As children we were all heavily influenced by cultural norms and our family's beliefs. Attending college or graduate school in the US gives you some amazing opportunities to grow and learn. You quickly find out that many things in America don't work exactly like they did back home. You may have known only one way to do something, but now you see there are many possibilities. Before, you had to follow your parents' rules; now you are making more of your own decisions. This is a great time to explore new ideas and think through your beliefs and priorities so you can make plans for your life. Writing a personal mission statement or developing a philosophy of life may give you more confidence in your choices, but the process may also raise many questions you had never considered before.
EXPECT TO LEARN A LOT OUTSIDE OF CLASSES
It really helps to have friends! We think you'll find most Americans and internationals in our chapters are very interested in meeting new international friends. Ask them questions. They can help you with practical needs like understanding American culture and and getting the food, supplies, and other things you need to make life in America more enjoyable. They also want to meet the real you, hear what you believe, and learn what is important to you. These are great things to discuss with friends one-on-one or in small groups. You will likely hear perspectives you've never considered before. While it's natural to spend some time with people from your own country/region who are like you, you'll miss out on some of the biggest joys and most memorable experiences of being an international student if you don't take time to become friends with Americans and internationals from different cultures.
Faculty advisors may hint that they want you doing research and homework 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, but that's completely unreasonable (and unhealthy). Classes won't tell you who to marry or which country you should live in after you graduate. Take advantage of group cultural events and trips to grow friendships and experience new places. Take time to think, have fun, do extracurricular activities (like joining student groups), and learn new skills.
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
Even with great planning and enormous effort on your part, your time studying in the US and after graduation won't go exactly as planned. Your goal to graduate with straight A's may fail during your first semester. Perhaps you'll get sick or hurt and won't know how to navigate America's complicated medical system. Maybe you'll have an emergency but can't get home quickly. Does your family want you to get a degree that you've recently discovered you hate? Struggles will help you understand yourself and grow stronger, but you don't have to go through them alone. You need people to talk to and friends who can support you along the journey. Have you found an American family to "adopt" you and spend time with you each month? You can see what daily life is like for them, perhaps miss home a little less, and get advice and help from older Americans with many years of experience that your peers don't have. Need advice or financial help that your international student office or school can't help with, talk to your InterVarsity leaders or a pastor in a local church (preferably with a friend who attends that church). They aren't going to turn you away because you aren't a Christian, as God calls everyone who follows Jesus to love their neighbors (regardless of their religion, nationality, race, or other background). Contact us if there's some way we can help.