By Ami Tsutani
Getting an A in a college class is not easy. You have to put some effort in to achieve it, especially if you are an international student who doesn’t speak English as a first language.
As an international student who is about to graduate from CSULB, I would like to give some tips to international students and anyone who wants to receive A’s in class.
1. Understand some of the main concepts and keywords before class.
At an academic level, concepts and keywords can be difficult to understand even in your native language. It is effective to skim your textbook and translate words you don’t know into your first language before class. I Google the word I don’t know and find websites that explain it in Japanese (my first language). By doing this, I can utilize my time in class to better understand what my professor is talking about and have more space in my brain to learn new things.
2. Visit your professor’s office hours.
You want to have your professor on your side. You should create a time to see them outside of class. It can be a great opportunity for you to ask questions, get feedback on your projects or papers, and make sure they know you! Even if you understand the class material well, I would still suggest you have a short meeting with your professor. They can be your mentor even after the semester is over.
3. Get a dictionary.
I always had my electronic dictionary that translates between English and Japanese with me. (Unfortunately, I forgot it in Japan when I went back.) Some of you might think it is unnecessary because Google plays that role for you. However, having a translating dictionary can be great; some professors allow you to use it during exams. When I explained that my dictionary was not connected to the internet and only functioned as an English-Japanese and Japanese-English translator, almost all professors let me use it during exams. I was also able to use it in class in which phones and laptops were not allowed.
4. Make a friend in class.
Thankfully, I have had such nice people offer to help me. They listen to my poor English, proofread my papers, and spend time explaining concepts I did not understand in class. You might hesitate to ask your classmates for help, especially if you are not really confident with your speaking. Don’t worry. They will help you.
5. Take a class with your friend who speaks the same language as you.
It is a good idea to plan your schedule for the next semester with your friends especially when they speak the same language as you. Even if you and your friends are different majors, you could still take some GE classes together. I did this when I was in community college before transferring to CSULB. My Japanese friends and I got A’s together by helping each other. Studying in both English and Japanese helped me learn the material efficiently.
6. Check https://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ as a reference.
This can only be used as reference, but this website can help you decide which class to take. Rate My Professors is a website for college students to evaluate professors. You can search for professors' names and see how students feel about them. Some students leave comments such as a professor speaks too fast or offers plenty of office hours, which help let you know if their class is for you. Although you shouldn't blindly believe the comments on the website as facts, you might find it useful to check it as a guide.
7. Study, study, study.
Last but not least, you need to create time to study. Taking time is the only way you can succeed. I have no doubt that I have spent at least twice as much time as others to write papers, finish projects, and prepare for exams. Languages can be a huge obstacle for you to achieve A’s, but it is not impossible to get excellent grades. Take your time, study hard and of course, include some break time!