For those of you living abroad and considering an American college or university, there are several aspects of your college search beyond what we’ve already discussed in this series.

Throughout this series of articles, we are exploring the characteristics successful college students have as well as the challenges they face when entering post-secondary education. We are also providing suggestions from University of Nebraska campus experts about specific skills you can work to acquire now.

UNHS Academic Adviser Debby Bartz works with students year-round who are beginning or wrapping up their process of investigating U.S. institutions from abroad. There are three items she always suggests to international students:

  1. Immerse yourself in the English language by taking English courses, learning the grammar and usage rules, and speaking or writing the language often.
  2. Contact the International Admissions Counselors at the colleges of choice for an introduction to the college and to ask questions.
  3. Seek out resources such as The College Board’s International Student Handbook and the U.S. State Department.

Beyond these, according to Merry Ellen Turner, Director of International Programs for the University of Nebraska at Omaha, many of the skills international students need are the same as for any academic setting , but are amplified when studying in a new culture and in a foreign language. She said students should focus on:

  • Time management: Learn and understand U.S. expectations.
  • Problem-solving: Learn to manage this process independently.
  • Communication: Learn the cultural differences and gain tolerance and understanding of these difference.

These skills are inherent in the characteristics of adaptability and resilience, Turner said.

“Successful students have the ability to modify expectations and behavior when needed and the ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned,” she added. “An inquisitive nature helps, too."

Students should also prepare to share their culture with the community and campus, said Corliss Süllwold, International Advisor and Immigration Coordinator from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Just as you are learning about the U.S. culture, those you encounter may be curious about where you come from.

By choosing to attain a degree from a U.S. institution, you are making a huge commitment that will be valuable to you down the road.

According to Turner, earning your degree away from your home country says something about you as an individual. It says:

  • You are willing to take risks.
  • You are adaptable.
  • You can function in another language.
  • You are comfortable with diversity.

These are all very desirable qualities in the workplace no matter where you end up having your career.

“It demonstrates the student’s personal commitment to diversification and globalization,” Süllwold said. “It demonstrates that the student was capable of earning a degree in a language other than their own.”