In most cases, movies are painting an ideal picture of what it is like to study abroad and most students are expecting a lot more than they will actually get. While some things might be similar, there will always be things one should know about applying to a college in the United States. Here are some important things to keep in mind.
1. Universities vs. Colleges
The very first thing you should know about studying in the United States is that universities are called colleges. In most countries around the world, the term college is being used to explain a type of education less valid than that of universities.
In the US, colleges and universities are the same thing and this is something you should know from the beginning in order to avoid any confusion when picking the course of your choice.
2. The price of textbooks
You have probably seen a movie or two, or even a post on Reddit, where an American student is complaining about all the money they will have to invest into buying their textbooks for a semester. These are in fact the most expensive thing you will need to pay for during your college years.
In order to make this a little simpler and more affordable for you, you should make sure to always ask the professor if you will need to study from a certain textbook or not. In many cases, you might end up never needing the textbook and wasting your money for no reason.
3. Keep notes in your classes
Attending your classes and especially keeping notes is the number one thing that will help you succeed in your studies in the US. Textbooks aren’t always needed and most of the time they are too heavy to carry around with you.
By keeping notes throughout the semester you will be able to know exactly what to study when exam time rolls around. Sharing your notes with other people in your class could even help you make some new friends and find people to study with when you come across a difficult subject.
This way of studying will be a lot easier and you won’t have to struggle with memorizing everything from scratch since you will have already gone through everything once through your notes. An online
platform for translators such as The Word Point can help you get a better understanding of how to keep notes the right way and excel in your studies, especially if English in not your native language.
4. Finding the right studies
One of the best things about the American educational system is that you don’t have to compromise with studying something you are not enjoying. If you find that you don’t like the course you applied for, you can always change the courses and even the college you are attending.
It’s not rare for many students to have more than one major and you can even change your major as many times as you wish if you realize it’s not the right one for you. Lastly, you can also use your college credits in order to swap colleges and not have to pay anything for it.
5. You should have your ID at all times
Carrying your ID with you is always important. Being an international student, you should always have your ID and/or passport with you in order to prove your country of origin and your credentials.
On top of this, you will have to show your ID when buying drinks in any bar, as most have a strict 21 and up policy!
6. Managing your expenses
You have probably heard that US colleges are some of the most expensive in the world. While this applies for some, it is not the general rule. In fact, your college expenses will cover a lot more than just your education. You will be able to have medical insurance, accommodation in the dorms and other important benefits.
7. Networking is important
Making friends and meeting new people will really help you feel less lonely and allow you to create contacts with people who could help you evolve professionally in the future.
Since you will be a foreigner, networking is really important, especially if you wish to live and work in the US after your studies have been completed.
8. Participating in classes
The best way for your professors to notice you is by you participating in their classes as much as you can. While you might feel shy and nervous, don’t hold back from replying to their questions.
Even if English is not your native tongue, you should still try asking questions and answering to your professors so that you can practice and get to know them too.
9. There is no special dress code
You really don’t need to worry about showing up to class in a certain uniform or any sort of proper clothing. Most students will just roll into class in sweatpants or leggings and their warmest, most comfortable hoodie.
10. College clubs play an important role
College clubs in the US turn strangers into good friends and they can play a very important role in your networking and friendships. The good thing is that there are many different clubs you can join based on your interests and skills and you can learn a new skill while going through you studies.
11. Ask for help if you need it
Studying abroad will be difficult for you and you might not be able to fully understand your textbooks or you might have issues with understanding what you need to do for a certain assignment. Asking for help from your professors and peers should always be your priority if you come across a difficulty.
You will definitely not come across as annoying. In fact, your professors will be happy to see that their international students truly care about their subject and about learning.
12. Your driver’s license is probably valid
Even though you should make sure to check the laws that apply in the state you will be living in, it is most likely that your driver’s license will be perfectly valid. This way you will be able to get a car, especially if you plan on staying in the country for a while.
13. Always be on time in class
While some countries might be more lenient when it comes to arriving to class, in America most professors will expect you to be there on time, every single time. Arriving on time, even a few minutes before your professor does will help you create a good impression.
14. Interacting with local students
If it’s your first time in the States, you should keep in mind that many of your fellow students who are Americans have probably never left the country. For your first few weeks there, you will sort of be a new attraction and people are bound to ask you a million questions.
While it might get a little annoying if it happens all the time, you can use it as an opportunity to socialize, make new friends and network with people from your campus.
15. Have a vocabulary list
If English isn’t your native tongue, you might have some difficulty understanding complex words and phrases. The good thing is that it is all a matter of practice, and you will be able to fully understand everything in a short amount of time.
The best thing you can do in order to help yourself in this situation is to always carry a notebook with you, where you will write down all the words you are unfamiliar with. You can even use an app on your phone such as Evernote and make audio recordings of the words you hear in order to practice them again later.
Studying in the US will be both stressful and fun
Above all else, you need to keep in mind that people will be very understanding about the fact that you will most likely not be familiar with the “American way” of doing things. Ask for help when you need it and make as many friends as you can. At the end of the day, your studies will one day end, so you should make sure to enjoy yourself as much as possible and not worry about the little things.
Which of these things about studying in the United States did you not know about at all?
Author Bio: Pauline speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian and currently she works as a translator at translation service TheWordPoint. She travelled the world to immerse herself in the new cultures and learn languages. Today she is proud to be a voting member of the American Translators Association and an active participant of the Leadership Council of its Portuguese Language Division.