Life Hacks: International Student Edition

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College isn’t just about completing assignments and studying long hours; yes, these are two important and necessary actions to earn a 4.0 GPA this semester however, college is a time filled with memories and experiences students will never forget. It’s safe to say that balancing your academic and social life is very key to optimizing your college experience. 

For international students, studying abroad can be terrifying but it provides opportunities for personal growth, skills for the future, and experiences that will last a lifetime.  

 ISO has gathered some #CollegeHacks that will ensure you get the most out of your college academic and social experience:  

Hack #1: Don't Skip Orientation

Orientations can be very tiring and often involve many lectures and long presentations. However, orientation will provide you with essential information for international students like how to settle into the school, immigration information, employment, you will have a chance to meet faculty, and how to visit important buildings you will be visiting often like the administration building. This is also a chance to meet other students and make friends.

Hack #2: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Living in an unfamiliar environment can be terrifying. You might be homesick or experiencing some culture shock. However, socializing, being involved on campus, attending networking, and campus social events will allow you to meet new people and potential friends. Most colleges include an activity fee as a part of the tuition package, by attending these events you will be getting your money’s worth and breaking out of your shell.

If the thought of attending these events makes you uncomfortable, start small: speak to someone you see in a class all the time. Many colleges have an international student association, assembly, or club like the University of Pennsylvania; where international students can connect with other international students by attending programs, events, and trips. Contact your school’s campus activities office for more information to get involved.

Hack 3: Don’t pay full price for textbooks

Studying abroad as an international student can be very expensive. College textbooks are one of the many costs that international students must worry about. Textbooks can be very expensive and if every class you enrolled in this semester requires a textbook, you might find yourself spending anywhere between $800-1000 dollars a semester.

  • Get your textbooks for free:  Websites like Library Genesis, Mobolism, Project Gutenberg, and Archive allow students to find college textbooks for free.
  • Rent your Textbooks: Renting books minimizes the price by hundreds of dollars. Websites like Amazon Books and Chegg allow students to rent books for a semester.
  • Wait until the first week of school: Many times, the textbook in class will not be used. You can wait after syllabus week to buy your books, this way you can hear directly from the professor if the textbook will be a beneficial investment in the class.

Hack 4: Make Money; Save Money

Renting and finding free textbooks aren’t the only way to save money as an international college student luckily, there are many ways international students can make and save money.

  • Scholarships: There are many scholarships that international students can apply to; click here to view the scholarships.
  • Dorming Off-campus: Living off-campus can save students thousands of dollars. Off-campus housing options include renting your own apartment, renting with roommates, and off-campus housing.
  • Discounts for students: There are many discounts offered to international students. If you keep your student ID, you can still take advantage of the discounts when you graduate.
  • Apply for an On-campus Job: Many universities like the University of Chicago, offer on-campus employment opportunities for international students. Contact your school’s career services office to apply for on-campus jobs.

Hack 5: Get your driver’s license

Having a car on campus can be a very beneficial tool to have as an international student. By obtaining a driver’s license and a car allows you to save money when traveling off campus whether it be to the movies, the mall, or fun attractions to explore nearby.

If you are getting tired of campus food, and need to go to the grocery store, having a car can make food shopping much more convenient. There are many ways that international students can apply for a driver’s license in the US, including transferring our driver’s license in your home country to a valid US driver’s license. For more information, please click here.

Hack 6: Use Campus resources

Adjusting to a new environment can be very tough for international students. If you find yourself very stressed with classes, career planning, or mental health issues and need extra help, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ensuring that your academics and mental health are in balance will enhance your college life.

  • Free Tutoring: Most institutions like New York University offer free tutoring services, ask professors when they host office hours.
  • Office hours: These are hours that professors set aside to meet with students who have questions about course material or any questions about their fields of study. Office hours are a great opportunity to have one-on-one time with your professor to ask questions on material that you don’t understand.
  •  Mental Health Services: If you are having issues with your mental health, universities like the University of South Florida offer counseling centers for mental health. 

Hack 7: Writing Essays

Apart from academic tutoring, College essays can be difficult because adhering to the different types of formats can be a tedious job and for some international students this assignment can become much more difficult because of possible language barriers. Don’t let this discourage you from acing college papers. Always schedule office hour appointment with your professors for extra help. Schools like New York University have writing tutoring available where you can schedule an appointment with a writing tutor to look over your essay. Website like Perdue owl are great on explaining essay formats and citation formats.

Hack 8: Documentation

Having a social security number can be beneficial as it offers more options when opening a U.S bank account and applying for a credit card. As an international student, you will not have a social security number however, if you apply for a campus job, as an employed student, you will be eligible to apply for a social security number.

Hopefully you will carry these tips with you and use them to get the most out of your college experience!


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