The USA has the world’s largest international student population, with nearly 600,000 students choosing to broaden their education and life experience in the United States. Nearly 4% of all students enrolled in higher-level education are international students, and the numbers are growing. From the mid-1950’s, when international student enrollment was only just reaching 35,000, international education in the USA has come a long way.
The USA “Way of Life”
If you are planning to live, learn and grow in the United States, you already possess a well-known American characteristic—a sense of adventure! As an international student, you will experience many new and exciting things. In this section, we hope to prepare you for some of the adventures involved in living in the United States.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to discuss exactly what “Living in the U.S.” means to everyone. American culture has been enriched by the values and belief systems of virtually every part of the world. From an international student’s perspective, that diversity is very valuable. If you choose to live in a completely different environment, you may be challenged with new situations every day; but if you decide to live in a part of the U.S. that resembles your home country in some ways, you may find comfort in those similarities.
Learning more about yourself is perhaps the most important part of your decision to travel to the U.S. Once you know what you want to achieve, then you can identify the right place to study and live and grow in the States.
As you may know, one of the hallmarks of U.S. culture is independence. Here is some advice about written by non-U.S. students just like you! In order to make friends, you must take the initiative to meet people. Because of the American value of independence, Americans will not always be looking out for you, or making sure that you are getting acquainted with other people. They assume you are taking care of yourself unless you tell them differently. If you don’t ask for help, Americans will assume you don’t need anything. So remember—ask for help when you need it!
Another point of advice: In some cultures, it’s polite to refuse two or three times if someone offers something to you. But in the U.S., it is polite to answer “Yes, please” if you would like what is being offered. Many interesting situations have come up when a non-U.S. student who was hungry or thirsty refused the offer of food or drink, thinking this was polite behavior. But when no second or third offer was made, there was no chance to say yes.
Contrary to the stereotype of independence and individuality, most Americans are conformists and gain their identity by belonging to groups. You may notice that many students join groups in order to both get acquainted with others and in order to satisfy a need to belong. You may be surprised at how many students look alike on your campus, with similar hairstyles and clothing.
Americans are sometimes difficult to figure out, so keep an open mind and get to know them as individuals.