Staying connected with your family when they’re just 100 miles away can be a challenge. So what do you do when you’re separated by an ocean and an expensive plane ride? Once the hard work of getting into a U.S. university has passed, international students still must do their best work without the benefit of their support group—family and friends, mostly based in their country of origin. How do international students deal with it? The short answer is: thoughtfulness, planning, and friendship. Read on for our top three tips for staying connected to home while living and studying in the U.S.
Use your apps
Communications technology has never been more powerful and the options are very nearly limitless—and free! WhatsApp messaging is a powerful tool for instantaneous communication. Other options for live video streaming include Viber, Google Hangouts, and Periscope. Virtually every social network has its own internal messaging tool as well, all of which are effective for instant messaging. But while these kinds of conservations can be fun and easy to sustain, the need to communicate more deeply is worth the investment. You may not realize it, but sharing a long and thoughtful story with loved ones and friends in your home country can strengthen that connection and help you understand your own experience better. Make time for a longer email or even better, a written or typed letter (isn’t it nice to get proper mail?) You can delve into the details of what you’re experiencing, not just on the surface level but on the emotional level. This can have a positive impact not just on your relationship but on your personal well-being.
Make appointments for video chats
The spontaneous video call always has good intentions: you wanted to show a loved one that you care and you didn’t want to wait a moment to tell them so! But the reality is, more often than not, you’re probably interrupting someone. At the very least, they won’t have much time to talk, not to mention the lack of a strong enough WiFi or cell connection to manage the data for the call. Make one (or more) weekly appointments for half an hour or more to reconnect with your closest family by video chat. A set weekly time reduces the stress of planning and creates a valuable ritual for you and your loved ones to look forward to.
Join the club
While nothing beats the connections you have to your family abroad, you may have a (chosen) family that you’ve yet to meet in the US. Connect with your campus student groups based on personal bonding factors like your cultural heritage, chosen fields, hobbies, and political causes. You are all in the same situation and you may have quite a bit more in common besides food and demanding parents. You may share professional and personal goals; it’s not impossible that you can connect with a future business partner in a student club. The fact is, the classroom is not always the best place to connect with your colleagues. If you’re in a major university, you could share your courses with over 100 other students—not exactly an ideal place to spark a one-on-one friendship. Student clubs are a great way to identify and focus other people who share not just your culture, but your personal and professional interests, as well.