As college decisions are being released over the next few weeks, I thought it might be helpful to write a little post to help international students with the decision about where to commit to. There are obviously so many factors that determine where the best college for you is, and this post by no means covers all of those; this is just a post to touch upon specific points that I think are important for international students to consider when making a decision. At the end of the day, you know yourself better than anyone else, and only you can make that decision!
As an international student, you might have had a dream college since middle school and the decision of where to commit to may not be difficult at all. However, you may be like I was, and be in between a few places, a little worried about being so far away from home for the first time. I don’t think I made my final decision of where to commit based upon these criteria, however, they were factors I considered when deciding where to apply. So, without further ado, here are a few things I recommend you consider as an international student in deciding what college is best for you.
International Student Population
This one may seem so obvious, but I think it’s an important factor to consider. College is about meeting people from different backgrounds, and I’m not saying that you will only be hanging out with international students, because you won’t! However, it’s nice to know that the community exists, and you’re not alone in being from somewhere far away; I personally wouldn’t want to go to a college where everyone is from a 15-20 minute drive away, and I was the only one from a 15-hour flight away. The size of the international student population will also tell you a lot about the culture and support for internationals that the university has, which is important.
Opportunities for Visa Support
If you’re an international student who needs a visa to study in the place you’re thinking of moving to, this is really important. This kind of connects to the last point, but if you’re the only international student in your whole college, then there likely won’t be much support for you. Student visas are complicated and you need support with the process! There are lots of intricacies about visa requirements, employment, and lots of paperwork even once you’ve moved into college that you’ll need someone to help you with. At Georgetown, we have a designated advisor to help us with the whole process, which is something I really appreciate. So I’d recommend looking at your university’s international student visa support.
Ease of Travel
Something that I think is also important is the ease of travel, and by that, I mean is there a direct flight to an airport near your college or an easy connection to make? You don’t get that many opportunities to go home, and with a long flight time as an international, spending even more time traveling can be annoying. Especially moving in for the first time, when you’re likely traveling with lots of your belongings from home, taking lots of connecting domestic flights can be difficult. I also think ease of travel is important for people coming to visit you; if you’re feeling very homesick one week, it would be very easy for a friend or family member to come to visit you if you’re just a flight away.
Off Campus Activities
You can really love your university campus, but still want to get off campus regularly; it’s normal to want to get out of the place where you eat, sleep, study, and socialize continuously. I would say, especially as a student who can’t just drive home for the weekend when things are getting a little overwhelming, that it’s important to know there are things going on outside of campus or to feel comfortable exploring the outside neighborhood. I love the Georgetown neighborhood which makes such a big difference in making me feel at home here!
The Larger Community
By this, I mean look at the people in the city or area your university is located in. Have they heard of the place where you’re from? Are you in a city, such as New York, where there are people traveling all the time? Are you in a city where people move around every few years? Are you in a place where the expat population is large? Do they seem to show an interest in learning about different cultures? I would say that looking at the larger community isn’t as important as looking directly at your university population, but looking at the interest and willingness to learn is still important. People may not have had the opportunity to visit or learn about your culture or home country, however, their willingness to learn is important!
As I mentioned, these are just a few things to keep in mind when making a college commitment as an international student. There are obviously so many other important factors to consider, however, these are a few things to consider when just thinking about the international student aspect of things. If you have any other recommendations, leave them in the comments!
See you next week,