Guest Blogger: How to be Successful (and have fun!) During Your First Semester

Crystaline Poh is studying Respiratory Therapy at the University of Missouri. From Singapore, life in Midwest America has offered her many challenging, but rewarding experiences that she will never forget. From addressing questions all international student have about studying abroad to sharing lessons learned from her first semester, Crystaline shares helpful insights into her university experiences thus far.

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As a sponsored student, the selection of university is contingent on my field of study. Since accredited respiratory therapy courses are only offered in Canada and United States, I went with the latter. I was offered a list of universities in United States to consider for application provided by my sponsoring agency and Mizzou was one of them. So I started researching on each of the universities, paying attention to its reputation for Respiratory Therapy, student organizations, course curriculum and etc. What placed Mizzou above all other competitive universities was its diversified culture and flexibility with its course curriculum.  Mizzou offers a holistic education with its wide range of general electives to choose from and above all, it’s located in Midwest, central of United States of America. Missouri is the other only state after Tennessee that borders eight different states. This presents an opportunity on ease of travel to neighboring states.

In the midst of my preparation for my studies abroad in USA, I was feeling apprehensive and exhilarated all at once. The overwhelming number of applications and deadlines to adhere to, attending the visa interview and packing for 4 years abroad ain’t easy but I’m glad my efforts paid off.  For my first time going to United States and being more than 20 hours away from home for this long, am I able to handle all that change with the environment and culture? Is it a bad idea to enrol for spring semester when majority of the freshmen only admit in fall? Most importantly, will I fit in with the local community and establish an extended family on foreign grounds? Well, it’s all about perception. Taking the initiative to interact with people and participating in campus activities alleviates homesickness as it diverts your attention away from it. Mizzou has a great deal of student organizations to choose from based on your interests and you can even start your own if its novel. It has always been a dream of mine to join a singing group due to the influence of the TV show “Glee” and Mizzou has one that is right for me! I will be auditioning for Mizzou Forte in Fall as they were not accepting any applications in Spring. Even then I kept myself involved in Japan Club and even got out for a movie night with an awesome company (picture below)!

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Back home in Singapore, due to its land constraints, it has developed into an urban concrete jungle populated with city lights and high-rise buildings infested with people from various nationalities. It has an elaborate public transport system which made cars a luxury possession. Having grown up in an environment like this, I couldn’t imagine myself living in a huge place like United States and not being able to get around places. Ever since my arrival in Columbia, I am grateful to have met wonderful folks that are always willing to offer rides for me and even gave me pointers on securing a driving license! They showed me around town and all the cool places that people hang out which was amazing!

Spring semester was not as tough as I initially anticipated. Since it’s my first semester in American college, I enrolled for the minimum number of credit hours required of international students which is 12 credits which helped a lot with the transition into the foreign education system. It was manageable with the assistance from my academic advisor from the School of Health Professions and advices rendered by fellow students.

During those 2 weeks break before summer classes, I visited the Lake of Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka! Missouri offers a lot of trails for hiking and I got to admire the beauty of nature. What an eye-opening experience.

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Summer has arrived and though I am taking summer classes, I am planning to travel to the north-eastern regions of United States and visit some of the national monuments and museums to learn more about its history and how it shaped the world’s leading country.


My advice to incoming international students: don’t worry, head out and have fun. Of course, studies are equally important so just manage your time well and everything will fall into place. MIZ-ZOU, GO TIGERS!

For info on how you can have a great time studying abroad check out Yvonne Cheng’s “5 Ways to Have a Meaningful Study Abroad Experience

Mizzou’s Office of International Admissions manages To keep up to date with the latest information about studying in the USA, look us up on Facebook and Twitter. And if you have any questions please email us at We look forward to hearing from you!

3 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: How to be Successful (and have fun!) During Your First Semester

  1. Pingback: International Student Perspective: 5 Ways to Have a Meaningful Study Abroad Experience | Missouri Global

  2. Pingback: Alumnus Advises Students Who Want to Study in the USA | Missouri Global

  3. Pingback: Mizzou Resources for International Students | Missouri Global

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