Know before you go: Points for students and parents
Colleges in the US will start within the next month and students are already starting their educational journeys beyond India’s borders. If you or someone in your family is headed off to college abroad this month, here are some helpful tips for a smooth transition.
- Be realistic. You may be so excited about your admission to college abroad that your expectations could overshadow the reality once you arrive. No matter how much you have basked in the glory of achieving admission, hitting the ground is a different story and the reality of making new friends and finding your way around new surroundings may not be what you imagined you’d be dealing with in your initial days. The experience can feel a bit lonely and isolating so prepare yourself for this possibility.
- Make a plan to organize communication, money and other logistics before you arrive. Will you open a bank account? What’s your plan for a cell phone. And don’t forget to figure out how to change your What’sApp number!
- Check on medical clearances and inoculations before you leave. You do not want any surprises once you arrive at the student health center to submit medical paperwork. Taking care of this in India will be far less expensive and familiar for you.
- Don’t’ hang around. Usually students, especially undergraduates are quickly swept up in orientation activities when they arrive on campus, so as parents you should not expect your child to spend free time or meals with you. If you anticipate a difficult separation from your child, then try to arrive in the city a bit early so that you can spend time together before the orientation begins. Once it starts, your relevance will be limited so make sure you have something else to do and don’t book your return tickets too late. Also realize that it may be stressful for your child to have to worry about spending time with you while he/she is surrounded by continuous new experiences.
- Take care of legal matters. Especially in the US, privacy laws are such that it can be difficult for you to find out information about your child in case of emergency or hospitalization. Also, you may not be able to access bank accounts if they are in your child’s name only. Make sure that you have signed consent forms for medical record release and financial arrangements.
- Visit the career and counseling services department during orientation. This is the place where you can find out about internships for the summer, get help preparing a resume and even find jobs to pursue a few hours a week during the school year (visa allowing). Getting familiar with this office early is your best plan for making the most of your college experience.
- My colleague tells a funny story of when she arrived at college the first thing her parents did was pick up the telephone directory and randomly dialed a “Shah” to make sure they could establish a local contact for her in case of emergency. Another friend told me her parents went straight to the nearest Gurudwara to spread the word that a girl from the community was settling in the college. Similarly, make sure you take care of things that are important to your family’s comfort and safety in a new area.
It is wonderful to approach this new phase in life with lots of excitement and a positive attitude. Just keep in mind that leaving home for a foreign country is a huge life event and is likely to be peppered with mixed emotions. Be realistic about the stress and sadness that might occur so that your whole family is well prepared to manage the change.