7 Major Things to know in your Freshman year as an International Student in Berea College — Advice I Wish I was Given (Part 1)

Image Credit: Berea College
  1. Find a major and be laser focused on it: They say that your time in college is time to explore, and it is normal for students to switch majors in their sophomore or even Junior year. As an international student, although it is okay to explore, it is important to choose a major by your second semester of freshman year. This is because you do not have the same leeway or chances for error like a domestic student has. A domestic student could complete their college degree, realize that they studied the wrong major and take out loans to study a different major (this is not ideal of course but they have that choice). As an international student however, you get only one shot at this and have to optimize it. It is advisable to find a major with good career prospects so that you can be financially secure. There is no reason to complete college and still be unable to pay your bills. Yes, it is beautiful to major in what you love, but be sure that what you love can pay the bills. If not, find a major with a good career prospect, save up some money and still engage in the hobby you love on the side. This is a realistic approach and would take you a long way. As an international student, you do not have the advantage domestic students have of being citizens. All jobs require sponsorship, most companies do not sponsor international students and automatically reject them for job positions. Also, it is advisable to find a major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in order to optimize the OPT. The OPT stands for the Optional Practical Training, which is a one year temporary employment opportunity for international students who have graduated. You are required by law to work in the same field as you majored in for your OPT. Therefore it is wise to find a good major and be the best you can.
  2. Find a Job Related to Your Major on Campus: Every student enrolled at Berea College is required to work a minimum of 10 hours per week. These jobs range from facilities assistant (cleaning) to SGA president. As a freshman, there is a high probability that you will work as a facilities assistant for a year. However, during your freshman year, research for jobs in your major. A good way to find one is by going to the labor department to request for a list of jobs. Find one that is related to your major, contact and inform the supervisor in charge of the position about your interest, then apply for the position in the upcoming year. When you have a job related to your major, it is easier to get internships because you have prior experience in that field.
  3. Apply for Student Awards: I had no idea that student awards were a thing till I got to my senior year. By then, it was almost too late. Berea College awards students who performed excellently for the year based on different categories. Most times, a lot of students are not aware of or apply to these awards, making the competition really low. Winning these awards comes with winning some amount of money, ranging from $500 — $2000. Can you imagine winning $500 as a student making less than minimum wage? To win these awards however, you have to be one of the best in your chosen category and have a respected recommender.
  4. Apply for College Provided Opportunities: Berea College provides opportunities such as study abroad programs like KIIS, and Sloan Shelton grants for arts and humanities. Usually, it is harder to get study abroad funding as an international student because the belief is that you are already acquiring this experience by studying in the States. However, the Sloan Shelton grant is an amazing opportunity to apply for, for students in Arts and Humanities.



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Online Journal about my life and experiences as an immigrant in the US + Fictional stories + random thoughts