The basics
THE USA: Once you arrive

Studying in the USA: The student perspective

What's it like to study in America? We speak to Nicola and Mai, two students from different ends of the world, who have recently moved to the States to study. Find out how they've gotten on...


Moving to a completely new culture and adjusting to life on a foreign campus in a country like the USA can be a daunting prospect. The teaching styles often differ, the cultural differences can be acute, and homesickness can often be a problem at first. Below we speak to two students who have recently moved to America for their studies to find out about their experience so far...


Story 1: From London to Florida

Nicola Bafana from England is studying Biomedical Science at the University of South Florida.

‘I’m studying Biomedical Science at the University of South Florida. I enrolled on my course because I’m interested in medicine – either surgery or dentistry is my preference – and I love to help people. My parents, my brother and the location of my previous tennis academy when I was in Florida four years ago influenced my choice to come to this state.

I chose America because I had never lived in the country before – I’ve flown all over Europe, Asia, Africa and even Australia, and I thought it would be nice to see the USA properly.

In our first few weeks at the University we had orientation, which is a welcome week where current students take on the role of orientation leaders and show the new ones around. It’s their job to introduce us to our group members and other groups and show us what life on campus is like. They gave us a chance to experience college life that week before we started our classes. I found it very informal and they managed to keep us interested the entire time.

As far as my university accommodation was concerned, my parents decided a single room would be best for me as it was what I wanted and was one of the better choices on campus. Reading about the rooms beforehand helped me to make an informed decision about where to live. To integrate into the social scene, I would just randomly start a conversation with a person on campus and get to know them from there – I’m a very social person in general so didn’t find this hard.

In the first year, the biggest challenges for me were remaining focused, balancing my time and fun equally and managing my finances. Easier than it sounds!’


Story 2: From Vietnam to Oregon

Mai Nguyen from Vietnam is studying Economics at Oregon State University.

‘I chose Oregon for three reasons, the first being that Oregon has a very small Vietnamese population and I wanted to be exposed to a totally different culture. The second is that it is such a beautiful place – I grew up in a big city, and here I see lakes, mountains and forest. It’s what I always dreamed of! The third is that I got a scholarship through the Intercultural Services Program (ICSP).

I chose to come and study in the USA because, like so many students, I wanted to achieve the American dream! To do that, I need to focus on skills like speaking, reading and writing. College is a grand project – you don’t just jump in without a plan.

I’ve been living in a place called Orchard Court Family Housing since I got here. I found out about it from my Vietnamese friends who are graduate students here. I love it! It’s inexpensive and I love the fact that I’m part of a community.

To integrate into the University’s social scene, I stuck close to groups like ICSP and the International Students of OSU (ISOSU) because I knew of these groups before I arrived. It was very rewarding and I’ve had a chance to mingle with cultures other than American.

In my first year, one of the biggest challenges was getting used to the way of thinking. I speak English, but it doesn’t mean I can articulate as well as native speakers. One of my goals is to be able to join a debate or an argument on economics, or over a policy. I’m starting to read the news more and read more books in my field to build thoughts on it, because the Asian way of thinking is very different to that of the West.’


Feeling more comfortable about studying in America? Find a course in the USA now.

Read more about dealing with culture shock


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About Author

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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