SPUSA 20 years

Tips to Conquer Your First Semester

As our 2021 recruits make the 15,000km journey to what will become their new home for the next four years, we feel it is timely to share some advice around how to best settle into your new surroundings once you arrive in the US. In between the excitement of setting up your dorm room, orientation activities, and meeting your teammates, here are a few tips we have picked up over the last 17 years of helping student-athletes make this transition:

  1. Adopt a ‘Yes’ approach in your first few weeks

The key to your college feeling like home is forming genuine connections with people in your new environment. In this regard, we recommend to meet and get to know as many people as possible in your first few weeks. If you get invited by teammates or classmates to join them in certain activities – say yes! Whether it’s a gym session, optional training session, dinner at a restaurant off-campus, meeting up for lunch at the cafeteria, or walking to class together, seize every opportunity to spend time with other people. In doing so, take the time to ask them questions about themselves, their background, their interests, and be sure to share yours with them. All of a sudden, the people who feel like strangers in your first week will feel like close friends by mid semester. Once such connections are formed, your college will really feel like home.

  1. Be the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave

You only get one chance to make a first impression. You want to ensure that your coach immediately recognizes your work ethic and commitment to the team. A first impression can often influence a coach’s decision about who he or she chooses in their starting line-up, who they select as team captain, and how much individualised attention the coach devotes to your development. To create a favorable first impression: 1) be the first on your team to show up to practice and the last to leave; 2) proactively seek feedback and demonstrate your commitment to improvement; and 3) take the time to get to know your coaches and their background. Most importantly, be sure to avoid becoming involved in negative team talk – about your teammates, coaches, your position within the team, scholarship etc. Instead, identify the hardest workers on your team and spend time with them.

  1. Get involved in campus life

At the beginning of each new semester, there will likely be an ‘involvement fair’ held on your campus. This is where student representatives involved in various campus activity clubs, organisations, and volunteer groups set up tables with information about their club/organisation. Make a point to walk around to each table, ask questions, and learn about each student organisation, and sign up to be involved in one or two that particularly interest you. Getting involved on campus will add a new dynamic to your college experience outside of sport and study. It will also enable you to meet new people and build your community (see tip #1 above). Most importantly, by being active and involved on campus, you will position yourself as a leader within your college community.

  1. Introduce yourself to your professors

Some of your greatest supporters throughout your 4 years in college will be your professors. In your first week of class, introduce yourself personally to all your professors. Let them know you are a student-athlete, what sport you play, and where you are from. In the first couple of months of college, as you adjust to a new routine of balancing full-time sport and study, stop by your professors’ office during their office hours to ask what you missed during class if you were away traveling for a competition. If they see that you care about your academic success, they will be more inclined to provide support and flexibility around deadlines and missed classes. Most importantly, ensure they understand your academic goals and career aspirations. Professors will be your biggest advocates in gaining internships and employment opportunities after college.

  1. Familiarise yourself with campus

In your first week of arrival, take some time to explore your new home. Identify important locations on campus that you will visit frequently throughout the semester, such as the library, gym, mail room, and international student services office. The sooner you are able to navigate your way around campus, the less overwhelming it will seem.

There is no denying that the first few months of college are an adjustment and there will inevitably be moments of homesickness as you adapt to your new environment. However, by following the tips in this guide, your college will quickly feel like home. Embrace every opportunity and make the most of your experience – it really does fly by! 

Written by Ellen Chambers

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