Worried about connecting with your new university class as an international student? You don't have to be with social networking. Often established by the universities themselves, admitted student groups on websites such as Facebook are a staple for all new students during the summer before college. These groups allow students from all over the world to easily come together, discuss their interests, and pose questions about anything from pre-college requirements to university living, as they often include a few current undergraduate students as members as well. What I’ve come to notice, however, is that while such groups are likely to be beneficial to any and every incoming undergrad, the most active participants are usually international students.
Given the impending immersion into an unfamiliar culture, it only makes sense that we’re the most anxious about making the transition to university as easy as possible. But with all these social resources, where posting a question can get an immediate response, use can easily become abuse, and posting repeatedly with what may be genuine curiosity and enthusiasm risks you the possibility of developing into an annoyance. Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve drawn up to help you make the most out of admitted student social media groups without seeming like a pest.
1. Don’t feel the need to post every single day
In reality, this is advice I probably shouldn’t be giving, but I feel like I need to put it out there. In a perfect world, you should be able to post as much as you want and say everything that you want to say. But in a large group of students, at least one person will feel annoyed if you decide to leave a post on the group every single day. It may not even have to do with what you’re posting; the sheer fact that you’re using the group so frequently may seem, to them, completely unnecessary.
Regardless, I sincerely believe that learning to limit your posting actually has its benefits. For one, you don’t want to run out of conversation starters. Keep a few of the subjects you’d like to discuss in the group for when you meet your peers in reality. Face-to-face conversations are always more interesting than digital ones. And second, when people know enough about you, they assume they know everything about you. By posting on the admitted student group page so frequently, it’s possible to give off the impression that you’ve already revealed the most interesting things about your character come orientation week. Maintain a little mystery for those first meetings in college.
2. Think before leaving a comment
Though this advice may actually be for general internet usage, always remember that there is no need to record every thought you have online. It’s natural to have a reaction to every stimulus (i.e., a post on the Facebook group), but that doesn’t equate to a necessity to leave a comment upon almost every post. Often, this kind of compulsion manifests in the form of jokes. For every post you read, some kind of pun or display of sarcasm that seems clever and funny enters your thoughts, but I find there’s no need to share it every single time. It’s nice to come across something like that once in a while, but it loses its appeal when it’s done constantly. Feel free to “like” as many posts as you want though. It leaves the same sentiment as an empty comment—it shows that you care but that you can’t really contribute anything of great importance.
3. Never hesitate to ask questions about culture
One area where I find you can never seem annoying or overly worried is in questions about culture. Nationals understand the world you’re entering is unfamiliar and, being proud of who they are and what made them into the individuals they are today, they tend to welcome any concerns you have about customs and norms. One post that became really interesting in my admitted students group was about the action of tipping, or leaving a small sum of money for someone who has been at your service (e.g., restaurant staff, cab driver, etc.). People from different nations had many different experiences with tipping, ranging from being incredibly familiar with the action to not understanding how it works at all. And, more surprisingly, people from across the United States also had different views upon tipping; some people were taught that 20% was customary, while others saw 10%–15% as quite decent. Hence, if there’s any aspect of the local area's culture that you’re confused about, don’t hesitate to bring it up in your student group.
4. Learn as much as you can
As surprising as it sounds, one of the best ways you can use the admitted students group as an international student is actually not through activity, but observation. As an international student, there's a huge cultural gap between what you’re familiar with and what your peers are familiar with. As much as being different makes you unique and incredibly valuable to the student community, being an international student may cause other individuals to perceive you as too “foreign,” for lack of a better word. If some of the discussions in your admitted students group show a prevalent common interest in a TV show or band unknown to you, take the time to look it up and see if maybe it’s something that interests you as well. There is truly no better way to learn about the culture you’re about to surround yourself in than from the very people who live it each day. Don’t hesitate to use them as fountains of information; you can never have too much in your arsenal of conversation topics for those first days of orientation.
Preparing for university is an exciting time, and admitted students groups on social media are a great resource to learn more about your school's culture and future friends. By following these tips, you can make the most of your group without relying on it too much. If you have a lot of questions, feel free to get in touch with your admission officer or another university representative; they'll be happy to help and point you in the right direction without the risk of them blocking you for receiving too many notifications.
Prepare to make new friends and dive right in to your first semester with Campus Life Tips for International Students: Engage and Immerse!