College is hard. And it can be even harder when you find yourself thousands of miles away from everything you’ve ever known after going to college in a foreign country, being transferred to a new school or having just graduated high school. The stress of class deadlines and social obligations can already be overwhelming enough without the additional pressure of finding yourself in an alien environment.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Classes get harder, homework begins to pile up and the monotony of it all starts to take its toll. Sometimes we fail, and we fail hard. Exchange students, transient students and students going to college for the first time are especially susceptible to becoming overwhelmed by a learning environment they’re not used to yet. If you find yourself in a new place and are having trouble meeting the demands of a foreign college setting, this one’s for you.
Adjusting to your new learning environment
Finding balance between education and personal life can become even harder for students when they’re far from home. British exchange student Megan Royle agrees the workload is definitely more challenging abroad.
“Here it’s constant, its constant testing, constant quizzes, constant exams and I’m not used to that so I feel like I have to be on top of everything all the time, otherwise I miss something,” she said.
It’s easy to make mistakes early on, when you haven’t had the time to learn the rhythms and nuances of a new setting. When adjusting to a new place, a common mistake new college students make is underestimating the workload or not properly preparing for it. British exchange student Paris Spencer initially made that mistake.
“I expected the work to be different, but I just didn’t expect the workload to be so intense,” she said.
Spencer finds Georgia State to feel “a lot more like highschool,” and unlike her British classes, “the environment is very different,” she said.
It takes time to adjust and involves some trial and error. Becoming better acquainted with your academic surroundings is a large part of successfully assimilating into college. Failed tests, poor attendance and low grades can have rippling effects on not only your academic performance but also your mental well-being.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Another mistake new students often make is not asking for help. They either feel embarrassed for having to reach out to someone else for assistance or they are simply unaware of the resources available to them. With this in mind, it’s important to be aware of all the resources a school offers and be in a position to take advantage of them as needed.
At Georgia State, there are plenty of offices and organizations more than willing to give assistance. Check out Black Student Achievement, the Office of Academic Assistance, the University Advisement Center and the Counselling and Testing Center. These offices exist solely to make sure students have all the resources they need to succeed. And besides, if you’re paying tuition, you’re paying for these services anyway. You might as well use them.
Sometimes before we can break down our own egos to ask for help, things have to get worse before they get better. Sometimes hitting rock bottom is a necessary calamity that jolts us into a mindset more capable of making the necessary changes in order to start performing better in school.
It might get worse before it gets better
Georgia State senior and english major Makeda Phillips found this out during her first semester abroad when after doing poorly on her first university essay, she discovered she had to re-evaluate her approach to writing.
“Understanding the system takes a lot of time too. I have always been one of the best writers in my class. So when I got a C on my first paper. I was very humbled!” she said, “It took me all of fall semester to adjust.”
But she did eventually adjust and improve her academic performance. It just took time, patience and effort.
“Allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a little bit. I kept questioning why I wasn’t adjusting so well. And while yes, because of so many personal things in my life I was a huge mess, I needed to give myself time,” she said. “Everything can feel overwhelming, but just know it gets better.”
Failure is an option
While it’s true that it can always get better, be prepared to accept that it might not. Sometimes students fail to pull up on the controls to pull themselves out of their nosedives into impending failure. They habitually underperform in classes, overlook deadlines, skip one too many lectures or generally do poorly over extended periods of time. Before we know it, the semester ends, and with it, so do any chances of salvaging a passing grade from the class.
When Georgia State transfer student Brittany Washington failed a class during her senior year, she simply retook it.
“I did a Maymester so I could just get it out of the way in three weeks and not miss out on my summer,” she said
Failure in college is rarely an insurmountable phenomenon. It happens to everyone, and in our increasingly cushioned college environment, there are plenty of ways to reconcile. The modern college environment is well designed to give students room to experiment and fail. It also allows students to make mistakes and learn from them rather than be destroyed by them. But they can only do this if they put in the time and effort to learn and grow, rather than let their mistakes define them.
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