the truth about adjusting to college life pt. 3

Selina-Vivian Header

For students who are not from the United States, the biggest adjustment to college can be the American culture itself. If you have classes with international students, live with international students, or interact with them in any way, it may be difficult sometimes to understand the challenges and adjustments they have had to face as they moved to a new country. What are some of the biggest adjustments they’ve made? Selina and Vivian are happy to share their biggest challenges coming to an American university.


Vivian shared with me that online learning has been a huge adjustment for her. Both Vivian and Selina told me that they do not have online learning in China. Instead, they are used to seeing a professor in person teach the class. For Vivian, this hasn’t been a bad adjustment and she excitedly told me that she likes online learning better. “It’s nice for me because I can see the notes. I can read it and go at my own pace.” One really nice aspect of online classes is that video lectures can be paused, resumed, and repeated. If you didn’t understand what was said or written, you are able to pull up notes alongside the lecture and pause or repeat the lecture as needed. One other very nice aspect of online classes is that some courses allow multiple tries on homework or quizzes. “Multiple tries are very nice; they allow for further learning from the first attempt.” Remember to check your syllabus to see what your professor’s policy is on multiple tries. Vivian suggests that, when it comes to online courses, you should watch online lectures and have the notes up and available so you can easily follow along. Along with having the notes available, she also told me that it is very helpful to take good notes. Teachers may refer to these examples later in the course and having it written down helps when you need to refer to it.


Group presentations were the biggest adjustment for Selina. In high school, Selina said they rarely did presentations and that she has enjoyed them so far in college. What aspects of presenting are her favorite? Selina enjoys group presentations with American students because it gives her a chance to work on her English speaking skills. “It’s really fun to speak and work with American students. I’ve learned so much and been able to improve my English.” Presentations can be a great way to connect with other students and learn about classmates on a more personal level. When it comes to group presentations, especially with international students, Selina recommends that you reach out to international students right at the start. Selina shared that “many international students are very shy and it is nice to reach out to them at the very start to get them to open up to you.” She suggests that you email, call, or text them early on in the project to set up regular meetings and be very positive when working with them. Walking into any group project with a positive attitude is great advice. Group projects may not be your thing, but the more willing you are to work with your classmates and cooperate, the better off your group (and project) will be. Sometimes the learning comes with working in a group more than the project itself.

Many times American students don’t realize how different our culture is from others. Some people tend to overlook the challenges and adjustments international students face at an American university. Small adjustments like the ones Vivian and Selina shared are great insights into small ways that international students must adjust their lifestyles while here in the United States. For foreign students, it may be eye-opening to see that there are small adjustments that you may need to make. Some of these adjustments are things that will be quick and easy to adjust to. Other things like group projects, or American culture in general, may take a bit more time and effort to adjust to. The best advice for all adjustments is to walk into every situation with a positive attitude.


Read more True Life: I Live On Campus.