If you’re coming to the U.S. to study abroad, chances are you’ll be running into a lot that you’re not used to. The approaches toward education, the culture of colleges and the U.S. culture in general, and communication styles are all aspects likely to vary from the country you’re coming from (just to name a few). Whether you’re an undergraduate or pursuing higher education, these tips for exchange students from overseas are just what you need to survive your first weeks at university (commonly called “college” here in the U.S. instead).
1. Brush up on some common English words and phrases
As an exchange student coming to the U.S. for university or college, it’s important you nail some basic English phrases before you arrive. Regardless of if you’re a scholar strictly focused on your education, or an international student looking for new experiences and fun, or both, this tip applies to everyone coming to the U.S. for college programs.
Typically, students at colleges and universities in the U.S. don’t speak as formally as the language you’ll find in books and guides for non-English speakers. So, it’s also important is to become familiar with some common American slang along with key English phrases.
For both slang and useful regular English phrases, try to do a little research before your college classes begin. However, if you don’t know a word or phrase that comes up in conversation or during class, don’t be intimidated. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if someone says something that confuses you. This will also help you make friends and connections with other students and teachers, as it shows you have a genuine interest in what they’re saying.
2. Get involved in extracurricular activities
From active sports leagues like ultimate Frisbee to more intellectual clubs and engagements such as poetry club, extracurricular activities are wildly popular at American colleges. At most colleges in the U.S., you’ll find a club or activity for just about anything, and anyone is encouraged to try out or participate.
Before coming to America and once you’ve reached the university, try to have and keep an open mindset. Carry this mindset into extracurricular activities and American pastimes, and try new things that you’re unfamiliar with or have never experienced before. Extracurricular activities are an awesome way to meet new people and make some friends with similar interests.
3. Know sports are a big deal
As both an undergraduate and a student seeking higher education, one of the biggest things to prep yourself for when coming to an American university is the country’s love of sports—especially in college. If you’re not the athletic type, don’t panic; you don’t necessarily have to participate in the sports themselves to get in on the action. Americans equally love watching sports and participating in pre and post-game celebrations.
When you get to a U.S. university, you’ll get an up-close look at how much Americans love college football. As with all other sports, most if not every college offers student football tickets for a reduced rate or sometimes for free. Fall is a football sport—meaning it will take place during the first semester of the school year—and most games are held on Saturdays.
On the day of the game, most students will start “game day” festivities many hours before the game is scheduled to begin. This especially holds true during football season where tailgating—a pregame tradition at college campuses all over the country—can even start early in the morning if the game is scheduled for the early afternoon. Tailgates can come in all different forms and sizes, but basically, it’s a place to socialize and enjoy food and drinks before a game.
4. Have a budget
One of the best parts of being an international student or exchange student is you get to travel to new places and see things you never would at home. However, no matter how fun it may be, travelling in America is expensive. While some things such as your student housing may be taken care of in advance, it’s super important that you plan ahead and budget money you’ve allotted yourself for other necessities.
5. Prepare yourself for culture shock
As an international student, you’ll be experiencing new cultures and customs all over campus and beyond when you come to the U.S. for a semester or two of college. As Americans and the U.S. culture are both incredibly diverse, you might want to prep yourself by noting a few of the following:
- The food—Portion sizes are HUGE in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world.
- The weather—Depending on where your university is located in the U.S., the weather can vary greatly, even from day to day. Before packing your bags, be sure to do some research on the weather for that region.
- The values—Americans strongly believe in the four following values: independence, equality, informality, and directness. Keep this in mind when interacting with new people in the U.S. for the first time and throughout your stay.
- The holidays—The U.S. loves to celebrate all kinds of holidays. Some holidays, such as President’s Day (the third Monday of every February), will get you a day off of classes. Other holidays, such as April Fool’s Day (April 1), are simply for fun and give people something to celebrate or bond over throughout the country. (Check out the rest of the 2018 U.S. holidays online.)
- The style—Like the rest of the world, American fashion varies from year to year, person to person, and season to season. Usually, however, if not in business attire for a meeting or event, students will dress informally.
Are you getting ready to study abroad in the U.S.? What are you looking forward to most at a U.S. university, and what are you most nervous about?