Let me start by saying that I have been there. I was an international graduate student in Indiana trying to study hard, getting all the training I could get, and working part-time to pay my bills. For the past five years, I have been recruiting international students to study in the United States. Therefore, I hope this blog post will be useful to each one of you who is considering coming to the U.S., so you can be better prepared, as you know it will not be easy.
Here are the most common misconceptions that international students have about studying in the U.S.:
Getting the Degree Is the Only Thing
Yes, it is important to get a good degree from a decent institution. Let me also remind you that in the process of learning, you are also interacting with different people and cultures in settings that are very different from your country. Please consider that education is a process of shaping and forming, and it is much more than simply gaining knowledge from teachers. Being ready for the challenge and keeping an open mind will help you go a long way.
You Can Work to Pay for School
It is very unrealistic to expect that you can work enough to pay for all your expenses during your studies in the United States. There are fewer full-tuition scholarships out there for international students across the country. However, most institutions offer merit-based scholarships. Depending on the overall application, you could get enough merit-based or endowed scholarships to cover half of your tuition costs. At the end of the day, your main goal should be to get an excellent education and training instead of simply passing classes and making ends meet. The more prepared you are financially, the more you can really maximize your educational experiences here.
It Is Easy to Find a Part-time Job
Finding a part-time job really depends on different institutions or even different departments. My students who have been to other institutions shared with me that the offices on our campus are more willing to hire international students and give them jobs than at other schools. In the United States, the federal government offers funding to encourage full-time students to work on campus. That is why some departments prefer to hire domestic students. However, I want to encourage you all that each of you has different strengths and skill sets to offer as you look for part-time jobs. Try to find a job that really fits your interests or at least helps expand your network or circle of friends.
Every School Is in a Big City
It is very important to research the locations of the schools you are interested in and to get to know the cities or towns. Some of you might prefer cities to small towns. Utilize Google Earth or some other online tool to find out more about the local community. Furthermore, your educational experience will be very different in a college town as opposed to a big city, such as San Francisco. I truly enjoyed my time studying in Indiana, and I got to know people faster because I was in a small town. On the other hand, I missed good Asian food and had to drive two hours to Chicago for it. You want to make a wise choice about where you go.
The Best Way to Stay in the U.S. Is to Go to School
It is true until this day that many international students still hope to achieve the American dream and would do whatever they could to stay. Thus, they will go from school to school to extend their student visa. There is certainly no right or wrong answer regarding staying, but my sincere advice is to think about why you came in the first place, and not to compromise your goals. With the training and education you receive, you should have the confidence to pursue a job of your interests or to be ready to return to your home country and contribute what you have learned.
Finally, I want you to know that you have taken a life-changing journey by studying abroad and you will not regret it.