Colleges in the United States are experiencing a boom in the foreign student population.
According to the 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, the number of international students studying in American colleges has increased by 40 percent in the last 10 years.
What attracts so many bright young minds to our shores? And what adjustments do many of these intrepid teenagers put up with to pursue their dreams of acquiring a U.S. college diploma?
Value of a World-Class Education
Thirteen of the world’s best universities are found in the United States. The country’s strong reputation for top-quality higher education is a big draw for many international students. They find that having a college degree from an American university opens doors when it comes to applying for jobs after graduation.
This has certainly been the case for Nicole, a 2014 graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She was offered a full-time job by a “Big Four” accounting firm where she was an intern during the summer of her junior year. According to her, it’s an opportunity she would never have had in her home country of the Philippines.
Explore an Exciting Culture
America has been very successful in exporting varying aspects of its culture to the rest of the world. A number of international students who come to this country to study have a passing familiarity with life in America. As difficult as it is to pin down a distinct “American culture,” many students do in fact look forward to and savor their experience of it.
Finishing up her studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, Patricia describes her U.S. experience in words that one could easily use to describe America itself — rich and diverse. Although she hails from Manila, a fairly westernized city, she still finds American culture to be exciting and new. She is in awe of the beauty she has seen in this country and the breadth and depth of unique experiences.
Adjusting to Freedom/Paying the Price of Independence
As intoxicating as it may be for many international students to taste the freedom that comes with living away from home (a first for many), it comes with a caveat. As you enjoy the different sights and sounds of your new city, be prepared to ante up — freedom comes at a cost.
You will not only do your own laundry and your own cooking and cleaning; you will also do your own thinking.
In the American college classroom, you are expected to weigh facts and form intelligent opinions, voice your approval (or discontent), ask questions, engage in debate, and more. Few college professors spoon feed material to their students. Academic freedom is alive and well in America. Indulge!
Dealing with Homesickness
Coming from a close-knit family, Patricia was accompanied to her college dorm in Northeastern by both her parents. Excited to be living away from her parents for the first time, she couldn’t wait for them to take their leave of the campus. That night, she cried herself to sleep. She suddenly realized she would miss them so much.
Be prepared to miss home, especially during the holidays and special family occasions. There are several things you can do to ward off the blues. Join extra-curricular activities or cook the foods you love from home. Most of all, take advantage of the digital revolution that has turned the world into a global village — call home from your computer.
Studying in an American university is an once-in-a-lifetime, mind-bending experience. Embrace it.
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