Tips and tricks to tackle the transition back to the US for college

Tips and tricks to tackle the transition back to the US for college

by Julia Cahill
Stripes Europe

Starting college or university can be just as terrifying as it is exciting. The whole experience is full of the unknown. There’s so much independence and responsibility – especially when your parents are an ocean away. Don’t worry! You can do this. Your school wouldn’t have accepted you if they didn’t think you could.

Here are my top tips and tricks to tackle the transition back stateside for college.

Practice “adulting”

First thing's first. You’re about to enter adulthood. It’s much easier if you embrace it. This may mean different things for different people, but if your parents are still doing your laundry, this summer is high time to change that. Can you grocery shop on your own? Go to the bank and use the ATM? Keep your room clean? Really take care of yourself? Use this brief time before you’re plunged into the real world as a test run. Ask your parents all the questions you’ve yet to ask, and remember if you mess up it’s not the end of the world. College is the time to learn from your mistakes.

Learn how to be alone

College is all about independence; it’s time to start doing things on your own. Try going to a restaurant or a movie by yourself. Not with friends or your family, simply alone. Learning how to be on your own is a valuable life lesson. This was a major growing pain for me when I first started college. I was used to having my family nearby 24/7, and since they were in Europe while I was back in the States, it felt like I had no one to talk to. If I could go back and change that, I’d focus on learning how to better myself and feel all right being on my lonesome. Being alone isn’t a bad thing. Over my college career, I’ve learned that it’s simply time to enjoy your own company and get to know yourself a little better.

Be your own boss

The only person who is going to tell you what to do in college is yourself. I’m partial to virtual to-do lists (on fun interactive sites like Habitica) and a color-coded Google calendar to keep me doing what I need to do. Your intrinsic motivation is the only thing that determines if you go to class, maintain a semblance of hygiene, do your homework, stick to a budget, or even eat regular meals. There’s no one to hold your hand or make sure that you’re on track to succeed in college. That’s your job. You are responsible enough to do this. It’s time to prove it.

Travel smart and pack light

Have you looked into what it takes to fly the 7+ hours back stateside on your own? Even if someone is dropping you off this semester, it’s nearly inevitable that you’re going to make the trek by yourself. Do some research. Look into the Joint Travel Regulation (JTR CH7 Part C). If you qualify, it can be a lifesaver. Check out this article for more information. Make sure your passport is up to date and that you’re comfortable with the travel route.

Try to avoid shipping things from Europe that you can buy once you’ve arrived on campus, and avoid over packing. I moved into my freshman dorm with two stuffed suitcases and tons of dinged-up boxes shipped through the university mail full of things I was convinced I absolutely needed. I had to go to my local mall to pick up things I’d forgotten anyway; all the boxes were just a hassle. Half of them ended up being ignored and stored under my bed all year. When it was time to move out, I donated most of the things I was convinced I needed to a local charity.

Health care

On a logistical note, make sure your health insurance is valid where your college or university is. TRICARE has same-day transfer coverage, you just have to go into your local TRICARE office and talk to a representative about switching your location. Private insurance may require a phone call or a visit, so get this done sooner rather than later. Make sure you know the emergency numbers for the services on your campus. Figure out how your local pharmacy works for medication and how the clinic nearest you provides care before you get there. This is something for you to do, not your parents. You’ll be the one receiving care!

Don’t forget loved ones

Call your parents — and not just because you need something. The time difference may be something to adjust to, but they miss you just as much as you are probably refusing to admit that you miss them. If your parents are anything like mine, help them figure out how to use software like FaceTime or Skype before you go. Figure out how to message and call your family (you could look into using popular programs like WhatsApp, Kakao Messenger, or iMessage) and do so on a regular basis. Take some photos of your favorite people with you to decorate your dorm. Going off to college doesn’t mean that your parents no longer matter. I realized how much I took mine for granted when I left to live on my own. Although life gets hectic and it always seems like there’s no time for nearly anything, talking to your family should be a priority.


My biggest tip to surviving your transition into freshman year? Be flexible. Go with the flow and learn things as you do. This is the time to get excited for the new life experiences coming your way. Revel in the time you have left living with your family. Everything is about to change.

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