For many international students, the chance to study in the United States is a cherished dream. The US has some of the world’s most renowned and well-respected educational institutions, from Yale and Harvard to MIT and a wide array of other schools. But being a student in the United States comes with its own unique challenges and obstacles, especially if you’re not a US native. If you’re headed to the US to study — or just thinking about it — this guide can help you prepare for this exciting adventure.

Education Costs More

One of the foremost shocks of getting a higher education in the US is how much it will end up costing you. Tuition fees in the US are some of the highest in the world and can vary depending on the institution and your chosen field. In addition, international students often end up paying more than local residents, and student loans are notoriously predatory.

Cost of Living Needs to Be Considered

You’ll also have to think about other expenses, such as transportation, housing, and costs of daily living. If you choose to live off-campus in an apartment, you’ll have some challenges to face in terms of making ends meet. One thing you may want to consider is taking out renters insurance, even if your possessions are meagre. Renters insurance will protect your belongings in case of theft, damage, or other disaster, and can even help you find another place to stay if your apartment becomes unliveable.

Academic Programmes are Rigorous

American universities and colleges also tend to be strict in terms of their expectations. Students are expected to participate in discussions, engage with their coursework, and complete any assignments on time. Quizzes, homework, and major exams are common.

Culture Shock

Moving to another country is often a shock no matter where you go or who you are, and the US is no exception. Students coming from elsewhere in the world may need an adjustment period to get used to some of the country’s eccentricities.

For example, American cuisine varies greatly on account of borrowing and taking inspiration from dishes all over the world. The country also has a diverse climate, and weather conditions can vary dramatically depending on where you’re attending school. Further, America’s political climate can be polarized and highly vocal compared to some other locales, so be prudent when engaging in political discussions.

Managing Your Finances

To make your life easier, it’s best to set up a US bank account for the duration of your stay. A bank account will make it much easier to send and receive payments, manage your bills, and so on. Many states have a sales tax that will be applied at checkout, so keep that in mind when making purchases. Further, you should know that tipping 15 to 20 percent in restaurants is customary, and should be included in your dining out budget.

During your stay, particularly if you live off-campus, you may need to secure part-time work in order to make ends meet. When looking for work, it’s to your benefit to understand all the regulations and restrictions of your student visa. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your designated school official.

Accessing Healthcare

Much like tuition, healthcare costs in the United States can come as a significant shock to students unfamiliar with the country. While many universities offer health insurance plans you can enrol in, you might also consider urgent care clinics for non-emergency medical issues. These can often be more affordable than emergency rooms, although you may still be in for a bit of “sticker shock” if you’re from a country with socialised medicine or other comprehensive health care programs.

Your Social Life

Making friends in a new place can be challenging even when you aren’t crossing borders or entire oceans — but it’s important to make a social life part of your higher education experience.

One way you can make new friends is to join campus clubs or organisations based on your interests. This will make it a lot easier to meet like-minded people. Attending university events such as festivals and lectures is another good way to meet new people. You might also make some new acquaintances by striking up conversations with locals or fellow students, or just by exploring your new city or town.


Finally, you should give some thought to your own safety. The United States is not without its problems, such as mass shootings and other types of crime, so you should definitely stay informed and aware during your time there. Your university will almost certainly have some campus resources, such as police or security services, as well as important safety information regarding emergency protocols and the like.

Studying abroad can be an amazing time, and the US has a lot to offer in terms of education. With a little forethought and a willingness to meet challenges, you can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience attending school in the US.