College students eating in the cafeteria

4 Surprises for International Students About On-Campus Housing

International students can get a sneak peek at life on campus thanks to virtual tours offered on many college websites.

College students eating in the cafeteria

On-campus dining options offer a variety of food choices as well as provide a place for international students to socialize and learn about their classmates. 

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As an international student, one does not get the opportunity to visit a campus when looking at schools. As a prospective student, I could have only imagined what a campus looked like from the pictures available on a college’s website. 

It was really important for me to know what kind of living environment I was about to enter, and whether to live on campus wasn’t the easiest decision to make. On-campus housing often comes in a wide variety, and can include dorms and upperclassmen houses. Most of the dorms at my university are where freshmen live. But that does not mean every university offers students the same kinds of living options. 

There are a few things about living on campus that are common to many U.S. colleges and universities that may surprise prospective international students.

[Learn about on-campus housing options for international students.]

1. The availability of online virtual tours: Technology has made it so much easier for international students, who can live thousands of miles away from campus, to learn about the housing options available at different schools. My university offers virtual tours on its website, which allowed me to get a general view of the dorms and other on-campus housing options.

These are a great tool for prospective international students, as they let you look not only for on-campus housing, but into various buildings on campus. These tools come in really handy when you are trying to make a decision about which college you'll attend. It is important to look for these tools when applying as they can make the process of choosing schools easier.

2. How close dorms can be to classes: One of my favorite things about living on campus was that the time it took to get from my classes and my dorm was hardly five minutes. That allowed me to get where I needed to go quickly, so I could be in class on time or even early. 

At many campuses, student residences such as dorms make it easy to get to class, and you won't need to buy a vehicle for transportation. It would be difficult and expensive for an incoming freshman to buy a car upon arrival on campus. Being in close proximity to class and not having to drive also allows you to skip having to get a driver's license. 

[Find out what international students should know about living off campus.]

3. What food is available in the dining hall: I believe having a good social environment is crucial as an international student. Learning about different cultures is something I still continue to do. It is really fascinating when you have people of different cultures and backgrounds come together and share their experiences. 

For example, food is an important part of any culture and it was interesting to know that there were various other food products available in the country – and on campus. Many international students have the impression from Hollywood movies that burgers and fries are the main meal in this country. But there are definitely different types of food available in on-campus dining halls at colleges and universities, or even just around the campus.

[Prepare this summer to attend a U.S. college.]

4. Which resources campus residences provide: Living off campus means arranging and paying for your own Internet service, finding washing machines and clothes dryers, buying furniture and setting up other general resources and necessities, like water and heat. 

Saving time and money is crucial for many international students – and not being from the country can make it difficult to understand how to arrange for these kinds of services. Typically, living in a dorm or other campus housing means these resources are provided through the school and paid for through room and board fees.