature, set up your payment account, and start to earn your own pocket money. If you prefer to have some more challenging work, go to the student job boards and see if anything fits in your interest, or apply to be a TA for your best class.
Remember your ID Numbers
Since all your identity and personal information is wrapped up by a string of numbers, it is the best to remember those numbers! This includes your passport number, your student ID number, your social security number, and maybe your closest friend’s phone number. The official forms usually require those numbers, so instead of running around to get your information, it's helpful to be able to recall the numbers from your memory.
Besides the numbers above, it is also recommended to keep your bank card number in mind. It saves time for online payment so that you don’t have to take your card in and out of your wallet.