Feel at home on your university campus


By Julie Kang, Assistant News Editor

Being an international student at a public university can be daunting. The new culture, surroundings and people can make it difficult for you to adjust (initially).

I lived in Illinois for about the first 12 years of my life and then moved to Seoul, South Korea, and graduated from a small international school. I had never felt out of place, but when I began preparing for my new life in college, I realized I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Although I knew a decent number of people going into the University, I didn’t know if I would be able to find “my people.” I decided to make a game plan to make myself feel at home as much as possible, and here’s where I found success in making Illinois my home.

Get involved everywhere

Join as many RSOs, clubs and groups as you can. Start by signing up for more than you can handle and give them a try. Then you can drop out of the ones you don’t particularly enjoy. Most — if not all — dorms hold hangouts or events regularly. Go to them, and meet people who live in your area.

Get to know your roommate really well

Your roommate is one of the people you will probably see the most during your first year. Spend some time outside of your dorm room, and get to know him or her — even if you think you already do. Go out for lunch, grab coffee or go to a party together. Being close with your roommate can make you feel at home; it’s comforting to know the person you are living with cares about you.

Decorate your room

The decorations you bought at Target can spice up your room, but the decorations that will really make you feel at home are the ones from home. Bring something small that reminds you of home, and also print some photos and stick them in picture frames or on the walls.

Eat food from home

The University has a relatively large international student population, which is why you can find many different types of food  both on and away from campus. The food may not taste the same as it does back home, but at least it will alleviate your homesickness and give you a nice break from repetitive dorm food.

Stay in touch with family and friends at home

In the beginning of your first year, you might feel better if you call your family and home friends often. Talking to them about your classes and the people you’ve met can make you feel more relaxed and comfortable. Let them know how you’re doing, and give them periodical updates on your life.

Don’t count the days until you go home

A lot of international friends I have tend to count down the days until they can go back home. This will not only make the days seem to go by slower, but you won’t be able to focus on your time in college. I know it can be hard to fight homesickness, but try hard to ignore it and put yourself out there. Don’t think about going back home just yet since there is so much to accomplish at school.

Branch out from your usual crowd

Make friends with people you usually would not hang out with. Although it’s nice to have the familiar group of friends, you will be able to adjust even better to the diverse University community if you put yourself out there. College is about discovering new hobbies and making new friends. One good aspect of going to a large public university such as ours is that you have the opportunity to meet all types of people, which may lead you to interests you never knew you had.

Study things you are genuinely interested in

Although the social life and party scene are big parts of the college experience, the main reason you are here is to earn that degree. Instead of thinking of going to class and studying as chores, register for courses you are actually interested in. Getting involved academically will make you think less about home and make you more motivated to do well.

Don’t be nervous about starting college in a different country. The University is diverse and has a lot to offer, so you will feel at home in no time.

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