You are not alone: A guide to a successful study abroad experience at IUS

These four tips will help any international student who is new to the IU Southeast campus


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Maho Sato, Contributor

The American Dream might be an obsolete expression used to describe the possibilities and opportunities that American society offered for those moving into the country seeking advanced social mobility. Even though some aspects of “greatness” of the country have become questionable as hidden issues on politics and history have been revealed, it still is a fact that this country offers an incomparable number of cutting-edge opportunities, resources and assets to those who seek success in various types of disciplines including education, business, art, science and more.

According to Studee, an online service for international students, America has become the most sought-out study abroad destination for international students. The U.S. has left the United Kingdom behind by around 490,000 international students. In 2020, despite the pandemic that swept across the country, the U.S. hosted over 1 million students on their F-1 visa to study abroad, which according to EducationData makes up about 5.5% of the total number of students enrolled. There was only about a 1.8 % decline compared with the prior academic year.


Graphic by Maho Sato.

You have arrived here! Now what?

1. You Are Not Alone 

There are about 36 international students currently enrolled at Indiana University Southeast, and according to College Factual, the university has represented 50 countries. I still remember, being an international student myself, standing at Louisville International Airport with a small piece of hand luggage, which is what I call my “Anne of Green Gables” moment, waiting on a car to pick me up to go to my host parents’ home. Getting ready to live overseas, seeking new experiences and a new life is so exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. It is always a great reminder to know that there are also another one million students who also went through the same experience, starting a new life in the United States.



2. F-1 Students and Work Permits

International students are given up to 20 hours of work permission on campus. IU Southeast provides various work opportunities in places such as the cafeteria, library and other on campus offices, and details on those careers can be found on the Student Employment page of the Career Development Center website. Another way for the F-1 visa-holders to gain work experience while in the U.S. is through CPT and OPT. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) gives students opportunities to gain working experience that is directly related to a field of their study before graduating. Optional Practical Training (OPT) will also allow you to work up to 12 months whether after completing the first academic year or graduation. It is very important for the international students to contact and work with their advisors for the process of getting work permission of activating the status, since it involves a few legal processes before being able to start working. One person to reach out to is Chris Crews, the IU Southeast international services liasion and director of recruitment and admissions. His email is In an interview with Crews, he mentioned that it has been always his pleasure to help students who are in need.

3. Communities on Campus

Harut Verdyan, a student from Armenia, who now is a startup founder/CEO and sourcing professional in Louisville, has studied as an international student in the United States. He says that he strongly emphasizes the importance of making friends locally so that you experience and understand American culture better than anything you will learn in a classroom. It is easy to spend most of your time with other international students, because of having similar situations and backgrounds, however building a community is something that benefits you beyond just having accompanies.

“My career choices are a direct result of opportunities presented through studying in the U.S. and people I met at the university,” he said.

He also added that development of a work ethic and networking with other future young professionals were some of the most valuable experiences he gained while being an international student.

IU Southeast offers student organizations and clubs under various disciplines, including advertising, communications, English, fine arts, music and more. For example, the Dirt Bags Art Club is one of the distinct art communities at IUS. They say the purpose the group is to “bring awareness of the arts to the IU Southeast campus and the community.” Their initiatives include bringing visiting artists and lecturers to campus, organizing group activities for students to enhance their education in the arts, providing support for studio equipment for the IU Southeast Fine Art Program and promoting outreach about the arts to local schools. Members of the group benefit from a more in-depth education in the arts, as well as a better sense of camaraderie within the IU Southeast art community and more experience gaining teamwork and communication skills. They not only take art seriously, but also have fun gatherings and create community where students can always visit and interact with other local students.

4. Communities in the New Albany and Greater Louisville Areas

Susan Kwon, a student from Seoul, is a software developer and now works as a technical writer in Seoul. She studied English literature at IUS after finishing the IESL program at University of Louisville. Her most valuable experience being an international student was that she became more open-minded meeting all new friends from all parts of the globe. Her friendship with school friends and her new relationship with her American family became a treasure to her.

“Choose the state or region where people from your nation are scarce so that you can have more chances to meet people from other countries and to learn about multiple cultures,” she said as advice to incoming international students.

One of the best ways to expand your community outside of campus is to join volunteering opportunities offered in the surrounding communities. IUS offers on and off-campus opportunities as well as service projects in the local community and nationally.

Overall, the life of an F-1 student is fulfilling but also complicated due to detailed rules. In addition to following these tips, it is always a great idea to keep close contact with your advisor at IUS who can provide you guidelines based on immigration law and school regulations.