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Campus life in the USA | Study in USA Guide46 min read

By July 13, 2020July 16th, 2020No Comments

Campus life in the USA | Study in USA Guide

Lets look into all the aspects of the life in USA you would be undergoing while you study there. It is not always easy to start afresh in a new country where we meet people from various countries and backgrounds. As an international student, living in the US might come as a cultural shock to you. But with time, you can slowly try to understand how the system works and immerse yourself in the new culture. The culture gap can be bridged by meeting new people and interacting with them at your own pace.

1. How is life in the US for Indian MS students?

It is not always easy to start afresh in a new country where we meet people from various countries and backgrounds. As an international student, living in the US might come as a cultural shock to you. But with time, you can slowly try to understand how the system works and immerse yourself in the new culture. The culture gap can be bridged by meeting new people and interacting with them at your own pace.

A diverse culture is what makes the US stand apart. Observe how others interact with each other and act in accordance with it. Try to touch base with your family and friends from home often to minimize culture shock. Get in touch with the international student services in your own university to find people who share your interests and want to explore the new place just like you. This will help you be at ease and quickly integrate into your new culture.

The education system in the US is more interactive and hands-on. You may find that it is easier to learn through this system of demonstration and visual learning than the Indian education system that we are more accustomed to. Students have to maintain their full-time status and enroll for a certain number of credit hours each semester. You can interact with your classmates as well as your professors to see how to learn and turn in assignments. The grading system is cumulative, and every project, assignment, quiz, and test will be considered towards your final grade.

Finding your accommodation and maintaining your expenses could be a challenge. You can opt to live in apartments on a sharing basis. This will bring down the cost of living and you will be able to save on your expenses. Staying at a walkable distance will help you reach your classes on time and also utilize the resources on campus. To cut down on expenses, you could also learn basic cooking and prepare fresh food at home. This will help fine-tune your skills and also save money.

Time is very important to Americans. They go with the term ‘Time is money’. If you make an appointment, ensure that you arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled time. Submit your assignments on time and engage with your team members as needed when presentation tasks are assigned. Ensure that every task is written down so that you can complete the same.

Living in a new country is not easy. But with time and effort we can make use of the resources and learn to appreciate a new culture and place. 

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2. What should an international student know about the U.S.?

International students are welcomed warm-heartedly in the US. Each US university has an international student office where students can reach out and receive guidance in adapting to US university life. Several events are organized by the International Student Services office for international students. Indian student associations are also a part of the student office.

Finding Accommodation and developing ties:

Indian students have the option of staying in dormitories or in private accommodations. As a student, it will be best to stay near the university campus at a walkable distance or near the university shuttle stop. In the first year, it is advisable to share accommodations and understand how things work in the new country. Most Indians often live together in shared accommodations. While this has certain advantages, it should not come at the expense of cross-cultural ties. Do make an effort to meet, work, and travel with people from different ethnicities and cultures. The US offers a great diversity of people and this is an excellent opportunity to develop global networks while learning about other cultures and traditions. Ensure that these opportunities and resources are tapped into.

Learn Basic cooking:

Your time abroad would be a great time to develop some basic cooking skills. Cooking on your own will save money, and will definitely help you cut unnecessary expenses. Learn how to cook rice, dal and simple gravy. This will satisfy your cravings to eat Indian food. Since Indian spices are not commonly found in smaller cities, it is advisable to carry spices and other culinary needs while you travel to the US.

Medical Insurance

It is important to have medical insurance when traveling abroad. While most universities provide their own medical insurances, make sure that you research other acceptable insurances. Without medical insurance, it is impossible to get treated by a doctor in the US.

Conversing with Americans and sharing personal information

Indians tend to speak faster than the average American and it can be difficult for them to follow the conversation. Speaking slowly and clearly will resolve the communication barrier. Remember to always protect your information, including social security numbers and credit card numbers. Legitimate organizations will never ask for private information such as ATM PIN or other bank details.

2.1. Money matters :

Social Security Card :

A Social Security Number (SSN) is issued to track your earnings over a lifetime. It is not a work permit, but you must apply for an SSN to be employed. To apply for an SSN, the Social Security Administration requires evidence that you:

  • Are eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Are a full-time student
  • Have received a formal offer for on-campus employment, OR
  • Have been authorized for off-campus employment through Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or Academic Training.

The Administration will verify your immigration documents and status with Immigration before issuing the Social Security Number. Wait 10 business days after arriving in the U.S. to apply for the SSN. To apply for an SSN, contact your International Student’s office. 

Open a local bank account :

You will need a checking account to be able to pay bills, rent, deposits for housing, etc. and to build your credit history. Ideally you want to choose a bank that is easily accessible to you either on or near your campus. Whether you choose a private bank or a not-for-profit credit union, to open an account you will need:

 

  • Your passport, with the relevant student visa,
  • Secondary photo ID – often a driver’s license or student ID card,
  • Proof of residence,
  • Proof of enrollment at your university, and 
  • A minimum deposit.

 

Be sure to give your Social Security Number to the bank as soon as you receive one.

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2.2. Transportation:

Some students may live on-campus, while others opt for off-campus housing. Whichever you choose, you will need to get around campus for your classes, and the city for your necessities and entertainment. Some students may opt to buy a used car, but this is not always feasible soon as you arrive in the USA. So, it is important to familiarize yourself with the public transportation system.

Buses :

 Your student ID can help you use the extensive bus service at a reduced rate. There are also apps you can use to keep track of the bus schedule. Some campuses even have their own buses that shuttle students to various buildings around a large campus. 

Subways/Trains :

Whether you take the BART, PATH, SEPTA, MARTA, Washington Metro, or any other will depend on your university’s location. If your university is located in one of the major cities in the US,  the subway rail system would be one of the easiest ways to get around. And the Amtrak is a great way to explore the country. Check for student discounts before purchasing tickets or passes.

Taxis/Ridesharing :

 Taxis are pretty expensive, especially for an international student on a budget. So if you want to ride one, try to limit it to emergency situations. On the other hand, there are still several ridesharing services available, such as Uber. These are often used by college students to get around the city. 

Bicycles:

 Probably the healthiest and easiest mode of transportation! Bicycles can be very useful for moving around campus. So if you are comfortable cycling, then investing in a bicycle is a campus must-have. And remember to wear a helmet!

The transportation option you choose depends a lot on where you are living and how often you need to travel. So plan ahead and look into your accommodation and other details before deciding on a mode of transport that works for you.

2. Campus Life In America

3.1 CULTURE SHOCK

Moving to a new place is always intimidating, especially if you are moving somewhere that is distinctly different from your home environment. As international students settle into their new schedules, move into their new rooms, meet new people, and are exposed to the new culture, it is natural to feel overwhelmed. However, there are ways that a student can tackle this “culture shock,” and smoothen their transition into their new routines.

Go out and socialize :

It can be extremely tempting to just stay in your room and not go out, especially when you are unfamiliar with the area. However, that is exactly why you should go out to talk to people and familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Try and find people who share the same classes as you, or live in your housing unit. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident during your stay on campus. 

Get involved :

 Universities always have dozens of events, clubs, and other extracurriculars throughout the year. Find your niche and get involved. This could be something that would help you professionally or simply something you are interested in. However, if your program is too intensive to include extracurriculars, then exercise can do wonders in helping you feel better. Incorporating exercise into your routine can help you feel healthy, and going out for a run is always a great way to make new friends.

Gain Cultural exposure :

The best way to feel more comfortable about living in a foreign country is to learn as much as you can about it. This doesn’t have to be limited to theoretical knowledge. Explore the city that you are living in when you get a break. Request your new friends to show you around. You may find that while your new environment might not be home, it is still a pretty great place.

Be patient :

It is important to keep an open mind. While there might be many practices in the US that you might not feel comfortable with, don’t be quick to judge. You don’t need to adopt the American lifestyle, but you can still adapt to it. Above all, give it time. It is always difficult in the beginning. But things will get better if you just wait. With time, as you become more familiar with your new life, your comfort level will increase and you will learn to love it.

Seek help :

Don’t be afraid to admit that you need help. Many students face depression, but it takes courage for one to admit it and do something about it. Talk to your campus counselor. Keep in touch with your family back home, as their support would be invaluable to you during this time. Also, try to find other international students, even those who are not from your home country. They would have gone through the same process as you, and hence, would be able to help you navigate it better. 

All in all, stay positive! Studying abroad is a great experience, not just for your career, but also for your life. Not everything might be great at the beginning, but view it as a learning experience. Every cloud has a silver lining, so just wait until you find yours. 

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3.2 SORORITIES AND FRATERNITIES:

A sorority or a fraternity is a community of women or men, respectively, who share similar aspirations or interests. They are social organizations that aim to contribute positively to student life on campus, through volunteering work, charity projects, or other local community events. These organizations are often termed as “Greek” as they are named after Greek alphabets (Eg: Alpha Chi Omega, Kappa Alpha Psi), which represent the values that each community stands for. 

Though it is usually undergraduate students who choose to “rush” a Greek organization, there are quite a few universities that allow graduate students to apply to a sorority or fraternity as well. Every school has its own set of rules and limitations, and it is important that you review these carefully if you wish to be a part of Greek life. 

There are several benefits to joining a sorority or a fraternity. Apart from the strong network that you can build and the opportunity to be involved in several diverse events and programs on campus, Greek life gives you a chance to develop your leadership and interpersonal skills. These skills can be listed in your resume, and have greater value since you can back them with the fact that you were a member of a Greek organization. Moreover, Greek organizations are supported by their wide network of alumni members, who can help you when you are applying for jobs or are looking for career opportunities, as they have navigated these waters before themselves. Apart from this, sororities and fraternities teach their members to exhibit a certain standard of etiquette and behavior, and joining one is a great chance for you to work on your personal presentation. 

But while sororities and fraternities are a great way for students to build lifelong connections and experience the best of college life, there are some things you need to consider before deciding to “rush.” It should be noted that membership fees for Greek organizations are usually quite high. While costs differ depending on university and chapter, you will have to pay chapter dues and a one-time initiation fee. If you are part of a national Greek organization, then you will also have to pay national yearly or termly dues. Apart from this, there is also the cost of participating in social events organized by the chapter, as well as the rent of the Greek house. It should also be noted that Greek life requires a lot of time and dedication, and schools usually insist that sorority or fraternity members maintain a minimum GPA. So if you are enrolling for an intense program that requires a lot of time in study and research, you might want to plan out how you are going to manage your time

3.3 SAFETY

Safety is an important parameter to select your destination. Here are some of the safest cities in America by size, and more data is available here:

Safest Cities USA | Study in USA | Admission counselling USA

The safety of students is extremely important to the universities that typically contract private security companies to be in charge of campus safety. Rest assured, universities have taken all the possible steps to ensure that each and every one of their students have the best and the safest experience during their stay on their campus. However, off-campus, students are still responsible for themselves and can take certain steps to protect themselves and further ensure their safety:

Do your research :

The easiest and most important way to stay safe in any situation is to be prepared. Don’t wait until after you have arrived in the US to gather information. Once you have decided on your university and have accepted your admissions offer, work on acquiring as much knowledge as you can about the place where you will be spending the next few years of your life. Do your research on the location, the area where you will be staying, the transportation systems, etc. Being equipped with this knowledge will not only help you feel safer and more comfortable on arrival, but it will also ease your transition into the foreign atmosphere. 

Stay vigilant:

 Always keep an eye on your surroundings and on your belongings. This is especially crucial when you have just arrived, and are still unfamiliar with the environment. Make sure that you keep your passport, wallet, and other important items close at hand. Even after you have joined the university and have settled in, make sure that you always keep your valuables in a safe place, preferably under lock and key. Never reveal your card number or important access details to anyone. Be especially careful after dark, even if you are just walking across campus. Take steps, if possible, to avoid traveling or moving outside your quarters at night. Even in the daytime, always keep an eye and ear open to observe your surroundings and be aware of what is happening around you. 

Emergency protocol:

 Memorize the university’s campus security number, and keep them on speed dial if possible. Since you are in a foreign country, learn the emergency numbers of the US, just in case. Go through the university’s emergency protocol systems, and ensure that you are aware of what must be done in such a situation. Try to keep at least one of your trusted friends informed of your whereabouts, especially if you live outside campus or are traveling far. 

Be careful :

Overall, it is important to just be careful. Studying abroad can be an incredible, life-changing experience, provided that you are wise in your decisions and are not reckless. Keep your doors and windows locked at night, and don’t allow people into your building or your room if you do not know them that well. These are basic safety tips that you need to follow in any country, more so in a place you have never been to before. It is easy to get excited and overwhelmed by the new experiences and people you will encounter, but always keep a clear head and think before you make any decision. 

Remember, too much is never enough when it comes to staying safe. 

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