Being an International Student in the US

Being able to go to college in the States is something not everyone can do, and when you're an international student paying thousands of dollars in tuition, it is certainly something you learn to appreciate and value. I was raised in Bangkok, and now study in New York, and it has been amazing. But it hasn't always been happy or easy to integrate, adjust, and simply survive.


*Disclaimer: most of this stuff is based on my own personal experiences, and may/may not be true to everyone, so no freak outs please.*

First of all, most college health insurance systems for international students are f*cked. Why? Because most of these insurance programs are very vague about the benefits they offer, and it's hard to assume you have insurance and then end up paying a huge chunk of money for a lab test you could have had carried out for practically nothing back home. Besides this, health services are always busy, especially in bigger universities. So, if you have an emergency, you may not always get immediate care. Sometimes, you can get directed to other hospitals, which may not be covered by your insurance. The number of times I've been sick and gave up on my university's health services is uncountable- these days I just call my uncle or aunt, who are both doctors, and get home treatment. So if you are planning on studying in the US, it's better to have your own medicines for common illnesses, and have a relative or friend in the medical field who you can talk to.

Secondly, housing systems are complicated, frustrating, and sometimes downright unfair. For me, the biggest problems have been timing my flights back home with the right check-in and check-out timings (I always end up having to stay with someone for a day or so). At my university, calendar dates are posted at the beginning of every semester, but dates are not always labeled clearly, and you could end up using the wrong dates while planning flights and other travel logistics. Thus, call the office of residential life and any other housing authorities, and triple-check every single date you use. Also, consider living off-campus because of better price deals, more privacy, and more options for yourself.

Thirdly, do not rely on "financial aid" that universities may offer to you, unless you know the complete conditions and details of the aid offer. When I was admitted, I got a merit scholarship but it barely covered my tuition. I falsely assumed that I could just apply for more aid when I got to the university, but I was unpleasantly surprised when I found out that I am not eligible for federal aid of any kind. If I had known this ahead of time, my decision to attend my particular university may not have been the same, simply because of the added financial pressure.

Lastly, prepare to be one of the few international kids in your class. The US is a diverse hub of cultures, but only 10% of university students in my college are international. In my home college, there are even fewer international students. So you're going to stand out. But this doesn't have to dampen your college experience- in fact, use it to your advantage! Diversity is a useful trait to have in this ever-globalising world.

Whatever you decide to do, be prepared to not always have access to the same benefits as the rest of your American friends, and definitely be financially ready. You will spend money, and you may go into debt. But at the end of the day, the US has some of the best universities in the world; If you are prepared in all ways for life as an international student, it is certainly a path worth choosing.