As a full-time international student, you have a great opportunity to take classes that are tied to the country in which you have chosen to study. You'll find some classes that will improve your time abroad and others that are only available at your chosen institution.
Classes that focus on the history or literature of the country you are in and of the people you are surrounded by will have added relevance. Learning about what is relevant to the past, present and future of that particular society will allow you to immerse into the culture rather than feeling like a tourist.
[Consider the cost and reputation of a U.S. college before applying.]
As a British student at a U.S. college, I have become increasingly interested in American politics, and I now know a whole lot more about the system in place here and how it differs to the equivalent systems in the U.K.
Also, being here during an election year really raised my interest and allowed me not to feel out of place during the conversations and debates that inevitably surround such a huge event, especially on a campus as politically active as UC–Berkeley.
Similarly, choosing to study a language as an international student can be hugely rewarding and for some, even a necessity. Even if you are studying as an English speaker in another English-speaking nation, consider studying the second language of your chosen country.
[Understand the challenges international students face.]
In California, Spanish is spoken widely, which enables me to practice the language in everyday situations. I wouldn't get that experience if I had chosen to study Spanish in England.
And again, being able to speak a language that is an integral part of the country or city you are in can help you immerse yourself into the culture and make you feel like you belong.
Make your decision to study as an international student by considering what your university offers – some classes are quite rare and specific to the university in which they are being taught. These classes are an opportunity to take part in a class environment that has a very limited availability and are usually offered by a well-regarded professor.
While at Berkeley, I took a graduate seminar course taught by renowned philosopher John Searle. There is no other university in the world other than Berkeley that offers that.
[Find out which universities draw the most international students.]
Additionally, there are certain classes at each university that have a great reputation and are taken by most students who are pursuing a major in that subject area, like a different course taught by Searle on philosophy of mind that many majors take. At Berkeley, many freshmen majoring in the humanities take a popular astronomy class.
Taking these classes is a great way to feel connected to other students – they can set you up with friends and study groups that can last into your later years of school.
The classes you choose to take are not vital to enjoying your time as an international student, but by researching and choosing wisely they can heighten your experience and be beneficial to you in the long run.
Daniel Cooke, from the United Kingdom, is currently studying philosophy at the University of California—Berkeley during his second year abroad. He will graduate from King's College London in 2014.