Tips and Resources

The following tips come from our current and past international students based on their experience.

Duke International Student Center
  • Duke’s International Student Center is a valuable resource. During the summer, they generally host virtual online sessions to help incoming students plan their transition. In the week before the Nicholas School orientation, the Duke International Student Center hosts a Resource Fair and Orientation for international students, which includes a helpful session on academic integrity and differences in the style of courses in American universities.

Getting Around

Health Insurance & Wellness
  • On the Duke Student Health Center’s website, students will find details about mandatory medical insurance plans for international students and the facilities available at the Student Health Center.
  • Make sure also to explore the variety of wellness resources available.


  • You will be added to the Nicholas School’s international student email listserv ( before your arrival in the fall. Once subscribed, feel free to use this list to post any questions or concerns. Current international students and administrators will try to help you find answers. Using your Duke email address to write to the listserv is best, or your message will be delayed.

Living Essentials
  • If you need to open a bank account, find places to shop, or have concerns about personal safety, visit the Living Essentials web page by the Duke International Student Center and Living at Duke by Student Affairs. You will find all the information you need to settle comfortably in the US.

Pre-Departure and Arrival
  • The Duke International Student Center offers resources for pre-departure and arrival, which are outlined on its website. According to visa restrictions, international students are permitted to arrive no earlier than 30 days before the start of their program. It is advisable to arrive as early as possible within this timeframe to allow ample time for settling in, attending orientations, and visiting Duke’s International Student Center and Visa Services Office.

If English Is Not Your First Language

Your time at the Nicholas School and Duke University can be a great opportunity to improve your English and prepare to apply for internships and jobs in English-speaking countries. Here are some tips:

Choosing Courses
  • When choosing your first-semester classes, consider the structure of the course, including the amount of reading, writing, and presentations, and make sure you are comfortable with the requirements. For instance, classes like policy and law often have heavy reading and writing requirements. If you are unsure, reach out to the instructor or your advisor to discuss. Balancing your coursework during your first semester will allow you to adapt to the English language before taking more demanding courses with intensive reading, writing, or oral presentations.

Communications Studio NSOE
  • NSOE Communications Studio is a writing resource for environmental professionals to work toward the improvement of written communications. The studio offers one-on-one consultations, information on proper methods of citation, and communication trainings. Non-native English speakers will participate in no cost, structured English language support tailored to their needs through instruction by the NSOE Communications Studio. This instruction is built around the coursework in which the students are enrolled.
  • The Duke International Student Center offers several programs designed for international students, for example: Duke Language Partners, English Conversation Club, Spanish Conversation Club, Chinese Conversation Club, International Friends Program, Global Cafe, and more. Consider participating in one or more of these programs!

Practice English
  • While in the classroom, lectures, conversations, and group work are held in English. Take advantage of this opportunity to engage with peers who are both native and non-native English speakers to practice your English. Find opportunities to engage with students to practice your English-speaking (and writing) skills. Listen to US news channels, public radio stations, etc. See above regarding resources provided by the Duke International Student Center.

Taking Notes
  • Ask the instructor to write out key vocabulary words. Request permission to record the lectures. Check if lecture notes are available on the course webpage or from the instructor. Attend office hours with the instructor and teaching assistant to clarify your notes.

Study Groups
  • If you’re having difficulty organizing a study group, consider asking the instructor for assistance in setting up groups. Make sure you understand which tasks, such as homework problems, can be completed in groups and which must be done individually. You can also ask your peers to proofread written work for group projects and make use of the different writing support opportunities available.