Living in the US

Published On: 04 Jul 2012

 | Last Updated On: 18 Jun 2014

If you decide to Study in USA, one of the biggest rewards of that decision will be experiencing a new culture and the life style which could help in the long run. It is said that if you are dreaming of studying, earning and living in the USA, you have then already embraced the adventurous American life.

For international students, they will experience many new and exciting things.  It is expected that in the beginning the American culture may leave you a bit uncomfortable, even confused, and the lifestyle may seem strange. Some of you are likely to experience a culture shock. However, adjusting to the American way of life is not as difficult as it is made out to be. In fact, with the advent of Hollywood movies and TV soaps being popular in India, most of the students already know what to expect at least the real parts of those shows. With knowledge of the culture and a broad mind to adapt and accept, you are sure to enjoy your stay in the USA.

American Culture:  As an Indian student, you might have seen several stereotypes of American life styles. While most of them may have been exaggerated versions, one of the major characteristics that mark the American lifestyle is `independence’. Since Americans are independent, you will have to prepare yourself to be self-dependent. No American will look out for your needs. If you don't ask for help, Americans will assume you don't need anything. So remember to ask for help when you need it.

Accommodation: For an international student, there are a number of options for student accommodation in the US. Most US universities and colleges offer on-campus accommodation for their students. Many first-year students prefer to live in on-campus dormitories because they are conducive to both academic and social activities. Another advantage is that you will not need a car to commute to and from campus. Moving into a dormitory setting is relatively simple. Utilities such as electricity and telephone connections will most likely be ready to use. Each US college or university has its individual policy on paying for long-distance telephone charges; find out what those policies are soon after you arrive on campus or even earlier. The off-campus housing office will assist you in finding an appropriate place to live. The office often provide information on the neighborhood, including popular restaurants, shopping areas, parks and recreation, and public transportation.

Social life: A vibrant social life is an integral part of American life. One of your first introductions to social life on a US campus will most likely be the International Student Orientation Program, during which students often learn of upcoming activities such as trips to local places of attraction.  Campus activities are designed to foster friendship. The Student Activity Center helps you learn everything about activities conducted by various on-campus clubs, groups and communities. Go through all the programs and choose options that suit you best. This will help you build a positive self-image among your peers and friends. Socialization is one of the most important aspects of your international experience. Socialization continues throughout an individual’s lifetime, and your studying abroad experience will challenge you to develop your people skills even further.

Transportation: Whether you are living on or off campus, in a city or suburb, you have many transportation options for getting around. Bicycles can be a great way to go around your campus and locality. Whether your campus is based in the middle of a city or in the suburbs, a bike is a relatively inexpensive means to get from point A to point B, and it’s a good way to get some exercise. If you are living in a city, the bus system will likely be pretty extensive, as is generally the case in most large urban areas. Most major cities in the USA, such as New York, Boston, and Chicago, have subways and they are a cheap way to travel around.  Interstate trains, on the other hand, are good for traveling across the USA. They are slightly more expensive than traveling by bus but much quicker. Taxis can be extremely expensive for students, but they are good for longer journeys to places that either are too far for walking/bicycling or have no bus or subway system.

Safety: Although the USA is a safe place to live in, we suggest you obtain all information relating to safety and take steps to reduce any potential for problems. The school's security office may offer a service wherein designated people walk with you from one place to another on campus, particularly at night. At home follow the general common safety rules and one could be aware of all the security options available on and off campus. Keep the emergency numbers at hand to help you at the time of crisis.

Living Expenses in the US: While planning to go to a school or university in the US as an international student, one needs to be very careful about the expenditure. Cost of living in the US vastly differs from one city or state to another. Cost of living is one of the major deciding factors for a student to choose one university over another. Insurance for the student is provided by the college/university upon arrival in the US.  For students new to the USA, the debit card is a great way to pay for things until you can establish credit.

It is estimated that the approximate annual living expenses are about $10,000 to $12,000, which includes accommodation as well as other daily expenses. However, the expenses are different for different people depending on the lifestyles and this is just a rough idea. The main expenses can be approximately split up as:

Rent

$ 400 to $ 600 per month (average)

Groceries

$ 100

Utilities

$ 100

Phone

$ 100

Sundry

$ 200

So, about $1000 to $ 1200 per month is a good estimation.  Most people can survive with $800-$1200 a month. The key here is to share apartments/houses so that you save on the utilities, fixed charge portion of phone and to some extent on groceries.

Working in the USA: As far as work opportunities in the USA are concerned, you are restricted by your visa. You must know all the requirements and restrictions that your visa imposes on you. Students can work up to 20 hours per week, earning $6–10 per hour, in part-time jobs such as those you might find in computer labs, bookstores, campus libraries and cafés. International students in the US who have been granted F-1 immigration status are permitted to work off campus in optional practical training (OPT) status both during and after the course.  Please check the immigration and employment policies for the employment status of an international student.

In all, the American way of life is an exciting mix of many cultures and peoples – a way of life that is difficult to understand in a short span of time. If you are open-minded and know yourself, living in the USA is much easier. You need to be adventurous, experimenting and fun-loving to make the best of the opportunity to live in the US.

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