Making The Most Of Your First Days At A Foreign University

So you’ve made it through the applications, pre-departure planning, and lengthy journey to a new setting. But what happens during your first days at a foreign University?

If you’re like me, you can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by new experiences, particularly those you have to go on alone. The reality of it may not even set in until you’ve arrived at your destination, and by then, it’s too late to turn back. So instead of letting the fear of the unknown take over, the best way to adjust to all of the new people, places, and things you encounter is to embrace it all with an open mind.  Usually your new university will have some kind of orientation (either specifically for international students or for all new students in general) introducing you to the university campus, explaining academic expectations and instructions on how to stay safe around campus, with a few rankings and historical facts about the university thrown in.

Although it sounds unimportant to those of us who have already had university experience in our home countries, orientation is essential for several reasons.

First, orientation allows you to form an initial impression of your campus and get a feel for navigating it. This is especially important if you’re attending a large university or if you’re in an urban location. No one likes getting lost on the first day and having to deal with classmates’ stares as you walk into a lecture 10 minutes late.


Second, you may actually learn about the university! (*gasp*!) Even though you’ve visited the college’s website a hundred times and been in contact with an academic or international student adviser, you might not be aware class sizes, the anticipated amount of time spent in class per week, or even general etiquette expected in class between students and professors.


The final (and arguably the most important) reason why attending orientation is crucial is so that you can meet your classmates. Although academics are typically the top priority of someone who has made the choice to go to college, the overall experience will be much more enjoyable if you take the time to get to know your peers. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to meet both locals and other international students as well—they are likely as nervous as you are about this new experience and will be more than happy to meet someone going through the same thing.

first days at a foreign university - a lot happens

Once orientation is underway and you begin to feel comfortable with your surroundings, it might be time to explore outside the walls of your campus. Heard about a famous tourist attraction only a 20-minute bus ride away? Check it out! Wondering how to navigate the trains? Find the train station and snag a timetable! If you are living in a city, a map is always handy, especially one that marks paths for public transportation as well as one that identifies certain landmarks. And if all else fails, Googling “things to do in [insert city here]” is an option that will almost always give you some kind of interesting and other useful information. You could even get some good tips from dating apps like Tinder. What’s next? Grab one of your new classmates and spend a day (or even just an afternoon) exploring your new home, making the most of your first days at a foreign university and embracing everything it has to offer.

images: Unsplash (1), Pinterest (1), Giphy (3)

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Carley Gancher

Carley is an undergrad student at Hanover College majoring in Studio Art and is currently studying abroad at Ulster University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, and growing up in rural Southern Indiana, she developed a love for exploration and appreciation for nature. She survives on coffee and peanut butter, and documents her life through sketches and the occasional photograph. She doesn't know what career she'd like to pursue, but hopes it can combine her passion for art with her love of travel.

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