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7 mistakes to avoid as a new international student in the US

interstride logo by Interstride
August 19, 2022

Going to the US for school is an exciting experience, yet studying in a different nation in new surroundings can lead some international students to make mistakes that they may not be aware of. From academic and professional errors to social life blunders, here are seven mistakes to avoid as an international student in the US.

Mistake #1: Missing course registration

Course registration is particularly important, as it largely determines what classes each student will take for the semester. Since many classes have only limited slots, missing course registration can cause students to not be able to take the classes they need, which can affect their schedule in future semesters and may even limit a student’s ability to graduate on time. 

The add/drop period, a time where students can add new classes, drop existing classes, or switch class sections, usually lasts for one to three weeks and typically occurs at the beginning of each semester. Students can connect with their career center for help as they explore their academic and career options, along with their school’s specific dates for course registration and the add/drop period. 

Mistake #2: Making friends with only students from one’s own country

One of the most common mistakes an international student can make is only socializing with students from their native country. Although this may be the most comfortable social move, and it is definitely alright to have some of those friends, it prevents international students from learning more about America’s culture and removes the cultural immersion aspect from the study abroad experience.

Mistake #3: Taking advice from other students 

Other students can be extremely helpful when learning about a university, its requirements, and the recommended classes and activities one should take for their degree program. However, it is also important to consult academic advisors, professors, and other non-students. They almost always have information and resources that other students do not know about, and can be great sources of advice. Furthermore, international students should not rely on friends for immigration advice, but instead consult their international student office or an immigration attorney.

Mistake #4: Being under- or over-involved

Being involved is important, yet international students can often do too much or too little. Participating in too many activities and clubs outside of class can leave one without enough time to sleep, relax, or have an active social life. On the other hand, being under-involved can leave a student missing out on important activities outside of class that can have an impact on their job prospects and social life. It is important to be balanced, as being involved can help build one’s resume, skills, and experiences for future job searches.

Mistake #5: Not completing any projects or paid/unpaid internships

Projects and internships are essential for obtaining future employment or research opportunities in the US, as international students have limited options. In addition to succeeding academically, international students should strive to participate in unpaid or paid projects or internships, as lacking those experiences can severely hurt one’s ability to obtain a competitive job after school. 

Mistake #6: Not having a clear understanding of the US work authorization

When one is applying to jobs and internships alongside their American peers, it can be easy to forget about the different work and internship regulations and deadlines that apply to international students in the US. International students should carefully explore the different options to legally work within the US.

Mistake #7: Not using the career center and campus resources effectively

Many students, both international and domestic, often overlook their university’s career center. The career center can provide great advice on preparing a resume, practicing interviews, finding companies that recruit on-campus, employer connections, and more. Utilizing it effectively can lead to greater success in finding an internship or job.

Final thoughts

By avoiding these mistakes, international students can help position themselves for an amazing and productive experience in the US. For more tips, read other useful articles on Interstride’s blog.