Exactly one year ago I came to the United States as an international student to pursue my college degree. Honestly, I cannot believe that it has been one full year already! Where did the time go? Looking back, it has been the best year of my life so far.
In celebration of that, I wanted to share 12 things I have learned this first year of living and studying abroad. I hope they help, prepare and inspire you to take on this adventure as well.
Love and enjoy your loved ones extra hard.
Before going away, you may feel nostalgic and sad about leaving your loved ones. It is okay to miss them but also, treasure and cherish them as much as you can while you are with them. I remember the sweetest days were when I found out I was coming here, and I started appreciating my family and friends much more.
My family and I
Pack the important stuff.
Pack a few important items that remind you of your roots and who you are. For me, it was letters and pictures from my loved ones, a Costa Rican flag, and my journals. Whenever I feel homesick, I read those letters, go back to my journal and remind myself that I had dreamed about being here and that I am so blessed.
Get yourself a calendar and planner.
Whether it’s a physical planner, Google calendar, or post-it notes on the back of your notebook, find an organization method that works for you and stick to it. It is EXTREMELY important in college to be organized with your time and responsibilities. Personally, I like to use Google calendar to keep track of my class/study/work schedule. I also use my computer calendar for my assignments and exams, and I use Google Keep to track my to-do lists. Thanks to these tools I am able to manage everything that I have to do.
This is what my calendar looks like on a regular basis
Work hard from the beginning.
You don’t want to be rushing at the end of the semester to figure out how on earth you will pass a class. Just give your best from the beginning and you will be less stressed near the end of the semester.
It’s not all about college.
Yes, you are here to study, but it is also important to make friends, get off your computer every once in a while and enjoy yourself. You are living one of the best seasons of your life and you won’t experience it if you’re in your dorm all the time. Some of the things I enjoy doing with my friends is sit around the campfire, make s’mores and sing songs together.
My friends and I warmed up after a night of ice skating
Do not wait until you are dying to go to the doctor.
You are paying health insurance for a reason, please use it when you need it. Don’t let medical costs scare you from going; if you have a health insurance provider through your school, chances are your health insurance will cover a good portion of your fees.
Get involved on campus.
There are many options such as clubs, student government, sports, study sessions, conferences, events and many more. I can assure you it will make your college experience way better if you are active and involved. When I first started college I was scared to try out new things. Fortunately, my friends convinced me to run for SGA Vice President and I won. I am so happy that I am now active on campus and I work towards making our college a better place for all students.
TMCC's 2019-2020 Student Government Association
Get to know yourself as a student.
Identify when you are most productive during the day and plan your study sessions accordingly, know when you need outside help, explore your career options, study in advance and take breaks when you need them. For me, I am the most productive from 8 pm - 12 am, so most of my studying sessions are around that time. I love going to the tutoring center to work on my homework and get help.
Do yourself a favor and go to your professors’ office hours.
This will motivate you to do better, you will receive professional advice, get the help you need in the class, and your instructor will see firsthand that you want to do well and are trying your best. My first semester I was able to ace both of my English classes thanks to my professor’s office hours. I would bring my questions to her and she would work collaboratively with me to make my essays the best they could be. I learned SO much from my professor and to this day I still work with many of the techniques she taught me.
Try to get some exercise.
This is not only extremely important for your body but also for your mind. The more you work out the better you feel about yourself and the more it boosts you to do better in other areas as well.
Change your routine every once in a while.
If you have the opportunity, travel somewhere, discover a new place, go on a hike or a swim, immerse yourself in nature, and get to know new places. This will re-energize you and give you the strength to keep going. Here in Reno, Nevada we are fortunate enough to have so much nature around us. My absolute favorite place is Lake Tahoe. You can ski, snowboard, kayak, swim, hike or just be mesmerized by the incredible view.
Beautiful Lake Tahoe in the summer
Enjoy this season of your life.
This is one of the best times of your life and you don’t want to realize this after it is gone. Appreciate having the opportunity to learn every day, study as much as you can, and give your best in all you do. Yes, college is stressful, but it is also a time to reinvent yourself, build your path and make life-long friends.
Valeria Saborio is from Costa Rica and is pursuing her Industrial and Systems Engineering degree at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.