time last year, I was preparing to move for my graduate studies at
Georgetown, amidst doubt, tears and a hint of hope, because my dad was
rooting for me.
How time flies. The money raised by my Gofund me account could barely
last me a month in America. However, the show of love was greatly
I have spent over 9 months and counting in America and decided I can
share a few tips for those coming in as international students this
fall, that may end up being useful, throughout their stay.
1) Find Someone with Cultural Similarities to Share your fears: I was fortunate enough to find a Ghanian friend on twitter, who had moved to Georgetown a year before. I decided to hit him up and just told him how unsure I was about the step I was about embarking on and if he had a few words from experience to share with me. This gentleman did not hold back his thoughts about how possible it was to survive in America and how scared he was about my disjointed English language. I didn’t know how bad my writing had gotten until I opened communication with this gentleman and all my flaws became glaring.
2) Write down your goals/plans and how you intend to achieve them: I am still in the process of learning this. There is something about writing down goals that allow you know you have a backup plan and push yourself to achieve big things.
3) Use the Library Resources Available: Educational Institutions in America, unlike Nigeria, have access to numerous files and data that helps in advancing knowledge and seeing breakthroughs written in fields of interest. There are also writing centres, that helps, you improve your writing.
4) Ask Questions and be Bold About What You Know: Asking questions contrary to the Nigerian belief isn’t a sign of weakness and in developed countries, many professors, are open to sharing their thoughts to clear your doubts. Having questions to ask here also shows some level of intelligence and increases your chances of being a professor’s favourite. Also, language can be a barrier to expressing your thoughts on topics you are confident about, speak your opinion succinctly and confidently.
5) Take time out for yourself: This point was to find itself at the bottom of this write-up. However, there is a possibility that I might skip it. School can be tedious, mentally draining to the point of questioning your ability to succeed but realise that this journey is for self-improvement. Take long walks, read fun books, join class hangouts and most of all sleep.
6) Capitalise on every opportunity presented: America is a land of great opportunities, you hear that all the time. However, if an individual does not grab chances provided that may not be their story. I was able to work during the spring semester of 2018, as a United Nations Associations Fellow and it was a beautiful experience.
7) Prepare to be uncomfortable: There is no free launch anywhere and to provide one for yourself, you need to show that you are willing to put in the extra effort. That means there are possibilities of combining work with school work, which will make you uncomfortable.
8) Cook your own food: I have a horrible taste bud and a system that feels at home with taste familiar to it. That said if you’re still receiving a bulk of your finances from Nigeria (like me) you will realise sooner or later that eating out isn’t a good choice. Especially, if you keep converting the equivalent to naira or your nation’s currency. Also, cooking your own food should taste better. It is easy when you find a grocery store or farmers market, where fresh food items, are sold at a considerable price range.
9) Use the experience of the diverse pool of individuals around you: There are learned people in the system, professors who have dedicated their lifelong pursuit towards a particular course and are masters of it. Students from various backgrounds, with skilled knowledge in academics, music, arts and technology. These people are not easy to come by every day and are resources that are very useful to you.
10) Have a Linkedin Account: Your Linkedin account is your online reputation, where your works have links and colleagues recommendation and notes go a long way towards increasing your job prospects. Tidy it up by visiting the career centre at your school, who would also recommend possible alums to follow.
11) Increase your Network: This is a follow-up to the above comment in number 10. Your network begins from the pool of students, staff and alums from your program, to those you’ll meet at orientation and happy hours that follow. These individuals are essential and help to recommend open positions that you need. Join the social media handles that allow you to connect with the people you need.
12) Let people know your strong point or skill: I school in Washington, DC and if anything the millennials of this city do know how to blow their trumpet (I am still learning this).
13) Sign up for your program Listserv: There is listserv provided to keep students (both incoming and alumn) in the loop of what goes on in the program.
14) Join fun clubs in School: This is mostly for undergraduate students, so you can belong to a group that fosters creativity, togetherness and growth. for graduate students, you have project groups that either make or mar you so be ready.
15) Be ready to serve/work: America is not a place for people who are not willing to work for their coins.