WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

6 Tips for International Students in New York City

Tuesday | October 17, 2017 | by Mehran A. Tehrani

New York City skyline

If you’re coming to New York City to improve your English, to study for a new degree, or if you want to continue your education here as a transfer student, then this blog post is for you. I remember my first day in New York City: I was thrilled to see high rise buildings and the dynamic crowd on the Manhattan streets. I was high on adrenaline for the first few weeks. However, while studying in a new country, some challenges will arise as an international student. This blog post will help you address these challenges, so you will be aware and prepared as they come up.

Class Registration

Class registration is an online process where you register for your classes. Registration usually begins three to four months before the start of the next semester. For example, class registration for spring semester 2018 may begin in October 2017. And the registration for fall semester 2018 may begin in April 2017 and remain open during the summer. Of course, this can vary depending on the college or university, but you generally have a few months’ time before registration closes. 

Some students mistakenly think they have plenty of time and they postpone registration until the last minute. I would recommend starting to think about any questions you may have, such as which classes you want to take, who you want to be your professor, and which days you want to take a certain class, as early as possible. Take advantage of the early advisement period and the guidance counselors at your school, and register for your classes next semester before you go on a break. In the U.S., people say “the early bird gets the worm,” which, in this case, means that if you start early, you will have a pretty good chance of getting a spot in classes where you feel happy and satisfied.

Supportive Network

I cannot emphasize how important it is for you to add supportive people to your social circle. By supportive people, I mean a few individuals who support your goals and beliefs and help you with your academics. They can be faculty members, club presidents, other students, or professors. These individuals are very helpful because they assist in your academic and career success.

You can find these people by exploring different parts of campus. U.S. universities usually have plenty of student-run organizations, clubs, and events where you can socialize. They will sometimes provide refreshments, such as pizza, juice, and sandwiches as well. For example, I am an economics major and I had a chance to get to know the head of the economics department in one such event. He invited me to his office and helped me map out my strategy to graduation. Next semester I will take a class with him.

Money Management

As an economics student, this is my favorite topic. The best piece of advice my father gave me before I left my beautiful country, Iran, was: “your two best friends abroad are the brain in your head and the money in your pocket. Take care of them.”

After living abroad for three years, I understand my father was right. I remember during high school in New York, some of my friends ran out of money to pay for their application fees simply because they had spent tons of money on useless stuff. Some of them couldn’t even apply for their favorite universities or had to pay extra late fees. Smart people make wise money decisions. There are plenty of ways to have fun with affordable or free activities. I recommend making wise purchases, controlling your finances, and saving as much as you can. 

Campus Activities

There are plenty of campus activities during the school year. International students have the opportunity to take advantage of their school’s resources, such as starting a club, running for student government, and joining free trips. When you put effort into joining campus activities, you will feel much more connected to your new country.

Although your goal may be graduating and getting a degree from a U.S.-based institution, I encourage you to pay attention to your daily experience as well. You will have the opportunity to sign up for a variety of clubs with people who share similar values and beliefs as you. Some examples include clubs about national debates, women’s rights, or environmental sustainability.

You can also participate in volunteering opportunities outside of campus. As an example, you may want to participate in programs where you visit U.S. public schools and share information about your home country. If you are from the Middle East, I am sure you will have a lot to talk about and you can help raise awareness.

Create Relationships

I recommend developing relationships with your professors. Make sure you have a connection with the professors who teach your favorite subjects because they will guide your intellectual curiosity and advise you on your next steps. Ask questions during their classes, visit them during their office hours, and stay to talk to them after class has ended. Creating these connections will benefit you a lot along your academic journey.

When your professor knows your name, you increase your chance of getting a recommendation letter or reference for an internship. For example, I just recently found out that one of the professors in the social science department at my school has published a book on economics and environmental sustainability. Since I was curious, I asked him about his favorite philosopher and he recommended a book that I had been interested in for a few months. Isn’t that amazing?

Explore, Explore, Explore!

While we have all heard of the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and Union Square Park, New York City is much bigger than that. Once when I was walking in Lower Manhattan, a New Yorker asked me for directions. I used my Google Maps app to give him directions and he told me “I have been living in New York for 10 years, but I hadn’t heard of this street before.”

I encourage you to equip yourself with water, a sandwich, and good shoes. Start walking around the city with no plan in mind. I assure you that you’ll make some discoveries in the city that none of your classmates have made before. Get on your feet and explore because New York City has a lot to offer!

Are you an international student studying in the U.S. or Canada? Sign up to become a WES Student Ambassador and share your story!

WES Student Ambassador Mehran Tehrani

Mehran A. Tehrani, a WES Student Ambassador, is pursuing his associate’s degree in economics at the City University of New York.