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Jul 02 2017
by Ellie Harrison

What You Can Learn About The Transition To College From an International Student

By Ellie Harrison - Jul 02 2017
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Hi everyone, my name is Ellie. 

  • Ellie Harrison

I've lived abroad for a good portion of my life. Most recently I moved to Zurich, Switzerland at the beginning of junior year from New Jersey. As myself and fellow international students can attest to, big changes and transitions are hard. No denying that. But if you keep calm and stay true to yourself, you can make a seamless transition. So, without further ado, here are some things you should know about big transitions before you go to college.

Change is hard.

This should come as no surprise: anyone who has ever moved or even gotten a dramatic haircut knows that you need time to adjust, and suddenly all routine is tossed out the window. It's jarring, it's intense. Hell, you may even cry when it first happens. And that's normal. When I first moved, I was so thrown out of my element. People were speaking a different language, my friends were several thousand miles away and when my grades mattered most I had no one to de-stress with. It happens. Just take your time and breathe. I cannot stress that enough. Take care of yourself. Keep a journal. Find an outlet you can put all that discomfort into, whether that's music, sports, writing or anything else that brings you joy. Before you know it, this new place has become your new home! 

Some days it may feel like this... (Ellie Harrison)
But it will feel like this when you get your bearings. (Ellie Harrison)


What you put out in the world will come back to you.

This is going to sound weird, but what goes around comes around when it comes to meeting new people. If you put yourself out there and really put effort into making friends, you'll get that effort and kindness returned to you. When I was trying to find a group that I could hang out with, I found that just introducing myself and trying to participate in conversation helped to find some common ground. In turn, that helped to give others a sense of who I was and from there we could make a much easier and more accurate decision if we wanted to be friends. It may seem scary at first, but this will actually help you to get comfortable with introducing yourself in an uncomfortable setting. (It'll help so much for job interviews as well!)

Zurich Altstadt (Ellie Harrison)


Explore your new surroundings!

This is my one big regret about my move to Zurich. I didn’t start to really explore the city I was living in (past my route to school and my theatre group) until I had friends from the US come to visit. Then again, my ideal Friday night is Netflix, pizza and tea with a blanket on my couch. Anyway, getting to know the surrounding area is so helpful because not only will you not get lost, you’ll also get to know the community better. My German got really good after I started to go into the older and more historical parts of Zurich and suddenly I didn’t need to look at a train/tram/bus timetable anymore. I felt like I really knew the city and that I could call it home. When exploring, start small, and then branch out. Learn some history about where you’re going!

Most importantly for college: you’re not alone.

Guess what guys, we’ve all been the new kid. We’re all going to be the new kids this year at school. We’re all a little nervous and unsure about what college has in store for us. So whenever you think that you’re the only person scared to introduce yourself to someone else, remember they are probably feeling the same way. It’s all going to be okay. Take a chance and say hi. Odds are, the other person will be so thankful you did. You may not be best friends, but at least there’s one face you can say is familiar. You’re that much closer to being able to walk around campus and feel like you know the community. 

… And with that, I wish you all good luck with your next move and transition! 

Leading Image Credit: Pexels

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Ellie Harrison - Barnard College

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