Advice for international college students planning on US study
Updated: Jun 15
I love talking about cross-cultural stuff, especially when it comes to academia. Last year, I was asked to speak at an international students event so I put thoughts to paper. Even though the event did not really materialize in the end, I have my notes so I am going to share my thoughts here - Perhaps someone will find it useful?
By the way, I came to this country as an international student from India over twenty years ago, so much of my advice is based on my experience.
So, here are some tips that I would give undergraduate students from Asian countries who are planning to study in the US:
1. Yes, the North American culture is different but there are many ways to learn about the culture - Embrace it by:
Attending the international student orientation at your college
Watching American movies, music videos, listening to podcasts and joining Clubhouse
Making friends and asking people if you are curious about something - Observe for a few months and then once you build a relationship with a friend, then politely ask those questions. Don't be afraid to ask about etiquette in specific contexts. For the most part, people are friendly and they will be willing to share why they do what they do, what they feel, etc. But rather than questioning it, celebrate and respect it!
2. Studying at an American University is expensive and scholarships for international students are hard to come by. Some universities have merit-based scholarships or need-based. In some cases, you have to be a citizen or a Green Card holder. Plan to budget for the expenditure and if possible, consider community college and transfer after a couple of years.
3. We have a lot of resources here in our University - Our library system is amazing, career as well as mental health counselors are always available to help - plan to reach out. Same for language tutoring, if you need it. Most of this is offered free!
4. Stay in constant contact with the International Office at your school. You need to know deadlines, jobs you can or cannot do due to visa restrictions, when your visa expires, internships and externships that are allowed, country and travel restrictions. Make regular visits so you do not miss any deadlines.
5. Every class you take will have a professor who is also available before or after class if you have questions or if you need clarifications. Do not be afraid to ask for help - Professors actually enjoy talking with students and getting to know them
6. Larger classes have graduate students who assist the professor in teaching or grading
7. In American classrooms, there is a lot of focus on discussions. Raise your hand and share your opinion. There are often points allocated to participation. Many of these discussions are not about right or wrong - they are just about sharing how or what you feel about a topic
8. Plagiarism is not allowed in the USA, you can get kicked out of college. Plagiarism is basically copying someone else's work and claiming that it is your own. Just try your best to be creative and come up with your ideas for any academic work that you submit
9. It is easier to get teaching or research assistantships if you are a graduate student. Look out for student job postings and apply with a well-written resume and a letter of intent. Learn enough about the opportunity before applying and tailor your resume and letter based on the need by putting in the most relevant information that may apply to that role / job
10. Try to get an internship in the US itself, if possible. American work experience may hold more weight, especially if it is a less-known company and you may find it easier to get a job after you graduate.
11. It is not easy to find a job in the US, especially if you are in a more general education field. It is easier to find a job in fields like specialized fields because there are fewer qualified applicants for those jobs
12. Americans are generally quite accepting of other cultures - they may ask you questions about your culture and they never mean disrespect, they are curious and want to get to know you better. Share your culture and they will join you in celebrating your culture too!
13. Seems silly to mention but it was not obvious to me when I first came here twenty years ago - Body odor is not welcomed at all. I did not even know I had BO until someone told me! Use deodorant :)
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