How to be Successful as an International Student

UC Davis has a long history of educating and welcoming international students. The university understands being an international student is full of challenges. Providing international students with orientation they will need to be successful is essential in supporting them as they get used to their new surroundings. As an international student myself, I have found UC Davis to be an amazing place to form lasting friendships with my fellow international Aggies, which have helped me form rewarding experiences and lasting memories.

student sits alone studying

How can international students find community on campus?

One of the most common concerns I hear is how international students fit into the local community. It is normal for international students from non-English speaking countries to feel it’s hard to adapt at first. Seeing all other local students communicate effortlessly, progressing through college so quickly could rattle your confidence, but that's no good reason to quit. I have noticed some international students isolate themselves and only hang out with those who can speak their native language.

There is nothing wrong with a person feeling more connected with people who share similar cultural or linguistic backgrounds. But staying within our own community isn’t why we choose to study abroad — we also want a broader view of the world and the chance to learn about other cultures. Honestly, people here aren't essentially much different from people in your hometown. Although we might speak different languages, our shared desire to build lasting friendships is universal. But it's also important to remember there's no right way to live your life at UC Davis, but there are different and fascinating ways to expand your life experiences here.

student working an internship

Are there jobs for international students?

The misconception stems from a fear that cultural differences and Visa requirements make it difficult for international students to find work in the local job market. However, international students are needed in many positions all over campus. The complexities and misunderstandings international students face are real but not unsolvable.

Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) offers regular workshops to clarify these misconceptions, with supportive and knowledgable staff ready to help students through their struggles. So many college students will experience some uncomfortable adjustments entering the workforce. Focus on improving your understanding of the specific industry you're interested in. Gain related work experience and knowledge while a student at Davis. Get to know the Internship and Career Center located on the second floor of South Hall.

SISS students at orientation

A service center specifically for international students

Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) is a center designed to help international students. SISS not only provides foreign students oriented advising service but also arranges cultural related social events for international students. For example, Scholar Coffee Breaks and UC Davis PAL Program are definitely two of the highlights!  International students can also consider the opportunity to be a mentor or mentee. The Global Ambassador Mentor Program is a great on-campus position for international students to take on, and SISS recruits on a yearly basis. Please make sure to check on the SISS website at the beginning of the Fall quarter, this is the time they recruit for and open new programs! 

A handbook to guide you at UC Davis 

All international students should keep an International Student and Scholar Handbook the moment they arrive at Davis. As much as Davis is concerned to help international students, the handbook collects all the common issues experienced by international students. The handbook introduces the great local stores to shop for groceries, the process of getting a driver’s license, all traditional events at Davis, you name it! The handbook is free for all international students to pick up at SISS.

Social lives, leadership, and building connections in the local community

International students can also join or create clubs at UC Davis. Joining clubs is a good way to connect with more people and have fun! Aggie Life includes over 800 student organizations. Some of the student organizations designed for international students are Aggie International Ministry, Korean Aggies United, and the Jiuzhou Society. If you don’t find the one you are interested in, starting a new one only requires three students to begin! Center for Student Involvement provides the most in-detailed information to ensure all students find a place of their choosing.

The reason I'm able to share this blog with you, and you're able to read it, is because these opportunities were also presented to me. I found myself making great progress with the support from the Davis community, and I truly hope you find the same. If you've made it this far, and you're brave enough to leave your home, then you're brave enough to see the journey through to its end.

Beitong Li is a UC Davis senior with a double-major in Economics and Statistics. She is a member of the Ambassadors of Letters and Science (ALAS) program within the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

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