Traveling to a different country might not be the easiest thing for a student, and choosing a U.S. college can be difficult. To help, every student should realize the importance of getting in contact with past international students or a student currently studying in the U.S.
In my case, I had a brother to guide me through the process. He had traveled to America for his undergraduate degree, and I had the opportunity to visit him during the summer of his junior year of college. I got to visit his campus, which was one of the schools I was looking to attend.
While I was applying to universities, I contacted relatives and other friends who I knew were studying in America. After they shared their experiences, I thought about some important things that I wanted to consider, including money, campus life and the type of education I wanted to receive.
[Get tips to research U.S. colleges from abroad.]
If you are looking to reach out to a current international student studying in the U.S., consider the following three options to find one.
1. Your school counselors: One of the easiest ways to reach international students is to contact your school counselors and ask them if they know about any alumni currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in America.
I had a few students I was able to contact who I found this way, and each provided me with useful information. Some of them told me that they had classes where there were 300 or 400 students in a class, and some said they had 20 to 40 students in their classes.
2. Students from your country attending your target universities: A university's international student counselor will often help prospective students who want to learn more about the experiences of current international students.
During my college search, I asked counselors to help provide me with student email addresses, phone numbers or social media profiles. Many universities have international students, and their experiences are often shared on the university website.
While I was researching colleges, I found blogs written by international students from my country and I really liked the way they portrayed their experiences. Those helped me understand a lot more about the campus, just from their stories about their experiences.
3. Family, friends and relatives: I had a few relatives who studied in the U.S. that I could ask questions. I had looked into all of the schools they attended, even though some of them did not have the major I was looking for.
I am a big fan of small schools and big schools were not my ideal, which is why I applied to various smaller private schools.
My brother went to a huge state school, and he liked it. He shared with me that it was very hard to connect with professors being in such big classes whereas I believe it is really easy to connect in small classrooms.
[Find out how to discover the right U.S. college location.]
Tuition was also a consideration for me, as not every school gives out a lot of scholarships and I was looking into getting scholarships while I was applying. One of my friends told me he had received a scholarship at his particular university because he played tennis. If you are an athlete, and have a family member or a friend studying abroad who plays the same sport, ask them about their program.
Make an effort to contact as many international students from your country as you can, because they could be some of your best resources. Their experiences are the ones that will help you decide which university you want to attend.
It’s helpful to hear from a friend or relative about their experience at a U.S. school, even if you don’t end up going there. I did not attend the same university as my brother, but hearing about his experience helped me make my college decision – and I don’t regret my choice.
Vikas Jagwani, from the United Arab Emirates, is a sophomore at Drury University, where he majors in accounting, finance and economics.