Replay: Our State of the Union Watch Party

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 at 9:28 am

Thanks to everyone who joined our State of the Union watch party last night.  We had an amazing group that included some of our Student Union bloggers and other international students from around the world who got together right after Obama’s speech to discuss what he talked about … and what he left out.  If you missed it, we’ve got the replay for you right here.  Check it out!

1 Degree Fahrenheit: Could You Take It?

by Javaria Khan - Posts (6). Posted Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 10:34 am

Our campus after snowstorm Nemo hit on Friday

Three weeks into the spring semester and guess what? A major snowstorm, called snowstorm Nemo, has already hit and my college had to shut down operations. Yes, I definitely enjoyed the lazy day thoroughly, but the cold? Not so much.

I was a spring admit, so I got to America towards the end of December last year. However, since 2011 was such a mild winter, I really did not get to experience the New England weather that everyone kept talking about. Yes, it did snow. And yes, it was a very new experience for me. However, for the most part the cold was bearable, and I was just about fine with how the semester went.

This year I got to experience the full force of the snow. You can see how deep it was.

This year turned out to be a very different experience though. The very day I got back from my winter break, which I spent further south in Washington, D.C.,, I found myself very much under-dressed for the cold that had hit New England. The first week of classes turned out to be a disaster with the temperature falling as low as one degree on one of the days. Classes were not cancelled (people here are used to it) and I was left with no other option but to trudge in the cold.

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Nhat Describes Why Celebrating the Lunar New Year in America Just Isn’t the Same

by Guest Post - Posts (71). Posted Sunday, February 10th, 2013 at 12:49 am

Around this time last year, Nicholas regaled us with tales of spending his first Lunar New Year in the U.S. – the reunion dinner his Asian friends cooked together, the traditions he taught his American friends, and why it wasn’t so bad to be away from home during the holiday. But Facebook fan Nhat had to disagree. There’s one important thing missing from new year celebrations in America, he wrote:

I would say the old tradition is essentially important. The new way is not so bad at all, but to me it can never replace the feeling of the old one.

Even though we can manage to have an old traditional way to celebrate new year in a foreign country with friends, it’s still not original. We still miss our family. The meaning of this Lunar New Year is family and friend reunion. I’ve been away from home, Vietnam, where most of my family live, and I dearly miss this moment of the year.

They do celebrate Lunar New Year here in the US, but something is still missing, family…

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10 Free Online Events for International Students: Feb. 10-16

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Saturday, February 9th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Maybe it’s the Lunar New Year that’s got the internet in a giving mood, or the loving glow of Valentine’s Day.  Either way, this week is jam-packed with webinars for anyone thinking of applying to a U.S. school.

As always, if you attend any of these events, report back and let us know what you learned! (Use the comments, the Facebook page or just email me – And please share any online events you’ve found that we haven’t.

Coming up this week:

February 11

Kaplan: LSAT Personal Statement Workshop
9pm US eastern time
More details: 

February 13

CollegeWeekLive: All Access Zone Virtual Fair
More details: 

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To My Muslim Friends: Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into

by Mohammed Al-Suraih - Posts (5). Posted Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Muslim students at Rutgers University in New Jersey (Photo: AP)

Muslim students at Rutgers University in New Jersey (Photo: AP)

When I started the process of applying to undergraduate schools in the United States, I never thought about whether America would be a welcoming place for a young Muslim student. I read articles that talked about the diverse America, the melting pot America, and the land of dreams America.

I had conversations with friends who were already studying at American institutions; they reassured me that there was nothing for me to worry about.

When I received my acceptance letter from the College of St. Scholastica, a Catholic school in a very small town in northern Minnesota, I did not even look up how many Muslims go to the school.

But maybe I should have looked for these answers. Muslims have a lot of differences from Christians. Like Jews, Muslims are not supposed to eat pork, and we can only eat Halal meat. Halal meat is meat slaughtered or prepared in the manner specified by Islamic law. Muslims do not drink alcohol at all. We also pray five times a day between sunrise and late evening, and must be cleaned and showered before each prayer.

If you are studying in the States right now, look around and see if your campus is warm and welcoming to Muslim students. Is there an Islamic center or a mosque? How about even just a small prayer room? Does your cafeteria know that Muslims do not eat pork? How many special dishes for Muslims do they make for every meal? Let me help you by mentioning some food that contains pork: pepperoni pizza, sausage, hot dogs, ham.
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6 Videos Explaining How to Get a Student Visa (One For Every Mood)

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 12:00 am

In need of some advice about how to apply for your student visa? You’re in luck! Not only are there some great ones available on YouTube, but there’s one to match just about any mood.

There’s a video…

For when you need a bit of excitement in your life

For when you don’t

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New in the Glossary of Confusing Words: Testing Acronyms

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 at 7:18 pm

dictionary and thesaurusThis addition to the Glossary of Confusing Words has been a long time coming, but at long last, here it is:  Your guide to the mess of letters and numbers that describe the standardized tests you might have to take when applying to a university in the U.S.

Not all universities require these exams – some colleges, for example, are test-optional – and highly specialized programs may require different or additional exams.  But these ones are the most common that you will encounter.

Tests of English
Most schools require international students to prove their English proficiency by taking one of these exams.  Some undergraduate programs may accept SAT subject tests instead, and some programs may waive this requirement if you’ve already completed a part of your education in the U.S.

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language
IELTS - International English Language Testing System

Tests for undergraduate admission
Most schools that require standardized tests accept either the ACT or SAT exam.


SAT II – Subject-specific exams

Tests for graduate admission
Many graduate applicants will have to take the GRE, but certain graduate subjects require a different, specialized exam instead.   Older students can sometimes substitute work experience for exam scores.

GMAT – Graduate Management Admission Test (business school)
GRE – Graduate Record Examination
LSAT – Law School Admission Test (law school)
MCAT – Medical College Admission Test (medical school)

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Is it Possible to Travel Wisely?

by ZitaMF - Posts (4). Posted Monday, February 4th, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Creative commons photo Shai Barzilay

Creative commons photo Shai Barzilay

Most international students have to take a flight, or even several flights, to reach their destination in the U.S. By the time we become seniors we are professionals at packing suitcases, navigating airports and making it through long flights. Very early in my undergraduate career I learned how unpredictable traveling can be, and got some lessons that have stuck with me every time I’ve traveled since.

One of the first big lessons about traveling that I have learned over the years is that I should always bring rolling luggage.  Carrying handbags makes it so difficult and time-consuming to get around the airport. On top of that, I often lost time by mixing up terminals and going to the wrong place.  Now I know to stay calm and even when someone working at the airport directs me to a place I should always double-check the airport signs.

However, even when you are careful, things that you don’t expect happen. Sitting on my first transatlantic flight, I learned that we would be arriving in New York a few hours late because of an additional engine check. A few hours of waiting should be fine, I thought, until it turned out that we had to wait an additional hour, which meant that I wouldn’t have enough time to catch the connecting flight that was taking me to my destination.

When my plane finally landed in the U.S., I ran through immigration and customs, baggage claim, and several terminals to reach my connecting flight, which was set to leave in thirty minutes.

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Free Online Events for International Students: Feb.3-9

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Friday, February 1st, 2013 at 6:38 pm

It’s a very quiet week coming up in internet land, at least when it comes to virtual events and fairs. But the one event that is happening is a big one: it’s the Economist’s Which MBA? virtual business school fair.

As always, if you attend any of these events, report back and let us know what you learned! (Use the comments, the Facebook page or just email me – And please share any online events you’ve found that we haven’t.

February 6,7 and 9

The Economist: Which MBA? Online Fair
More details: 

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The Time I Was Told To ‘Go Back to Your Own Country and Improve Your English’

by guosilu - Posts (1). Posted Thursday, January 31st, 2013 at 4:51 pm

An ad for the movie Pitch Perfect. Is it perpetuating stereotypes of Asians?

An ad for the movie Pitch Perfect. Is this how Americans think of Asians?

Recently I went to see a movie called “Pitch Perfect” with Emanuele, one of my best American friends.

“How did you feel about that?” she asked me on our way to the parking lot. We pushed the door and walked into freezing wind.

“Well, yes I think that is pretty much it. It’s true,” I said.

I knew exactly what she was asking.

In the movie there are two Asian girls: One speaks in a really quiet voice and has a weird accent; the other only hangs out with people from her own country and hates American food and culture. It feels like they are so different and somehow crazy.

“That is how some Americans think of Asians, right?” I asked.

“Well, to some degree, yes,” my friend Emanuele said. She said some Americans don’t like Asians because they don’t understand them. “Sometimes they don’t even know anybody from Asia,” she said. “They learned it from movies and other pop culture.”

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The Novelty Has Worn Off. So What Now?

by Tom Collier - Posts (6). Posted Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

A sea of red in the stands at the football game

Going to an American college football game during my first, action-packed semester at Maryland

After conquering my first action-packed semester in the US, when I returned for my second after the Christmas break I expected to come back almost victorious. I had overcome all the nerves I had felt before I first came, and had had an incredible few months.

Instead, upon returning to campus I was hit by the same feelings of detachment and homesickness that I thought I thought had been dealt with.

I loved every second of my first semester in America. All the fear I felt when I first arrived four months ago had dissipated by the time I was set to make my first trip home to spend Christmas break with my family. In fact, it was going home to England that had me filled with a strange nervous excitement.

The comfort of visiting home

I had arrived in America with no plans at all, and with no expectation of what was to come. All I knew was that, as an exchange student who is only here for one academic year, I wanted to make the most of the experience before it ended in May.

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Is the Southern US More Like Asia Than Like the North?

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 at 12:08 am

“I wish I had known that this would be such a huge adjustment,” wrote Reddit user forthelulzac about moving from America’s northeast to the southern state of South Carolina.

North v. south in terms of election results, scaled based on number of electoral votes (Creative commons image by Mark Newman, University of Michigan)

North v. south in terms of election results, scaled based on number of electoral votes (Creative commons image by Mark Newman, University of Michigan)

The comment sparked a flurry of agreement from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.  Americans from the north and the south might be citizens of the same country, but, at least according to those who responded to forthelulzac’s lamentation, they’re from two totally different cultures.

“[Meeting someone from New York] was the first time I had literally no clue what anything a person said or did meant.  I couldn’t tell how he felt about anything,” wrote southerner multirachael by way of explanation.  “For Southerners, everything, everything is in the subtext.”

Southerners have a complex system of rituals and social cues, she explained, contrasting this with the more upfront north.  “[I]f you come right out and say what you’re thinking, it’s considered aggressive, confrontational … If a Southerner labels you ‘rude,’ it’s pretty much the worst thing they can call you …”

“It’s about softening things.  It’s about having a ‘nice’ society. It’s about making things ‘pleasant.’”

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Host Family, Apartment or Dorm? Picking a Place to Live

by Annisa Budiman - Posts (4). Posted Monday, January 28th, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Where would I find my new home in the US?

When I started this year at school, I knew my ideal living situation couldn’t last much longer. I had come over to the U.S. with my parents, and had lived with them for most of my education, but now they were moving back to Indonesia and I had only a few months to figure out where to live for my final semester of university.

Finding a new “home sweet home” was not easy. Each time I thought I had a plan, my attempt failed and I was back to the drawing board. I explored a lot of different options, and learned a lot about the pros and cons of each.

I’m happy to report that I did find a place to live. But which option did I choose? Find out at the end!

Option 1: Living with a Host Family

Moving in with my parents’ friends from the Indonesian community here was my first thought, and the obvious choice. It would be a lot cheaper than getting a place on my own, it would be safer, and it would probably be the easiest option as well.

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4 Free Online Events for International Students: Jan. 28-Feb. 1

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Sunday, January 27th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Once again we’ve scoured the internet to find upcoming free webinars and other events of interest to anyone who wants to study in the U.S.  A relatively light week this week, but still worth checking out.

As always, if you attend any of these events, report back and let us know what you learned! (Use the comments, the Facebook page or just email me – And please share any online events you’ve found that we haven’t.

January 29

mbaMission: MBA Interview Workshop
9pm US eastern time
More details: 

January 30

IIE: Improving Your Writing on the TOEFL iBT
More details: 

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Is College Life Reality or Fantasy? Does it Matter?

by Abuzar Royesh - Posts (5). Posted Thursday, January 24th, 2013 at 11:27 am

Columbia University, ranked in the top 10 by some measures. Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Barbara (Jorbasa)

The unique world of college. Is it a four year break from the real world or a preparation to join adult society? Does it matter? (Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Barbara – Jorbasa)

“The situation in the Middle East is getting even more complicated. Hamas just doesn’t want to sit down at the negotiation table. They are terrorists. They should stop killing Israeli civilians.”

“But you can’t blame one side for all the atrocities that are happening. The Israeli government also should stop bombing Gaza strip and killing all innocent children, women, and men. Besides, for many Palestinians Hamas is a freedom fighter.”

“Well, yeah, but what do you say when Hamas uses school children as shields. Obviously many children will be killed.”

“But don’t you think …”

And so goes a typical conversation with my friends at my university. Here we are, a group of college kids, analyzing the situation in the Middle East, appointing the next U.S. President, and discovering the best solutions for global issues with as much seriousness as if we were making the policies ourselves, and as much authority as if we were Ban Ki Moon himself – our knowledge drawn from that one political science or history class we took last semester.

And then, in the next breath, our conversations subconsciously move to classes, drugs or sex.

That’s the thing about our crazy college life. It’s supposed to be preparing us for our futures, for living in the real world, but so much of it approaches the surreal instead. Are we approaching our education correctly by allowing ourselves to fall down a metaphorical rabbit hole? When I try to think about the answer, my brain dissolves into a muddy mess filled with more questions than answers.

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The Student Union is…

A place to hear stories about studying in the U.S. Our bloggers have come from all over the world to U.S. universities, and they'll be sharing their experiences, advice and more.

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Glossary of Confusing Words

Find definitions of confusing words and terms about studying in the U.S. in our Glossary of Confusing Words.

All the words were submitted by YOU, so visit the glossary to see the words that have been defined already and to suggest your own.