Many people associate New York with its flashy lights and celebrity stunts as emblematic of America as a whole. Although America does have a particular fascination for pop-culture, the country is intellectually driven. West-coast students might wear flip-flops and find time to surf between classes and those on the East Coast may occasionally have a “play hard, work less” mentality, but do not let those faces fool you. Studying in one of America’s many cities is the best way to enrich your cultural as well as your intellectual mind.

New York City

Alicia Keys and Jay-Z once said: New York is a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of…[a city where] big lights will inspire you.” NYC, or the “big apple,” does inspire many to be bigger and better. Whether you’re in Times Square, the MET, or the M&M Factory, everything is bright and energetic. Not only is this environment conducive to discovering cultural novelties, but also it is also ripe with educational resources.

Boston

Boston is arguably one of America’s most popular college cities. The city combines rich history (the “freedom trail” passes through sixteen historical landmarks) with a progressive visual arts culture. Home to Fenway Park, the symbol of American sports, downtown Boston is a popular hub for friendly competition between Harvard, Boston College, and MIT students.

San Francisco

San Francisco might be the smallest of America’s big cities, but it compensates with a progressive and funky outlook: if you want to wear flip-flops, shorts, and a tee shirt every day, why not! Although there are few universities in the city itself, Stanford and UC Berkeley are but a short train ride away. Moreover, Silicon Valley, the current homes of Facebook, Google, and a zillion other start-ups are very close (including Go Overseas!).

How to Choose a Program

There are approximately 3,000 higher-education institutions in the United States. Whether it’s a university in Boston or one in middle-of-nowhere Clinton, New York, there are plenty of chances to experience the American educational system. When looking at universities in the USA, size, location, and housing are a number of factors to ponder.

Academic Life

There’s no standard grading system in America. Schools on the semester system usually begin in late August and end in May. Those on the trimester system begin late September/early October and finish in June. Compared to many international schools, universities in the USA encourage small-group discussions and class participation if the class size permits. Although grades are important, asking your professor insightful and creative questions is a very valuable skill to have as a student.

Language

A very high percentage of American universities are English-taught. However, some program offer private or group-orientated English language lessons.

Housing

Most students studying in rural American universities stay in dormitories whereas students in metropolis campuses tend to stay in apartments. If you have to find housing on your own, Craigslist is a popular search engine. If you don't feel comfortable with Craigslist, BeRoomers is a more trusted -- though less widely used -- option.

Student Visas

Applying to stay in the US for an extended period of time is tedious. The government is quite rigid and demanding, but if you submit all required documents and adhere to the US government’s instructions, studying in America will be as easy as eating a bucket of KFC.

The following are required to obtain an American student visa:

  • An I-20 form from the American school
  • An online nonimmigrant visa application (a.k.a. form DS-160)
  • A valid passport for temporary travel
  • For more information, visit the US.gov website
The Life of an American Student

The drinking age in America is 21 so many social events in undergraduate university are confined to the dormitories. However, for those over 21, pubs showing basketball, baseball, and football games are hot spots for cross-culture interactions. The concept of tailgating, whereby sports fan barbecue outside of a stadium before an athletic competition, are also popular amongst American students.

Say what you will about America’s bankers and propensities to overeat. But, America’s universities are arguably some of the best in the world. As the American government extends student loans and lowers interest rates on those loans, the opportunities to attend university will hopefully grow. America’s education system is bound for changes. As a study abroad student, not only will you experience these changes, but you are also bound to have a finger lickin’ time. Who knows, you may run into the cast of Jersey Shore…

American universities are not cheap. In fact, they may rank as some of the most expensive in the world (so much for socialism). But, do not let that deter you from studying in America! There are scholarships to help you cope with high costs.

Contributed by Daniel O'Kelly

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