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US universities are known for the high level of support they provide to students, including international students. During orientation, you will be introduced to the numerous offices available on campus. As noted in the previous section, the international student office may be your best resource. However, please take note of the offices listed below, as you never know when you will need to take advantage of the advice or services offered.
For those students studying abroad for a full degree, once you choose your major, your academic department will help you understand what classes you need to take to graduate and pursue your professional goals. They may organise departmental trips and job-shadowing opportunities and provide general assistance if you are having trouble with a class. You will be assigned an academic advisor who will mentor you on academic decisions. If you enter undecided (you have not declared a major), you may be assigned a general undergraduate advisor that can help you decide what majors or minors you may want to pursue.
Some aspects of US academia differ greatly from the UK, so make yourself familiar with any tutoring services available on campus. You’ll probably find that writing an essay at a US college requires a different style than what you’re used to in the UK. University writing centres, usually found in the library and staffed by upperclassmen, can help you adjust to the American way of writing. Presentations are also much more prevalent in the US and may count towards a larger portion of your mark. Communication centres or student tutoring will be able to help you with these, whether it’s with public speaking or presentation style.
Whether you’re finishing up your degree, or maybe even before you started, at some point you’re going to start thinking about your career. That’s why you’re going to college, anyway! Take advantage of your college’s Career Centre, as they’ll have everything from help with constructing a great CV to ways to find internships. Colleges also have careers fairs that international students should definitely attend; you never know who you might meet, and it could just influence your future.
Campus facilities look after and perform maintenance on campus buildings, including residence halls. Contact them if there is a problem with your room or your bathroom.
Most commonly called ResLife, the Residential Life Office handles everything related to housing. Your first point of contact will be someone called a Resident Assistant (RA), a fellow student. Your RA will be able to answer many questions you have regarding campus life as well as offer advice. Many ResLife departments also have an off-campus housing office, which will be able to assist you if you are searching for an off-campus apartment.
The university health service is where you will find nurses and doctors in an on-campus clinic. You can get existing prescriptions filled as well as new prescriptions if you fall ill. Many offices will take appointments as well as see walk-in patients. If you have the university’s student insurance plan, it may be free to use the health service and will be less expensive to fill prescriptions. See our page on healthcare in the US for more information.
Many US universities have a Women’s Health service located within the main campus health centre. If you are affected by issues related to women’s health, check to see if your campus provides a service specific to women. In addition to medical problems, many Women’s Health centres can also help with mental health issues.
US colleges are known for providing a great deal of support to their students, and campuses are likely to have a variety of Counselling and Mental Health Services available. The Counselling and Mental Health Services provide professional advice about mental health issues, and many students speak with a counsellor at some point during their university career. They are there for you to discuss any questions or insecurities you may have.
Transitioning to a new country and a new university can be a very stressful time, and not everyone will deal with it in the same way. As your support network of family and friends are back at home, it’s important to remember that if you are experiencing any feelings of culture shock, or feel like your new environment is affecting your mental health, the Counselling and Mental Health Services are there for you as an international student.
University Mail Services manages all incoming mail to the university. Some halls of residence have mailboxes in the lobby while others are centrally located in a separate building. Some mailboxes are opened by keys, others by combination. Be sure to get your key or combination when you arrive and check your mail regularly. Universities send out important information via campus mail, and you may get a care package from home!
The Dining Services oversee all on-campus eating locations. Universities generally have a variety of eateries, including dining halls, take-away and cafés. Find out about your university’s meal plan system and choose which one best reflects your eating habits. See our page on dining for more information.
The library (very often, libraries, as most universities have multiple) is the most common area for students to study, work on group projects and research for assignments. Along with holding all of the university’s books and reference materials, libraries are often the technology centres of a university. An extensive staff will help you find books, navigate online resources and use available technology. On the first week of school there will probably be college IT technicians walking around and helping you get set up online in your room.
At the campus bookstore, you can get a list of required books for your courses and purchase them as well as university apparel and items for your dorm. Most bookstores have pre-order sections of the website, so your books are ready when you get to campus. The campus bookstore often stocks university clothing, stationery, gifts, food, stamps and other accessories. See our budget page for tips on buying books. Also, many college bookstores sell computers at a discounted rate for students, so don’t worry if your laptop suddenly breaks down.