Take a Tour Around my Typical American Dorm Room

by Dandan - Posts (11). Posted Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 at 9:22 am

Niskanen Hall hallwayWelcome to Niskanen Hall!

This is our living hall (or dormitory), and here’s the hallway that leads to my room. It has only two floors and girls and boys live in this same building.

It really shocked me initially, because the dormitories in my country are very tall and there are usually separate dormitory buildings for girls and boys.

The first day I arrived, I even felt frustrated because my neighbors were a bunch of boys! lol

Hanging on our door are these cute pictures. Each picture has a name, representing one of the girls in our dorm room. Try to find my name!

Photos on the dorm room door

Each living hall here has a student union or a student government in charge of our residence life. They have the responsibilities to supervise our housing facilities and enrich our residence life by planning activities for us. They are also responsible for the decoration of our environment—these marvelous pictures are designed and hung by them! Applaud them for their work, folks!

Read the rest of this entry »

Just Because You Passed the Test Doesn’t Mean it Will Be Easy

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

In this video, by a student in San Diego, international students talk about their biggest struggles when they first arrived in the U.S. For most, it was keeping up with English.

If you like “kelzosaurus”‘s video, she has another on making friends, and one on culture as well.

How Grad School Differs From Undergrad

by Nareg Seferian - Posts (16). Posted Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 9:52 am

The United States is diverse in many ways: it is a big country, with a few hundred million people, different kinds of geography and climate, regional accents alongside native speakers of probably hundreds of other languages, various customs, cuisines, and even styles of clothing. Education is unsurprisingly no exception.

great books

Before... (Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Austin Reid Manny)

I just graduated, in May, from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a very unique establishment of higher education, even for Americans. For four years, all we did was read and discuss “the great books” of the Western tradition in an all-required curriculum.

There was a lot of philosophy and literature, plus mathematics and science, music, logic, languages… a very “Renaissance” education. No exams, no tests, not even grades (they actually do give grades, to be frank, but they do not reveal them unless a student specifically makes the request; I never checked mine). We wrote a lot of papers and original essays, and had amazing conversations. That’s what a good old fashioned liberal arts degree is all about. Ask any American, and they’ll find that sort of college experience to be very extraordinary. And it was.

Now I am starting graduate school, a master’s program in politics and international affairs at a pretty prestigious institution. It’s not in New Mexico, but in New England. Different. Very, very different. The location itself has an atmosphere that does not compare to Santa Fe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Mohammed, an Iraqi Pre-Med Student in Minnesota

by Mohammed Al-Suraih - Posts (5). Posted Friday, September 30th, 2011 at 9:03 am

mohammedName: Mohammed Al-Suraih

Home Country: Iraq

School: The College of St. Scholastica

Year: 2013

Major: Biochemistry/Pre-Med track

Why did you decide to study in the US?

I have always wanted to make it to the States since I was little kid. It was like a promise that I made to myself that I should come here. However, big part of it was because of unstable situation in my hometown. I would also say it’s because of big numbers of American shows I used to watch back in the time, and how the western culture got into my head. And also because I never liked the education system in my hometown.

What show do you think most informed your opinion on what the US would be like? Was it accurate?

Numbers of shows but they are all inaccurate! Shows only inform you about how much fun you are going to have in the States but never bring the hard work students do every single day.

Read the rest of this entry »

Who Else is Joining the Fun?

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Thursday, September 29th, 2011 at 9:47 am

We’re not the only ones on the interwebs talking about what it’s like to be an international student in the U.S. (although obviously we think we’re the best!). If you want to get even more perspectives, check out some of these blogs by current and former foreign students.

Berkeley College Life
José Navarro from Spain is studying at Berkeley College in New York and writes about his experiences at school and in the city. He also talks about what he’s learned that might help other international students.

UNIcq
Written by two former international students at Yale University (Huijia and Wilson), this blog mostly offers practical advice based on the students’ own experiences.

Read the rest of this entry »

On the Importance of Having Realistic Expectations, or Welcome to America!!!

by Olena - Posts (4). Posted Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 at 9:36 am

“America is a dream country full of great opportunities!” This is what many of you have probably heard from all sorts of people around you. It’s really amazing how eagerly some people make judgments about things and events they have very little understanding of. And how eagerly we, in turn, are inclined to believe whatever we are told without even spending a short time for critical evaluation of the information that has been fed to us.

fancy car

The myth (Creative Commons by Flickr user feldpress)

Before I came to the U.S., I also fell in this trap of thinking that life in the U.S. is a paradise, and all you need to do is just enjoy it.

This is not surprising, since the vast majority of people in Ukraine, where I come from, strongly believe that all Americans own beautiful houses and brand-new cars, have well-paid jobs and solid bank accounts, spend their vacations in Hawaii and go traveling around the world just after they retire.

They live happy lives and don’t worry about their future, because the future must be even better than the present. It’s a pretty weird perception if you just take a moment to think a little deeper. But it does exist, and perhaps not only in Ukraine.

However, once you are in the U.S. you face the reality and the pain of broken illusions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advice from Admissions Experts on Strengthening Your Application

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Tuesday, September 27th, 2011 at 9:30 am

US News and World Report recently asked college admissions experts to answer the question: “What are some tips for international students to keep in mind and how are they evaluated compared to U.S. students?”  And they came away with  some useful advice for prospective international students on how to get accepted to U.S. schools.

The tips provided include:

- Look at lesser known schools so you are competing against fewer other international students for admission
- In your application, highlight what you bring to the school in terms of diversity and academic/extracurricular interests
- Do well on your TOEFL or IELTS

For more advice from admissions officers, also look at the New York Times “The Choice” blog. They recently did a series in which admissions experts answered questions submitted by readers.  None of the questions are specifically about international students, but they still provide some useful insights into what admissions officers may be looking for in your application.

American Culture: Out of the Movies and into Daily Reality

by Cristiana - Posts (3). Posted Monday, September 26th, 2011 at 9:35 am

While I was watching American shows and movies on Romanian television, the décor  around me became surprisingly similar to that on the screen. The small colored houses, with ducks and chicken raised in the backyards, were replaced by large, beige homes with perfectly cut grass, bird feeders and playful pets. The gray, block, low-rise buildings became taller, and the more I looked at them, the more they seemed like modern glass skyscrapers. Was I dreaming? When and how did this transformation happen?

One typical American experience - hanging out at the pool!

One typical American experience - hanging out at the pool!

The change began with the first waves of democracy and modernity in Romania after the 1989 Revolution. To my delight as a child, long Communist speeches were replaced by exciting Western shows, movies and cartoons.

Democracy brought freshness, self-expression, enthusiasm for exploration and unknown possibilities. Just starting school, I was strongly influenced by the country’s newly liberated and celebratory spirit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Tara (Again), Graduate Student from China and Fashionista

by Tara - Posts (11). Posted Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 9:23 am

On the red carpet of the Hollywood Reporter's Oscars party

On the red carpet!

Name: Tara Cheng (天天 is my Chinese name)

Home Country: China

School: University of Southern California

Year: Graduate Student, Class of 2012

Major: Communication

What’s one thing you like better about the US than your home country so far?

People give a better respect on privacy and individuality of others than Chinese do.

What’s one thing you like better about home than the US so far?

Restaurants in Beijing do not close until mid-night.

What one thing from home did you make sure to bring with you to the US?

Chinese accent! Lol I am kidding. My accent is fading day by day. I do not know; I was shocked by how much I was Americanized during the past one year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Sebastian (Again), a Junior from Bolivia and a Kansas Jayhawk

by Sebastian - Posts (17). Posted Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 8:28 am

The gorgeous Kansas City Plaza at nightName: Sebastian Sanchez Deuer

Home Country: Bolivia

School: University of Kansas

Year: Junior

Major: Economics

Why did you decide to study in the US?

I was motivated by the pursuit of quality higher education and the priceless experience of living abroad in a different environment.

What book, movie or TV show do you think most informed your opinion on what the US would be like? Was it accurate?

I would say my favorite show, Seinfeld. I guess it was somehow accurate, but it was more entertaining than that.

What one thing from home did you make sure to bring with you to the US?

My flag. Keeps me from forgetting where I come from and where I go.

What’s one thing (academic or not) that you’re really interested in besides your academic major?

Diversity promotion, I am very appealed by the idea that more people should learn about diversity, which I am learning on my own now, and above all tolerance and respect. With diversity I mean cultures, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc.

Meet Anna, a Russian Student at Mount Holyoke College

by Anna Malinovskaya - Posts (17). Posted Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 9:36 am

Anna MalinovskayaName: Anna

Home Country: Russia

School: Mount Holyoke College

Year: 2014

Major: Economics and International Relations

What three words do you think your friends would use to describe you? What three words would you use to describe you?

My friends would describe me as independent, ambitious and hard-working. I would describe myself as career-oriented, determined and patient.

What’s one thing (academic or not) that you’re really interested in besides your academic major?

Using different career resources that my school has to offer, learning new skills like computer software, and meeting interesting people who come to speak on my school’s campus.

What typical American thing are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to Halloween. We do celebrate Halloween in Russia but it’s not like real American Halloween.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Ryan, a Television Major from Indonesia

by Ryan - Posts (2). Posted Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 9:32 am

Ryan RinaldyName: Ryan Rinaldy

Home Country: Indonesia

School: Montgomery College

Year: Freshman

Major: Television

Why did you decide to study in the US?

My father was assigned to work in D.C. So I decided to move with my family and search for schools here. I’ve always wanted to study film in the U.S., too bad it’s expensive.

What one thing from home did you make sure to bring with you to the US?

I brought some of my favorite Indonesian books and movies. Oh, and also, I had to make sure that my Indonesian football (soccer) jersey and batik clothes were in my bag.

What typical American thing are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to learn about their sports like: football, hockey, basketball, etc.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Thuy, a Business Student from Vietnam

by Thuy Pham - Posts (6). Posted Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 at 9:24 am

Thuy PhamName: Thuy Pham

Home Country: Vietnam

School: California State University Fullerton

Year: Class of 2013

Major: MBA, International Business

Why did you decide to study in the US?

I have never been to US and what I perceived of the freedom of an American multinational culture (lifestyle, education, entertainments…) made me curious and challenged to explore it and integrate into it.

What’s one thing that you’re really interested in besides your academic major?

Business is my academic major for undergraduate and postgraduate (at this moment). I have worked in business for few years, but others find me non-business style when they get to know me more. Perhaps, I have another world – my feelings for the beauty. It is just speechless moment if I see an inspiring artwork, hear a beautiful melody or read a meaningful quote. I can’t tell how I understand about art because I believe that everyone of us has it in our blood, so I have my own art view: I am doing business. Business is an art. Thus, I am doing art.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Simba, a Zimbabwean at Oberlin College

by Simbarashe - Posts (7). Posted Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 11:26 am

Name: Simbarashe Runyowa (Simba)

Home Country: Zimbabwe

School: Oberlin College

Year: Freshman

Major: Undecided

Why did you decide to study in the US?

I decided to study in the US because of the diversity of options in the liberal arts curriculum. Because I was interested in a variety of fields and disciplines, I felt like a liberal arts education would be the best way to help me fully engage all of my intellectual interests and develop others that I may not have previously been exposed to or been aware of.

What book, movie or TV show do you think most informed your opinion on what the US would be like? Was it accurate?

I don’t think there was one particular source that influenced my perceptions of the US, but rather my perceptions were built from watching a number of television programs, movies and music videos. Many of the stereotypes I had have been reinforced, like the fact that Americans are very friendly and liberal, while others, like the myth that Americans eat burgers and fries all the time, have been debunked. While burgers and fries are of course delicious, daily consumption of these foods items is neither reasonable nor sustainable. This is one lesson I unfortunately had to learn from personal experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time to Meet Our New Writers!

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 11:24 am

As promised, we have lots of new writers joining us this school year to tell you all about their lives as international students in the U.S.  And this week you’ll finally get to meet them!

I was able to get them all to answer a few questions about themselves (which are by turns funny, interesting and revealing), which we’ll be posting over the coming days.  So check the blog every day this week (and possibly next week too…) to meet one of the new writers – or to get reintroduced to a returning writer.

I think we are in for a great year!

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.

Learn more about this blog »

Share your own story!
Tell us about your experiences applying to the US, studying in America, or doing an exchange, and we may include it on the blog.

Explore

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.