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What To Expect As An International Student

The front of Johnson Hall, Meredith College's admissions building
Photo by Olivia Slack

As Meredith College’s Fall 2022 Semester quickly approaches, it becomes busy and eventful for students as they prepare for the semester ahead. For international students there are the additional stressors of arranging travels, adapting to new customs, establishing oneself and more. With this in mind, there are a few things to expect and tips to help navigate this transition.

As an international student, the application process and all that needs to be done can be stressful. The admissions, faculty and the international students’ office were really helpful guiding me through the application process. After deciding what program to pursue, the International Students’ Office will guide students through the steps to get a student visa. This process can feel like the most stressful part. One can find a lot of information about applying using Meredith College resources but here is some other important information to know:

  1. You need to apply and be accepted to a school before you can receive your student visa.

  2. It is ideal that you visit the US Embassy in your home country to receive your visa.

  3. After being accepted to a school then they will issue you a document called an I-20 which will be of utmost importance to your entire stay in the US.

  4. If you are not the recipient of a scholarship that will allow you to cover all expenses (i.e. tuition, housing and books), then you will need a sponsor. Your sponsor will have to provide financial proof that they will be able to support you for at least the first year of study.

  5. Your sponsor will need to support you financially for your first year because you will not receive external work authorization until a year after you begin studying. You may however work on campus up to 20 hours per week.

  6. There are 2 types of work authorization you can receive: an Optional Practical Training (OPT) or a Curricular Practical Training (CPT). An OPT is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study and a CPT is work authorization for employment which can be either paid or unpaid such as internship or co-op, where international students with an F-1 receive further training.

One of the greatest resources for international students at Meredith is the Office of International Programs (OIP). Each student receives a representative that aids in their journey and answers the many questions and concerns international students usually have with regards to preparing for arrival as well as what is expected upon arrival. One can expect to have an additional, separate orientation tailored to the international student experience prior to the commencement of regular orientation and classes. Although it is helpful in addressing major topics and essentials such as nearby stores and transport, much knowledge comes from communicating with other international students and experience.

OIP lends itself to creating a community of students from various backgrounds yet united in a common goal. Utilizing access to these resources could be pivotal in establishing oneself and settling into a new environment. Beyond meeting students through OIP, there is also a wide range of clubs and organizations such as the Meredith International Association (MIA) to support or be part of in order to make the international student experience more manageable and less overwhelming.

While being an international student does come with its own challenges, it can also be an exciting time and an opportunity for individual growth. Being far from home calls for a new-formed independence. Most international students will not initially have access to their own car and will have to make use of the public transport systems the Triangle has to offer.

Becoming familiar with the area will also be important for finding stores and eateries when one will not have the opportunity to go home over the shorter breaks as many other local students do. Additionally, planning ahead through research can help a lot. Do research with regards to what are the best banking options and cellular companies to use. All of these little things, both in stress and costs, can add up quickly and can easily become staggering if a person is not on top of preparation.

All things considered, these things to take into account as one prepares for the experience should not be perceived as negative. Despite the challenges, there is the opportunity to have an exciting and enriching time. There will always be someone from the Meredith community to help along the way. Becoming involved as much as possible and immersing oneself in the culture makes the process a lot easier, more fun and helps when a person misses home.

By Shae-Lynn Henderson, Staff Writer, and Khadejra Golding, Staff Writer


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