Alumni Advice: Tips for a Great Global UGRAD Semester

August is here! The beginning of the academic year is upon us, and with it, the arrival of a new crop of Global UGRAD participants. Along with the excitement and anticipation for all that lies ahead, there are also – naturally – many questions. What will this exchange experience be like? What are the most important things to keep in mind before we arrive?

Thankfully, the Global UGRAD Program boasts a robust network of alumni who are on hand to help answer questions of precisely this nature. Here is some of their advice to the incoming cohort.

“Always be yourself and be nice to everyone you meet. You’ll be surprised at how many doors (in different countries) you can open just with that.”

“Make the most out of your experience, everything can be an opportunity to learn.”

“Make professional connections with professors in the U.S., take courses that are not in your university or home country, especially because you can bring new and fresh knowledge back home. Open your mind to American culture and share yours in your university!”

“Enroll in extra-curriculars. You’ll have lots of fun and will meet friends who have many things in common with you.”

“Don’t be shy, go out with the sun, talk to random strangers; beauty is found in incredible places. Remove all negative thoughts and stereotypes. Educate yourself – not only do you have to study and have good grades, but get to know other cultures. Share yourself too because you are certainly a story that has to be told. Smile. Travel and make everyday count. Be adventurous and taste the magic in the details.”

“The culture shock is huge, absorb it but never forget your roots because our culture makes us unique and people love individuality. Always be yourself in making connections, it’s worth it!”

“You will experience a mix of emotions, but that is just fine. Have fun, try new things that you have never tried back in your home countries, and be ready to explore a country full of culture, history, and sports. Welcome to what surely will be the most enriching experience of your lives.”

Global UGRAD alum, Djoumana of Algeria, summarized it best with the following words:

“Do you remember that night you hit that “submit” button with high hopes? Your shaky hands when opening the text you got from the U.S Embassy for the interview? Your trembling heart once you got that “Congratulations, you have been chosen as a finalist” email. I still get goose bumps every time I remember it myself. Take a moment to look back on those days, and look how far you came; you made it, you either have already boarded the plane, or are about to board it soon, heading towards the greatest adventure of your life. If you are reading this, I want to give you this advice from a fellow family member: do not be afraid about anything. Because as hard as it might sound to believe right now, you are actually leaving your home in your country for four months, to live in a new home that will welcome you warmly. If you have any doubt about it, get back to me in four months, and I will proudly say, ‘I told you so.’ The friends you’re about to make will become the family you got to choose, that will bring warmth to your heart and soul on the coldest night of December. So buckle up and get ready, smile, breathe in and count to ten, because your life is about to change forever.”

Welcome to the family, Global UGRADs! You’re in for an exciting, challenging, memorable semester, and we look forward to sharing the journey ahead.