American customs & U.S. holidays
to help acquaint you in your host country
International study can be a great experience, but it takes time to get acquainted with a new country. Whether you’ve never left your home country before or are a world traveler, there will be surprises along the journey. Here are some helpful tips as you prepare for your first month at a U.S. university:
Join your international student association on campus
Most U.S. universities have an International Student Association, which is usually a collection of international students of varying ages and majors at your university. It’s a great place to go to meet other international students who have gone through similar challenges and can offer helpful local suggestions when you’re missing food from home or just can’t figure out the local transit system. Most international students don’t have access to a car in the U.S. and smaller cities may lack extensive public transportation options. Because of this, sometimes these associations will organize occasional group rides to grocery or furniture stores, or even arrange airport transportation when you first arrive. It is polite in these cases to offer to pay a portion of the fuel cost to the kind student who is shuttling you around town as the association may not be refunding them for the fuel costs.
Get involved in your local campus and community
Beyond schoolwork, experiencing American culture is part of the reason to study in the U.S. Meet local students by joining a university club or organization. Join a school sports club or sign up for volunteer opportunities. There are many opportunities on U.S. campuses to get involved, no matter what your interest is. Many cities in the U.S. have community groups such as choirs, bands, orchestras, and sports teams so if you don’t find what you are looking for on campus, don’t be afraid to look beyond your school’s walls! One free site which is a great way to search for local groups is called Meetup.
Set up the basics
If you need a bank account while in the U.S. or a phone plan, many companies have special programs for international students who do not have social security numbers (SSNs). You will only be able to apply for an SSN if you have authorization to work in the United States and it typically takes several weeks for the Social Security Administration to process an application. Some things to consider when choosing a bank account are which banks have low fees or no minimum balance requirements and what their ATM network is like.
There are phone companies with international calling plans that offer a free sim card. Many students utilize apps such as Wechat or WhatsApp when connected to wifi for international calls to avoid long distance charges if they don’t have an international calling plan.
Ask for help
In the U.S., asking for help is generally seen as a sign of strength, not a weakness. Reach out to fellow students or professors if you have questions as you settle in. Don’t be afraid to ask!
You will have a lot of paperwork and other necessary tasks to take care of as you start your studies in a new country. You’re here to learn, but we hope you will also have fun along the way! The few years you are here will go by quickly.
Learn more about Global Benefits Group by visiting us at https://www.gbg.com/coverage/education/international-students and follow us on our social channels.