Tips on adjusting to university life as an international student


First off, congratulations and welcome– you made it to university. Some may call it the beginning of adulthood, but I call it "the phase", because you still get to have so much fun but in there, somewhere, there are ‘responsibilities' to take care of. So buckle up, and prepare for a new life ahead!

photo of three people jumping on ground near bare trees during daytimeBe aware and stay connected

One way to easily adjust to your newfound life is to be aware of the things and happenings that go on around you. This way you will be well-informed and know your left from your right.

Don't be afraid to ask questions because that is something that really helped me.

Whenever you feel uncomfortable asking random people questions, just ask yourself: "What's the worst that could happen?" And really it is nothing. People don't bite, so there is absolutely no reason to be scared. You will get to meet new people and socialize with the locals and other foreigners in your neighbourhood and school.

By staying connected, not only do you build your connections and form new relationships that will hopefully last, you also establish your network. And as they say: "Your network is your net-worth".

So, the next time you're asked something like: “Hey, are you going for the trivia night at the pub?”, your response should be, “Yeah totally, I'll see you guys there!”

Have a routine

person checking the time on their watch

Telling you to have a routine might sound cliché, but it definitely has more benefits than drawbacks. Having a routine helps you plan out your entire day and you will know exactly what to do and when to do it.

You will not be left wondering what you have to do when there are probably a million and one things you need to do just waiting for you to attend to them. I can personally testify. 

Write things down you will forget

person writing bucket list in book

Learn to write things down or you will forgetit is a promise. Even if it's not a full-day routine with specific times of the day assigned to specific tasks, little steps can help you stay organized. 

You may think, "Oh this is a very important thing for me to do and there is absolutely no way, I repeatno way, that I am going to forget to do it."

You will forget.

So get into the habit of writing things down, either on your cellphone or on a planner as soon as you remember them, so you do not end up feeling lost and overwhelmed when everything starts to pile up. 

It will also keep you organized and responsible. I mean, who doesn't like the feeling of being a responsible adult?

Budget/financial planning

As a university student, being independent comes with a lot of responsibilities and bills. So you have to learn to budget your spending. Eat out once in a while and definitely not three times a day, or your money will be gone.

Remember: you do not need to have what everyone else does just because it is trending. Do you really need trainers that glow in the dark? Or do you actually need four colours of the exact same shirt just to have variety? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Always, always buy things that you absolutely need and not things that you want or think you need. It's really important to learn the difference.person counting money

Think of every single purchase you make as an investment.

Be prudent in your spending so when the bills come,  you are able to pay for them. But, if you are struggling financially, please be sure to contact the Office of Student Awards and Financial Aid (SAFA)

Attend lectures, take notes and listen

The main goal of you coming to university was to gain knowledge and acquire skills, so why skip lectures? Depending on the type of person you are, pick lecture times that are suitable and comfortable for you. If you are an early bird and can handle morning lectures, go for them. If you are a night owl and feel more productive at night, pick the evening lectures.

person taking notes at a table

When in lectures, take your own notes because no one understands you like you do. If your professor says things one way and you understand it another way, make your notes in the way you would understand them.

You don’t have to write down every single word that the professor says, just make sure you are taking notes on the most important topics. On the flip side, it is great to put your pen down once in a while and actually listen.

Pay attention to the information being delivered to you. Trying to grasp all of the information and writing really fast does not help you. Your fingers won’t thank you and you don’t get an award for being the best note-taker.

Let there be a balance between note-taking and listening because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you are understanding the course concepts that are being taught. 

Find your zen – Give yourself time to adjust

Woman wearing headphones and smiling at phone

To be able to adapt and thrive in any environment, you have to be healthy, both physically and mentally. Take time to relax. Take a step back when things start to feel overwhelming.

Find a place you can go to relax or just de-stress. A place where it is just you and your thoughts disconnected from the world.

Believe it or not, your brain sometimes needs a break. Not just when you sleep, but also throughout the day. Everything needs time. Find your zen and be at peace. Don’t wear yourself out; and remember to breathe.

Explore your surroundings

As everything will still be new to you, it is a great idea to explore your surroundings. Don’t just take the bus or drive to your destination every time. Some days, take walks around your city.

Person with backpack walking down stairs in outdoors

Walking more will help you discover new places and even sometimes places that will become your favourite spots. You could also get some exercise done in the process. Now tell me that's not a win-win situation!

Get to know your professors

Knowing your professors has its benefits. Not only do you build your student-professor relationship, but you could also get advice and insights on your field of study from your professor.

Some professors may even share experiences with you and give you great tips. That way you’ll know what to look out for in your course of study.

people shaking hands at a table

They can also give you recommendations in the future and sometimes help you connect with other professors and faculty members.

When certain opportunities pop up, you will be one of the first people they will reach out to because of the bond you have with them. You want to be one of those people so be smart!

and breathe written in neon lettersAnd lastly...

Yes high school was fun and all, but be prepared for a totally different ball game. University is fast-paced and challenging; finding your balance between work and leisure is key. You can do it!

Our university provides many resources for our students to help them succeed in their education, so don't be afraid to take advantage of them. 

If you think there are more ways of coping and adjusting to university life, feel free to share your tips and tricks down in the comments. You just might help a soul today!

Interested in learning more about our programs available to international students? 

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