What is a day in the life of an international student really like on a US campus? No two days are the same, and you will set up your own ideal schedule as you settle into life on campus. But two international students recently shared what their days on campus look like, so you can get an idea of what to expect when you arrive.
Varsha, a graduate student in business analytics at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and Eduardo, an undergraduate finance student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, told us about a typical day in their lives.
Varsha, who is from India, chose the University of the Pacific because she thrives on close relationships. “I was confident with smaller class sizes I would have a chance to build stronger relationships with my classmates and professors,” she says. “University of the Pacific fosters an engaging and collaborative environment and builds well-rounded students.”
Eduardo, who is from Venezuela but moved to Chile when he was 15, chose the University of South Carolina because of the warm weather, big campus, and flexible curriculum. “This gave me more time to find what I was passionate about, to determine what I eventually wanted to major in when I became a sophomore,” he explains.
A Day in the Life on Campus
Eduardo normally has morning classes from about 8 am to 12 pm. “Later in the afternoon, I go to the library and spend about three to five hours studying and preparing what I have for the week,” he shared.
In the mornings, Varsha works at the University of the Pacific as a student ambassador and is a summer residential leadership intern in the afternoons. “We handle the DeRosa Center and Baun Fitness Center during the summer,” she explains. “We promote and implement activities, events, and education to meet the interests and needs of students and summer guests.”
In the evening, Eduardo takes jiu-jitsu classes on campus. When he does not have a jiu-jitsu class, he will spend time exercising at the gym. “I try to divide my time in each activity evenly throughout the day so I do not burn out,” he says.
As a graduate student, Varsha has all her classes in the evenings. While there are certainly graduate programs that offer daytime courses, many offer evening and weekend classes so that working professionals can attend class around their work schedule. She is in a hybrid program, so there are a mix of online and in-person classes.
“I prefer in-person classes because we can meet new people and start networking,” she said.
Eduardo noted that his courses in the US are very different from the ones in Venezuela and Chile. “In Venezuela or Chile, you have the same classmates year-round, the teacher comes to your class so you do not move from your classroom, and the class is about 20 to 25 people,” he explained.
In the US, it is usually the opposite: you have different classmates for each class, you move between classrooms in different buildings, and some classes have upwards of 100 people.
A Weekend Day in the Life
On long weekends, Varsha goes to the Bay Area and eats all types of delicious food. She is a vegetarian, so she appreciates all the options in the region. (Masala Desi Cafe is one of her favorites. “I have tried a lot of restaurants, but so far this was the best,” she said.) Other weekends, she usually cooks new recipes and invites her friends over for dinner and a movie.
Eduardo, who wakes up early during the weekdays, uses weekends as an opportunity to sleep in. “In the evening, I go to Five Points or Vista with my friends,” he said, noting his favorite restaurants include Sahara and Whig. “I recommend all new students give these places a try!”
When you arrive on campus, it is normal to feel nervous and even experience culture shock. But both Eduardo and Varsha emphasize the work their universities do to make it easy for students to transition.
“The [UOP International] team has given me a sense of belonging,” Varsha says. “They were always there to support me and they helped me grow as a professional.”
Eduardo recommends students join an organization that interests them, either professionally or as a hobby.
“You are going to find people that think like you or have the same goals as you, making it easier to make friends,” he said. He also recommends going to international events hosted by the university or campus organizations.
“You just have to be positive and open to change,” encourages Varsha. “University of the Pacific will make sure you are comfortable and taken care of.”
Eduardo agrees. “The freshman experience is up to you — make the best out of it!
Shorelight helps international students with the campus transition process >