Pre-Arrival: Success in Your First Year

Your transition into U.S. culture, USF, and San Francisco doesn’t stop after orientation; it will continue throughout your first year. Read below for tips and resources that will help make your first year more successful.

Academic Resources

Academics in the United States are likely to differ in some way from those in your home country. Adjusting to college level courses and a new educational environment can take some time and effort. The first step is being aware of these differences and finding the resources you will need to succeed. USF hosts a number of different resources that help students be successful. These resources will help get you on the right track for academic success.

  • Academic Advising: Make sure you know who your academic advisor is and talk to them about your course choices. If you are having trouble with a course or a particular subject, it is good to talk with your advisor and seek their advice.
  • Professor’s Office Hours: Your professors set aside certain times during the week to talk with students. This time is for you to ask questions about the course, get feedback on your performance, and communicate anything you may be struggling with.
  • Learning, Writing, and Speaking Centers: These centers are a great resource for undergraduate students to get assistance on academic writing, structuring a paper, and communication-related support (including public speaking). You can also contact them to get a tutor for your classes. 
  • USF 101: All new first-year students are invited to take a 1-unit course called USF101, during their first semester on campus. Students enrolled in USF101 meet weekly, engaging with an instructor, a peer mentor, and each other to explore their new environment and chart their four-year college journey. 
  • Academic English for Multilingual Students: Check the course catalog for AEM workshops to improve your academic reading and writing. These classes are available to all multilingual speakers, not only those for whom English is not the primary language.

Cultural Adjustment Resources

Many students are aware that U.S. Culture will differ from their own, but it is hard to know how your cultural adjustment process will entail until it is happening. Cultural adjustment depends on how easily an individual is able to adapt, find resources, and establish themselves in a new environment. However, there are other factors that can make this process harder or easier. Some of these factors are outside of your control and others are more manageable. For example, individuals from cultures that share more similarities to U.S. culture will, in general, be able to adapt more easily to life in the U.S. If you come from a country where English is the primary language it will be easier for you to navigate your new environment because verbal communication will be easier. However, if you are from a country where you are used to spending time with a lot of people and always having friends, family and neighbors around, adjusting to the more individual culture of the U.S. could take some extra effort.

Understanding cultural differences will make it easier to adapt to a new culture. Being aware that people have different communication styles and different values can help you make more sense of interpersonal interactions and not take misunderstandings personally.

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) holds a cultural adjustment workshop during the mandatory International Student Orientation (ISO). During this workshop you will have the chance to learn more about cultural differences and tips for cultural adjustment. In order to assist with this cultural adjustment process, ISSS has a number of involvement opportunities that you can take part in throughout the year. See “Meeting Friends and Getting Involved” below.

If your cultural adjustment process turns out to be harder than anticipated and you need to talk with someone, the Counseling and Psychological Services office (CAPS) is a great resource for you. CAPS can help students with cultural adjustment, homesickness, school related stress and other family or personal issues.

Meeting Friends and Getting Involved

ISSS offers many different opportunities for students to meet new friends, explore the Bay Area, and get involved in the USF community.  The International Student Association (ISA) is a student club on campus, advised by ISSS, that helps students make connections and plan cultural events for the USF community. International Education Week (IEW) is a great opportunity to showcase your culture and cultural talents during this week long celebration of international education that takes place every November. Read more about these programs and other ISSS involvement opportunities on our Programs & Involvement page.

Student Leadership and Engagement (SLE) is the office that oversees the student clubs and organizations at USF. Getting in touch with a cultural club from your home region or country can be a great way to get support in a new environment. Review a list of the different clubs on campus through the SLE website. If you cannot find the type of club you are interested in, you can always petition to start a new club.

The Koret Health and Recreation Center, USF's gymnasium and recreational athletic facility, also offers a number of day and overnight excursions. These excursions are offered at a very discounted rate for students, and are a great way to get to know Americans and other international students while exploring California.