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Adjusting to university life in the US
Dr Arun Vakil
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June 20, 2007

The first few days at your US College or university can be a truly exciting time. 

There will be many new students on campus like you, all dealing with feelings of anticipation mixed with a certain amount of worry regarding how the first few months of study will go. 

During those first days, you may find yourself very busy getting organised and settling in. Your priorities may include letting your family at home know that you have arrived safely, becoming familiar with the college campus, meeting new people, deciding on your academic program and completing all administrative requirements so that your registration and enrolment are in order.

New student orientation programmes organised by the universities offer a perfect opportunity to accomplish all of these tasks. Seek them out and participate.

Despite the excitement, it is not at all unusual for students to feel a certain degree of loneliness, homesickness, or anxiety during their first year.  US universities offer many sources of help and counsel, but the responsibility for seeking assistance lies with you, the student. 

In other words, if you need help, it is up to you to seek it out among the many resources the educational institution offers.

Host families

Many colleges and universities sponsor a Host Family Programme to provide a mutually rewarding relationship between American families and international students.

The student's first priority is academics. Many students, however, desire to learn as much as possible through personal experience of the politics, economics, geography, culture and people of a different country.

The hospitality of Americans can ease loneliness for the newcomer and can help overcome the isolation of the campus. Experiences outside the classroom and beyond the residence hall can be an unforgettable part of the student's stay in the US.

Host families are matched with incoming international students prior to their arrival to begin the academic year.  A reception is given at many campuses by the International Programmes Office to allow families and students to become better acquainted as well as to meet other students and families participating in the programme.

Throughout the year, families invite students to their homes to share a meal, to experience a traditional American holiday or to join them in cultural activities. Students, in turn, have the opportunity to host their families on campus to participate in a number of international events and programmes.  

Prepatory tips for students leaving for the US

Pointers for student life in the US

Ten ways to aid cultural adjustment

Students from different cultures experience varying levels of culture shock. You may not experience the physical or emotional changes brought on by culture shock while others around you might.

From time to time, and certainly in the beginning, life can seem unmanageable. The academic workload, commitments to other groups and activities, social life (or trying to have one), even all the information in your mailboxes and inboxes. It can make you feel like you're in the midst of a hurricane!

Things to do in a New Culture

June 21, 4 pm: Dr Arun Vakil will host a US study abroad chat


~ Are you a student who is studying/ has studied abroad? What advice would you have for other students who may soon be pursuing studies in a foreign country? What are your experience as an international student? What were the things you wished you knew before you left home? Write to us at and we will feature your experiences right here.

Dr Arun Vakil has an MBA from the University of California, USA, and a PhD, partly from the University of Wyoming USA and the University of Mumbai. He is an expert on US visa regulations. He has authored the book 'Gateway To America'. He can be contacted at

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