Five Things Every International Student Should Know Before Coming to the U.S.


With the new school year about to begin this would be a good time to start getting your heads in the zone for what life in the U.S. is likely to entail. Whenever anyone moves to a new country and culture, they will encounter unexpected differences. Knowing ahead of time a few things about your new host country can prepare you for what you might experience and not throw you off your game.

From my experience working with international students and families, the following are my top five favorite things worth mentioning to international newcomers:

1. Living in the U.S. isn’t like the movies. Not everyone drives at breakneck speed to get to the grocery store or elsewhere. Americans don’t break out in song and dance whenever the mood hits them. Not everyone sleeps around with multiple partners. These are just a few misconceptions. Americans tend to be stereotyped in a variety of ways just as people from your country typically are, that is, if people even know about your country and where it is located. That brings me to point number two.

2. Americans tend to be geographically challenged and not know a lot about the rest of the world. I’ve had students from various countries in Africa tell me that American students were shocked to meet someone from Africa because they heard everyone from there “lived in trees,” “didn’t wear clothes,” and “didn’t have computers.”


If an American does know the country you are from they may use facetious humor to try to get to know you. So they may say something like, “Oh wow! You’re from Russia. Do you have bears roaming around in the streets?” Or “I heard you are from Egypt. Do you ride camels to get around?” They aren’t trying to insult you or sound ignorant, they actually think you are pretty cool and they are trying to get to know you by using silly humor. Just smile and educate them rather than get angry.