5 Tips for International Students

Moving to New York City as an international student can be daunting and overwhelming. The good news is that adapting to the city is not as hard as you may think! 

international student smiling near Grand Central station in NYC
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“Foreign” is the word that I kept thinking about as I moved to New York City. Two and a half years ago, I flew halfway across the world from Cambodia to start my college career here at  King’s. Moving to New York City alone is an adjustment. Moving to New York City as an international student can be daunting and overwhelming. The good news is that adapting to the city as an international student is not as hard as you may think!

New York City in itself is a melting pot of culture. You will find different parts of the world walking along the Manhattan sidewalks. Despite being far away from home, my time here has provided me with many great life experiences, several solid friendships, and a new way of seeing the world. But I must say it did take a lot of time, patience, and a couple mistakes to get a hang of living in the City. Here are some things I have learned along the way.

1.) Look for small ways to feel at home. 

Since home is so far away, sometimes you’ll find yourself feeling homesick and that is okay! One of the most effective ways to ease homesickness is to find small pieces of home here in the city. From hanging pictures or art pieces of home to finding restaurants that have your favorite comfort food, there are a lot of practical ways to bring home to you.

During my first year of college, I remember taking a lot of walks down Chinatown and Koreatown. The smells wafting from the restaurants or food stands reminded me of the vendors and outdoor restaurants from home. Additionally, it was comforting to see people that looked like me.

2.) Give yourself space to adjust and ask questions.  

Despite growing up in an American environment, there were a lot of things that I still had to learn about American culture and on top of that New York City culture. Don’t feel pressured to understand the know-hows of America in one day. It takes time, open-mindedness, and question-asking to understand how everything works. There will be moments when you will need to ask for directions or explanations to certain idioms that you don’t understand. Remember that it is okay to ask! For some of you, the King’s curriculum may also look different. Don’t hesitate to ask your professors or your peers for help. Most importantly, I hope you take comfort in knowing that other students are going through similar adjustments as well!

3.) Research what jobs you are eligible for.

As international students, especially ones without work visas, we are limited as to what jobs we can apply for. Although there is a plethora of unpaid internships, always make sure that it follows US employment rules for students with F1 visas. Every year, King’s also offers several on-campus jobs where you can work up to 20 hours per week when school is in session. Here is a link I found super helpful when figuring out what the rules and regulations are for F1 students.                      

4.) Keep your F1 status valid. 

Keeping your F1 status up to date is crucial for international students. Your status lets the Department of State know why you are here. In the beginning of every semester, make sure to check in with your Primary Designated School Official (PDSO) so that your F1 status remains valid.

5.) Plug yourself into a community.

Personally, one of the toughest parts about living in a new country alone is finding a new community. It’s hard not to compare the community you find yourself in with your old ones. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, I would encourage you to say yes to House events, church gatherings, or friendly get-togethers. As you build more community, you will find adjusting to the city much easier. This is also an amazing opportunity to expand your knowledge of the world and meet people from different walks of life!

Change, in general, can be overwhelming, but it also produces new opportunities and amazing experiences. As you enter this new chapter as an international student, remember to embrace change and embrace all the doors that it may open for you.

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