From one cohort to the next: Advice from alumni for new UGRADs

The new year ushers in a new group of UGRAD students, arriving at various universities around the United States for the spring semester. Who better to give advice to the new arrivals than those who just completed their program weeks ago?

Money and financial planning were common themes throughout the advice from recent alumni. Langelihle Moyo, an alumnus from Zimbabwe who spent the last semester at Mississippi Valley State University, cautioned new UGRADs in this area.

“Be careful of getting too excited, especially with that first check,” Moyo said. “You end up just getting weird items that you don’t even need. Save!!! If you want to make any online purchases, plan them and make them throughout the semester.”

Xochilth Victor visits a bookstore.

Reichel Rodriguez, a UGRAD from Costa Rica who studied at the University of Missouri at St. Louis last fall, also advised new students not to “go crazy with the money! I know that it seems like everything is really cheap, but in the end, you will never know when you need that money later.”

Additionally, Rodriguez recommends, “[doing] the papers that you have as soon as you get them. [This is] something that I did not do, so I was suffocating myself. I know that it seems like a lot, but in the end, it just takes 5 minutes of your time to do it.”

Xochilth Victor, another Costa Rican alumna who attended the University of Alaska Anchorage, explains that it will be easier to complete your assignments if you take classes that you genuinely enjoy.

“I would recommend that you take courses that you like and you will enjoy,” Victor said. “Even your major courses can be some that are not [technically required by your home university], but that would contribute to your academic knowledge. It changes [your experience] a lot if you enroll in courses that you like. Also, do community service that you will enjoy. Regarding community service, start as soon as you can, so you can avoid being at the end of the semester with that pending.”

Hour Ahmed poses with her polaroid camera in New York City.

Another shared sentiment among recent alumni is the importance of collecting souvenirs to preserve memories from your semester.

“Get a polaroid camera to document your memories; I love to look back at those polaroid pictures now,” Hour Ahmed, a student from Egypt who went to Grand Valley State University, said. “Also, keep souvenirs from every place you go to, like train tickets, boarding passes, all kinds of coins, fridge magnets, etc.”

Making the most of each day and not leaving anything unsaid or undone is a common theme in UGRAD alumni’s advice, even including alumni who have been out of the program for over a year. Alex Guzman of Guatemala, who studied at Murray State University during the Fall 2021 semester, highlighted this.

“One [piece] of advice that I want to say is,  make friends! Don’t be shy to talk to people or to share your culture and where you come from. Meeting people from all around the world is so wonderful. So don’t be shy to talk to new people and make friends. Also, I would say, if you have the chance to travel to other places, do it. Obviously, do what you have to do first (homework, meetings, papers, etc.), [so you can] then have the time to enjoy traveling.”

Echoing these sentiments, Rodriguez concludes, “I just wish you the best of experiences. Don’t leave anything for the last months and enjoy every single one of the days that you spend here. This experience will change you for the rest of your life and I think that it is beautiful.”


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