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THE USA: Before you leave

Student Insights: What is undergraduate study in America like?

International student Taro guides us on what undergraduate study in America is really like, including tips to help you succeed and more about the study culture.

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The U.S. is often quite high up the list of desired study abroad destinations for international students. However, as with any move to a new setting you may not know quite what to expect and what the experience will be like. There’ll be a new culture to adapt to, new people to meet and then of course getting up to speed with how the U.S. university system works. We tracked down Taro, an international student who studied in America, to dig a bit deeper into what the study culture is like and what tips he has for students aiming to study an undergraduate degree in the U.S. 

 

What was the adjustment like coming to study in the U.S.? 

 

I first started at a community college and that was quite difficult at first because my English wasn’t as good as it could have been. Then I moved on to study a four year undergraduate degree at a university. There is honestly no comparison between the community college and university in terms of the academic rigour required. I worked extremely hard at community college and tried to get the best results that I could. Once I transferred to a four year university things were a bit different and it was a steep learning curve for me. If I’m honest, it was much harder than I had expected and there were lots of assignments and reading to do. I found it very challenging in the first couple of weeks. I spent many hours in the library researching and it took me slightly longer to complete the work, as English isn’t my first language. I did manage to overcome the initial shock through a lot of hard work and determination.  

 

How to adjust to studying abroad

 

How did you find interacting with other students in America? 

 

At first it wasn’t that easy because of the language barrier and I felt anxious that I wasn’t coping with my classwork. I thought that everyone else was really smart, much more so than me and I thought that I was bottom of the class. It really worried me. I sometimes felt different, as one of the only international students, but I must say that everyone was very welcoming and friendly and I soon got to know people once I let some of my initial worries go. 

 

 

 

How long did it take you to get settled in the US?

 

It took longer than I had thought, but after the first year or so I felt more comfortable. I would say that in my last year of study I really came into my own. I’d spent time socialising and experiencing all that student life had to offer. My English was also much better by that stage so communication was a lot easier. 

 

What's the student experience like in the US?

 

Tell us about where you studied in the U.S.

 

I studied at Tulane University in New Orleans. It was a very lively environment and one that embraces the surrounding culture of the city of live music, festivals and parties. America is extremely culturally diverse and so there’s always new experiences to be had, so you have quite a number of choices of where to study. I never found myself not being able to find something to do. The university was very vibrant and there was a definite energy about the student life there. People were often going out and taking part in many activities. I really enjoyed that side of things.

 

What about balancing social and academic life?

 

That’s a really important point. While it’s always important to socialise and have a good time, you have to be responsible and look after your academic commitments as well. For the most part I wasn’t too bad at this. Basically you need to party hard, but study harder. Getting the balance right is absolutely critical, especially as an international student. I would never recommend leaving your assignments to the last minute and I found this particularly the case if English isn’t your first language as you’ll need more time to perfect your work. Procrastination is not your friend. The advice I’d give to international students is to take your time and not rush your work. 

 

International student in America

 

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