If you’re a new international student in the U.S., have no fear! Sid is here with some pointers to make sure you’re off to a good start.
Hey fellow international students!
Hope you all had a good flight. I remember being excited about my first trip to the U.S. for my master’s degree. In the wink of an eye, almost two years have passed and I’ve had an amazing time here and I am sure that you all will too. As you all begin to settle down, I thought I’d share some important pointers that helped me when I got here.
The time taken to transition from your home country to life here depends on your ability to make quality human relationships with fellow international students AND the local people. More your friends, easier it will be to settle down. But before you get to that, get the following done:
- University’s Student ID: Get this ASAP.
- Bank Account: Most universities have a bank close to the campus and even some have one on-campus. Get an account as soon as you get here and deposit all your money and DO NOT carry a lot of cash around.
- Phones/Service Providers/Laptops: Since most of the students arrive in August, Labor Day (First Monday in September) sales aren’t far away. If you’re someone who needs a new phone or a laptop, you may want to wait until September and then buy them. I got my laptop for $699 in mid-August and the same was available for $499 in September. For both the electronics, if you have something to hold you good for a while, you may want to wait till the Black-Friday sales during Thanksgiving for the best offers. Best service providers and international calling cards vary from region to region, check with students who’ve already been living there. Same goes for the internet connection.
Housing can be a real pain in the rear if you’re a student who wants to live off campus. Ideally, you’d want to talk to upperclassmen and shortlist some places they think are safe and affordable. And then, schedule a showing at these places and then decide if you where you want to live. Make sure heat is either covered in the rent or is affordable, if you’re somebody living in a place where it’s likely to snow in winter. Paying for heat separately may turn out to be a very costly affair.
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Your Safety is of at-most importance. Get to know about all of your university’s safety services (and list them down if you want to) and use them, they’re for you, after-all! You pay for it, FYI 😛
Avoid the following:
- Carrying/counting a lot of cash in public; use your debit/credit card where ever possible.
- Attracting unwanted attention: Don’t head-bang on your way back home, losing your new Beats by DRE (Now to be called iBeats?) isn’t going to be pleasant.
- Commuting alone during late hours if possible.
- Shady/Lonely stretches.
Everyday life is made easy once you have everything you want. Be sure to ask around for the types of stores in/around the city. Walmart, Target, Kroger, Meijer are some of the options we have in Ohio. In addition, there is always Costso and Sam’s club – the wholesale supermarkets. You’ll have to be a paid member to purchase from these places but it turns out to be cheaper in the longer run, say, over a period of one year. Membership fee is usually split among the students, so it won’t be burning a hole in your pocket. Also make a list of other stores like IKEA and other ‘ethnic’ stores, for instance, Patel Bros. – they have everything the students from India need.
Finding an on-campus job is something most international students have a tough time with. You need to be at the right place at the right time and know the right people. Most universities have an online job portal that students look at for open positions. However, a lot of these jobs are also offered through referrals. You’ll need to know students who’re well connected and can refer you to somebody who is looking for people to hire. Working off campus is a strict no-no for international students unless you’re on an OPT/a CPT.
[typography font=”Bree Serif” size=”18″ size_format=”px”] Wait, what? What is OPT? What is CPT? [/typography]
Transportation in and around the city is usually made convenient to the university students. Bus/train passes are usually given out to students at the beginning of the semester. Be on the look-out for these. Bus services like Megabus, Grey-Hound etc. have stops on/close to the campus to make your travel to other cities very convenient.
Please do take time to understand and know the American cultural norms and general etiquettes. A quick search on the internet will fetch you a lot of write-ups on it. Standards for everything from habits and hygiene to courtesy and punctuality may vastly vary depending on where you are coming from. A general idea about all this will greatly help you in getting adjusted to life in the U.S.
I know that traveling to a new country and living away from family and peers around people from all over the world can be really overwhelming. I hope some of these pointers help you in feeling at home in the U.S. Work hard, but be sure to have fun also. Good luck!
[typography font=”Bree Serif” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]Do you have questions about studying and living in the United States?[/typography]
[typography font=”Bree Serif” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]Ask America! Click here.[/typography]
Srinivas (Sid) Thatham
University of Cincinnati