Before going abroad - Mental preparation for Chinese students

I left my country to US in 2010. Time flies. Now I have got graduated for almost one year. I have experienced and seen a lot in the past 3 years. Here are some tips for students to keep in mind right before going abroad.

Many things in US are different from what we expected before departure. Keeping these tips in mind earlier could always help you to integrate into a new environment easier. Otherwise, not adapting quickly enough plus being homesick would make your new adventure unpleasant.

  1. Not every city looks like metropolitan

    There aren't as many major cities in the United States as you may have thought. Except for New York, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, you might find most of the cities have more countryside than you would have thought, especially the towns in most colleges/universities located.

    You can figure out what type of city you're going to by checking out the predicted expense on your I-20 form. If the number was about $30K, it’s very possible that your college will be in the “countryside” area. More than $50K probably means you would live in an urban area.

    I met some parents who were coming to visit their children in the past. They were disappointed by the environment which was not as bustling as they saw in the US cities in Hollywood movies. Yes, not all cities are concrete jungles and have skyscrapers lining the skies, but this is because the United States is unique. Since there is quite a bit of space in the states, there are some areas that have enormous land areas where you'll usually find supermarkets and shopping malls.

    Some of many advantages to studying in the “countryside”: people are very friendly and welcoming in small towns; you'll have fewer distractions for studying; and you might be closer to the fantastic natural views.

  2. You don't have to escape the Chinese social circle

    Chinese people are all around the world. I guess many students used to hold the similar opinion with me: in order to improve my English and understand the US culture fast, I should get in touch with Americans more and try to avoid speaking Chinese.

    But finally, I was totally wrong. Chinese international students know a lot what Americans do not know, which may make more sense to you. American friends would not tell you what CPT, OPT, and H1B visa are since they are local and do not need those paperwork at all.

    So, you do not have to escape. But remember, do not go to another extreme: interacting with Chinese students only. You are coming to this country to experience different cultures and social systems. Do not just limit your conversations to American youth in the classrooms.

  3. Different way of thinking—build the spirit of critical thinking

    You, in fact, can figure out the essence of American education from the GRE writing test. Not only is American education about being able to recite knowledge, but it's also about knowing how to do critical thinking and applying this to past knowledge that you've learned.

    The first semester for me was tough. My professor required us to write an essay about a very famous book in our industry for the midterm test. He highlighted, "your scores would be based on the critical thoughts you have on this book". "OMG…" That’s my reaction at the moment I received the requirement. To finish this project, I pushed myself to do a lot of research on this book. I luckily managed to score a 95/100, but it required a lot of time to do research and apply theories to the question. One of the biggest things I took away from this first assignment was that this experience is going to teach me to have deeper thoughts on subjects.

    What I want to say is, if you are a person of critical thinking, US is the place for you. If you are not, this is also a place to help make you more open minded. Try to crack the shackles on your mind and tell yourself, authority is not always right and what they write in books may not always be right - instead, think of how you interpret an assignment and challenge yourself to think outside of the box. From now on, no matter what you are reading, data, news etc, try to ask yourself: is it reasonable? Is there anything can be improved?

Hope these tips would be helpful to you!