With the beginning of every new semester, I remember and relive the feelings I had when I first walked across Weber State University’s campus on a hot August day in 2012.
As a new freshman who had just flown in all the way from Germany, I probably had a lot of the emotions you are experiencing now: fear and excitement; loneliness and readiness to meet new people; a naive understanding of how college works and a lot of confusion. All somehow at the same time.
You may think that you will never find a home at WSU, but I promise you that following this advice will help you become a true Wildcat very soon.
1) Befriend the International Office staff
Regardless of how much you plan on being involved with the International Club, you will not avoid interacting with the International Office altogether.
The International Office staff is in charge of your visa and your immigration status, so you should make sure to see a staff member before every life decision you make. That includes things like declaring a major, moving apartments and accepting an internship or on-campus work.In the process, I recommend that you get to know the staff members. They can give you personalized advice on life in the United States and they can help you to stay out of academic and legal trouble.
Another way to get involved is Coffee Break, a free lunch gathering held every Friday afternoon at 1:30 in the International Office. Students often cook foods from their home countries to share with everyone.
2) Attend WSU athletic events
The first time I remember feeling like a true Wildcat was when I was standing in the student section during my first football game.
Your level of passion for WSU will probably rise when you are cheering for its sports teams.
Don’t be afraid to go if you don’t know all the rules for the sport because it’s not played in your home country. Ask the person standing next to you about what is going on, so you can learn about American culture and perhaps make a new friend.
3) Avoid spending too much time talking to other students from your country
It can be tempting to surround yourself with people who come from the same background as you and who are speaking your language, especially when you are struggling.
However, WSU is a diverse school and I suggest that you try to get to know people from as many different cultures as possible, including locals from Utah. Spending time with natives can be a lot of fun because they know what to do around Ogden and speaking English will help your language learning as well.
4) Search out the on-campus job opportunities and scholarships specifically for you
Access to jobs and scholarships is a little more difficult for international students than for locals, but they are not out of reach.
The International Office (Room 143), the Financial Aid Office (Room 120) and the Career Services Office (Room 230) are all located in the Student Services Center and provide excellent resources.
5) Build your resume through internships, research and community service
A degree is a good indication of the things you learned in college, but many employers are looking for more in graduates.
Many majors at WSU require an internship in your field of study before graduating. If it isn’t required, internships are an excellent way to gain work experience, professional contacts and even some money. You cannot accept off-campus internships during your first year at WSU, so make sure to check with the International Office before applying anywhere.
Once you are further along in your degree, some professors may allow you to participate in academic research. Funding is available and provides an excellent way for students to gain research experience and to build a strong resume for graduate school.
Also, many employers expect graduates to be involved in the community as volunteers. While this should never take priority over your academics, the Center for Community Engaged Learning will likely be able to set you up with service projects that fit your schedule.