Tuesday, July 28, 2015

megaVOICE: 5 Things to Know Before You Get Off the Airplane…

By Meghavaty Suresh
Contributing Writer

It’s that time of the year again. Airline execs have smiles on their faces, health insurance companies are rubbing their hands in anticipation and a great many parents have anxious butterflies in their bellies (I’m looking at you, India). It’s time for the great American education migration from far and wide, from east and west and north and south, from varied countries… though, let’s be honest, mostly from India and China.

So before you get off the airplane and begin your American study abroad adventure, there are five things I’d like you to wrap your mind around.

1. America is a bubble.

But so is every nation. Many young naive minds envision walking the streets of New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of and all that jazz. The point I’m trying to make is that you’re going to be stepping into a country not as a tourist but as a part of a system and you need to be ready to understand the system. Please say these words out loud – I’m a student, not a tourist.

2. There are resources for everything.

What I love most about this country is that you can do almost everything on your own; there are resources for every problem or concern. The trick is to understand that they’re not going to be advertised and you need to go find them. For example: transportation, housing needs, financial aid and scholarships (yes, international students, you can find a ton of different scholarships), and even JOBS. You have to go on a quest and find resources that will help you.

3. It’s Not All OM NOM NOM NOM.

If you’re charmed by the idea of Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and Twinkies for dessert then), then yes, the food is the BEST. But if you’d rather your produce come from Old MacDonald’s Farm, then things can get a bit tricky – and expensive. You will miss food from home regardless of how much you like supersize sodas and king-size candy bars. Learn where to find fresh food and start to make healthy eating choices as a student.

4. Small towns and big cities are different worlds.
If your school is in a big city like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, your adjustment period may be easier. But if you are headed to a small town, then be ready to adjust to an environment that is more conservative and may require extra effort on your end. The world of difference between small towns and big ones goes beyond size.


No other way to put it. Your life is going to change quickly. Just remember: Millions of students before you have gone through this process and thrived!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll take you through my journey as an international student in hopes that you will be better prepared than I was when I got off the airplane. Good luck!
Meghavaty Suresh is a content and brand strategist from Mumbai, India. She earned a master’s in new media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she realized what it truly meant to be an international student and how best to enjoy the experience. The megaVOICE column is her opportunity to give a voice to the whispers of international students. Megha lives in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter at @meghasuresh.

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