Make it a smooth transition from home to university

 So you’ve received your acceptance letter in the mail, know where your funding is coming from and are gearing yourself up for leaving the nest and going to university.

As with many things, the key to smoothing the transition is advance planning.

The director of student services at the University College of the Cayman Islands, Mary Anne Cannon, said that students going overseas are offered counselling and guidance from her department.

“Mitch Ebanks handles this for the department.  He reminds students when deadline dates are for applications abroad and for the government scholarships.

“Each university has different entry requirements, so he makes sure that all students have what they need to get in the door.

She also mentioned the additional expense that students need to consider, for such things as personal items, self-maintenance and electronic devices.

“We ask students to envision a typical day at their university and then review their “impression” with corrected information,” she says.

One US-based college that is hoping to increase its enrollment of Caymanian students is New England Institute of Technology.

The private, non-profit technical college has more than 3,300 students and offers over 30 associate, bachelor and master’s degree programmes. It has an open enrollment policy, but students must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED to be accepted, said Linda Dionne of the Media Relations Department.

“When an international student arrives at New England Tech, we greet them at the airport and assist with housing, shopping and transportation needs,” Ms Dionne said.

Overseas students are also given “an exclusive orientation”, she said.

“Each international student has constant communication with our international student advisor, and are assigned an academic advisor. These… ensure a smooth transition and to cultivate the success of each student.”

The Institute also has a scholarship agreement with the Cayman Islands Government through the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment Youth, Sports and Culture.

“We are… hoping to finalise an articulation agreement with the University College of the Cayman Islands, where many of our Cayman Island students first attend before transferring to NEIT,” Ms Dionne said.

First-hand accounts
In the transition to an overseas college, most students miss home in the first few weeks. This is totally normal and can be counteracted by regular calls home, Skyping your family and friends and preparing an album of your favourite photos from home.

Samantha Bonham, who has just completed her first year at a Sheffield’s Hallam University in the north of England, shared her initial concerns after having been  accepted into the bachelor of arts in communications course.

“[It] … was a complete world away from Cayman with a whole different time zone,” she said. “My biggest fears were whether I would fit in with my flatmates and classmates,  if I would be able to manage when I was ill… and if I would be able to keep up with the university’s academic standards, not to mention the cold weather.”

Her worries were soon set aside.

“I realised that all of the other first year students were in the same boat as me, with all the same fears.

“It didn’t take long to adjust to the social and academic aspects of university. It was also a comfort to know that although my mother wasn’t there with me, she was only a phone call away.

Hannah Reid starts her second year of Journalism and Environmental Studies at Emory University soon.

She has the following practical tips for Caymanians heading off to American colleges:

It’s more cost effective and cheaper to travel light and then stock up on supplies in stores like Walmart or Target.

Caymanian students attending UK universities will need to get a student visa.

Be aware of the deadlines for registration payments, housing applications, etc.

Money management
Knowing when to expect your fees and any extra financial support is vital for peace of mind and so you can plan ahead.

Be clear about where you can get assistance if the cheques do not arrive on time.

Banks in university towns usually have student officers, who are well-versed in all the issues students face regarding money management.

Work out a weekly allowance, taking into account any travelling to and from your accommodation if you live off-campus, as well as food, clothing and college materials, such as books.

Sorting out travel arrangements
Have a clear idea of where your accommodation, the library and your classrooms and lecture theatres are before setting off to school. Consult the university website.

Most schools are open throughout the holidays and staff are on hand to answer any residual questions.

Be sure to factor in travel to and from Cayman, each term.

Diet and exercise
Diet, along with regular exercise, is important to keep from getting rundown.

Locate the campus eateries for at least one balanced and reasonably priced meal a day. Meal planning might not exciting but since many students may not have cooked regularly before leaving for college, it’s important to draw up a weekly budget.

Learn how to prepare at least three basic meals before arriving at university. Buy a cookbook for quick and inexpensive meal ideas or go online for recipes.

Health and socialising
Once you find yourself in a huge college of several thousand people, socialising can be intimidating.

Join clubs to meet others with similar interests and make new friends.

And if you feel physically or emotionally unwell visit a trained counsellor at the student medical clinic, register with a doctor there or call one of the after-hours help lines.