The USA is the most popular destination for studying abroad.
Over 1.1 million international students enrolled in the last academic year, choosing to broaden their education and life experience in the “land of the free”. In fact, nearly 5% of students in US higher education are international students – it’s a massive community and growing.
If you’re one of the many people considering to study in the USA, you’ll probably be wondering what exactly student life in the USA is like. Well, help is at hand! From sororities to sports, socialising and student jobs, here are some of the things you can look forward to as an international student in America…
How is life in the US as a student?
Accommodation and campus life
Most American universities operate a “campus” policy – where student accommodation, teaching, research laboratories, shops and sports facilities are all located on-site.
This is great for international students, as it fosters a strong student community from the outset. US campuses are vast – with many students cycling or walking to lectures. Most even have their own campus police!
Even though everything you need is often on campus, there’s nothing to stop you from taking a tour of your local city or marvelling at some of the USA’s stunning natural landscapes on your weekends off.
Make sure to apply for accommodation early. In dormitory-style accommodation, you may share a bedroom with two or three others. Whilst this may seem strange at first, it’s amazing for making friends, reducing living expenses and commuting costs.
It’s also possible to rent private accommodation, but remember costs will be substantially higher. In a city such as New York, for example, annual student rents can easily push $20,000 or more!
Safety and socialising
If you’re looking at international student life in the USA, one of the first things to wrap your head around is the “fraternity” and “sorority” system. They are social organisations you may hear referenced (or even invited to become a part of!). Often based on single-sex admission, members usually live in a single property.
There have been several scandals involving these secretive organizations, however – so it’s vital to stay safe and never partake in any behaviours you feel uncomfortable with. This is especially the case with alcohol, as drinking in the US is illegal if you’re under 21 years old.
We’ve already mentioned heading off-campus at the weekends, and many college towns and cities have a vibrant nightlife to enjoy. There’s usually campus events and music gigs too, so you’re really spoilt for choice!
All American universities publish campus crime statistics, so If you’re worried about any element of safety – just ask. Your admissions team will be more than happy to put your mind at ease.
Food and culture
When anyone asks how is life in the US as a student – one of the most exciting prospects is American food and culture!
Now, America does live up to the stereotypes in some respects. When eating out, portions are large, but they’re certainly delicious! US colleges pride themselves on their food. Louisiana State University (for example) boasts over 30 separate food establishments on campus!
From pizza to burgers to cuisine from every corner of the world, America is a cultural melting pot – and this is reflected in its food. You’ll find rich and flavourful “soul food” in the South, great seafood in the North-East and fresh salads on the West-cost.
Just like its cuisine, American culture is shaped by individualism and directness. It’s all about working hard, respecting others and letting your personal views shine.
The level of informality (especially in class) can sometimes shock international students. Many professors invite students to address them by their first names! If you’re ever in doubt, go for the more formal option in the first instance (i.e. Dr Smith). Your teacher will have no hesitation in letting you know if another title is appropriate.
Living expenses and student jobs
The USA is famed for its thriving economy – and it’s certainly a large part of the country’s appeal for international students. If you’re undertaking study in the USA, you may also be able to gain active work experience at an American company or charity.
With your student visa, you’re often able to work up to 20 hours a week – but do check your legal rights before undertaking any paid employment!
Whilst US education certainly isn’t cheap (tuition and living expenses at top institutions can be in excess of $60,000 a year), US universities are incredibly well respected for their high academic standards. A degree from an American university will look great on your CV – enhancing your job prospects after graduation.
Tips for adapting to student life in the USA
If you’ve been formally accepted at a US college – firstly, congratulations! Here are some of the most useful things you can do to adapt to international student life in the USA…
- Research campus student support – your university will have a wealth of resources and activities to make international students feel at home.
- Prepare to participate – yes, that’s right! In-class projects, friendship groups and sports clubs, people will expect you to actively contribute rather than stay silent.
- Work on your English skills – to actively participate, it helps to have your English skills up to scratch! If you’re feeling rusty, work on this before travelling to the US.
- Share your own culture – America is a truly welcoming, warm country, so don’t be scared to share details about your own cultural backgrounds and traditions.
- Reach out for help – if you’re struggling with homesickness, tell your friends, professors or college support team. We promise they’ll try their best to help.
If you’re thinking about student life in the USA, check out the Edvoy blog. There’s a wealth of information, including how to apply for a US student visa, tips for acing your US visa interview and which universities in the USA accept backlogs.
Edvoy currently partners with 22 fantastic US academic institutions. With over 3,300 courses to choose from, you’re bound to find the university and course that’s perfect for you.