Managing the Transition to University Life in the United States

You received your admissions letter and hopefully a generous financial package.  I can imagine the immense excitement that you are experiencing. However, this excitement is shadowed by a feeling of concern and numerous unanswered questions spinning around your head.

cc license, decade_null

cc license, decade_null


As a first year student you are most probably going to be required to come earlier than the upperclassmen for orientation. This is may be one of the most entertaining times of your university life and you should take full advantage of it. The couple of days of orientation are going to be a busy time and there will be little time for you sit down and think about your family and friends back home. I would advise you to meet as many people as possible. You may not be able to remember all of their names, but once school starts you will at least remember their faces.

Culture Shock

Moving into a new and vastly different culture than yours can be very daunting. The transition will vary from person to person; some people adjust to changes easier than others. Try to be open and understanding of the “new” culture that you are experiencing. You will find many things that are considered “normal” in the U.S. are unacceptable in your culture. Try not to be judging of the American culture because that could distance you and make it more difficult for you to make friends. Part of your university experience is about learning about the culture.


cc license, Colin Purrington

cc license, Colin Purrington

The U.S. universities are very unique and different than any other university system in the world. Usually, your professors will require you to complete any reading assignment before the lecture. This way you will stay on top of your material and be able to get better grades during the exams. In most cases your grade will not depend only upon a single final exam. Usually it will involve classroom participation, homework assignments, mid-terms and final exams. University level work is very intense and demanding. If you have already developed good study skills during high school you should be fine.

Extracurricular Activities

There are numerous organizations that exist on university campuses throughout the U.S. If you find that there are not enough clubs on your campus, then you can start your own club. Learning in U.S. colleges is not focused only in the classroom; rather you will learn much more about yourself and grow as a person outside of the classroom. The skills and experiences that you gain as a club member will help your future in the job place and the community where you live. It is very important that you stay involved on campus and do activities outside of the classroom. These will increase your chances of securing an internships and jobs. Being involved will demonstrate to the employer that you are able to handle multiple tasks efficiently. In addition to that, through your involvement on campus your can show off your variety of your skills and talents.

cc license, williamscollege

cc license, williamscollege

Money and Documents

Once you come in the U.S. you will most probably open a bank account. I would strongly advise you that you check your online bank status regularly. Identity theft can be very dangerous, so make sure that once you obtain your Social Security number you keep it in a safe and secure location. Also, make sure you make copies of your passport and visa and other important documents that you receive prior to coming. Without identification at the airport or in a foreign country, things can be very complicated.

Coming to the U.S. is a new experience for you. Make sure that you take full advantage of all resources that are available on campus. Be happy and proud of your success. Also, be sure to enjoy the rest of the summer with your family and friends before you leave!

Stefan Ivanovski was born in Belgrade, Serbia but spent most of his life in Macedonia. He studied at an international school from 8th – 10th grades in the Netherlands. After graduating from high school in Macedonia with an International Baccalaureate Bilingual Diploma he applied to study in the United States. Currently he is studying at Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania majoring in International Relations and Spanish.

To read the complete article, please see our current issue of Al Jamiat Magazine.

Post a comment