Thursday, April 4, 2013

[STUDENT AMBASSADOR] James Zhou–Cornell University Part 2

Thank you everyone for attending the webinar! Based on some of the great questions received during the webinar, James will be answering some additional questions here on our blog. 

Hello everyone, my name is James Zhou, and I am currently a senior Biology and Society major at Cornell University. I was originally born in China and moved to Canada at the age of eight and grew up there until I came to the United States for college. 

1. Attending an Ivy League school can be pretty expensive. How did you fund your studies at Cornell? Were you able to work while studying?

Fortunately, I was able to qualify for a need-based financial aid scholarship from Cornell. Although these exact numbers may vary, many private institutions in the United States have fairly generous maximum income caps when dictating how much aid to award to students.

However, most financial aid packages also include a student contribution component that is usually in the range of a few thousand USD per semester/year. International students can qualify for most on-campus employment opportunities with the exception of positions that are looking specifically for those who qualify for the U.S. Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. International students are excluded from these positions because they cannot qualify for FWS.

Off-campus employment can be a little more difficult. During the year of undergraduate studies, the best option is to take the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) route where you register the desired job/co-op/internship as a course and relate it to your undergraduate field of study. The international students office at your college can assist you with this application.

2. What was your experience like adjusting to a U.S. classroom and life? How were you able to make friends at school?

Coming from Canada, the sociocultural environment between the two countries was almost identical. Hence, there was not a huge adjustment process for me. With minor differences such as currency, units of measurement, and political ideologies, living in the U.S. felt very similar to living in Canada.

However, for those that are arriving from countries with a more divergent cultural atmosphere relative to the U.S., they will often be joined with other students also arriving from the same countries or regions. Many schools do an excellent job helping international students integrate into the U.S. college experience by hosting different events where international students can meet each other and navigate through the U.S. sociocultural peculiarities together as a group.

Classes, clubs, and extracurricular involvements are excellent venues for meeting and making friends and often international students bring a unique perspective to these areas. I have rarely encountered any reaction other than curiosity or fascination when a student from a different culture makes a contribution in these settings.

3. What is your most memorable experience from studying in the U.S.? Would you recommend other students to study in the U.S.? If so, why?

If given the opportunity, I would definitely urge international students to come study in the United States. In addition to the excellent and well-rounded education, the undergraduate years in the U.S. are a very social experience as well and allow students to establish long-lasting friendship ties. There will also be many networking opportunities that can help start and improve careers after graduation.

For those that want to work in the U.S., attending a U.S. institution can sometimes be advantageous as employers may be more familiar with the diploma credentials. Firms in certain fields such as management consulting recruit exclusively from a select range of schools, so attending one of these target schools gives you the opportunity to apply to these positions that otherwise would be unavailable to you. Lastly, you will be able to find answers to your various post-graduate questions much more easily when you are studying in the country where you want to work.

My most memorable experiences include traveling to various major U.S. cities such as New York City, taking unique classes such as marksmanship and architecture, and making friends from all over the United States and the world.

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