Life Hacks for International Students in the USA
Are you planning to study in the USA? The United States of America has some of the best colleges in the world with top class programs guaranteed to make you a highly sought after professional. However, for foreign students, studying in the USA involves many more hurdles. There are many challenges facing students on Campus. In this article, we delve into the challenges, giving you an idea of what it takes to study in the USA. Knowing the challenges increases your chances of success as an international student.
1. Getting Admission and Student Visa
One of the most critical challenges in regards to studying in the USA is getting admission to an American school and getting a student visa. When you get the admission letter from your American school of choice, this does not necessarily mean that you will get a visa to enter the country. You must file plenty of paperwork to prove that you can finance yourself for the duration of your study. Knowing how to overcome the paperwork requirements is the first challenge you must overcome.
The first piece of paperwork you are likely required to submit is proof of your education in your home country. If you are applying for an undergraduate degree, you will have to present your high school transcripts. If you are applying for a post graduate degree you will have to present your university certificate as well as transcripts.
The primary language of instruction in America is English; thus to gain admission, you will have to demonstrate that you have some proficiency in reading and writing in English. Most schools will require that you take the TOEFL or the IELTS. If your scores in either of the English proficiency tests are not up to par, you may be denied admission.
After you have submitted everything to the university, and gotten the much-desired admission letter,your next challenge is convincing the American embassy to give you a student visa. You will have to prove that you can finance the cost of your studies. Proving your financial viability will mean providing your bank statements as well as any assets that you may have. Other documentation you need is the I-20 form, which is a document that establishes your status as an immigrant student. An important life hack is to store all the documentation you use in a secure place, losing any one of them could mean deportation by the overzealous ICE.
2. The Second Challenge Facing Students on Campus Involves Cultural Shock
You have done the hard work of finding a school, gaining admission, and securing a student visa. When you get to America, you may be shocked at the culture that is unlike anything in your home country. Your decision to study in the USA means that you are willing to submit to a different culture. Preparing for the culture is important for you to avoid experiencing a culture shock. Culture shock involves feelings of intense homesickness and heightened sadness and irritability that make it difficult for you to pursue your studies.
To prevent experiencing culture shock, prepare properly for what to expect. A fun place to start is consuming American media such as movies. While movies may not provide an accurate depiction of American culture, they can teach you to adjust your expectations.
Another life hack in preventing culture shock is developing strong relationships with your fellow students and teachers. Having American friends will ease the cultural shock and make your American study experience more enjoyable.
3. Financial Challenges Facing Students on Campus
Studying in the USA as an international student can put you in a precarious financial position. The most common student loans offered by the government for purposes of study are not available for international students. You must have a plan to finance your studies while in America because you can easily run out of funds and have to stop studies.
The first life hack in dealing with financial challenges is knowing what to expect. A four year college education in America costs in average around thirty five thousand dollars. Another big expenditure area is health insurance. If you fall ill and do not have health insurance, the medical costs can wipe out your bank balance and drive you into debt. Luckily, universities do have student health insurance plans that you should check out.
To survive financially, aggressively seek out scholarships. There are plenty of scholarships for any subject if you look hard enough. Some universities also offer merit based scholarships predicated on how well you perform. Go to the school’s financial aid office to learn about all the available scholarships and how to apply for them.
Another option to ease your finances while studying in the USA as a foreign student is financial aid. Even though the options for financial aid are limited for international students as compared to that of American students, there are options you can pursue. The upside of seeking financial aid is that it eases your financial worries while studying. However, you will have to pay back any aid you received in the form of a loan.
If you do not want to get a student loan, another option you have is working part time. You can seek out on campus jobs in the amenities within the school. However, an on campus job is unlikely to be enough to finance the entirety of your studies. Nevertheless, an on campus job will provide you with a predictable supply of income that you can use to finance your day to day expenses such as food and internet.
4. Social Challenges Facing Students on Campus
Studying in the USA is not always about books and attending lecture halls. A human being has an innate desire to socialize with others. Socializing with others as a foreigner may be difficult due to the differences in culture and language. In order to avoid feeling lonely as an international student, you will have to come out of your comfort zone and make it a goal to know as many people as possible. A good place to start is knowing the people in your class. If you strike up a friendship with your classmates, they can introduce you to a wider social circle that will leave you feeling less lonely.
Another life hack to boosting your social circle as an international student in America is getting involved in campus student activities. Volunteer in campus organizations as a way to meet other people. You can also attend local events. Several free apps will let you know what is happening nearby.
5. Academic Challenges Facing Students on Campus
The most important aspect of your study in the USA as an international student is the academics. Amidst juggling finances, work and a social life, you can lose focus of academics. It is important to remember that academics should underpin your American experience.
One of the challenges that you can face in your academics as an international student is the language. U.S. educational institutions primarily teach in English. While admission into American colleges will necessitate you proving your English proficiency, being in an environment where everything is in English can prove challenging if English is your second language. For instance, you may be perfectly able to read and write in English, but you have trouble understanding your teacher’s accent.
An important life hack is seeking out your professor’s email so that you have a method of correspondence whenever you need clarification. It is also important to talk to the professor. While talking to the professor may seem intimidating, the job of the professor is to teach. As such, the professors are obligated to accommodate your questions within office hours.
Your fellow students can also provide much needed help when you have trouble understanding due to the language. Joining a class study group will help you have an easier time with academic challenges.
6. Join Organizations Geared towards Your Nationality
America is incredibly diverse, no matter what nationality you are you can find a nationality organization that serves the interests of people who come from the same country as you. If you cannot find a nationality organization to join in your school campus, you can seek one out online.
Joining your nationality organization is important for several reasons. Firstly, it provides crucial networking opportunities that expose you to scholarships, and jobs. The nationality organization also lets you interact with people who have a similar shared experience to yours. Interacting with people who have had a similar experience helps you navigate your time as an international student.
Homesickness is an underappreciated aspect of studying abroad. You may have an intense longing for your home especially when you log into social media and see pictures from the friends you left back home. You should expect to feel homesick because it is only natural. However you should not let the homesickness get in the way of your studies.
The time zone difference between America and your home country can exacerbate the homesickness. Whenever you want to call your relatives or friends back at home, it may be midnight and they are all asleep. The time zone difference means that your communication is limited because the optimal time for you to communicate is not the optimal time for your relatives back at home.
One of the ways to battle homesickness is to seek out the aforementioned nationality organizations. Interacting with people who come from the same country as you will help you ease the longing for your home country.
Alternatively, you can immerse yourself into the American social culture by hanging out with your American friends and seeking more opportunities to find friends by volunteering. Finding new friends will help you feel less lonely as you deal with homesickness.
Whenever the longing for your home country grows too strong, remind yourself the reason you came to America. Keeping in mind what is important helps refocus your attention back to your academics.
8. New Climate
Another underappreciated challenge facing international students is the climate. Depending on where you come from and where you study in America, the climate can prove challenging to adapt to. For instance if you come from the Middle East and choose to study in northern states such as Illinois, you will likely struggle to cope when winter comes around.
An important life hack to avoid being blindsided by weather that you are not accustomed to is researching the weather of the place you are going to study. Some areas in the U.S are predominantly sunny while others do get harsh winters when the season rolls around. Do your research before Applying to filter out areas where the climate is unsuitable to you.
- Getting Jobs and Internships
One of the biggest challenges facing international students in America is getting job and internship opportunities given that their stay depends on the validity of their visa. Immigrants have to prove that their stay is legal before they can get jobs; this means additional paperwork that you provide to companies.
If you are on a conventional student visa, your work options may be limited because the primary intention of the Visa is to enable you to study and not work in the USA. Before commencing on your study journey, research the different types of Visas open to students and which ones enable you to work.
An important life hack for international students is to tirelessly network by seeking out programs and events that boost your career credentials. Seeking out foreign people who transitioned from international students to legal working immigrants will help you have an idea of what you need to do.
Do not Hold Yourself Back
Now that you have an idea of some of the challenges facing students on campus, do not let them hold you back from seeking an American education. The upside of an American education is exposure to valued education that provides you with the skills to thrive.
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