Every year we see thousands going abroad to achieve their ‘American dream’. We have seen our friends, cousins, and other relatives make their journey across. We have been with them when they applied to universities, booked the tickets, shopped and finally packed. But when the time comes for us to do the same thing, it takes a whole new dimension. This article is meant to demystify the traditional views we Indians hold of living in the US.
So now that you have cleared the port of entry, let’s look at the immediate issues facing you.
This should be planned well in advance, while you are still in India. New students going abroad to study don’t face as many hardships as their seniors did thanks to Facebook and Orkut. Most universities have their own ‘communities’ where you can find lifesaving info right from how to reach the university to how to use toilet paper. Here is also where you can hunt for prospective roommates if you decide to live off campus. Once you have formed a group, it would be much easier to decide on what things to take with you related to the apartment. If you can afford on campus housing, there’s nothing safer than that!
The cost of living in the US depends on location. For example States like Washington, California and New York are expensive. Large percentages of students fund their stay in the US by taking an educational loan. These come with huge interest rates, so the lesser we borrow the better. Hence to cover living costs it is neither reasonable nor fair on our part to expect assistance from the loan though such provisions are covered. Each university has a career portal or career centre where you can register yourself and apply to on-campus job openings. These on-campus jobs are always in high demand so just applying won’t do- follow up constantly till they get fed up and think the only way they can get rid of you is by giving you a job! Make friends and acquire good contacts on campus as it will most likely be a reference from a senior or friend which will land you a job more than you resume being selected. Maintain good relations with your professor as it’s the only way to get a TA/RA position.
Now that you have your money to buy bread, let’s move onto that.
Food in the US is defined by three ubiquitous food chains: McDonalds, Subway and Starbucks. Even if you lose your way home, you won’t miss these. The first two are there to feed you when you are too lazy or too busy to cook. The third one is to keep the caffeine level in your body high lest it should fall and make you fall asleep on your books. It’s also the land where soda is cheaper than water. Very few buy water, normal people drink it from the tap. So it’s most important to learn how to cook! Make yourself atleast one meal at home as you can’t possibly live on burgers, fries and subs. Every major city has an area cordoned off for Indians where they sell our veggies, masalas, rice, and dal. You need to make an effort to go buy them irrespective of the distance.
So now that you are eating the right kind of food next on the list would naturally be your health.
It is always advisable to carry medicines that have been tried and tested on your body by your family docs in India. Get a thorough master health check-up done (especially dental) before you leave India. Good eating habits and sleeping patterns should keep you healthy, except of course the occasional flu which you really can’t prevent!
Many schools require all international students to have health insurance, regardless of the type of visa. Because medical care can be very expensive, it is important to have health insurance, even if the school does not require it.
Climate varies considerably across the United States. The winter wear you get in India won’t suffice. Purchasing your clothing especially winter wear after you arrive in the US is advisable as they are made to suit local conditions. Besides, clothing is relatively inexpensive in the US. Wait until you arrive, and watch what the natives wear.
But if you are arriving to sub-zero temperatures, you need basic protection like a winter jacket, gloves, scarf, woollen socks, etc. to keep you warm on the ride from the airport to your apartment. Woodland shoes are one of the few things which you may not find here but are an absolute necessity in snow covered states.
Note - This is a guest blog by Kiran Yalamanchi who is currently pursuing his higher studies at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.