Embarking on a year of studying abroad in the United States can be a long and arduous process. Figuring out where to study and the logistics of actually getting to America and living there for an extended period of time is complicated. Fortunately, many international students before you have figured it all out—more than 780,000 foreign student visas were issued in the U.S. in 2011—and you have their examples to follow.
Once you’ve decided where to study, you’ll need to turn your attention to how to make such an endeavor financially feasible for you. The cost of tuition is a huge consideration, but don’t forget to factor in other expenses like textbooks, housing, meals and health insurance for international students. For more information, check out HCC Medical Insurance Services’ informative ebook on international student financial aid.
Read on for a few more tips to help smooth the transition to your semester or year abroad.
Deciding where to go
When considering which American university to attend, look into the opportunities provided for international students at various schools. This might include practical considerations like financial aid and housing, as well as social opportunities like clubs and gatherings in which you can take part. Yes, you’ll be there to learn, but not all learning occurs in the classroom. Socializing is an equally important part of the overseas study experience.
In light of that, you might want to narrow your search to include only schools with special international student offices that focus specifically on enhancing your semester or year abroad. For example, Purdue University—which boasts the second-largest international student population among public American universities—offers a host of social events and opportunities for international students throughout the year. Purdue’s International Friendship Program connects international students with residents living in the area, and the weekly Perspectives meeting offers a forum for international students to gather and chat on campus.
Numerous schools across the country offer programs like these, so look carefully for them as you weigh your options.
What to do when you get there
After you arrive in the United States, it’s important to make an effort to meet people and form new friendships. Programs like the one mentioned above are a great start, but also consider other ways to expand your social network, whether that’s joining study groups in your classes, taking part in special events at your dorm or working an on-campus job.
More than a third of international students said in a recent survey that they had no close American friends, but you don’t have to spend your semester or year feeling alone if you’re willing to put yourself out there just a little bit. The benefits of making such efforts are numerous. You’ll likely get to practice your English, and you might have the opportunity to teach your native language to a fellow student. And forming cross-cultural bonds can help to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can have a positive effect on every aspect of your study abroad experience.
Your semester or year overseas is sure to be a positive and well-rounded one if you put in just a small effort to establish roots in your adopted country. You’ll experience immense payoff in the form of friendships and connections that could last a lifetime, so consider—and try—every possible avenue to make American friends during your time on American soil.
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