10 Tips for International Students in the U.S.
Because a little bit of culture shock is inevitable, no matter where you’re from.
1: Learn key English phrases and slang
This seems obvious, but the slang is the important part. College students in America typically don’t speak as formally as the books and guides that teach non-English speakers, so be sure to research some commonly used phrases and slang terms among the youth of America. If you hear a phrase that confuses you, don’t be afraid to ask! It will be easier to make friends with other students if you show genuine interest in what they’re saying.
2: College = University, or “Uni”
What is widely known as “uni” across the globe is most commonly called “college” by American students. Knowing this will help you avoid confusion about the type of school you enrolled in.
3: Get involved!
Extracurricular activities are a huge part of American school culture, especially in universities. Since American universities typically work to serve a wide variety of needs, you’re likely to find a club for just about any activity you can imagine. Get involved with sports, a charity organization or something relevant to your course of study, and it’ll help you make friends and gain genuine immersion into American culture.
4: Make friends in your classes
In the U.S., group projects and study groups are prominent across college campuses. Professors often encourage or even require working together in classes, and getting to know the people around you is a great way to make friends and excel in your classes.
5: Go to class
When I was studying in Ireland, many of my professors told us that class was optional, as long as we kept up with the material on our own. There is a high level of responsibility professors give students to work on their own, but this is not the case in the U.S. Many professors take attendance, give grades for class participation, and assign weekly papers, quizzes and tests to ensure students are keeping up with the material. Be prepared to attend and participate in class regularly.
Tipping, while not a common practice throughout the rest of the world, is expected in the U.S. Restaurants do not typically add gratuity to a bill, so patrons are expected to tip their server somewhere between 15-20% to reward them for their service. It is considered extremely rude not to do so, so be sure to check your bill and tip your waiter if gratuity hasn’t been added.
7: Keep up with pop culture and sports for good conversation topics
College students in the U.S., just like everywhere else, love to talk about entertainment and sports. Use your free time to read magazines and update yourself on entertainment news, watch popular TV programs, and learn the basics of popular American sports like football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Not only will this help you have conversations with native students, but it will provide you with an authentic experience of American culture.
8: Have a large travel budget
One of the greatest parts of studying abroad is the amount of traveling you can do in your new country, but in America, travel is expensive. There are no budget airlines like Ryan Air, so be prepared to drop $300 on a flight or look up alternate means of transportation. You can always take a bus or rent a car, but this can also make for a lengthy trip depending on how far your destination is!
A flight to New York City will cost you, but this view might just be worth itA flight to New York City will cost you, but this view might just be worth it
9: Befriend American students as well as other international students
I’ve been an international student before, so I understand that it’s often difficult to break out of that classification and make friends with the locals. International students are grouped together in living arrangements and classes at many universities, so you should make a conscious effort to befriend some Americans. It may seem intimidating, but it’ll give you a more authentic experience and hopefully provide you with lifelong friends that you can go back and visit someday!
10: Don’t be intimidated
This advice goes for pretty much anyone studying abroad: no matter who you are or where you’re from, you’ll be interacting primarily with other college students, and we all have many similar qualities and interests deep down. Take the rest of these tips into consideration and get ready for the experience of a lifetime!