In recent years, record-breaking numbers of students have come to the United States to attain undergraduate and graduate degrees. In 2012 alone, 7% of all university students in America were international students, mostly coming from China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. If you're going to the US soon to start your university career, I want to say congratulations! You are going to love it and have an incredible experience. Passing the TOEFL and IELTS and getting the proper visa is only half the battle, and there will be a whole new set of challenges waiting for you.
In this blog, I want to tell you 5 secrets that are going to make your academic and personal life in America much more fulfilling and successful. How do I know these secrets? Well, I was an Academic English teacher at the University of California Davis for two years, and I prepared international students for life at American universities. I mainly taught courses in educational culture, essay writing, and academic listening. These days I teach online at MySkypeTeacher.com and prepare students for the TOEFL and IETLS Speaking and Writing tests.
The biggest lesson I want to teach you in this article is that your journey begins after you have been accepted to a school. Unfortunately, many international students have mismatched expectations and are not prepared to study in a rigorous university setting. I hope sharing my secrets and experience will help you achieve your goals while also making lasting memories.
In no particular order, this is what I always remind my students who are preparing to study abroad.
1. Arrive Early -- If at all possible, try to arrive 2-4 weeks before classes start. It's very hard to study and concentrate if you have jet lag, and you'll want to hit the ground running if you want to do well in all of your classes. Also, if you arrive early, you will have more time to settle in your new home and learn where important facilities are, such as hospitals, supermarkets, and banks.
2. Connect with other international students and Americans -- If you don't already have a Facebook account, set one up as soon as possible. Facebook is the de facto social media platform for young American students, and you'll be able to stay in touch with your classmates more easily if you have an account. I also recommend joining local interest groups for your school and city as this is a great way to meet new people. Every university in America has hundreds of groups, and you'll find like-minded who will make you feel at home.
3. Don't be afraid to contact your professors. In many countries and cultures, it might be a sign of incompetence or disrespect to admit that you don't understand a professor's lecture. This is not the case in the United States. Make appointments with your professors and their teaching assistants (TAs) if you don't understand an assignment. Many universities also have resources, such as Writing Centers, who have staff and volunteers who are available to help you with big assignments.
4. Don't Plagiarize -- Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional act of using somebody's words or ideas without giving them credit. This act can range from copying words directly from a book to forgetting to include a citation of literature consulted. In American universities, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty are taken very seriously, and most students will automatically fail the course and may get kicked out of school if they plagiarize, even if it's for a minor assignment.
5. Come to class prepared to talk -- From an early age, American students are taught that participating in classroom discussions and sharing opinions are traits of very good students. In other parts of the world, however, it is expected that the student remain silent or not challenge the teacher's lecture or ideas. Remaining quiet and never participating in classroom discussions in America is usually regarded as lazy, and it might give your teacher a bad impression of you. So always prepare before the class and don't be afraid to speak up!If you have any more questions about studying in American universities or if you need help studying for the TOEFL or IELTS, please let me know! Just go to MySkypeTeacher.com and use the contact form to get in touch with me.
Stephen Mayeux is an English teacher who specializes in helping beginning and intermediate students make rapid progress, as well as in preparing students for studying in American universities. Stephen began teaching in 2008 and has taught ESL for non-profits, universities and language institutes in North America and Asia. He is also the founder of ESLHipHop, a community for ESL teachers and students who have a passion for the art of hip-hop. To learn English with music videos, check out Stephen's ESLHipHop Page.