What To Expect

What to Expect

For the international arriving in the U.S. for the first time, it can be an overwhelming experience – from feeling happy, excited, and independent, to nervous, fearful, and isolated. We hope that some of what we explain in this section will help to give you a more comfortable start in your new life here in DeKalb.

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When you arrive in the U.S.

Most of you will arrive at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. O’Hare is one of the busiest airports in the world. When you arrive you will need to go through immigration and then retrieve your baggage. Once you retrieve your baggage, you will need to go through customs. After customs, you are all set to see the U.S.

If you have signed up for airport pickup, you will be welcomed by a Network of Nations volunteer. After so much travel, we are told that the Network of Nations volunteer is a welcome sight. It takes approximately an hour and a half to go from the airport to your destination in DeKalb, IL.

The weather in northern Illinois may be far different than your home country. Most internationals find the winters here to be the most challenging – very cold and lasting approx. 4 months out of the year. In the fall, Network of Nations offers day trips with American volunteers to a large coat store where you can find a big selection of appropriate winter coats, hats, and gloves/mittens to purchase.

Many internationals observe that the U.S. can be a friendly, communicative, ‘smiling culture’ – especially in “the Midwest”. This can be especially true in smaller U.S. towns like DeKalb and Sycamore where you are often greeted with a smile, and a “Hi, how are you?” greeting (which often just means ‘hello’ in the U.S.).

But additionally, internationals also observe that Americans tend to be very busy with work (sometimes more than one job), family, faith/church, volunteer work, and other events. Because of this, the ‘pace’ of life here can be very fast and is highly ‘scheduled’ and planned out.


When you arrive in DeKalb

DeKalb is a small community situated quite a distance away from Chicago. It is adjacent to another small town called Sycamore. When you arrive, you will realize that getting around town is not too difficult if you use the NIU bus system or city buses. You will want to familiarize yourselves with these as soon as possible. Almost everything you might need can be found here in a variety of small and large stores and restaurants.

Network of Nations offers a limited number of “New International Student Orientation Tours” usually one to two weeks prior to the Northern Illinois University student orientation. Volunteers take you on a three-hour tour around DeKalb showing you places and things that will be very helpful for you to know as someone new to the area.”

In our local stores, workers will often offer to help you find something, and as you are adjusting to life here don’t hesitate to ask them for help if you need it! This may not happen as often when you go to a major city like Chicago.

One thing you will realize after not too long is that getting out of town is not that easy. Because of this, you will want to take advantage of outings provided by Network of Nations or by Northern Illinois University.


When you get to Northern Illinois University

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If you are attending Northern Illinois University, you will find a great deal of resources available through the university. These resources will be thoroughly explained to you at the international student fair and during orientation week.

The University also has an office that is equipped to handle most of your needs. The International Student and Faculty Office are available to handle most things that arise during your time at the University.


When you arrive at Intercultural Café

One of the many things that Network of Nations does for Internationals is provide a safe place where you can meet others. Our weekly Café is actually a dinner provided by volunteers who love serving people of other cultures.

The Network of Nations Intercultural Café is on most Friday nights of the school year and is a great place to get to know people from other cultures and Americans as well.

Café is a fun place to be and at times specific countries are highlighted with music, food and every once in a while, even cultural dances.

The Intercultural Café is only a three-minute walk from the Northern Illinois University’s Holmes Student Center.


Culture Shock

When you arrive in a new place with people of a different culture, it is normal to have culture shock. Though there are many similarities between people of different cultures, there are also many differences. Those differences are often accentuated in our minds when we arrive in a foreign environment.

Not only is the food and climate different, but the people often act differently than what you are accustomed to. Greetings are different, personal space is different, the sense of community is different, social values may be different and you may even need to speak a different language.

All of these differences create stress that wears on our bodies and minds. Sometimes we are so busy that we do not even realize the affect the new culture is having on us until a great deal of time has passed.


Some common signs and symptoms of culture shock are:

  • Loneliness/sadness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Anger, irritability
  • Feeling lost
  • Lack of confidence
  • Obsession with health or cleanliness

Good ways to cope with Culture Shock:

  • Understand that what you are feeling is normal
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Talk through your feelings with others
  • Keep in contact with family and friends back home
  • Work on making new friendships
  • Have items with you that remind you of your own culture, family and friends
  • Find places that sell spices and foods that you are familiar with. Try cooking foods that you enjoy from your own culture.

You may have come here with a view of the U.S. and Americans from your home countries and families that will probably grow and change after some time here. It is our hope that we can help answer your questions, and adjust well to your new life here!

Welcome!