For the coming academic year, many colleges and universities are hosting their classes online in Canada and the U.S. This is particularly unfortunate for many international students who were planning to travel to North America this fall and experience the joy of studying abroad while also pursuing their education.
However, there are still many ways to embrace campus life at an overseas university, even if you are taking your classes remotely. International students should make an effort to get the most from their virtual learning opportunity, especially at the start of this new school year. This is important because it will help you make lasting friendships, build extensive social networks, familiarize with your college culture, and even start feeling at home on your campus (even if you haven’t had the chance to visit in person yet). Plus, the more time you spend getting comfortable at college online, the faster you will develop virtual learning skills, which will improve your educational outcome.
Keep reading to learn about how you can adjust to remote learning as the new semester begins.
4 Ways to Embrace Virtual Learning
Here are four ways that international students can get comfortable with virtual learning:
1. Attend Virtual Orientation
Before the semester starts, orientation gives you a chance to get to know your classmates and professors. You can learn more about your program and ask questions about your upcoming classes. During orientation week, colleges and universities typically host a variety of social events on campus, from scavenger hunts to athletic games; this year, those activities are mostly taking place online. For example, Brock University in St. Catharines, Onatario, in Canada, is hosting a virtual Netflix viewing party as part of its international student orientation week. Attending as many events virtually before the school year even starts is a great way to get comfortable with your institution’s technology systems, as well as communicating with your professors and peers online.
2. Explore Your College Remotely
You have probably spent a lot of time on your college’s website and social media pages. You probably feel like you have seen a lot of images of the campus and have a good sense of its most impressive and noteworthy buildings. In fact, you might have already taken a virtual tour several months ago, before you applied for admission. But it’s still important to periodically visit your college campus remotely.
By strolling through campus on a self-guided digital tour, or attending a real-time guided video tour, you will grow more and more familiar with the buildings where your classes would typically be held and the shared social spaces where you might be living, working, and studying every day in a normal academic year. You might be living in those dorms next year, or studying in that library soon for graduate school. Virtual tours allow you to visualize your goals and develop a deeper connection to your school and its history. You will feel more grounded, knowing that you are joining an established legacy in a location that you might one day visit as an accomplished student or even as an alumnus.
3. Learn About Cultural Differences
Your home country might share the same cultural norms when it comes to classroom behavior and student participation. It’s important to find out what to expect if you’re now technically attending school in Canada or the United States (while also learning about any specific guidelines that apply only to your university). This is something you might be able to ask your professors about, or some of your close friends. However, it’s something you might want to also observe during your first few days of classes, when you’re not too busy with coursework yet.
For example, some professors might invite you to call them by their first name (but this isn’t true at all schools, or even in all classrooms). In North America, professors expect their students to ask questions and actively participate in class discussions. You might be able to eat during class, but some schools might have rules against this (even if you’re online). Virtual learning will have its own set of regulations to follow (like rules about muting yourself), as well as some courtesies you (like everyone else) will simply have to sort out through observation. The California Community Colleges system collected a set of guidelines to help students prepare for online learning, with tips for everything from communication techniques during remote classes to study skills while you’re learning from home.
4. Get Involved Outside of Class
A big part of attending college is getting involved with campus life. This can still be done remotely. At Cornell University in New York, in the United States, there is a web page dedicated to all the activities that students can participate in, including free fitness classes, a virtual music festival, and more. Student Services can also help you learn about official clubs and social groups that you can participate in virtually.
For example, you might want to become part of student government or participate in an extracurricular. Although these groups would typically meet in person, they will likely now meet through a video conferencing software, like Zoom. This is a great way to make friends outside of your classes, while also truly engaging with your peers, your campus culture, and your school.
Though this school year will be different than you might have expected, you should still make the most of your college experience. Remember that all of your peers are also adjusting to a different college experience than the one that they imagined, not just the international students.
If this is your first year at a new college or university, you should make an effort to socialize while studying. The connections you make at the start of your school year can become some of your closest friends, as well as important contacts as you embark on your career.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).