Let’s no one lie to you, being in the US is cool. However, there are so many things no one tells you about studying in the United States. I was wondering whether or not to share those as I have not yet experienced the whole country but, I decided to do it regardless.
This post may be helpful for you if you are planning to study or just visiting the United States. Feel free to drop your questions in the comment box below, I will be glad to help as I can.
Important: This post is written based on my honest experience. While mine may differ from yours or someone you know, it would be great to keep in mind that everyone may not have the same opinion.
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This April marks eight months since I moved to the United States and, I realized that there are so many unsaid things about studying in the United States as an international student, that I think should be said.
Life is expensive
You may have heard it already but, let me to say it again *louder*: The United States Of America isn’t cheap.
A lot of us (African especially) get excited in the beginning when we get here, but the pink doesn’t last more than three (3) months. (Don’t worry for me, my eyes are now clear and widely open haha).
Here is the thing: We, International aren’t allowed to work! I mean official works = No. Unless you work under the table which, I do not advise.
You may, however, find some work offers on your campus and get eligible. So before thinking of going for some illegal job think about that.
Living alone isn’t the best option when new in the United States; that’s why people rent in groups.
While living on campuses may be the best decision in terms of money back to the motherland, it is the opposite here. Dorms are expensive and super expensive for us International students. Therefore, living off-campus happens to be the best option.
02. Phone bills
Compare to the homeland where you can decide whether or not to recharge your phone, here YOU HAVE TO.
Phone works with subscriptions; meaning you get to call, text, and browse only when you pay your bills. What if you are broke this month and can’t renew your phone subscription? Well, you will of course not be able to call but also receive any calls. Weird right
The subscription pricing depends on the phone company and the chosen plan. You may get a basic subscription for $25/month with Metro By T-Mobile or get one at Verizon for $38/month, you decide.
The good thing is that you can share your plan with up to five (5) friends. This reduces the cost since it is collective.
The common transportation fare in Dallas is quite okay but still costs. You will get a daily DART ticket for $6 or $3 for the afternoon pass. The same ticket is used for buses and trains and, can sometimes take you to other counties.
Some colleges and universities make it easy for their students by collaborating with transport companies to offer discounts or free rides.
My UNT student ID allows me to ride for free within Denton County and my current college – Dallas College offers free DART rides each semester within Dallas and Forth Worth to enrolled students. How cool is that! – Yes that is why I am always on the buses, who doesn’t like free rides plus, we are saving!
04. Health Care
I have never been to the hospital or clinic here for myself (I Thank God) but I accompany people and from what I saw and heard, health care is expensive even for those Americans who don’t have any health insurance so imagine for you, a foreigner.
I can unfortunately not say much about that because I have no experience. but what I can advise my fellow international students is to take advantage of your college or university health centers. And if your school is giving free Health Insurance please take it my friend; you may need it.
05. Food and Clothing
Food and clothes are manageable. Well, this also depends on where you get them from.
Don’t get too excited about online shopping, however. Yes, it is great and all but trust me you will sometimes get frustrated.
Groceries are traditionally not costing. Stores like Fiesta and Walmart or even 99c make it affordable for everyone. However, if you decide to eat your African meals, just be prepared to spend at least a hundred bucks ($100) because those stores selling the ingredients are expensive.
Oh and, fast food is cheap, but you wouldn’t want to eat outside daily right, talk less about gaining too many calories.
Your skills will help you
I saw the following quote somedays on Instagram:
You should learn braiding, mechanics, sewing cooking and many more before traveling abroad. All these little things will save you more than once.
I laughed so much when I saw it because of how accurate this is.
On a real note, imagine saving some dollars on plumbing because have some knowledge in that field, or repairing your car because the mechanic doesn’t have any secrets for you… better, imagine you as a girl, you can braid your hair? This will save you at least $$ each month!!!
Fun fact, I made my first dollars within the first weeks I got here by designing my tutor’s business website. Another one followed up with a friend’s online shop. I wasn’t yet a professional web designer but, that small design skill got me some bucks. I later decided to focus on it and then launched Studio Collipy as a side hustle.
That’s how we survive here, international students, we monetize our skills. So if you plan on studying in the United States, here is my advice: learn as much as you can, everything works here.
Your shyness will cost you
Believe me when I say that.
People here (Americans to be specific) are straightforward, competitive, and live in the moment.
If you are introverted and reluctant while studying in the United States trust me you will miss a lot of opportunities. I am not asking you to be 100% talkative or play super social, no. I am telling you to be bold enough to leave your comfort zone.
Speak things out and feel free to express yourself, ask for assistance, and never put your standards low.
College is the best option
This is another thing no one tells you about studying in the United States, here you have options.
A friend once asked me why I call it college instead of university so I had to explain it to him. A community college offers the first two (2) years of the 4-years university. After completing the two years, you earn an Associate degree that allows you to do whatever you want with it (work or transfer to another institution for an undergraduate program).
Here are some benefits of attending a 2-years College:
- You save money and therefore avoid big loans
- You learn at your own pace
- Academic focus and personal assistance
- Easy scholarships acquisition
Compared to 4-years universities, 2-years community colleges are cheap and accessible. While some universities may cost $5000/semester, community colleges will cost half of it and offer the same courses.
However, if like me you want a bachelor’s degree, you will need to transfer to a 4-years university after your first two (2) years at a community college and then graduate thereafter completing the remaining courses.
Be wise when choosing. No one wants to throw money away through the window, not even Otedola.
Loneliness will always show its nose
Trust it or not, you will feel lonely regardless of the number of good friends you have. This is not only an abroad experience thing, I think it happens to everyone, everywhere.
The thing is that you will miss your old lifestyle, your real friends and family, your old self and you will sometimes cry. This is my current situation (haha).
Homesickness will come with nostalgia and you will cry; I stopped listening to some songs because they bring beautiful memories which hurt sometimes.
But you will overcome it. Keep in touch with your friends and family, this may help you find the light during those periods, don’t forget to cry whenever you feel like it. It will help you feel good.
You will become more self-aware and independent
Of course, your journey here will make you independent. While living in the United States alone, you will learn to depend on yourself and only yourself. You will pay attention to your daily moves and decisions regardless of your age.
Your daily struggles will shape you and open your eyes to so many things you may ignore.
You will find your fit and adjust
No matter where you are from, you will find people that will understand you and your culture.
Don’t be in your space, ask for help when in need, talk to people on the streets, on buses, and on trains. Talk to your professors and get involved in your school activities; those are things that make your lifestyle cool and your school years unforgettable.
The beginning can be overwhelming. You will cry for nights, and get depressed and stressed but trust all this won’t last. I used to complain a lot about being here, feeling lonely and bored; But it gets better and smoother once you decide to stop complaining and take advantage of the moment.
This is to whoever is living/ studying abroad, many miles away from their homes, I pray so you find the strength to keep going and reach your goals, don’t give up.
Hi friends, I hope you enjoyed reading this post.
Have you ever experienced studying abroad? How was your experience?