Article published on Arab America
BY: Deya’ Dresner/Contributing Writer
As an Arab student, there are many ways to get the most out of your US college educational experience.
For many years now, nations have encouraged their best and brightest youth to pursue study opportunities in foreign lands. This has proven to be invaluable for many societies whose youth return home with a broader perspective of the world having forged life long friendships and future business prospects with other foreign nationals with whom they attended university.
The Leonard Education Organization (LE.O) guides the development of Palestinian student scholars from the beginning to the end of their American undergraduate education. In addition to their belief in the significance of education, LE.O also believes in individual development. Through personal guidance, academic mentoring, internships, job placement assistance and graduate school applications, LE.O believes that their scholars will flourish and make significant contributions to the cultural, economic and political fabric of their communities and countries of residence.
Here are some tips for Arab youth studying in the US, as well as ways to maximize your experience, from LE.O.
1. Understand your visa
If you are not an American citizen, make sure you have read your visa requirements and regulations thoroughly so as not to run into any difficulty. For example, foreign students are not allowed to take off-campus jobs during the year; the only exception is when applying for summer internships in the US or an Optional Professional Training (OPT) year. In those cases, you will need the guidance of your International Advisor.
2. Know the campus
Get yourself well acquainted with the faculty and staff on your campus who will be able to support you with all your needs. These will include your academic advisor, international advisor, mental health counselors, directors of student housing and, in some cases, the financial aid department.
Remember, these departments are busy working with many students, so keep current with your academic and international advisors. Stop by the other offices to introduce yourself and occasionally drop in to visit and say hello. This will enable them to get to know who you are and be better responders should you have any needs.
3. Join the college culture
Integration is key. Join clubs, societies and sport teams so you will have the opportunity to get to know the American way of life. You can also participate in cultural awareness events, assist in bringing culturally appropriate lecturers to speak on your campuses to educate fellow students about your society. US college populations are very interested in learning about other cultures, so become an ambassador for your people on your campus.
4. Don’t slack off
Start off on the right foot. Punctuality is very important, so make sure you attend your classes and turn in your course work on time. Tardiness is not looked upon well on US campuses. This is considered a reflection of your sincerity. It is said: “5 minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable”.
5. Speak up in class
American universities and colleges offer many new experiences, and critical thinking skills development is amongst the most valuable. Students are encouraged to share their opinions in class, even if they differ from that of the professor. Debate and discussion is a valuable part of this educational experience.
6. Be competitive
Note that college life can be highly competitive, so do not delay in selecting and registering for classes or anything else you may want to do. We have a saying at LE.O: “you snooze, you loose”. If anything is a priority to you, then you must plan ahead of time so that you have a better chance at attaining it.
7. Ask for help
Most importantly, all the staff on US college campuses will tell you: “no question is too stupid.” Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help in understanding anything. After all, you are here to learn and one learns by asking questions.
Deya’ Leonard Dresner is the founder and executive director of the Leonard Education Organization, an organization established to support the undergraduate education of Palestinian youth from the region for study in the US.