Frequently Asked Questions


This section provides answers to some common questions students have had over the years. It covers multiple topics and is meant to be a starting point for students to engage with around these themes. We encourage you to contact your University Support contact to discuss these further if you need more clarity.

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Academic success

How do I get to know my professors?

Developing a relationship with your professors is both meaningful and extremely helpful. Professors often function as mentors and employers, as well as strong references to your post-college plans. The most common route for students is taking advantage of office hours. This is a period set aside by most professors to interact with students for a variety of reasons ranging from explaining concepts not understood in class, having an opportunity to discuss content outside of the classroom or simply to say hello. You have the leeway to negotiate time outside of the scheduled times if they clash with your calendar. While most office hours are scheduled, some professors have walk-in policies which means you do not need an appointment to see them. Maintaining the relationship is equally important. You should send follow-up emails, meet regularly to simply catch up or update them on how your semester is progressing or ask about the possibility to work with them in their research during the semester or school break.

Do I have to buy textbooks?

Textbooks are assigned by the professor, and you will get a list of assigned books before class starts or on the first day. Speak with your professors to distinguish essential books from supplemental books on your reading lists. The most convenient (but generally most expensive) option is to buy or rent your textbooks at your university’s bookstore. Most libraries will also have some books requested by teachers for a specific class on reserve for students. Cheaper options include using online resources such as Ebay, Amazon, chegg.com or Facebook groups where students sell used books. 

Always search for the book by its title and author and make sure that the “ISBN” number and edition number match the book you’re buying. You can also make use of open sourced online tutorials from sites such as the Khan Academy and MIT Courseware.

What academic resources are available to me?

Universities invest a lot of resources into assuring that students have a successful academic experience so take advantage of everything available at your university. At the beginning of your first year, you will be assigned an academic adviser who will be a professor in you intended major. These professors are useful resources 1) to understand the degree you will be pursuing and 2) to register for appropriate classes. Keep in mind that you may need their signature to process some academic changes, such as switching classes. Most university departments provide teaching assistants (TA) who are usually graduate students or undergraduates who have recently taken the class and therefore have a strong understanding of the material. Their role is to be accessible to students, help them understand the materials covered in class, and answer any questions you may have regarding the class. Additionally, if you like learning in groups, universities also offer tutorial sessions during which the tutor reviews material and help attendees with specific problems for a class. You may also have the option of a personal tutor dedicated to just you. For writing assistance, check-out a writing center, if available.

Finding Balance

Do you recommend I join student clubs?

Involvement in extra-curricular activities is a wonderful way to explore your passions outside of the classroom and a great way to make friends. Beware of being drawn into too many commitments, which can end up affecting not only your academics, but put a great deal of pressure on you in terms of meeting several obligations. It is ok to try out multiple things at first, especially those that are completely new to you. But you need to later settle on the ones you are most interested in.

How can I maintain a healthy social life?

The first thing to note is that you should never feel pressured to participate in any activity which conflicts with your beliefs or which make you uncomfortable. Most universities and cities you live in will have a mix of different social events so choose what interests you. A fair number of activities may involve alcohol. If you wish to participate, be sure you are of legal drinking age as this might otherwise jeopardize the status of your visa (if you are an international student). Also, make sure you abide by your school’s alcohol policy.

How should I manage my mental health?

For most of you, this will probably be the first time you are entirely in charge of your own schedule, dealing with demanding course loads among other things. When things start to feel overwhelming, reach out to your support network (university’s counselling center, friends, family, ALA University Support contact, etc.) Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, you will actually notice how much load is lifted off your shoulders by simply talking to someone. Ask your counselling center about distress programs that you can do on your own. Even if you are not stressed, these might at times serve as preventative measures. Seek help early; do not wait until situations become severe before asking for help. You have great resources at your disposal, and they are there for a reason so use them. And always get enough sleep, eat well and be active.

Financial health

How do I manage my finances?

For most students, this is the first time you will be financially independent and it is imperative that you learn how to manage your money. It is crucial for you to learn how to keep a budget. One way to ensure financial security is to open a checking or savings account. The latter will give you a financial cushion in case of an emergency. It is strongly recommended to have a budget for your leisure time too. Every time you go out with friends, plan in advance how much you want to spend; otherwise you will end up spending more than necessary. Be aware of your small expenses. Buying coffee for 150 shillings, five days a week comes to 3000 shillings per month. Lastly, take advantage of promotions, student’s discount or discount shops to purchase things you need. 

Here are some resources to help you manage your finances: Mint Student BudgetWally,  My College Budget by Microsoft , Nerd WalletTheCollegeInvestor and Forbes.

Can I work while in school?

Your eligibility to work depends on the law that governs student employment. If you are studying in your home country, it is more straight forward. If you are an international student, check whether your visa allows you to work and what restrictions there are such as number of hours you can work per week. You may have to apply for a National Insurance Number, Social Security Number or the equivalent in the country you live in. A very useful resource for finding job opportunities is the online Job Board on your university’s website. Also, talk to upperclassmen to get a sense of where to find jobs. If you are working, it is very important that you feel comfortable to ask your supervisor to drop or change your shift for academic reasons. This is crucial especially during finals week because you do not want your grades to be affected by your job.

What should I do if I need funding?

Even with a job and careful budgeting, you may find yourself needing additional money for internships, programs, or emergencies such as paying a hospital bill. Universities often have funds available. However, they are not widely advertised because the funds are usually limited. You should be proactive about looking for funding and ask early – often months in advance, where possible. Go to different offices at your school to talk to administrators. Your International Students Office is a good place to start.