Five diverse students with books and bags outside, focus on Asian woman in front

Life in the United States: Stories From International Students

Thinking about studying in the US? Get an idea of why these three international students chose to and what their experiences were like to help you decide.

Deciding what higher education institution you want to attend is already difficult enough, let alone deciding to study in another country. If you're thinking the US might be the place for you to continue your education, you have a big process ahead of you. As you research to figure out which colleges and universities are good fits for you, you should strive to gain a sense of what life is really like on campus and how a school can help you achieve your goals. And there are few better ways of figuring that out than talking to current students. You can ask the international admission offices at schools you're interested in to connect you with current international students or alumni—often people from your home country too. As a good place to start, keep reading to get an idea of why these three international students chose to study in the United States and what their experiences were like.

Faisal Saud Alyousif, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

School: Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania
Major: Theatre Production & Design
Graduation year: 2018 (accelerated track program)

Why did you choose to study in the United States?
"I want to learn from the people in the US and share my experiences with them. I want to support my country’s strategic goals (Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030) and do my part to help us advance. I am writing a play, Ducks in a Train, and plan to do outreach through theater to present society’s struggles and offer a voice to those views who might not otherwise be heard."

What is your favorite part about university?
I love the University’s motto that is displayed on one of the academic buildings: Achieve. Lead. Serve. I believe you can achieve what you want with hard work and effort. Susquehanna’s faculty helps students to grow the leaders already inside us. And I believe you must know how to serve others because you must first be an employee to be a good employer.

What has been the most challenging or surprising?
The most surprising discovery for me has been the similarities between our cultures. I grew up watching American movies and television shows since I was six years old—it was how I learned English—so many things are familiar to me already.

What advice can you offer other international students?
There are no challenges when you go to another country to study—only opportunities! For many years I dreamed of coming to the United States to study, but then my father passed away and I had to work to care for my siblings. But with hard work and careful planning, I finally made it. And with the support and encouragement of my faculty mentor, I am pursuing my passion for the theater…a passion that will never stop!

Related: Great Universities in the Northeast for International Students

Melody Sun, China

School: North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina
Major: Accounting
Graduation year: 2013 for Bachelor of Science in Accounting; 2015 for Master of Accounting

Why did you choose to study in the United States?
I chose to study in the US for several reasons. The most important one was that I knew the education I would receive was not only what I could learn from the textbook and in class, but also the dots I could connect with the real-world professional fields. The culture here and the way people approach a problem in the US are very different than my home country, and I thought I could also learn to use an alternative method or a different perspective to look at things. By doing so, it could possibly help me get to a better and more well-rounded solution when facing a problem in the future.

What is your favorite part about university?
I love the unlimited resources that I got from NC State! The teaching faculty here on campus were extremely helpful, and the professors really devoted their time and effort to me. They interacted with me not just to explain the learning materials or go through teaching slides, but offered me a lot of future career advice, such as how to approach things in a professional manner. Those were the things that I could carry with me in the long term, and they definitely helped me differentiate myself from my peers when I started to work.  

What has been the most challenging or surprising?
There are more campus activities than you can imagine. No matter which clubs you want to join, things you want to volunteer for, or new subjects you want to learn on your own—they take up all your time. Therefore, the most challenging thing for me was never having enough time! Learning to prioritize different tasks and allocate limited time for various projects was very challenging to me at the beginning, but as time went on, I built great time-management skills.

What advice can you offer other international students?
My advice for other international students is to take advantage of the resources you can get on campus and build your network from day one. Unlike when I was in my home country, I didn’t know anyone or have any friends when I got to the US. With a lot of things I wanted to do or get involved with, I didn’t know where or how to start. But slowly I learned that all I needed to do was to ask because everyone was there to help me. Maybe the culture you come from is very different from the US, but once you learn to be confident and not afraid of asking questions and/or pursuing opportunities, you will be very successful.

Related: Great Universities in the South for International Students

Sayantan “Sunny” Mitra, India

School: The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio
Major: Economics & Mathematics
Graduation year: 2016

Why did you choose to study in the United States?
I was very interested in engaging in research as an intrinsic part of my college experience, and I wanted a college that provided diverse global perspectives to expand my horizons. There weren’t any institutions in my home country that served those important interests of mine. The small liberal arts college environment in the US also appealed to me as a great opportunity to become a global leader and make a meaningful difference around the world.

What is your favorite part about university?
I can’t choose one, so I’ll give two. First, the relationships I built over my four years with friends, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, and alumni; those were steadfast and will last a lifetime. Second, I was so fortunate to be able to pursue a couple of my educational dreams—like doing real-world research observing Kenyan society and politics at close range (in Kenya!) and running a social entrepreneurship project in rural India. Throughout these experiences, Wooster embodied its spirit of being the premier college for mentored research. I treasured this opportunity to engage one-on-one with my professors on research projects that are academic as well as practical!

What has been the most challenging or surprising?
From my first day on campus, it took me by surprise how polite and welcoming people were. They acknowledged that I was from a different country and patiently helped me understand some of the nuances of things that never occurred to me. I was surprised at how much love my campus could shower on a “foreigner”! In fact, the love that my campus bestowed on me was reflected in the fact that they elected me as the President of the Student Government. When I applied to college, I could never have imagined that!

What advice can you offer other international students?
There is no limit to the opportunities you have in college, so follow your dreams. Aim to fly high, and if you stumble and fall on the way, always remember that there is at least one person at your college who is waiting for you to ask for help who will get you back on track! Also, if you’re unaccustomed to snow, there might be times during the cold winters when you feel lost, but the trick is to fight those thoughts in your head and you’ll have so much fun making snowmen (or filling the main arch hallway with snow—a tradition at my school!).

Related: Great Universities in the Midwest and West for International Students

Find your story in the US

These student stories provide great insight into what life could potentially be like for you as an international student in the US, but it's important to remember that your academic journey will be uniquely your own. There are thousands of colleges and majors to explore, and you have to pursue the path that feels most right to you. It feels like a big and scary choice, but there are a plethora of experts in international admission who are there to help you along the way. This is an amazing opportunity, and we hope you take your next steps with confidence. 

You can find a ton more advice on pursuing higher education in the United States in our International Students section. 

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