College Tips, American Culture, Life at KU

How to Survive Not Living at Home


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Studying in the USA is about gaining life skills as much as it is about book learning. Especially when you consider the additional responsibilities you’ll have as an international student. Like paperwork. So much paperwork. 

Set yourself up for success by actively growing these essential college skills.

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1.    Adapting to American Culture           

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For some international students, American teaching styles can be a shock. It’s about learning how to think, not just memorizing facts. And because there’s more student participation in class, you need to adapt and take a more active role.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re curious about something, other students are too.
  • Be open to sharing your thoughts. Class discussion helps students see a different perspective.

Visit your professors during office hours. You’ll get to know each other, ask questions and get one-on-one help

2.    Managing Your Time

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“You know what’s really cool? Time management,” said… no one ever. But college life is much less structured than you might be used to, so it’s up to you to be prepared.

  • Realize it’s up to you. Your mom won’t fly over to do your laundry, and your professor won’t remind you about that paper due tomorrow.
  • Get to class on time. You won’t miss important announcements and information or offend your professor by being disrespectful.
  • Track your deadlines with a calendar. Google Calendar and other programs or apps make it easy to set reminders of exams, projects and even when to pay bills.

3.    Doing Laundry

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Yes, everyone notices when you accidentally turn that white shirt pink. Learning how to do laundry is key. Unlike local students, you can’t just drive your laundry home over the weekend.

  • Separate your laundry. Wash and dry your dark clothes separately from your white clothes.
  • Check labels. You don’t want to wash wool clothing (it’ll shrink too much) or stain your favorite shirt because you washed it with dark jeans.
  • Avoid wrinkles. Shake out each item before putting it in the dryer, then fold it right after it’s dry.
  • Don’t remove someone else’s laundry. It’s very rude. Be patient and wait, or do your laundry when it’s not so crowded.

4.    Eating Well

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Sure, chocolate cake is one way to handle stress. But a nutritious diet helps keep up your energy. As you’re adjusting to your busy college life, keep these eating tips in mind.

  • Balance your plate. When getting your food, try to have one-third to half of it be fruits or vegetables.
  • Snack wisely. American snacks have a lot of salt or sugar. Choose healthier options that give you energy for studying, like nuts or fruit.
  • Remember to drink water. The caffeine and sugar in coffee, tea and soda actually make you thirsty. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.

5.    Managing Your Finances

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Being financially responsible can seem boring and frustrating. Look at all the things you want to buy or do! But, look at all the money you don’t have! Don’t worry. You can have fun while still being smart with your money.    

  • Stick to your budget. Start with the money you do have. Then take out recurring expenses, like bills. Reserve some money for emergencies. Then whatever you have left is what you can spend. 
  • Learn how to pay bills. Get some tips from your parents or other responsible adults. For instance, you can set up automatic payments for some bills.
  • Use your credit card wisely. That plastic can be useful. But if you spend more than you can pay, or forget to pay, the fees add up quickly.

For more tips to survive away from home read our tips on time management below.

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