March 1, 2013

Six Tips from and for an International Grad Student

I moved to Weatherhead from Honduras last August. When I first arrived, it was both exciting and challenging. In hopes of helping other international students overcome different challenges during their transitions, I want to share some tips from my experiences studying abroad.

1. Housing
Before arriving, I read all of the information about the housing options suggested by the school. I prepared a list of the prospective places to rent and checked them out online. I didn’t make a deal to rent until I personally inspected the apartment, the building and the surroundings.

2. Speak out
At first in the classroom, I was afraid to ask questions or share my opinion. But this is the only way I could improve my verbal communication skills. I watched how my classmates interacted during the class and tried to learn from their techniques, so that I felt more comfortable the next time I wanted to participate.

3. Socialize
Yes, hanging out with friends from my own country could be a lot of fun and far easier than meeting new people, but I reminded myself that I came here because I wanted to interact with other cultures! The school offers me the perfect opportunity to achieve this by creating friendships that will last beyond the program. I started going to as many international events as I could. It was nice to find a balance between my professional and social life.

4. Ask for help
Classmates, faculty and staff at Weatherhead are more than willing to help, as long as you ask for it! I had to learn to not assume things, and I tried to be more confident.

5. Find a mentor
I was not the first international student to enter the program, and you won’t be either! I found someone who could provide me with knowledge about the classes, the professors and even the career path I’d like to follow after the program.

6. Enjoy the weather
Yes, the weather in Honduras is very different than the weather in Cleveland. But this is just one part of my experience-a part that required me to change my wardrobe! So, I encourage you to take your time and do some research before arriving at your new home. I have made the best of the new weather by participating in fun winter outdoor activities-after buying a very heavy coat.

My final piece of advice is to take the whole experience as an adventure. There are times when I felt lonely or sad during the first couple of weeks, but I got used to my new environment, and most importantly, I didn’t give up! I enjoyed meeting new people and exploring new places!

By Rosie Varela, MBA '14

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