Neil Gaiman is a famous author and screenwriter known for having a way with words. In 2012, he posted this on his blog regarding the new year:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world . . . Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough . . . Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it” (Gaiman, Neil. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/new-year).
I love this quote because Gaiman takes the idea of the mistake, something that most of us hate to make, and gives it a positive spin. Why would mistakes be a good thing? Because through mistakes, we learn something we might not have learned so well otherwise. We might have a new experience that is much better or more interesting than what we had planned. We might make a new friend, or learn something important.
We at ESLI know that for an International Student, coming to a new country is a minefield of potential mistakes. We help you avoid cultural mistakes in the classroom, but there are some big mistakes common to international students that are also easy to avoid.
One common mistake made by international students is that they do not take care of their health. Diverse cultures mean a diverse approach to health care and school attendance, meaning that many students will continue to come to class when they are sick. This is bad for the sick student since it is hard to get well when you are not resting, but for your classmates, too! If you are running a fever or just feel horrible, email your teachers that you aren’t well. Be sure you understand their policies regarding tests and absences in case you do get sick. And take care of yourself by eating healthy foods and getting plenty of rest every night.
Another common mistake that international students make is that they simply don’t study enough, or do not study well. This leads to poor grades and increased stress for the student—definitely not a happy mistake! So, pay attention in class when your teachers cover study skills and are sure you practice note-taking. Summarize for yourself at the end of each course to help you remember what you learned. Ask questions, and read over your notes every night. Work with friends to study for tests. Build a routine for yourself so you feel good about your progress through ESLI.
The final mistake is that many international students don’t travel! America and Canada are both huge countries with beautiful national parks, vibrant cities, and very unique history to explore. Some of the happiest mistakes of my life have happened when I was traveling! Rent a car, take the bus to a different city, learn something new and interesting. Sign up for tours or go to museums, to learn something about your corner of the world. If you can’t take a big trip, take a small one to another part of campus to meet someone new. Even a walk into town can be an adventure!
If you avoid these common mistakes, your time with ESLI will be more productive and you will remember your mistakes only as happy ones. If you are healthy, doing well in class, and getting off campus sometimes, you will discover you feel braver and more importantly, better about yourself and full of confidence, so embrace your mistakes and learn from them! They are entirely yours, and nothing to be afraid of.
From all of us at ESLI, have a happy and prosperous New Year!