How to Navigate New School Stress
Friendship and community can ease your transition to a new school and different culture.
If we’re honest, school can be incredibly stressful. International students, in particular, must navigate unique stressors, like being far away from home and overcoming language barriers.
Fortunately, friendships and community can help make an international student’s transition to a new school much smoother, more supportive, and more fulfilling. This article offers four tips for making friends and building community to cope with the stress of starting at a new school.
But first, let’s discuss some of the challenges international students face in more detail.
The stresses of starting at a new school
Starting at a new, international school is an exciting time. However, parts of the experience can end up seeming overwhelming and frustrating.
For instance, being thousands of miles away from anything or anyone familiar can bring feelings of loneliness and a deep longing for home. You may be dealing with finances seriously for the first time, which can be an enormous responsibility. Starting new classes, learning new subjects, and forming relationships with teachers through language barriers and cultural differences can also be significant sources of stress for international students. On top of that, there’s a lot of pressure on new students to make friends and settle into the community.
The key is to take the pressure off of yourself when making friends so you can build a supportive community around you. Having a support network will help eliminate much of your stress and make entering a new school an unforgettable, positive experience.
Tips for making friends and building a community
Friendships and a sense of community are valuable to an international student because you’ll develop a sense of belonging. You’ll have people to lean on when times get tough who can help keep you safe and secure. Your classroom performance, confidence, and mental health are more likely to improve, too.
Furthermore, you’ll gain resources, tools, and tips to help you live and study responsibly and meaningfully. For example, in the case of dealing with finances seriously for the first time, you’ll probably need to be on a budget. If you’ve never put a budget together before, it can be hard to stick to it. By asking friends for support, they can help you commit to a budget and save by finding low-cost ways to spend time together — like cooking meals at home, hiking, going on city explorations, or staying in for a movie night.
The following four tips can help you make friends and build a community you can count on so that you can successfully navigate your experience at your new school.
1. Start with other international students.
It’s hard to meet new people, especially if you’re an introvert, have social anxiety, have language difficulties, or have other barriers preventing you from reaching out. You can make the journey a little less challenging by starting your quest with other international students — they’ll be easier to connect with, mainly because they’re navigating similar circumstances.
When filling out paperwork, attending orientation, signing up for classes, or just in passing, you’ll come in contact with other international students. Introduce yourself and mingle — or at least be receptive if they approach you first.
2. Join a student club.
Joining a student club or association is one of the best ways to make friends and build community. There are many to choose from, and they are easy to join. Go to your student center to find out which clubs and associations are available. It’s a good idea to join one focused on international students, but be sure to check out a few others to give yourself opportunities to meet different people and explore other passions you have.
Student clubs can be foundational in making connections with a diverse group of people, networking with staff, and nurturing meaningful relationships. A genuine effort in a student club can go a long way toward creating lifelong friendships and a community that helps you thrive during school and beyond.
3. Participate in class.
Finding your way to the seat in the back corner of every class is easy when you’re new. However, distancing yourself from your classmates can keep you from making connections and from growing friendships that can help you navigate new school stress successfully.
Instead of isolating yourself in class, start creating a community there. Sit next to someone new each day. Participate in classroom discussions, even if you need the help of a translator at first. Engage in pair and group projects. Participating in class can help draw people to you and create friendships that go beyond the classroom.
4. Be open to new experiences.
A surefire way to make new friends and build community is to be open to new experiences. In other words, try something new as often as possible. There is so much to learn and experience as an international student coming to the U.S.
Do your best to explore lots of possibilities. Doing so gives you the chance to navigate cultural differences and interact with people you wouldn’t typically engage with. You’ll get to know yourself and your interests more and can use this newfound self-love to spark conversations and connections with others. Make it a point to try a new activity each week. If you can do something out of your comfort zone daily, that’s even better.
Take your time
As crucial as friendships and community are to international students, you mustn’t spread yourself too thin socially. Instead, socialize and build relationships at a pace you’re comfortable with and at a rate that ensures your studies and your well-being remain a top priority. The tips listed here will help you do just that.
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