When I moved to the U.S. as an international student, I was overwhelmed. I was able to manage in part because of the support and great advice I received from my classmates. During that time, author Neale Donald Walsch’s words brought me happiness: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
In one year, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has become my second family. Here is some advice and tips for international students coming to Fuqua.
1) Get a local SIM card (AT&T/Verizon/T-Mobile). I recommend AT&T, (I promise I’m not getting paid for this promotion). Enrolling in a family plan, where you can add friends, is a cost-effective option.
2) Open a bank account (Wells Fargo/Bank of America), which will take you around 30 minutes. Most international students open checking accounts.
3) Make sure to have your paperwork in order: visa interview documents, immigration documents, etc. Duke Visa Services and the International House websites are excellent resources to ensure you have all your ducks in a row.
4) Conduct research about the place you’ll stay before arriving by talking to former students. Read this excellent blog for more information about this. Also, get renters insurance (Assurant/Lemonade) and activate the Duke Energy package. Calling Duke Energy for this activation saves a lot of time and effort.
5) Be prepared to learn from others. Be open-minded to the philosophy that power lies in difference and seek out new experiences by engaging with people who have had different life experiences than yours. To quote the remarkable Pat Wadors, Chief People Officer at Procore Technologies: “When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more inclusive, and a better organization.”
6) Connect with people on Facebook or in WhatsApp groups. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone in this journey, and it’s likely most people will have similar questions and can help each other.
7) Jetlag is humankind’s greatest weakness. The side effects range from the food looking fantastic, but you don’t feel hungry; you’re irritable and groggy; you can’t concentrate on anything without getting a migraine. Some proven strategies to overcome jetlag are sleeping during the flight, exposing yourself to natural light during the day, and avoiding sunlight during the night. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements to help you rest, such as melatonin.
8) Health insurance is a must for international students. Understand that Duke’s health insurance starts for admitted students after you arrive in the U.S. and register. Until then, I recommend obtaining a health insurance plan for a few days (that many travel agencies provide) because medical bills in the U.S. can get expensive quickly!
10) Summers in Durham are warm and humid. Winters are short and numbing. If it snows, it usually goes away in a day. The high temperatures range from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, (21 to 32°C) whereas the low temperatures are between 56 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 19°C).
11) People in Durham are polite. They hold the door for you and continuously thank you, which I love!
12) The pronunciation of Fuqua is “few-qwa.” I learned this from a video: one qwa, two qwa, and few qwa.
13) It’s OK to slow down and unplug yourself from everything. Or, as Ferris Bueller so aptly put it, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
14) Invest in technology so you can sway to good music while walking through the beautiful Duke campus.
15) Call home frequently. Share your experiences with the clan.
16) Never forget to tip. It’s not compulsory, but tipping is an essential source of income for the staff serving food in restaurants. You should tip at least 10 percent.
17) Be curious about everything, both in and outside the classroom. You likely won’t get a better chance to learn and grow than during your time at Fuqua. And you should take full advantage of the opportunities to experience new things.