photo courtesy of internationalstudent.com
photo courtesy of internationalstudent.com

How to be a Successful International Student

There are some very simple things international students can do to ensure they are successful while studying in the United States. One international student shares his own personal advice!

Hello ISV readers, my name is Michael Chitawo, and I am an international student from Malawi and in this article, I will be exploring one of the fundamental keys to a successful college/university career which is organization.

I am currently a junior going into my senior year at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri where I am studying Political Science and International Business. My time at Westminster College pursuing my degree as an International student has been challenging, thought-provoking and fulfilling at the same time. This is because by being involved in an excellent liberal arts education I have had to not only take classes required in my major but also classes outside my major. I would never have been able to rise to the challenges that different classes bring if I was not organized and didn’t apply these to my studies. As a result, I have also been able to use these skills and apply them to my summer job.

For my summer job, I am back home in Malawi, and I am interning as an assistant under Honorable Juliana Lunguzi RN. MSc. Shadow Minister-Health, Chair-Parliamentary Committee- Health and Member of Parliament for Dedza East in Malawi. The same knowledge and application of organization that I have learned through class and other various jobs I have worked for have allowed me to apply them to my summer job. My job as an assistant involves a broad range of tasks such as supporting in formulating project proposal’s, parliament research among others so being organized is a must!

Why is it important to be organized? 

That is the question that often gets asked by everybody and not just college/university students too, why do I need to get organized? Well, of course, there is no single straightforward answer to the question as they are many benefits and answers that could be given however the important answer to the question is that organization you will ultimately become a better student, employee, and person. I feel that organization brings confidence and reassurances in knowing what has been done, what needs to be done and what time or day the task needs to be done by. This is of vital importance for university/college students as deadlines come thick and fast while you are also busy with other elements such as papers, coursework, and exams. The last thing that you want to do is be caught out cold or left unaware of the deadline because you weren’t organized.

According to the U.S News Education, who published an article titled “College Students: These soft skills lead to academic success” on November 17, 2014, organization ranks highly and favorably among students who are successful in college. The article goes on to mention that organizational skills are soft skills that can be developed and have potential employers notice you as an ideal candidate for the job you wish to pursue. Other benefits of why it is important to be organized include improvements in better time management skills, less stress, better productivity, and happiness.

How do I get organized? 

Now that you’ve seen the importance and benefits of how being organized helps you succeed at college/university and how it can greatly impact your success when you start work, here are some key tips and tricks I have learned that could help you get organized. I also use these to help me during my internship on my summer job.

1)  Be motivated to work and become organized. The power and catalyst of change comes from within. So when you are preparing or getting organized make sure you are committed.

2)  Write down your daily tasks, upcoming deadlines and assignments. This will greatly help you in knowing what you need to get done and when you need to get it finished by. Having a student planner to note down these deadlines is critical.

3)  Have a watch so that you can arrive on time. There is nothing more disheartening for a professor or an employer than having somebody that turns up late either to class or work. Not only is it distracting to classmates or workers but it shows that you are not serious and are disorganized. By having a watch so that you can tell the time, you can properly schedule where you need to be and what time you need to be there by. Also by arriving a few minutes early for work or class will set you apart from the rest and will rub off attractively on your professors or employers.

4)  Schedule time to get away from college classwork or work. This sounds crazy, right? It does, but it has proven to work well to help you relax and get away from the pressures of work. College students are not robots and can’t work all the time, by having time off you can recharge your mind and body to help you better. Setting aside 30minutes each weekday to do something you love will greatly help. Walking, readings, going to the gym are great examples.

5)  Keep your workplace or college dorm clean. Spending a few minutes a day clearing your working environment or dorm room will not only help you have more decent working or living environment but will also help get your mind focused.

6) When in doubt, ask. Sometimes you might be confused about when a task’s deadline is, instead of trying to guess when it is; it is okay to ask your professor when it is due by to get reassurance.

These tips and tricks seem a bit too simple; you might ask? Yes, that’s because they are. There’s no need to go over the top in the quest to be a more organized person or student. By following a few of these tips you can get better organized. It only takes a few simple steps to make drastic positive changes and as one of my favorite quotes from Leonardo da Vinci,

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Michael ChitawoMichael Chitawo

Home Country: Malawi

Westminister College

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3 comments

  1. Well written article! As a young learner who will soon be an international student at a liberal arts college, your insights on becoming a successful international student is a valuable resource for all international students to follow. I especially like the part on asking for help. Many international students find themselves in deep holes of trouble and further deepen the holes and their problems simply because they didn’t ask for help earlier. As you say “when in doubt, ask”, even Superman needs help from Batman every once in awhile

  2. Very well written indeed. I like how you have explored organization and come up with simple ideas / tips with which anyone can follow. Being an international student myself, I wish I had someone at the beginning of my studies to give me these tips. Unfortunately I have had to learn the hard way. I am sure this article will be helpful to many, as being organized also helps when you feel homesick (another issue international students face) . As an organized person you know what your goals are and that you are there to better yourself and the time alone or away from home will be worth it.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, wow! The simplicity with which you have shared this message coupled with the clarity and sincerity of thought has left me convinced that organization is indeed vital. As a working professional looking to continue studying both informally and formally, I have been greatly helped. Your article has refreshingly shown me that the little things can and do go a long way in making aspirations a reality! All the best with your senior year Michael 🙂

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