Forming friendships is one of the most fun aspects about studying
and living in the United States. Especially if you are willing
to explore new ways of thinking. And aren't afraid to explore
your many social options.
You're Not Alone
Before you arrive in this nation, you should try to learn as much
as you can about the culture. This will make it easier to deal
with a different lifestyle.
Expect the first weeks to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
You may be leaving behind your friends and family. But you're
also awaiting an exciting adventure. Be extra kind to yourself
during this time and expect things to be confusing for a while.
Most experts recommend you avoid selecting a school that has
a high percentage of students from your own nation. You might
be too tempted to spend all your time with these students. This
will isolate you from American students, and prevent you from
strengthening your English language skills. Besides, one of the
main reasons you're here is to learn about the US culture. Right?
Once you get on campus, attend the international student
orientation program. You'll not only learn a lot about practical
day-to-day issues, you'll also meet a lot of students from around
the world, who are facing the same challenges as you. In addition
to these orientation programs, your international student office
will probably offer different activities throughout the year.
Most colleges or universities offer a number of student resources
These are a great way to meet new friends and get into the spirit
of the school experience. There are all types of clubs, sporting
events, activities or student government opportunities. Often
there is an organization devoted solely to international students.
To find out about these many opportunities, look in the student
handbook. This is typically distributed throughout campus wherever
The student activity center is a wealth of information. Make
a point to visit there regularly.
Student newspapers typically come out a couple times a week.
You'll find them a terrific resource of events, clubs and resources.
Still not satisfied completely? Then ask your classmates, your
international student advisor and even your professors. You'll
find most people very willing to share information. And you'll
feel proud of yourself for taking the initiative towards building
an active social life.
With the right attitude, your experience in this country can be
terribly exciting. Especially if you are willing to examine the
cultural differences between your nation and here.
Typically, US students are notoriously individualistic. They
rely on themselves more than on their parents. Many are self-supporting
and work summer and part-time jobs. They tend to make major decisions
on their own.
In personal relationships, American students can be very outgoing
and friendly. Much more so than in other countries. However, they
expect others to appreciate their "personal space" and privacy.
Don't confuse friendliness as an opportunity to pry into their
US students also insist on adequate space between people. In
fact, they can become offended if someone stands or comes too
close to them. Always allow plenty of space between you and them.
Although Americans tend to be quite talkative, they don't make
a lot of gestures when they speak. They also don't tend to make
a lot of physical contact, unless they know the person well. So
your best bet when meeting someone is a handshake. Kisses on the
cheek are usually reserved only for closer friends.
Punctuality tends to be important. Especially in the case of
class times and professional meetings. However, you are allowed
to arrive about 15 minutes or a half-hour later for social gatherings,
unless dinner is being cooked. Then you should show respect to
the cook and come right on time.
There are many resources available that can provide additional
helpful tips about this culture. Taking the time to learn these
points will make your school experience more rewarding -- and
make it easier to make friends.
Remember that despite these differences, people are people. In
time, you will begin to relax, laugh at your mistakes and enjoy
the exciting diversity of US campuses. Have fun!