Here's your guide to student life in the US

What differentiates U.S. universities is not only the quality of the education they provide, but also the support and resources they provide so that international students can adjust quickly and make the most of their time on campus.

Manmohan ThoratUpdated: Saturday, July 09, 2022, 10:55 AM IST
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Pursuing higher studies in the United States can be an exciting and fulfilling experience for Indian students. The increasing number of Indian students choosing to study in the United States is an indication of the value of a U.S. university degree. However, what differentiates U.S. universities is not only the quality of the education they provide, but also the support and resources they provide so that international students can adjust quickly and make the most of their time on campus.

Your first point of contact after coming to the US

The first point of contact for all international students arriving on campus is the International Students and Scholars Office. This office is designed to meet the unique needs of international students throughout their time at the university. Their services include helping international students get settled in at the university, obtaining their student IDs, getting acquainted with student residence options, familiarizing themselves with the campus, and much more. Keeping in touch with the International Student and Scholars Office is also important because this is the same office which will help the students with the required documentation for travel to the United States.

The importance of Welcome Week

Each fall it is customary for U.S. universities to hold a festive event often called “Welcome Week,” typically held the week before classes start. During Welcome Week, all incoming students get a chance to meet representatives of various student organizations on campus. Student organizations are a very important part of life on a U.S. campus, and there are many types of student organizations – career-focused organizations such as Society for Women Engineers, social organizations such as the Indian Student Association, and more. You can even join student organizations such as a Gamer’s Club or a Cricket Club. During Welcome Week, international students will also attend a student orientation during which they will learn about important resources such as the library, student union, bursar’s or registrar’s office (where students pay their fees), classrooms, health services, recreational center, and important traditions and landmarks at the university.

Once students have settled in at their university, they can meet with an academic advisor who helps plan the students’ academic journey and stay on track. Universities in the United States are known to have a flexible academic structure. Academic advisors help students navigate the many course offerings for their programs by helping determine whether the student has sufficient background to successfully complete each course. The academic advisor will also recommend adding or dropping classes based on the degree requirements, help explore student interests, and provide additional resources if the student is struggling.

Manmohan Thorat, EducationUSA Coordinator at USIEF Mumbai

Introduction to the academic environment

The academic environment on a U.S. university campus can be quite different from what international students would experience in their home countries. On a U.S. campus, professors are approachable and conduct “office hours” – a certain number of hours each week in which they welcome one-on-one meetings with students. Students are expected to participate in classroom discussions and prepare for the class beforehand. The syllabus for the semester is usually shared on the first day of class and will contain the details of the topics to be covered, the dates for projects to be submitted, and the exam schedule. This ensures timely progress through periodic assessment.

The two buildings in which many students spend most of their time on campus are the student union and library. The student union is devoted to student life and is often home to student organizations, dining facilities, and the main bookstore. Student unions are a great place to interact with other students and explore all the offerings on campus. The library, on the other hand, is dedicated to learning. It is more than just a place for books, however. In addition to checking out books, students can access research papers through the library catalog system and some libraries even provide laptops for students to check out. Libraries typically have designated areas for group work, silent zones, and cafeterias for a quick snack. You can even reserve study rooms in the library for individual and group work.

You can always rely on support services

There are various student support services which students can use throughout their academic journey such as writing services, tutoring services, and career services. Writing is a critical skill, regardless of which field the student is pursuing. Universities understand that students have different levels of writing skill and provide writing services to students who wish to improve on them. Writing services help students understand how to proofread, maintain academic integrity, and improve writing skills in general. Plagiarism is considered a serious offense in the U.S. higher education system – U.S. universities provide resources to ensure all students understand how to avoid it. Students can use tutoring services if they feel that they need more help with their classes. Students can contact either their professor or their academic advisor for how to avail the tutoring services.

Universities in the United States take the safety and security of their students very seriously. Several U.S. universities even have their own campus police. There are many safety measures provided on campus to ensure a stress-free and safe environment for students, such as frequent campus police patrolling, emergency booths, help walking students back to their dorms late at night, campus alert systems, and police who are specially trained for dealing with students at universities. The International Student and Scholars Office will provide contact information of campus police in case of emergencies.

Students can avail services that cater to them

Most universities in the United States have a shuttle service which ferries students around campus and important destinations within the city. This service is usually free of cost and can help you save time, especially when you need to get to class across the university or buy groceries on weekends. There are multiple dining options on campus. It is not uncommon to find Indian cuisines that cater to the large Indian student population at U.S. universities. Students can always make special requests in case they have dietary restrictions. Such requests are quite common in the United States.

Many international students choose to attend universities in the United States because of the resources available on campus for a successful student outcome. The United States continues to be the most popular destination for Indian students.

For more information please visit the EducationUSA website (https://educationusa.state.gov), and for individual questions or direct counselling with an EducationUSA adviser, please write to USEducationQueries@state.gov.

The author is EducationUSA Coordinator at USIEF Mumbai

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