Coming to the U.S. for the first time, the first thing many international students want to do is to seek comfort and familiarity. Joining the international community on campus can help make it easy to find friends and compatriots who are facing the same or similar circumstances.
As a prospective international student, there are many questions that you can ask to gain an understanding of the international community at a college where you’re considering applying. These four can give you a start.
1. Is the community diverse? For those looking for an eye-opening experience and to interact with people from various parts of the world, consider asking admission counselors or your peers this question. Not every college possesses the same kind of diversity for its international population.
For instance, the majority of internationals at my school are either from British Columbia, in Canada, or European countries, and many speak English as their first language and have no issues adapting to the new environment at a U.S. college. It is much easier for them to interact with the American students than it can be for other international students to do so.
Even if students who share your culture are not international students but are American-raised or are U.S. citizens, they may be interested or already keep the country or culture’s tradition alive by hosting those events. UCLA, for example, has a great percentage of Vietnamese-Americans and Chinese-Americans who are American citizens by birth, yet they still preserve their tradition and identity every year by hosting events where they introduce people to their culture – including its food.
3. How easy is it to befriend and hang out with international folks or with U.S. students? Believe it or not, whether to be friends with U.S. or international students has been asked by generations of international students. From my personal point of view, there is truly no definitive answer to this question. Many people you ask will tell you to try to make friends with fellow international students, since they are likely to understand your situation the most.
While this might be true, I have seen other internationals – and I myself – who prefer to be around U.S. students, because there is something about them that we feel particularly comfortable with. In the end, those who become your friends are those who you can relate to and be happy around.
4. How successful are the international students at this school? For those who are looking forward to making connections with highly successful individuals, this is a question that addresses that primary concern. Successful international folks tend to offer insightful tips on how incoming students can do well academically, and help students hunt for jobs after graduation.
The number of successful international students at a particular college is also indicative of the quality of education, and how well the career center at the school is preparing students for the future.