Why living-learning communities are popular with international students

Happy students with free education for a year. Source: Shutterstock.
Living learning communities have a lot to offer international students. Source: Shutterstock.

Making the move to study abroad can be a daunting prospect. There’s a lot to consider regardless of where you go to university – shifting your stuff, making new friends, finding your way around the campus, swotting for exams – throw into this being in an unfamiliar country and it can add an extra layer of stress.

That’s why many international students are considering moving into living-learning communities, or LLCs, as an effective way of getting acquainted with your new city while getting support in your studies and enjoying your very own built-in friendship group.

LLCs place students with a specific shared interest together in a dedicated area of the halls of residence or an exclusive house. They are sometimes co-sponsored by an academic department or college and are often set-up to deliver a variety of events and services to support students in their academic and personal growth.

There are more and more LLCs popping up across the US and Canada as colleges start to recognise the benefits of these special living arrangements.

Nigerian student Ayooluwa Solaja chose an LLC at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

“I thought it would be beneficial to have additional academic support to ease my transition to university life in Canada. I also enjoyed the prospect of living with other people in my programme,” says Solaja.

But it doesn’t just have to be focused around your area of study, you can also find LLCs that look at general interests outside of the college curriculum. They can cover all manner of things from social justice and environmental sustainability, to STEM diversity and design.

While they may not be for everyone, LLCs can provide a wealth of benefits when it comes to immersing yourself in a new culture and getting to grips with your studies.

They usually comprise of both international and domestic students, with a mix of undergrad and graduates, so the community you find yourself in can prove to be a mine of useful information and support when it comes to navigating an unfamiliar city.

Through the range of activities organised by the LLC, international students also find they develop friendships far faster than they would do in regular university halls. Being surrounded by like-minded people gives you a common motivation and bond that starts from day one.

“We do a lot of activities together,” says University of Denver student Lia Li. “This provides me chances to build deeper relationships with American friends and also international students.”

Your newfound friends are also on hand to assist you with your studies when you find yourself in need of some added guidance.

In LLCs grouped by subject area, your peers can be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to getting your head around the new material on your course.

“No matter what you’re studying, there’s always someone there offering help with a problem,” says Breanna Doherty, and Engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Honestly, I would not have passed half my classes this year if I didn’t have people around me doing the same thing that could help me with it.”

Through your community, you’re not only making friends but valuable connections for the future. You’re surrounded by people who will likely be going into similar fields as yourself. LLCs also tend to have great connections with campus departments and staff. These can link you up with networking events or hook you up with jobs on campus to help with living expenses.

“One of the biggest problems in entrepreneurship is finding people with the same passion,” says Vinh Luong, an Innovation and Entrepreneurship student at the University of Pittsburgh. “When you’re in that environment it negates the problem of having to find people who are just as passionate because you’re living in it.”

If this sounds like the sort of thing you’re looking for when you embark on university life, make sure you check out the university housing set-up of any colleges you’re thinking of applying to. If you want to have academic help on hand, hone language skills and connect with peers who share common interests, then LLCs could be just the place for you.

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