First-Hand Account: Advice From a Fellow International Student to You!

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Mariia Prikhodko is a recent international grad from Temple, where she double majored in Risk Management and Insurance and Management Information Systems. She moved to Philly from Thailand in 2019, and graduated in May 2022. She loves traveling, especially if it’s to somewhere she can dive and explore! She also loves helping and supporting people as much as she can, which led her to intern with a local start up, PhillyMember, during COVID-19 in the summer 2020.

Guest-written by Mariia Prikhodko

Growing up in a very diverse international community, I always dreamed about my next big step into the world. This great and exciting time was fueled by an internal debate of what and where that perfect place will be.

For me, it was between Europe and America, and as we can see now, I went with the latter. Did I experience a culture shock? Oh, you bet! Coming to this country completely on my own, and not really knowing anyone was, in itself, shock enough. I knew that I wanted to adapt as quickly as possible so I threw myself into all the things I could—I tried out MUN club, participated in our uni’s court trials, and ran for/won a Class Representative position.  

 Try it All Out!  

You came here to explore your future. Testing out different waters in uni will help you get a better feel of what you might like and dislike, what career path you might want to pursue, and what kind of purpose you want to have in life. The more you do = the more people you’ll meet = the less homesick you will feel. Moving away from your family is never easy, but I found that if you make yourself busy (in a healthy way), you won’t have the time to feel homesick. Plus you’ll get incredible experiences out of it that you can talk about in your interviews!

 Talk, Engage and Conquer!  

We are all pretty social people—we love connecting with others and learning more about their lives. Talk to your professors and make sure that they know your name and who you are. This will help you in the future because all of these incredible people surrounding you might present you with a networking opportunity or give great advice. When I was a freshman I really connected with my MIS professor. We would talk about my life in Thailand, his family, and my experience here so far. Guess what? He had an opening for a TA position and he offered it to me. After that I made sure to connect with as many professors as I could and slowly grew my network. I’ve been a TA for 2 and a half years now and worked with a lot of great people.  

 Explore Your New Home 

You are in a completely new country and there’s so much to do and see! You can start local and enjoy what Philly has to offer—different neighborhoods, Campus Philly events, museums, local indy stores, and, oh, the food scene! You can always catch a quick bus/train ride to New York with all it has to offer, too—the beautiful perk of living in Philly. You can also look at other cities and visit them during uni breaks. My personal favorites are Miami and Denver (so I’m really biased and can talk about them for hours!).

Don’t be Worried 

Speaking from experience on this one: don’t ever be worried or shy about your roots! As my amazing manager said: “If someone is ever mean to you based on your nationality, keep your head up and walk away, as they are insignificant and meaningless in your life.”

You took this incredible step into the unknown and you will absolutely achieve anything you put your mind into! Trust me, the majority of people you’ll encounter on your journey will be excited to learn more about your background and, most importantly, you as a person. You’ll also stand out in the recruiters’ eyes, as they value perseverance and zest, and your big step shows that you have both!  

It’s Okay to Not be Okay 

Hey, we all have those moments where we want to hide under a blanket and just stay in. And that’s perfectly okay! Just remember that you are surrounded by people that are there for you, and are ready to help and support you—especially your family even though they are far away.  

 

Read up About the Neighborhood You’ll be in 

I think most of us get swayed and enticed by the beautifully curated photos of the universities, students’ vlogs, and all the other good stuff that can be found on campus. That’s a good start, for sure, but if like me, you didn’t get a chance to tour the campus in-person—make sure you have an idea of where in the city it is. If it’s an urban university, like Temple, Drexel, or Penn, you’ll have a lot of freedom to scout the city whenever you want, but you also have to remember to be mindful and cautious. Any place you choose will be awesome!

Check out Social Media Groups 

I feel like one of the scariest aspects of moving to a new place is a fear of being lonely. To reduce that fear, you can check out some groups for your year—unis usually create these themselves to connect international students, but there are also a bunch created by other incoming freshmen! It won’t be as scary on your first day when you already have a bunch of people that are in a similar boat.

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