The summer before I left Vietnam to study in the States, I was so worried about my new life there. I did not know what, where, and how to start my new life, how to save money and how to not embarrassed myself. Therefore, with this series of “Things to know before studying in the States”, I will share with you some small things I have noticed when I first started my college life here and I believe that they would be useful to know.
1) A bank account? Why not?
Within your first week of orientation, usually your school’s international student coordinator will help you with opening a bank account. They would help you with paperwork and suggest you which banks to use if there are more than one option available. If your school’s international student coordinator does not help you to do that, be pro-active and ask for help from he (or she) because having a bank account is a necessity. Also, you should consider opening a saving account together with the checking account. Having a saving account will help you manage your money better. You can keep track of how much you have saved by using that account.
2) Laptop or notebook?
Some people have asked me if it is better to take note using a notebook or a laptop. My answer is: “It depends!”. It depends on which class that is and what you are used to. With some classes, professors do not allow students to bring any technology devices in class because they think that technology devices are distractions. In this case, you are forced to use a notebook. If the professor allows you to take note with whatever you want, then choose whichever one you are comfortable with. If you are used to using a notebook to take note, then do it since it would give you the most benefits. If you prefer a laptop, then feel free to use one. Both methods have their pros and cons, for example, with notebook, you could lose it or somehow spill something on it or it accidentally gets wet when you run under the rain or even your roommate’s cat can hide it from you. On the other hand, for laptop, you could forget to save your notes, or you could lose your file because your laptop shutdown suddenly and you have not uploaded the files on Cloud or even somebody hack on your Google Drive account. So, anything can happen however, just do whatever you feel comfortable with and you will get the most out of your notes!
3) Transportation: do I need to have a car?
Again, the answer is “It depends!”
If you live in a big city with public transportation available 24/7, you probably better off with using public transportation for at least the first 2 or 3 years. It is because having a car for yourself is expensive. The car itself might not cost a lot but the insurance for your car is a different story (it could go higher than $100 per month) and you might not want to pay that much to get a car for just visiting Walmart or places around town. So in this case, you should utilize the public transportation. You could even save money on bus tickets by buying monthly pass. Some schools even offer their students free bus or some discount bus tickets for the whole school year so you could save a lot of money from that!
If you live in a middle of nowhere, like me, then it will be harder to live by without a car but it does not mean that it is impossible. Schools usually have shopping shuttles or some services to use when you need a ride to somewhere (my school have free taxi tickets for some special reason, whoo hooo!) so maybe ask student life office to see what you could do. You can also ask for a ride if any of your friends go to the same place that you need to go (offer them to chip in for gas if it’s a long ride).
Usually, junior year would be a great year to buy a car since you will start to find an internship and having a car to go to interview spots or later on go to work would be helpful!
4) Should I bring my ID with me when I’m off campus?
Yes, please do! Student ID can get you a lot of discounts. Usually, a lot of movie theaters or clothing stores will give you discount if you have a valid student ID, even some public transportation too. So, bring it along and ask to see if you get any student discount. Also, some places accept school ID, especially if you come from a big school in the area, as an official identification. Not a lot of places practice this but some do, so why not bring your ID with you when you’re off campus, right? (Also, you would need it to get back inside your dorm anyway)
Thank you so much for reading. As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please leave me a comment or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you all have a great day!