International Student in the USA?: What You Should Know
BY SYLVIA KOHL
The United States is one of the most attractive studying locations in the world and have the largest international student population – at any given time, more than a million students from abroad are enrolled in America including Stanford higher education programs (about 5 percent of the nation’s total student population). So, if you want to join them, the road is already well-trodden before you. However, there are still some aspects of studying in the USA that you should be well aware of before you even start entertaining such a possibility.
1. Make Sure to Apply for ESTA Beforehand
ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization that determines whether this or that person is admissible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. In practice, it means that whatever your goal for entering the USA and whatever other documents you have, you must obtain ESTA application authorization before you go. Fortunately, in the recent years, getting it (at least for those living in eligible countries) wasn’t very complicated – you can apply for it online. What’s even better, it allows multiple entries in the US, which means that if you study there, you will be able to go back for summer break and return without getting any additional approvals.
2. Choose Your Classes Carefully
It may be tricky, especially if you come from a country where students don’t get much freedom in defining their curriculum. So do your research before settling on anything in particular. Make sure different classes you choose don’t interfere with each other and that you will be able to deal with all of them realistically. The best course of action would be to consult your advisor to find out which classes will be the best to complete your major. However, it doesn’t mean that you should take a purely utilitarian approach – if you like a class and think you will be able to complete it, why not?
3. Take Care of Your Housing Assignments Early on
And again, do your research. International students often end up in unpopular locations simply because they aren’t very well aware of what the campus has to offer, don’t know what to look for and agree to anything offered to them. Even if you already got into a location you don’t like; it isn’t set in stone – in most cases, you can ask to be transferred.
It is also a good idea to stick to campus accommodations at least for the first few semesters. You don’t know anybody yet and have no car to get around quickly. If you end up in an off-campus apartment, it will make meeting new people and be participating in campus life all the more difficult.
4. Get a Job on Campus
Even if you don’t need extra money all that much, do it for at least one semester. As an F-1 visa holder, you aren’t allowed to work off-campus which would be a natural decision for any other student, but on-campus jobs (tutor, library assistant, etc.) are all yours. The most important thing about it is that you will be able to get a social security card that will make things like getting a driver’s license, credit card, opening a bank account and so on much, much easier.
5. Make Full Use of Students’ Discounts
Students in the United States can save lots and lots of money through various discounts their status entitles them to, so make sure you learn all about them.
Being a student in the United States is a fun and rich experience, so make sure you deal with all the technicalities as soon as possible so that they don’t distract you later on.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.