As an international student studying in America, you face a unique set of challenges that can make settling into your new life on campus stressful. Fortunately, many universities have an International Affairs or International Students office that exists to help with any questions or issues that arise during your transition.
The precise function of this office may vary depending on the school, but its primary role is to help students acclimate to their new environment, answer questions about the university or its resources, and provide assistance with the technical aspects of residing in a foreign country. Here are five questions that you should ask your school’s International Office:
1. “How can you help me with my student visa?”
As an international student, your status is different than that of your peers, particularly with regard to your visa and your requirements to remain in the U.S. The process of obtaining and maintaining your visa can be confusing, especially if you are also attending classes and acclimating to your new campus community.
Because this is a critically important aspect of your studies, the best place to find information about your requirements and status is the International Office. The staff here can help you with any visa-related documents, as well as with dates or deadlines that you need to be mindful of throughout the year.
2. “Can I work or participate in an internship?”
In addition to potentially providing you with income, an internship or job can be a great way to make connections or earn course credit toward your degree. In fact, many schools encourage students to pursue either or both of these activities at some point during their studies. Unfortunately, for international students, working or undertaking an internship can be complicated due to their immigration status. Moreover, a failure to comply with regulations and restrictions can potentially result in your visa being revoked.
Rather than suffer these very serious consequences, speak with the International Office to determine what types of work you are eligible for, and what, if any, restrictions are in place. Additionally, if you are eligible for certain types of work, the staff at the office might have suggestions about a placement that is right for you.
3. “What on-campus groups would you recommend?”
As an international student, you might be feeling anxious about your new environment. Depending on your personality, meeting new people or locating opportunities for socialization may be challenging. Rather than search the university’s website, contact a representative from the International Office for recommendations about different on-campus groups.
The staff at the International Office are very familiar with available extracurricular activities, and by providing them with a bit of information about your interests, they can point you in the right direction.
4. “What off-campus groups do you suggest?”
While there are indeed many resources available to you on your campus, there is a good chance that you will not find everything you need in one convenient place. For this reason, the International Office is a great place to go for recommendations about off-campus groups or resources that could make your life and studies more enjoyable.
In addition to knowing what is available in your area, the International Office can help you navigate the public transportation system or other aspects of the environment that might be confusing at first.
5. “How are cultural or religious needs handled?”
For international students, one very pressing concern may be whether or not their cultural and religious beliefs will be tolerated and accommodated on their campus, particularly if they require extended periods of leave or other atypical requests.
While most campuses are more than willing to accommodate reasonable requests related to religious or cultural needs, they may require advance notice. If you think you will need assistance in order to maintain practices while on-campus, the best place to go for answers is the International Office.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.