The United States of America (USA) is the world’s greatest economic and military power possessing an invincible global concern and global reach. Every ambitious youth sees the USA as a land of opportunities and dreams for a US degree. It bears the world’s largest population of international students. In 2019, more than one million international students enrolled in American colleges for higher-level education which makes up to 5.5% of the total student body in the country and the number is just growing. (MPI, 2021)
The overwhelming influx of students and immigrants from around the world makes the USA a country of colourful cultural mix and traditions. Besides, the bluegrass and beaches, snow-covered peaks and redwood forests, food-loving cities and wide-open skies, enormous supermarkets and huge skyscrapers further add to the great American experience. Until the 19th and 20th century, the USA had 13 states to which 37 states were added, making the total number of states to 50. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia are five of the largest cities in the country you may visit. The USA boasts various mesmerizing destinations for visit-the most urban life of New York and Chicago, the natural wonders of Yellowstone and Alaska to the sunny beaches of California, Florida and Hawaii being some of the real escapes.
Washington, D.C is the capital city of the USA. Located on the Potomac River bordering two states, Maryland and Virginia, it is named after George Washington, the first President of the nation and a Founding Father.
Language and culture
The American Declaration of Independence states that “all people are created equal” which is ingrained in cultural values people portray. They equally believe in independence and enjoy the concept of individualism. Shaking hands is the usual form of greetings and people are very informal and direct in conversation. Initially, the relaxed and informal atmosphere might not be usual for you. But, in no time you will realize you have attuned and adapted amongst entirely new faces.
English is the main spoken language and if you know a little of Spanish, French or Chinese, trips to some states would be more fun. Besides the political or historical background, diverse ethnicity, religious beliefs and traditions have entitled the USA with quite a number of public holidays. Christmas (24/25 December), Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday every November), Halloween (31st October) and Independence Day (4th July) are some of the major celebrations for you to get involved and live up to unique American traditions.
Food is the central part in most of the celebrations where family and friends come together and enjoy dishes, traditional recipes and cuisines. Over the years, recipes from around the globe have entered into the US kitchens making the American cuisine as varied and unique as the country itself. You will find so many delicious options to choose from. A local taste of the burger, pizza, apple and key lime pie and barbeque will lead you to some real tastes and help you immerse yourself in the American way of life.
Additionally, it has rich and wide-ranging climatic conditions. In terms of temperatures and precipitation, the territory deals with huge differences. The northwest is predominantly wet, the southwest fairly wet and the central part is dry and warm. Travelling to the USA in spring or autumn is comparatively a good idea; of course, you have to prepare for rainy winters and rather warm summers.
Laying back and thinking of moving around the country may seem challenging as an international student. But in fact, travelling is very comfortable and safe in the USA. You just need to identify the means you would travel by from and around the place you live. Airplane, trains and subway, bus, waterways (boats), metro, taxi, or rental cars are at your footsteps through apps as well as online reservation systems. Public transportation is well organized and domestic flights are affordable. You can even opt for a bicycle to move around your campus and local area that turns to be relatively inexpensive as well.
The USA offers you an opportunity to travel to different places and lifetime experiences to embrace. You may visit some of the world’s iconic attractions. Niagara Falls on the border of the US and Canada, Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, Central Park in New York and Hollywood hills in Los Angeles are just a few you won’t want to miss.
Flexibility is what the US higher education system offers through the enormous and diverse institution types it incorporates. This diversity leads you to options to specialize in a range of academic disciplines and enter the employment market more competently. Some educational institutions lay emphasis on broad educational principles, while some on practical skills required in the employment market.
The US educational calendar usually begins in August-September and continues through May or June. The academic year in most of the institutions is composed of ‘semester’; while some even practice ‘trimester’ or ‘quarter system’ of four terms which includes an optional summer session. There are thousands of colleges and universities throughout the country providing quality education and therefore, there are ample opportunities for all individuals. America has some of the world’s best-ranked Universities namely, Princeton University, Harvard University, Columbia University, University of California, etc. However, the most important thing to consider is the course and fee structure of the degree you aim to pursue.
Colleges are smaller than universities that generally provide under-graduate degrees. Community colleges, also known as junior college, have a significant role in the US educational system. They have affordable study options of two-year associate degrees after which you can continue studying in universities for an undergraduate degree. Universities offer research-based masters, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees.
Associate degree: 2 years
Bachelor’s degree: 3-4 years
Master’s degree (professional): 1-3 years
Master’s degree (Academic): 2 years
Doctorate or PhD: 5-8 years
Public universities, also known as State universities are funded by the government of a particular state and so you can expect a subsidized fee structure. Private universities, on the other hand, are supported by tuition fees and donations. Both the universities offer varieties of courses and impart the almost similar quality of education. As an international student, you may wish to do the calculations to comprehend to the extent you can stretch financially based on the type of qualification and university or college you choose. If you opt for medicine or engineering, they are likely to be more expensive unlike some countries having expensive MBA courses. The annual fee may range from $10,000 to $55,000.
Additionally, the US educational system requires you to meet a certain standard of English proficiency. Most colleges and universities in the US will require you to have an IELTS score of approximately 6.0 and/or a TOEFL score range of 70-90. However, it depends on the institution’s own set requirements.
Considering the cost of your living and education in the USA, working while studying can be greatly helpful for you, financially as well as professionally. It would be a stepping stone to your future professional career and also help you gain independence and sharpen your life skills. International students are mostly granted F1 and M1 visas. You receive F1 visa if you wish to pursue academic studies and an M1 visa are for those engaging in non-academic or vocational study/training. If you acquire an F1 visa, known as the US non-immigrant student visa, the good news is you are allowed to work in the US under certain guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Depending on the State’s minimum wage policy that you are working under on-campus or off-campus employment options, you may earn anywhere from $7 to $12 per hour.
The USCIS freely permits on-campus employment where you can work up to 20 hours per week within the school or even full time during holidays. The work includes assistantships to support the professors in their research works and/or students in the same field of studies. However, most institutions may have limited on-campus employment opportunities and it may be best to look into other employment opportunities off-campus too.
You can apply for and work off-campus in Optional Practical Training (OPT) status after nine months of enrollment with a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in hand. If your academic program has practical training as an integral component, you are again eligible for a Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) as an off-campus employment option and you work both during and after completion of your degree. However, under CPT, you are able to work only for the employer and time and dates as specified in your authorization document.
The American education system values education and therefore aims not to leave anyone deprived of education owing to their financial condition. If you are suffering ‘severe economic hardship’ and possess a F1 visa, you just need to provide evidence of your unforeseen circumstances and you are eligible to work off-campus up to 20 hours per week while in session and full-time during school breaks.
You have yet another option for employment in the US on F1 visas if you acquire employment offers and/or sponsorships from recognized international organizations as the Red Cross, World Health Organization, World Bank, African and Asian Development Banks and other similar organizations.
How might it feel to be surrounded by the world’s best and brightest students and academics? You can just imagine the thrilling experience while at your place, but you can live the same in Boston.
Capital city of Massachusetts, Boston is seen as one of the most popular destinations in the US for international students and so it hosts a vibrant student population from around the globe. It is home to around 50 colleges and universities and is within a few minutes from Cambridge where you will find world’s prestigious institutions- Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There are other five universities in Boston ranked in the top 400 while Boston itself ranks among the 15 best academic cities in the world marked by the QS Best Cities Index in 2018. Boston University and College, Tufts University, Northeastern University and Brandeis University of Boston are most widely selected by international students.
As a renowned hub for academia and innovation, Boston offers a vast range of courses for study, research and scientific discovery as per your interest and urge. You may find programs in technology and science appealing and strong along with courses on liberal arts in some universities. Tuition fees depend on the universities; however, it can cost you roughly between $20,000 and $50,000 per year. No matter what your study area is, you will find a suitable course and university in Boston. And the good news for you is that many of the people living in the city are students themselves and a lot of them are from other countries.
Besides an academic atmosphere, Boston is a lively and diverse city presenting you an opportunity to explore its unique history, culture, art, classical music, nightlife and sports. And as you wish to visit and enjoy one of those features of Boston, you can just walk; you are no more than 1-2 miles away from anything. You will never exhaust yourself wandering around the historic sites and parks, the Freedom Trail, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church and many more. The city is also known for producing some of the best seafood and a special variety of baked beans. You will find food trucks around narrow laneways serving you varieties of food and if you are lucky, you will find your native recipe as well.
Public transportation system in Boston is well-managed and trust worthy. You can take subways that lead you directly to most of the major universities in the locality. Your living expenses depend on the area and type of accommodation you choose to live in Boston. If you live in university accommodation, it would usually cost you cheaper than in shared apartments, halls or private renting.
Weather through June to November is found to be the best in Boston, however, the city is regarded as a year-round destination. It has mild warm summers and snowy winters, while bright yellow, orange and red colors shaded by the trees are one of nature's magic worth enjoying.
The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Broadway and Central Park, you find them all in New York along with abundant opportunities for world-class education. New York is a state in The USA’s mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions with a diverse geography. New York City is composed of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. It shares an international border with Canada to the north. New York has a humid continental climate where mostly you experience rather hot and humid summers and long and cold winters.
It is a commercial urban center in the country bestowing enough space for ethnic and religious diversity. Given its vibrancy, liberated population and mix of various nationalities, NYC is also known as ‘the city that never sleeps’. The city is a hub of immigrant communities where you can find cultural corners named Chinatown, Korea town, Little Italy, etc. These corners might comfort you with some fellow non-native togetherness in a new place. As the city is the hub for political, industrial, commercial and financial activities proving itself as America’s land of opportunities, New York has boundless opportunities for education, employment and apprenticeships.
Traditionally nicknamed as ‘the Big Apple’, the city of New York is home to varieties of educational institutions, such as Barnard College, Columbia University, Juilliard University, New York University (NYU) and Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), just to name a few. If you are interested in performing arts, Juilliard would be your choice. Columbia University offers graduate programs on engineering, law, public health and many more. Most of the universities in New York offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of fields and NYU is one of them.
For a student, libraries are always the favorite place. New York City is a part of the New York Public Library System. You can plan an escape into the books, maps and magazines whenever you wish for. Besides, you will never get bored while you are in the city. There are plenty of hobbies and activities to be involved in. You can catch a show in the theatre district or go for a boat ride around the Hudson River. Exploring Times Square is everyone’s dream and there it is at your footsteps. The annual ball drop hosted at Times Square on New Year’s Eve is something you would be attracted to. If you want to experience greenery away from the bustling crowd of Manhattan, Central Park and The Highline offer you a great escape. Harlem is another interesting area presenting you its historical and rich art culture.
New York is again an excellent city for walking that helps you familiarize yourself with the surrounding. If you are to travel farther, there are subways, buses and cabs at your disposal. You can get a metrocard with access to trains and buses that take you to almost every corner of the city. New York has food everywhere. There are so many restaurants around the city serving food at any hour of the day or night. With immigrants and international students, cuisines of various ethnicities and countries have entered the US kitchens and the city is not spared too. You can order every cuisine, be at bars, restaurants and go with takeaways without thinking for a moment. From Pizza, hotdogs, bagels to varieties of sandwiches, you will have plenty of familiar and ‘must-taste’ options to occupy and satisfy your taste buds.
Being the city of dreams of many aspiring students, New York is not among the cheapest cities to live in. Accommodation costs high that drags up your budget line. However, if you are a little savvy about your money, you certainly can make it within your budget. For a four-year’s degree, staying on-campus in a public college would cost you somewhere around $9,100 and around $8600 at private colleges.
San Francisco is a cultural and commercial center of Northern California, located at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. This city stands as a pillar in both American history and culture. It is one of the most populous cities in the United States. The population in San Francisco is estimated to be 882,519 in 2020. The city is well-known for a highly inclusive culture and diversity among the residents as any other place in the US. People are very friendly and welcoming in nature. This makes it one of the best cities to live and study in.
San Francisco is a compact city of steep rolling hills surrounded on three sides by water, is renowned for its summer fogs, Victorian architecture, cable cars and beautiful landscapes. Besides its natural phenomenon, San Francisco including the Bay Area is home to some of the prestigious universities such as Stanford University, UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco and others. As the city lies at the center of Silicon Valley, it stands as a world capital for the creative and tech industries. Owing to which, the colleges and universities in its periphery, by default, have prospects to rise and lead in science, innovation and technological advancements. Additionally, universities in San Francisco offer you some alluring programs and courses in art and music. You can imagine the experience of studying art and music at a place standing tall in the American cultural history itself!
In San Francisco, the summers are long, comfortable, arid, and mostly clear and the winters are short, cold, wet, and partly cloudy. Winter in San Francisco is rainy and mild while summer is foggy and cool. Both spring and autumn are sunny, temperate to warm. With almost no rain, it is considered to be one of the best cities in terms of weather as well, and you can be out for long walks, hiking and some exciting sports. If you are not fond of walking, you always have the subway, bus, train and even trams. Commuting by cars in fact could be difficult due to high traffic and packed and expensive parking lots.
There are some amazing places and sites where you can plan for a stroll, a picnic or even a spot for a peaceful escape. The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north. Portraying its undaunted history, another most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco and even the US is Fisherman’s Wharf where you can enjoy being in some of the best seafood restaurants. The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets of San Francisco between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board and live the fun whenever you wish to.
The diversity, acceptance of varied cultures, lifestyles and people’s receiving attitude have made the city a mix of not only people and cultures but also cuisines. As the city is famous for its Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars, it is famous for its restaurants and healthy food trends as well. You make sure that while in San Francisco, you do not miss its unique foods such as abalone, Dungeness crab, sand dabs, bay shrimp and crusty sourdough French bread. Summer turns to be the most awaited time of the year as it is almost festival season and every cultural event is celebrated with artistic perseverance, inclusion, diversity and creativity. The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is all about music and dance and Haight Ashbury Street Fair, observed since 1978, features art and crafts, food booths, three musical stages, a children’s alley and more. Some amazing festivals such as Union Street Music Festival, San Francisco Pride, Fillmore Jazz Festival are worth celebrating.
With an estimated population of 2,693,976 in 2019, Chicago is the most populous city in the Illinois state, and the third most populous city in the United States itself. It is located in northern Illinois at the south western tip of Lake Michigan, directly on top of a continental divide that connects the Mississippi River and the watersheds of the Great Lakes. Three rivers flow through the downtown area of Chicago, namely the famous Chicago River, the Calumet River, and the Des Plaines River.
Chicago is home to many world-class ranking universities– The University of Chicago (UChicago), Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Columbia College Chicago, Chamberlain University, DePaul University, and The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Additionally, there are many equipped libraries imparting only knowledge on almost everything in a peaceful and inspiring ambience- Harold Washington Library Centre, Mansueto Library, The Poetry Foundation Library, and Chicago Public Library to name a few.
Lying within the humid continental climate zone, the city experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are warm and humid with a July average of 75.5 °F (24.2 °C). Winters are cold, snowy and windy with temperatures below freezing and it is because Chicago is also known as the ‘Windy City’. Spring and fall are mild with moderate humidity. Along with long, hot dry spells in the summer, Chicago can suffer extreme winter cold spells which need early preparation.
Chicago is known for its artistic and cultural possessions with more than 60 museums and a dedicated Museum Campus. It is home to the renowned Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. The Art Institute of Chicago, containing 300,000 works in its permanent collection, and Museum of Science and Industry, the largest in the Western Hemisphere are something not to be missed.
Chicago boasts soaring skyscrapers, 77 colorful neighborhoods, 42 kilometers of lakefront with 26 beaches and 580 parks and green spaces. Whenever you need a break from your studious routine, any of these could be the options. Located in downtown Chicago, Millennium Park is the tourist spot. Lincoln Park, Lurie Garden, Buckingham Fountain, Crown Fountain, Lake Michigan, and Navy Pier are among the best options for nature lovers. There are also many outdoor concerts as well as sculptures and buildings worth visiting – Cloud Gate, Willis Tower Sky Deck, 360 Chicago, The Rookery Building are just a few of them.
Chicago has the second largest public transportation system in the US and so students can benefit from the variety of transportation means that the city offers: rail, bus, as well as a bike sharing system. Regarding food, there are many famous and unique dishes you ought to taste in Chicago- Chicago-style hot dog, deep-dish pizza, Polish sausage, the rainbow ice cream, caramel popcorn, cheesecake and brownies, and the list goes on. If you want to get a taste of home, there are different international restaurants as well. For Indian cuisine, Devon would be your avenue, Argyle Street for Vietnamese cuisine and Chinatown for specific Asian cuisine.
There are also several festivals for you to experience, including Chicago Festival of Gold, Chicago Heritage Festival and Rock the Vibe Chicago. You can even perform along with the marching bands at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade.
Los Angeles lies in a basin in Southern California, adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, with mountains as high as 10,000 feet (3,000 m), and deserts. Often abbreviated as L.A., Los Angeles has Hollywood and so is the entertainment capital of the world. It is California’s largest and most populated city. It is regarded as a pleasant city with plenty of sunshine throughout the year and an average of only 35 days with measurable precipitation annually. It sometimes gets hot and dry because of the wind blowing in autumn and winter but you will not have to worry about freezing temperatures and snowfall which are extremely rare in LA. .
Los Angeles may be the home of Hollywood, but it also has enormous higher education institutions to help you foster growth and professional development. Studying in LA is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience life in such a vibrant atmosphere. Being a city within the state of California with an extensive public education system, LA has quite a number of community colleges, public and private universities and online colleges. Also, the Los Angeles Public Library system operates 72 public libraries in the city, so you will never run out of knowledge resources while in the city.
Los Angeles City College is the largest community college by enrollment and it offers degrees and certificates in music, nursing, engineering among many other fields of study. Los Angeles Harbor College and West Los Angeles College are other similar institutions. LA is also home to some well-known universities- University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), University of Southern California (USC), American Film Institute Conservatory and CSU Northridge. Among them, UCLA is the most applied-to university in the US by both national and international students. Most of them offer numerous undergraduate and graduate degrees, credentials and certificates on varied subjects. Some of the more popular courses in Los Angeles are leadership, communication, finance, marketing and management, law, medicine, IT, film, and social sciences.
Mostly chosen for its warm climate, fantastic beaches, excellent food, diversity and adventurous nightlife, LA is also a home to renowned museums, unique hotels and 75 miles of sunny coastline. You can visit the palm tree lined beaches, shop in some of the high-class supermarkets and stores or go to the Hollywood hills or walk on streets just to bump over some Hollywood celebrities.
The city of L.A. is one of the largest economies in the world and an international hub for the entertainment, information, fashion, healthcare, tourism and technology industries, also playing an important part in agricultural, aerospace, and manufacturing sectors. The city has been ranked sixth in the Global Cities Index and 9th Global Economic Power Index. Home to Hollywood, Los Angeles leads the world in the creation of television shows, motion pictures, video games, and recorded music. Some of the most important companies in the city are American Apparel, Farmers Insurance Group, Herbalife, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Red Bull, HBO, Adobe Systems, Apple, Activision, and more. These companies could be somewhere in your resume if you intend to navigate your career during or after your studies.
Los Angeles has one of the country’s best public transportation networks, including subways, light-rail, buses and shuttles to nearly every corner of LA’s area; however, if you learn to navigate the metro system properly, travel would be more convenient. As any other place in the US, LA portrays its diversified culture in its food too. French Dip Sandwich, Mediterranean Gem Salad, Pho, Chicken Noodle Soup, Ice Cream Sandwich are some of the special foods to eat in LA.
Among several festivals and events in Los Angeles, the LA Film Festival has it all, from free screenings, world premieres to panels with stars. The American Film Festival again is more thrilling, as it has free entry and you can be there to stalk on your favorite Hollywood stars. Known for its literary community, the LA Festival of Books is yet another exciting annual event in LA. The Hollywood Halloween Carnival is one of those festivals with drag-queen shows, concerts, costume contests, patio parties and more. This would let you feel the absolute thrill of Halloween in America.