A Student’s Perspective: An International Students First Month in USA
Written by: Ali Radwan, CMU Student (March 26th, 2020)
Traveling to a new country alone is not easy. You may know that you do not speak the language perfectly, you may not know how you going to get along with the people in that new culture, you have to try and find a safe neighborhood to live. You have to figure out how to do tasks both large and small that are critical to your success in this new country like opening a bank account, learning how to drive, buying a car, getting a drivers license, doing well at school, and maybe looking for a job when you are legally able to work. It is not easy in the beginning for anyone, it was not easy for me or anyone that I have met that has been through the process of studying in a new country. In this article I am going to break it down to make it easier for someone who just arrived here or going to arrive soon so you have some idea of what you have to do in the first month.
Make sure to choose wisely. Look at the prices of rent in the city you are hoping to live in to avoid getting overcharged. For a short-term stay, while you are looking for a place to live, you can look into an “Airbnb”, it can be cheaper than staying in a hotel. For longer stays, look on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Zillow to find good options and understand the price of rent in different areas.
It is so important that you open an account with a US bank once you arrive. Do not walk around with cash or have it in your hotel room or where you live, it is way safer and easier to just pay with a card. Think about it, if you lose cash, you will not be able to get it back, but if you lose a card, you can just report it to your bank and get a new card and your money will still be there. Ask about credit cards for international students when you are at the bank so you can build your credit. Having credit and good credit (which is a high credit score) is super important in this country because your credit score is a factor in determining if you should be trusted when you want to lease a car or an apartment in the future.
Read the DMV Driver Handbook and then practice for the DMV written test online and pass it multiple times online before you go to the DMV and take it in person. When you feel comfortable with the information and you have passed the practice tests online, look for nearest DMV office and take your written test. If you pass the written test, then you can get a driver’s permit. The next thing I did was ask a friend that had American Driver’s License to sit in the car and teach you how to drive since now you legal (with you driver’s permit) to drive with someone with American license sitting next to you (Check with the DMV Driver Handbook to make sure they meet all the qualifications to have them in the car with you as you learn to drive). Once you feel comfortable with driving in the new country, then you make an appointment for the Driver’s Test (the behind the wheel portion) of your Driver’s License, and good luck with your test.
4-Improving your English Language
Speak English every single day, try to talk less in your mother language because it will keep affecting your English. Plus, the more you speak English, the more vocabulary you will learn and you will start to lose your accent. I am still learning and trying to improve my English every single day by speaking English every single day. I only speak my language when I call back home to say hi. Here are a few other great tips to improving your English quickly; watch English movies with subtitles, read English books, and try to make friends with Americans because they are going to be able to teach you the right way to say something and some slang that people use here.
5-Buying a car
Based on my experience, the best places to look for a car are Facebook Marketplace, Offerup, and Craigslist. Do not get scammed, never send money before meeting the person, also do not sign titles or anything in the street. I found an insurance place that helps me understand all my documents, helps me with my registration, and insurances my car as well. I also know a great mechanic that will check a car before you buy it. It is good to find a mechanic with fair prices and good value for their work, it is a good idea to ask people you who if they can recommend someone.
There is a lot of great platforms for work, but in my opinion, the most important and professional platform is LinkedIn. It is important to be super professional on LinkedIn and keep your resume up to date. You should be active on LinkedIn, you can search for a recruiter in the field you want work in, and connect with them and stand out with your professional bio, picture, and experience. Doing these thing have allowed me to get a lot of great opportunities. International students work on CPT & OPT programs.
Conclusion: Finding a safe and clean place to live, opening a bank account, getting your driver’s permit, and improving your English are the most important things I would recommend you do in your first month. After that, I recommend that you get your full license, buy a car, and get used to people, the freeway, and improving your English. At work you have to react fast and you have to fully understand what you have been told to do, so you can do great with your first job in the US.
Welcome to CMU, and to the US. CMU facility made me feel home, they are the most helpful. The US is a great country, I personally learned a lot from living here, there are a lot of opportunities here for people who work hard, are teachable, and embrace the American culture. My experience is that success feels great especially when I am doing it far from home, I feel way more proud of myself succeeding here than succeeding in my home country. Focus on your main goal here, do not get distracted, education is your main goal here and then everything else comes after.
– Ali Radwan, CMU Student (March 26th, 2020)