Studying at the Intensive English Program at the University of Miami
As an international student, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make friends and explore new cultures, countries, and languages. Living and studying in a new environment means that you will step out of your comfort zone nearly every day. Whether you find this transition easy or difficult, we have tips to create meaning in your everyday activities and make the most of your study abroad experience.
Set goals before you go
What do you want to accomplish and understand as an international student? Think about your academic goals, cultural experiences that are important to you, personal milestones, and places you’d like to visit. You may feel overwhelmed with options at the beginning of your stay, but coming into this experience with a clear set of objectives will help you make the most of your time abroad. Whether it’s mastering a language, learning to cook a local delicacy, landing an internship, or exploring the natural habitat — remember what inspired you to pursue international study and make sure you prioritize the things that are important to you.
Yuchen Sun, an alumna of the Intensive English Program at the University of Miami and native of China, shares that “Goals are the things to constantly make challenges [for] myself… for exploring more talents, capabilities, and possibilities [for] myself and make a different world. This helps me to always have the motivation to put [in] effort to do something, both in academics and social life... The Intensive English Program was an amazing time for me. I used this time to explore my music talents and read many historical books. Most importantly, I had additional time to adapt and learn a totally different culture.”
Get familiar with public transport
Take the time to research different methods of public transportation and safety measures in your temporary hometown. This can be daunting to figure out once you’ve already touched down at the airport, so do yourself a favor and figure out how buses, trains, or light rails can help you get around town affordably.
Many universities will have transportation options around campus because students don’t always have cars. You may be able to apply for student discounts on items like Metro cards or bus passes. Look into your options ahead of time so you don’t end up paying more than you need to!
Make time to explore
You might be the type to plan every weekend’s excursion or perhaps you prefer spontaneity. Regardless, make the time early on to take yourself on a walking tour of your neighborhood and get to know the spots around you. As ambitious as you may feel before you arrive, there will be times when you are exhausted by your new surroundings and want to take comfort in the area closest to you. Don’t miss out on hole-in-the-wall lunch finds or hometown specialty shops that are staples of your community. Getting to know your neighborhood will help you settle into your new home, meet locals, and feel more comfortable in your new culture.
Anaya Jhaveri, a student assistant in the Intensive English Program at the University of Miami, reiterates this point, saying, “Getting to know my neighborhood has helped me acquaint myself. I know where to go when I need to buy groceries. I know where to go when I need to lift my mood, and I know where to go if I just need a day out with friends. I know when to be cautious, and I know when I am in a safe environment. It has helped me acquaint myself ever since I moved here, and getting to know my area and neighborhood better has helped me acknowledge the University of Miami as my new home.”
While it won’t be possible to remember every moment of every day, taking the time to record your thoughts, feelings, and observations is the best way to keep your memories fresh long after you return home. Find the way that’s right for you. Some students prefer a blog or vlog, a personal diary, or a photo journal. Whether you decide to keep it private or public for friends and family to follow along, you’ll be glad you put the time into tracking this unique experience in real-time.
Be prepared for homesickness
First things first: it’s okay to feel homesick. Depending on how long your study abroad program is, you may find yourself missing home quite often, especially around holidays or special occasions. The key is to let yourself feel homesick and then pivot to a solution that helps alleviate that feeling, so you can enjoy your time in a new country. Maybe a weekly call with a friend or family member will keep you from missing home too much or finding a local restaurant that serves your home cuisine.
Caroline Hildebrandt, a current student from Denmark in the Intensive English Program at the University of Miami, notes that when homesickness strikes, “I try to distract myself by doing things that make me happy. Miami is a great place and there are a lot of things to do.”
Keep an eye out for meaningful mementos
To help you remember the lessons you learned during your experience, look for souvenirs with personal meaning. Think about the activities and hobbies that are meaningful to you and invest in the tokens that will remind you of those happy memories. Whether it is a sketch from an art class, sand from your favorite beach, a mug from your local coffee spot, or even your plane ticket, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to commemorate your international program and celebrate the memories that are meaningful for you.
About the Intensive English Program at the University of Miami
For 70 years, the Intensive English Program (IEP) at the University of Miami has immersed students in American culture while preparing them for academic success through world-class English-language instruction. The IEP is accredited by the CEA (Commission on English Language Program Accreditation). The IEP is a member of the UCIEP, English USA, and the Florida Consortium of IEPs.
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