Preparing For Studies Abroad During The First Semester

21K School · Aug 10, 2023 · 3 min read

Whether you’re moving to the UK, USA, or EU, being an international student can be a unique experience. However, it also has challenges, especially during the first semester. Several students find adapting and adjusting to the new environment and regulations difficult. In addition, cultural differences often blend with homesickness, thus leading to negative emotions.

Your professors might have different expectations and teaching methods than in India because things aren’t always as they were in India. Besides, the patterns of examinations and assignments may differ from the Indian examination system. These challenges may seem overwhelming, but with the right attitude and practices, you may find it easier to prepare and settle down sooner than expected. In this article, we shall tackle some of the most frequently asked—or thought of—questions, and we hope you find your answers right here!

Spring Versus Fall

The beginning of the semester usually occurs during spring or fall, and most universities abroad offer both. If you choose the latter, commonly known as the ‘fall intake’, your semester starts in September or October. It is the prefered option, and universities are better organised to welcome and assist international pupils. The fall semester in the US starts in early September, right after Labour Day weekend, while in the UK, it does not start until mid-October. The term usually closes before Christmas and is followed by paper submissions and examinations for individual courses. The other option is ‘spring intake’, starting in February-March, and the term duration and structure are similar to the fall intake.

Term Duration

The semester duration in the universities overseas last approximately 14 weeks.

Semester Pace

The semester begins slowly, with the first few weeks passing with almost no assignment submissions. That’s because, during the first 3-4 weeks, the focus is on getting used to the courses. Here’s how you can make the most of these few weeks:

  • Attend student orientation events
  • Find out about the campus resources and amenities
  • Register yourself in the Office for International students
  • Learn about counselling services, writing facilities, and health centres
  • Visit the library and familiarise yourself with the study material
  • Join student clubs to build friendships and advance in your course
  • Attend speaker events to broaden your horizons and build relationships. Ask questions and try to reach out to the speakers.
  • Remember the deadlines by keeping a calendar. Be punctual to have a better impression on your professors.
  • Do not plagiarise your assignments because it will lead to a penalty
  • Make sure your projects are well-researched and reflect your understanding of the topic
  • Use critical thinking in your papers
  • Reach out to professors and maintain a positive relationship with them because they might help you find internships, provide LORs, or take you in as an apprentice over time.
  • Explore the city you live in during weekends, catch up with your reading, and learn more about the place’s culture
  • Keep a few important emergency contacts with you at all times

Just when you think things are pretty easy-going, week five starts, and the pace changes. Weeks 6-8 of the first semester are hectic because that’s when the assignments start coming in. The end of the term is hectic since that’s when you are expected to submit given assignments. There are term papers for each subject, and the exams start once the submission period is over. Start early and use the first 3–4 weeks to remain ahead of the classes if you don’t want to end up drowning in a sea of books, study materials, and class notes.

Vital Skills Needed during the Semester

Along with regular studies, you need two skills to survive the first semester without feeling overwhelmed. They are:

1. Managing Yourself

Your health and wellness are of utmost importance. Find time to exercise, have a healthy social life, and do things that help you de-stress. Do not hesitate to reach out to a counsellor if things go south. Finally, keep your eyes on the prize and remember why you chose this study program and what you hope to achieve. 

2. Managing Your Time

Keep a tracker of your progress, stick to deadlines, and start your work soon after it has been assigned to prevent a last-minute rush.


With these points, we hope you get a decent idea of what the first semester abroad looks like. Keep these in mind while you prepare for your studies abroad, and you shall have a memorable semester.

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