In order to get the best out of your university experience, it is important for international students to know beneficial resources available on campus.
This article was written by Janice Levi, International Programs Coordinator at the University of Oklahoma, College of International Programs.
Universities in the United States are often overwhelming to the average student, and especially for international students. American universities incorporate many opportunities beyond class and curriculum. Below are five offices that every international student should be familiar with on their university campus.
1. International Student Services (ISS): This may be a no-brainer, but the office of International Student Services is truly on the university to serve the international student community. Not only do ISS representatives have a lot of information about how to keep your visa status in check, but they can also provide advice on OPT/CPT training, how to get a STEM extension, information about H1B sponsorship, how to obtain a travel signature, and what sorts of volunteer work is authorized…to name a few. In addition, most ISS offices typically have a staff member who is available to help with cultural advising in case you are struggling with culture shock or getting involved on campus. They can offer resources, information on scholarships, or know of programming that specifically caters to international students. So be sure you know where your ISS office is and who all is in the office that can help you on your academic journey.
2. Student Life & Campus Activities: One of the best ways to avoid feeling isolated is to join a student group. Student Life and/or the Campus Activities office will be able to connect you with a student group that shares similar interests. Whether it is a cultural group representing all international students, your very own culture, philanthropic in nature such as Habitat for Humanity, or the Rubik’s cube club.
3. The Writing Center: Do you struggle with your writing, or want to turn in the best possible paper? The Writing Center is one of the best under-used resources on campus. International students are especially encouraged to use your campus’ writing center. Many writing centers on university campuses offer help in every stage of the writing process: brainstorming, outlines, and final proofreading. Students should NOT think of the writing center as a place where bad students or writers go, but rather where the best students go. It is always helpful to have a second eye on your work, and especially a native speaker who can catch the nuances of grammar. Freshman, graduate students, and faculty can make use of most writing centers and many published authors still use such resources to be certain that the work they submit is at its absolute best.
4. Career Services: Have you been to your university’s Career Services center yet? Why not? It’s never too early to go. Whether you are looking for a job after graduating or for a summer internship, Career Services can help! Many students are already attending and networking at Career Fairs, hosted by their university, as a freshman. Career Services can help you with your resume writing, networking, proper social media usage, and interview skills. They also often have online tools specifically purchased for students to help with the job search. If you haven’t been to your Career Service office yet, start today! If you have already started career planning with your university’s career services office, then give yourself a high five!
5. Counseling Services: Counseling often carries a negative stereotype and is almost seen as taboo in many places. However, counseling is a wonderful service that is offered at your university. Whether you are experiencing culture shock, depression, anxiety about school or relationships, counseling services at your university are available to help students. International students should definitely take advantage of this service if they are feeling stressed, depressed, dispossessed, or distressed.
International students are often hesitant to seek out counseling services due to their cultural perspectives on seeking help from a professional. Often times, people are reluctant to seek counseling as they fear that by seeing a therapist they will be labeled as “crazy” or as a “psycho.” Perhaps, in your culture you reach out to family and friends. That is okay too, but universities also have others who can help advise on that which you are encountering. Many American students go to counseling because in the US it is viewed as a form of self-help that can empower the individual and is not seen as taboo. If you are struggling with your classes, relationships, the US culture, future plans, or past grievances be sure to reach out to someone who can help!