Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why should I study in America?

“I feel like I’ve tried everything and I still see only one path ahead. There has to be something new, different, something that would open up new possibilities I can’t even imagine now. I’m not willing to settle for the mediocre, I want more from life, even if I’m not sure what it is.” The guy sitting across the table from me just said what I had been feeling for a while and didn’t quite know how to express it. Right there and then I decided that I would do everything in my power to get into a good graduate program in America and from that point on I never felt I was unsure if my motives were right.

The truth is, there are many reasons to come study in the US and I think I’ve heard most of them from my friends – maybe you want to get better education; you have a dream job in mind in America or elsewhere and this is the way to start working on getting closer to your goal; you want to have an adventure; learn English properly (especially if you’re in a language program); see things from a different angle; you want to change your life completely, etc.

Whatever it is, you should be aware that this is a massive investment of your time and money. My advice to you is do what I did – talk to others who have already gone through the whole process and ask them about the pros and cons. It is a rocky road but definitely worth it. Just think about it, some of the world’s best universities are here. You’ve all heard of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and others and there’s a reason why so many successful people have gone to one or more of these places even if these particular schools are not your personal fit. There are many more and one of my posts will deal with how to avoid the trap of only applying to schools with great names. Still, there is something for everyone, you just need to dig deep enough and you’ll find your match.

Aside from the obvious fact that studying in America opens a door to staying there and finding a good job you could also take advantage of many available internship opportunities. I don’t care if you’re into metallurgy or creative writing, computer science or international relations, there are many amazing internships out there for folks like you. Yes, you’ll work for free and some openings might be reserved only for US citizens and/or green card holders but these days you can’t get a job anywhere without experience! The problem that many young people face is that nobody wants to give them the opportunity to get that experience so you start feeling like a hamster on a wheel. That’s where internships kick in, they are basically the initiation process for the future workforce. You’re going to have to do it anyway, just think how much more impressive an internship with some American institution will look on your resume back home! On the other hand, if you want to stay in America, no one will hire you without some previous US experience, so…  

Not to exaggerate the cultural side of it but a change like this will definitely transform your life forever. For example, it is during my grad studies that I met my wife and some of the most interesting friends I’ve ever had. Many people use this time to meet new people, explore new cultures, find love. You can also travel around the country during holidays, make some American friends and have your first Thanksgiving dinner, maybe watch some football (not to be confused with soccer) and figure out what that’s all about – you know, all that stuff you’ve been watching on TV your whole life but never quite understood. I know that your main focus should be your studies but there is no way you won’t appreciate the life-changing effect this new experience will have on you. It will literally make you a better, more open-minded person wherever you come from.

You know, it’s true that getting into a US university is hard but that’s good news – your motivation and patience will be tested many times – because it will weed out those interested in a long vacation and with enough money to see it through. If after a couple of years of planning and hard work you’re left standing with a student visa, inevitable I-20 form and an acceptance letter from a university it probably means you’ve made the right choice.

My next post will talk about when and how you can start searching for that perfect fit – the institution you really want to get into and whose programs you admire. It’s not worth it if you’re not after that big white whale!   

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