As an International Student Ambassador, I help international students at Baylor move in and adjust to life as a student in the United States. Throughout my time participating in this process I've learned a lot, so here are some things that I think all international students should know before coming here to study!
1. A lot of Americans have never left the country… or their state.
Be patient with people who don’t know a whole lot about travel. You obviously have traveled a lot, but that isn’t as common of a lifestyle in the U.S. as other places.
2. If they have, odds are they haven’t met anyone from your country (Even if they’ve been there).
This doesn’t mean that they don’t want to! One of my friends once asked if they had shopping carts in France. People have asked my Chinese friend what it’s like not having a fridge. They just need to learn about your culture and get to know you!
3. In N Out is the best fast food place to get a burger.
Don’t listen to the Texans, they just don’t know any better.
4. You need to bring your ID everywhere.
We ask to see them when buying drinks, and most bars are 21 and up. Bring it if you want to drink alcohol!
5. We dress casual to class.
Unless there is a project or presentation, we all mope into class with sweats and t-shirts.
6. But we are always on time.
While a lot of cultures are more laid back (I was late to class all the time when I studied abroad in Italy), teachers are much less understanding of this in U.S. schools. Be on time to class and any meetings that you may go to.
7. They sell guns, and everything else, at Walmart.
This is mainly just for students going to school in Texas. Walmart has everything one needs, and for Texans, what “one needs” is a gun at everyday low prices. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!
In many U.S. states, servers are paid far less than minimum wage, but are taxed on the full minimum wage. This means they are paid $2.13 per hour, but are taxed so high that their total paycheck could be pennies. They live off of your tips, so be sure to tip them well.
9. We love to make small talk.
When someone smiles at you or starts a conversation out of the blue, they are probably just being nice. Unlike many countries where this may be confused for a pick pocketing scheme or something else negative, strangers address each other often in the United States. It’s a very open society you should embrace!
10. Women are independent and will call you out if you mess with them.
The women’s rights movement is going strong here in the states, so if you try to harass or otherwise victimize women here, we won’t let it slide. Especially in a place like Baylor where sexual assault scandals have recently been mainstream news, we do not tolerate it.
11. Your driver’s license is probably valid!
In Texas, international students can use their country’s driver’s license to drive vehicles within the state. Check the laws in your state, and you may consider getting a car if you are staying in the country for long enough.
12. Many students have one or more minors.
These are best described as small majors. For example, if you are a literature minor, you may take a few upper division literature classes to satisfy your minor. They are a great way to take some fun classes or boost your resume with something more specific.
13. We have a LOT of clubs. Join!
Most schools have activities to join that will enrich your college experience and help you meet new friends. From sports to hobbies to language clubs, you’ll find a place where you feel like you fit in.
14. We also have faculty and staff from all over the world.
If you are looking for a taste of home, try visiting with one of our international professors. They love meeting the new international students and welcoming them into their home.
15. We rely heavily on standardized testing.
If you want to get ahead at a University here, be sure to prepare for the tests. The homework may not be required, but most professors will get their test questions from this.
16. And on class participation.
Teachers love when you raise your hand in class. Especially in the smaller classes, focus on speaking up and getting to know your professors. It can go a long way!
17. Don’t drink the punch.
You'll thank me later.
18. Make sure you have WhatsApp, Facebook, or both.
These will be your primary communication tools when you’re here, so I would get both!
19. Make a vocabulary list.
I had a couple friends that were accustomed to doing this. Every time they learned a new English word, they wrote it down and studied their list every night. It may seem like a lot of work, but it will save you confusion in the long run.
20. Speaking of, learn some common idioms before you come here.
Trust me, learn this list and you will be a lot less confused.
21. Ask questions.
This is neither impolite nor unexpected. No one thinks you will know everything the moment you arrive, so feel free to ask questions.
22. Get to know American students from around the country, not just the place you’re studying.
Every region of our country is different, and we would probably love to give you a place to go for Thanksgiving.
23. Plan out your healthcare in advance.
We have a really intricate, frankly confusing healthcare system. Especially for financial reasons, make sure you have and understand your healthcare system as soon as possible so you don’t have to when you’re sick.