How First Class Helps International Students Transition to BU

in Global Matters
March 13th, 2024

Online, Pre-arrival Course Covers Many Important Topics, Helps International Students Prepare for Arrival in U.S.

For all international students coming to BU, Global Programs offers an online, noncredit pre-arrival course designed to prepare them for their transition to the American classroom and the University.

The course, first launched in 2016, is aptly called First Class and is delivered on Blackboard, with short videos, polls, and self-checks designed to be completed from anywhere, on any device. There is a second First Class course offered by the ISSO, currently in the edXedge platform, to help students maintain their visa status while at BU.

“BU First Class introduced me to the different resources on campus, and I also appreciated the videos of students who discussed ways to deal with stress and the importance of health and wellness,” says Myat Thadar (QST ’26). “Taking the ISSO [portion of the First Class] course has helped me maintain my visa status and allowed me to prepare accordingly to visit my home country Myanmar during the summer break!”

Comprised of several sections, First Class helps international students in myriad ways and covers everything from academics to health and wellness to preparing for entering the U.S.

Simran Raikundalia (CAS ’25), a junior studying biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in mathematical statistics, remembers the uncertainty she faced when transitioning from an international British high school to a university in the United States.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I made, and First Class was one of the first orientation platforms that helped me transition into studying abroad and understand that this step outside my comfort zone was worth it,” she recalls. “The most helpful information I gained from this course was regarding the BU Classroom principles. I learned a lot about engaging with professors outside of the classroom as I was introduced to the concept of office hours and learned more about Classroom ethics. Additionally, I was unaware of the importance of each syllabus and the breakdown of course grades, as during my high school, grades were simply based on end-of-year exams.”

PhD student Erning (Henry) Chen agrees and says the parts about the American classroom experience were most helpful for him.

“For those [students] who have not been studying in the context of the U.S., I think talking about the classroom experience is helpful. Especially, there are quite a few students invited into these videos to provide testimonials and talk about their experiences,” he says. “The most helpful thing that I found was, I think, the conversations and dialogues that happen between certain students.”

Read on for some additional highlights and feedback about First Class from BU international students who took the course in fall 2023:

“I really feel educated and informed about BU after this class. I have learned things about various different aspects, and highly appreciate BU’s effort’s on ensuring me smooth transition into the BU community/society. Please keep up the good work for students that are coming in the future!”

“International students can easily feel overwhelmed and lonely by an unfamiliar environment. However, this module made me feel that I am really taken care of by the University, and I do not need to worry about the new beginning.”

“I wasn’t aware of the rules related to plagiarism, overall the content was really helpful.”

“I know now that participation is really important in assessing the grade, which was not in my home university.”

Some additional comments on what else students learned…