I’ve been away at school as an international student for over a year now and coping with this new life and culture was NOT easy. Along the way, I have come up with some life saving tips that I would love to share with my fellow Caribbean International students. In this blog I touch on tips mainly beneficial to Caribbean students studying abroad whether it be Canada, United Kingdom or the United States.
During my first two semesters of university, I was a stressed mess. In high school, I had my school coping mechanism down to a “T”. Little did I know that that method would not work abroad. Things get a bit difficult when you don’t have your family members or childhood friends around everyday. They aren’t around to help get you out of your depression. Now, you have to learn how to do it yourself. You CANNOT depend on anyone else to pull you out of your depressed hole. For me, I had to change my whole mindset about school and how important it was for me to get an A in every class. I quickly realized that making sure I got an “A” in every class wasn’t worth my sanity or mental health. Immediately, my mini heart attacks and severe test anxiety went away. Now I’m not saying that I never get depressed anymore. But, when it does happen, I allow myself to be sad for a few hours then I move on. For example, I got my first D in CHEM I during spring semester of 2019 and I actually cried! After stressing and studying hard for that test, the failure hit me like a slug to the chest. Fast forwarding to this semester, I got a D on a CALC II test and I just shrugged it off. I accepted the grade I received, moved on and planned to work harder for the next one. Guess what I got on the next test? A 90%. So, work on a new way to cope with studying and testing while abroad because you’ll need it.
2. “Yuh betta can cook.”
Remember those beautiful home cooked meals that appeared on the dining table on Sundays and sporadically throughout the week? That is no more. For the kids with meal plans, you get a little pass. Make sure that you know how to cook your favorite meals while you’re away at school. Momma is no longer there to cook for you! Yes you might come across a Caribbean restaurant here or there, but they are hella pricey and not as satisfactory. Trust me, I know.
Now you know I don’t have to tell you about this one. But I will anyway. Budget, please, “ah beg”. Thats it, that’s all. Do NOT get caught slipping and buy something you don’t need and get stuck with ramen noodles for a month. If you want a breakdown on how I spend my money on a monthly basis, comment below and let me know!
4. Gotta Have Hobbies!
As minuscule as it may seem, having a hobby is very important. Because your life is no longer like it was back home, you need to establish some sort of outlet. After studying, writing essays and crunching numbers all day, you’re going to want to let off some steam. My outlet is going to thy gym, photography and watching documentaries. These activities assist me in making sure that my mental and physical health is on point. If it isn’t on point, I will probably fail every class. If you’re not sure which hobby is for you, enroll in some clubs and associations on campus to help you decide! And if that doesn’t help, youtube and Netflix never fails.
5. Try to make Friends.
Make friends? What kind of tip is this? Am I 5? Believe it or not, making friends with people in a new country and culture is quite the challenge. If you’re naturally extroverted and out-going, this will be a small feat for you. For the rest of us who are picky (me), or have some sort of social anxiety, you probably will never make friends (haha, not joking). Since I’ve moved to university, I’ve probably made three concrete friends. But in my defense, most of the students I’ve ran into are super immature, uncultured and uninteresting. Once again, if you need some assistance in the friend department, hit up your clubs and associations on campus.
6. Safety, safety, safety.
When living in a new country, you have to adapt to it. You HAVE to think about the police brutality, murders, kidnapping, rapes, scams and etc. I know some of us may be coming from a “not so” safe country but the circumstances are different when mom and dad aren’t around. Always be on alert especially when you’re by yourself. Your safety is extremely important so if you feel uneasy about something, follow your gut, act on it and contact your international adviser.
7. Be best friends with your International Student Adviser.
Remember when I said you need to make friends? Your International Adviser WILL be your first best friend. I run to my adviser for anything regarding my US Visa, American Driver’s License, and basically everything American related. She has given me so much beneficial tips that were key to my survival as a new international student. You may think you won’t need one but you WILL and you also have no choice since one is assigned to you. Any questions and issues you have during your stay in a foreign country should be relayed to your adviser first. Remember your immediate family is not in the same country as you. Therefore, you can no longer run to them first for immediate help.
8. Know your boundaries.
Knowing your boundaries and sticking to them is VERY important. Things are different out here and you do NOT want to caught slipping especially when your home is thousands of miles away. When we are back home enjoying our fetes, we have a sense of freedom. This freedom only applies there. Don’t bring it up here. If you usually have five+ drinks at a fete back home, cut that down to one when you’re abroad. Not only are the drinks three times as expensive as they are back home, but you do not want to become extremely inebriated. Hospital bills are expensive as hell up here, and your parents don’t need that added expense.
9. Try to keep organized.
I know you’ve heard this tip many a times but I am sure you still manage to procrastinate. You need to keep track of your assignments, tests and activities so that you do not feel too overwhelmed and forget important due dates. There are many resources available to keep you on track including google calendar, day planners or your trusty phone (you’re always on it anyway.)
10. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your stay.
Please enjoy your time abroad! This is a special milestone in your life, so take advantage of everything and try to make it some of the best years of your life! Attend college games, show up to some parties, volunteer or spend quality time with your new friends! Whatever you do, try to enjoy it and make it memorable!
I hope these tips will help some of you navigate this new World. Let me know in the comments below if it did! For more blogs about education, click here! Stay tuned for new blogs every month!