Welcome to the Spring 2015 New Incoming Students Cohort
by Marco Bellin
Spring is a magical time of the year. While there are people dreaming of summer and long sunny days where the cold winter is only a memory, there are others seeing their dreams come true once they board on a plane, or any other mean of transportation, with Boston as final destination. You are about joining the UMass Boston community and starting the pursuit of your graduate degree or visiting program. Hard work and long nights on standardized tests and applications are now behind, a new chapter is about to start. Congratulations to each one of you! You made it! You have made the right decision, and by undertaking this step you just took your career, as well as personal and professional development, to the next level. Embrace this joyful and extraordinary moment, celebrate the admission with your loved ones, and then get ready to embark on one of the most enriching experiences of your life.
I was in your shoes two times, in 2009 when I joined UMass Boston as an exchange student and in 2014 when I returned to my home away from home, again UMass Boston, to pursue my MBA. I had to relocate from Italy, so I have been down the same steep road, and I have been through the emotional turmoil that comes with the big move twice. Going to Graduate School, be it across the country or on the other side of the globe, is never easy. You will find very challenging moments and will go through hard times. The sooner you take this into account, the better off you will be, and the more you will derive from this new experience you are about to start. Here is some advice that will prove useful when settling down in Boston and UMass.
1) Stay calm, no matter what. Always take a deep breath, remember that you made it till here, and tell yourself that everything is going to be fine.
2) Be humble, adapt to the new environment, and accept the fact that life will not be like it was back home. I am not saying it is going to be worse; it just will not be the same. Every place has its own pace, uses and habits, rules and culture. Embrace it with full heart! Do not try to change it, do not try to replicate the one from back home, enjoy the change. Change is positive!
3) Pack cleverly and strategically. If you are an international student, do not put any of your important documents into the luggage that you check in if you are flying. You want to exclude the possibility of losing them, were your luggage to be lost or delayed. All your identification documents, school-related paperwork, accommodation and travel documents, especially passport, letter of admission, I-20 (if you are an F-1 student) or DS-2019 (if you have a J-1 visa), should mean everything to you right now. Safeguard them day and night!
4) Ask for help, do not be afraid or shy. There will be moments where you do not know how to find a place or what you are supposed to do. It is okay. It is part of the learning process. Ask someone for help, you will be amazed at how helpful strangers can be. By the way, on-campus there are no strangers, we are part of the same family.
5) Dedicate your first week in town to sort everything out and settle down. Sightseeing can wait a few days. It is crucial to start with the right foot and fulfill the induction on-campus as well as find the right accommodation, if you have not found one yet. If you are international, report to the ISSS (International Students and Scholar Services – Campus Center, 2nd floor) office on your first visit to campus. They will tell you what you need to do. The One Stop office is another place you should become familiar with.
6) Take nothing for granted. Both if you are coming from the West Coast of the States or from the other side of the globe, remember that uses and people are different from the ones you were used to. Be respectful, always, and make sure you ask what you do not know or are not sure about.
7) Everyone likes and feel more comfortable to hang out with his or her own fellow students and friends, but life and learning happen outside your comfort zone and safety network. Integrate with different people. This will benefit you from day one, not only socially wise but also academically speaking. If your first language is not English, try as much as possible to stay with people that speak English. Your grades will improve hour after hour, and you will discover your untapped potential.
8) Do not be shy. At first glance classes will seem different, somehow surreal, and/or challenging, if you are used to a different system or school environment. People will actively participate in the class discussion, and there is no silly question. Get used to it. Speak up, so that you and the rest of the class can benefit and learn from each other.
9) Nobody will ‘project manage’ your days and your life inside and outside school. You need to do it. A graduate program can be intense, challenging, demanding, and all of the above. Keep your focus, keep your priorities clear in mind whatever they are, and plan accordingly. Be punctual at meetings, time is precious. If it is not precious to you, it will definitely be to the people waiting on you. Be responsible.
These are some of the keys to make your new experience as meaningful and positive as possible. There are surely other important aspects that you should think about in this new endeavor of yours. But that will be the ground for our next conversation, hopefully in person, on-campus. Feel free to stop me and introduce yourself in the hallways of our beautiful campus whenever you see me. I would love to make your acquaintance and clear any doubt you may have. Do not be shy, I will be happy to have a chat over coffee!
In the meantime, all the best and good luck for this new exciting phase of your life! I am excited for you and happy to have you joining our student community.
Welcome to UMass Boston! I look forward to seeing you this spring!