劳伦斯维尔高中(Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, NJ)
布朗大学(Brown University, Providence, R.I.)

By Kelly Mae Ross




Leaving home and traveling to the U.S. for college is a major and sometimes difficult transition for international students. But there are steps these soon-to-be freshmen can take to better prepare themselves for life at a U.S. college or university.

Here are five key tasks experts say new international students should complete before departing their home country to study in the U.S. While not an exhaustive list of everything students can do to prepare for U.S. studies, this guide offers a good starting point.

Attend a predeparture orientation, if possible. Some U.S. schools offer this type of optional program for accepted international students to attend in their home country. Predeparture orientations provide information about what students should expect in the U.S. with regard to schoolwork, personal health and safety, student visa regulations and other topics.This month, for example, Ohio State University—Columbus hosted four daylong predeparture orientations for new Chinese students – two in Beijing and two in Shanghai. Parents were also invited to attend, says Carina Hansen, director, international students and scholars in Ohio State’s Office of International Affairs. Approximately 547 students and 567 parents registered to attend the four orientations, Hansen says.

If their college or university doesn’t offer a predeparture orientation, international students may be able to attend one organized by EducationUSA, a U.S. Department of State-supported network of advising centers that assist students interested in studying in the U.S.

In Barbados, for instance, EducationUSA and Barbados Community College host half-day predeparture orientations for students who will be studying in the U.S. as well as those headed to schools in Canada, the United Kingdom or other countries, says Amanda Martinez, information resource center coordinator for the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown. The most recent predeparture orientation was held last week.

Students and their families learn about topics such as cultural adjustment and safety, hear from current students about their experiences abroad and attend breakout sessions specific to their destination country, Martinez says.

Regarding those headed to the U.S., she adds, “It’s really getting them adjusted socially and culturally to what the United States is like so that they have the best chance for success.”

The EducationUSA website lists upcoming orientations around the world.

International students who can’t attend a predeparture orientation won’t be left to navigate the college transition on their own. Most colleges and universities have orientations for international students once they arrive on campus.

Pay attention to emails. U.S. schools use email to communicate with incoming international students about important topics such as how to register for classes or travel to campus from the airport, to name a few examples.

To reduce the chance that students will miss messages, Clemson University in South Carolina sends emails to new students’ school and personal accounts, says Tina Rousselot de Saint Ceran, director of international services at the university.

New students may also be notified by email of ways to connect with future classmates. For example, over the summer, the admissions office at Earlham College in Indiana connects incoming international students with current international students who can answer questions about campus life via email, says Ali Edington, an international student adviser at the college.

Research health requirements. Colleges and universities usually require incoming international students to get certain vaccines before they can begin their studies.

Students should learn about their school’s specific medical requirements, as policies can vary among institutions, Rousselot de Saint Ceran says.

Create a monthly budget. Expenses for students in the U.S. can add up quickly. Incoming international students will need to have a good grasp of how much they can afford to spend each month.

For new international students who plan to get an on-campus job, Rousselot de Saint Ceran says it often takes at least several weeks after arriving on campus to find work and collect that first paycheck.

“Budgeting for the first few months is really critical,” she says, “understanding exactly how much you have available to you and then trying to make sure that you don’t go beyond your financial means very early on.”

In addition to more well-known expenses like books and a meal plan, students should also take into account the cost of items that they may not be able to pack and will therefore have to buy after arriving in the U.S., such as bedsheets, Rousselot de Saint Ceran says.

Gather and pack all necessary documents. Experts say international students should pack their passport, visa and other key documents in their carry-on bag, rather than their checked luggage, when they depart for the U.S.

Additional documents students should keep in their carry-on bag include their Form I-20, a document issued by a college or university that details an accepted international student’s academic program and its cost, among other information; documents showing proof of finances, such as a bank statement; receipt showing payment of the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee; and the admission letter from their college or university, Edington says.

Students should also have an emergency contact number for their university in case they have any travel challenges, Rousselot de Saint Ceran says. Clemson, for example, lists a 24-hour emergency number on each student’s Form I-20.