That's what friends are for

Overseas-education | Crystal Wu 5 Oct 2021

Adapting to a new city and making new friends is one of the many obstacles that all overseas students have to go through.

"For me, I did not have the biggest adjustment to make just because I have been to New York multiple times before and knew the area," recalled student globetrotter Theodore Chow.

"However, if you have not been to the city around your college, I would definitely recommend visiting and exploring the area around your university beforehand, if you can, just so that you know your way around."

Being an international school student at Renaissance College Hong Kong also meant that language was not an issue.

However, one thing that did take some time to get used to was the new teaching environment of a university.

One of the biggest differences he found was that university students have to be more proactive in comparison to high school students, especially during their studies.

"Just the idea that you are now in charge of your life, and that there is no set path for you to follow was quite nerve-racking but also exhilarating at the same time."

Students can of course seek help and advice from professors and upperclassmen but ultimately, said the globetrotter, the responsibility of figuring out what to do during the university years falls on students themselves.

While Chow started his college life during the pandemic, he made friends in his online classes, living in the dorm and through school clubs.

"I know that it can be intimidating to go up to someone to introduce yourself, but honestly I think that it is such a useful skill to have, especially at the beginning of the year where everyone is looking to meet new people."

One of the biggest cultural shocks that Chow faced is that people in New York are much more extroverted than he was used to in Hong Kong.

"It pushed me out of my comfort zone, because I had to acclimatize to my environment and actively reach out to meet new people."

Other than meeting people through classes and clubs, Columbia University also hosts mixers and social events.

Chow recently joined an international student mixer, which allowed him to meet students of different nationalities.

"It is all about taking the initiative and reaching out to people," he said

He noted that even during remote learning in the pandemic, people would reach out to and keep up with each other via social media - for example, responding to someone's Instagram story.

Having just gone through his freshman year, the Columbia sophomore advised: "College is a time for you to explore, be it through classes or your hobbies. One of the most important things about college is making friends, because they are what shapes your college experience.

"And as much as people tell you to study and work hard in college, I think that meeting friends is equally important."

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November 2021

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