By Allison Cooper
Esias Bedingar always knew he wanted to study medicine. After deciding he wanted to experience a new culture in an English-speaking country, he came to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky, to pursue this dream. There was one challenge that Bedingar knew he had to overcome: He spoke no English.
A native French speaker from Chad, Bedingar did not study English in high school. But within just one semester, he completed the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at UK and, three and a half years later, Bedingar finished his undergraduate degree and was accepted to Harvard University, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in public health.
Bedingar’s undergraduate degree from UK is in public health with a minor in neuroscience. He said that the unique combination of science and critical thinking that the two fields provide helped with his acceptance to graduate school.
“I want to be that kind of doctor that understands his patients and also understands how health works in a community,” Bedingar said. “Public health and neuroscience are very different worlds. Combining those two worlds helped, and challenged me mentally, and because of that I felt academically prepared. I think that’s the combination that got me to Harvard.”
Bedingar credits his mentors and research experience as being one of the reasons he was accepted to the Ivy League school. He spent his entire undergraduate career working with professor Yang Jiang from the Behavioral Science Department in the College of Medicine, his mentor throughout his research.
“I recall that my first conversation with him was in a mixture of English and French, because Esias had only just started learning English. A year later, he was fluent and won a national writing competition on global health,” Jiang said. “Esias impressed me not only with his linguistic talent – he can speak six languages — but with his fearless drive to make great contributions to improving health with cutting-edge scientific methods.”
Part of Bedingar’s research with Jiang involved clinical neuroscience approaches to his project called “Motocross for Malaria,” which offered new solutions to eliminating Malaria in his home country of Chad. Bedingar said this is his ultimate goal in life.
Another mentor was Audra Cryder, director of international enrollment at the University of Kentucky International Center, who motivated Bedingar to complete the ESL program in 5 months instead of one year.
“She really gave me the incentive to work hard,” Bedingar said. “She told me, ‘If you want to be somebody in the U.S., your work will make this happen.’ I listened, and this is why I continue working hard and have become involved with many organizations.”
To any student wanting to pursue a goal, Bedingar gives this advice:
“Don’t underestimate yourself. If you want to succeed in life, put in the work and you will.”
By Cortney Dowdle
Choosing a boarding school in the U.S. can be a difficult task, especially from halfway around the world. Boarding schools help students become acclimated to life in the United States, prepare them for studying at top U.S. universities, and offer deep school engagement that develops not only student’s academic abilities but skills, character and critical thinking.
When it comes to benefits of boarding school studies, the list is long. Here are just a few of the positive impacts that boarding schools have on students:
Cortney Dowdle is the Associate Director of International Admissions at Lake Mary Preparatory in Lake Mary, Florida.
SEATTLE UNIVERSITY IN SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
ATTENDED HIGH SCHOOL IN THE U.S.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO STUDY IN THE U.S.?
After I graduated from middle school in China, I decided to study abroad in the United States. I always have been interested in English. I like spending my free time watching American TV series. I was longing to study abroad because I thought it was a great traveling experience.
The other reason was my parents wanted me to study abroad to broaden my horizon and develop in all aspects. With the encouragement of my parents, I decided to study abroad and improve myself.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE SEATTLE UNIVERSITY?
Seattle University is located in a good and convenient area. Personally, I like the university to be close to a big city or be in the city because I think there will be more internship opportunities. My school has a good ranking in the field of business, and they offer a nice bridge program for international students.
I like the proportion of teachers versus students in my school. We have the small size classroom in business school, which makes me concentrate more in class. On the other hand, the small classroom means teachers are more likely to remember each student so that they can better help students.
I also like the cafeteria in my school, which provides different foods, including Asian food.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY?
This is a difficult question for me to answer because I am satisfied with my school in many aspects. One aspect that I like most about my university is that we have the small size of class. If students encounter any problem, they can get the direct help from professors. In addition, professors are also happy to provide additional tutoring services during their office hours.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST?
What I miss most is my family.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST SURPRISE?
American education and Chinese education is different. For example, American students’ school time is shorter than China’s (school time). Moreover, a lot of American schools offer students more comprehensive courses, such as extracurricular activities. I think most American parents do not think extracurricular activities will distract students from their studies. However, my parents and many other Chinese parents would prefer me to spend more time on academic studies.
In addition, parents in the U.S. don’t put their children's grades at the top of the list. Most of them don't blame their children for bad grades in academic studies. They will continue to help their children discover their potential and allow their children to participate in after-school programs that interest them, instead of simply letting their children attend after-school classes that they don't like.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT?
When I first came to the United States, I was disappointed with my language ability. I found myself sometimes unable to express myself correctly in English.
HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED LANGUAGE DIFFERENCES?
I like watching American TV series to learn English as I can learn more colloquial English from TV series.
WHAT ARE YOUR ACTIVITIES?
When I was in high school in the United States, I took part in many sports activities, such as football, volleyball, tennis and so on. I also joined a lot of campus activities, such as drama club, chorus, etc. Besides that, I participate in different extracurricular volunteer activities.
My most influential volunteer activity was helping to decorate the Rose Parade float in California. In the United States, there are many holidays, so I will have the breaks to travel.
HOW EASY OR DIFFICULT WAS MAKING FRIENDS?
I think making friends in the U.S. is 50 percent easy and 50 percent difficult. Students here are very friendly, and they are willing to make friends from different countries. On the other hand, difficulty is caused by language barriers and shyness.
HOW RELEVANT IS YOUR U.S. EDUCATION TO YOUR PERSONAL GOALS AND TO THE NEEDS OF YOUR COUNTRY?
I want to be a businesswoman. I think learning English can help me communicate with people all over the world. My greater ideal is to be an ambassador of communication between China and the West.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER STUDENTS WHO ARE CONSIDERING A U.S. EDUCATION?
My suggestion is that students who choose to study abroad need to learn how to adapt and integrate into the new environment. Students need to treasure the chance to study abroad and study harder. Don't hold back because you don't get used to a new culture or a new environment. Just remember an old saying in China: “There is nothing difficult to a willing heart.” Hence, I wish every foreign student can have a good experience of studying abroad.
By Terry Crawford
Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive thousands of application every year from within the U.S. and from countries all around the world. According to U.S. News, in 2017 UCLA received 102,242 applications, the most out of any other university. But, have you wondered how you can make yours stand out from the pile? How can you make yourself more memorable among tens of thousands of students?
Realize that “recommended” equals “required”
The very first thing that any applicant to a selective US college should realize is that it is a competitive process. One might think of many parts of the application as optional—in fact, certain parts may even be presented that way in university application materials—but the reality is that anything that the university presents as “optional” or “recommended” is usually seen as “required” in the minds of admission officers.
Don’t hesitate to send in extra materials.
While it used to be the case that universities would state strongly that they would not accept additional material, that is no longer true in most cases, and in many cases universities will accept a wide range of material.
Extra material won’t suddenly make you competitive where you are not even in the running—but it could make the difference when you are on the borderline. The extra material has to be easy to receive and digest, compelling, and not something which looks overly produced. All of your other materials have to be in order as well. The worst that might happen is that someone won’t read the material, but at the same time it may make a difference. A video on Initialview, for example, can help you tell your story in which your communication skills are highlighted through a video interview.
Use your extra time wisely.
During school breaks, make sure that you are doing something that demonstrates your academic curiosity, your initiative, and/or your willingness to work hard. Bonus points if your activity produces something tangible that could be easily understood by admission offices, and if this activity is something you’ve been doing for two or more years. This could be rigorous online courses that you completed, an interesting and challenging internship that produces a report or other tangible result you can easily point to, or some leadership or volunteer work that is quantifiable (“I managed a humanitarian project with a US$10,000 budget and 10 volunteers who reported to me,” for example).
It’s important to demonstrate interest.
Admission officers want to admit students who are likely to come to their school. Part of that is human nature—if they say they “like” you by accepting you, then they want you to reciprocate—but this “demonstrated interest” also relates to how admission officers are measured in their profession.
One key overall admissions number that admission officers focus on is called “yield”, which is the percentage of admitted students who ultimately enroll in one’s school. For example, Harvard has a very high yield—pretty much anyone who gets into Harvard goes there—and as a result it is seen as very selective. As an applicant, if you are able to convince admission officers that you are serious about their school, then it is more likely that they are going to see you in a more positive light.
Be eager and focus on quality communication.
Like anything else in life, communicating well and taking a proactive stance will generally be to your benefit. Respond promptly to emails; send thank-you letters (even hand-written ones); and ask good and thoughtful questions. Language that might be ok when messaging your friends is almost certainly not the right tone when communicating with admission officers. It is likely that all of your email correspondence goes into your admission “file”, so you’ll want to make sure that all of it—like the content of your application—will withstand scrutiny by the admissions committee.
By Lindy Kravec
Regardless of where you are in the world, an American business degree remains the international gold standard in business education.
“The frontier of business research and training takes place at the top universities in the U.S.,” says Dr. Shan Yan, associate professor of finance in the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania
Getting a business education in the U.S. provides opportunities that may not exist at schools in your country. For example, many U.S. undergraduate business programs offer a valuable combination of classroom business theory and real-world case studies, a focus on specific areas of business, and the chance to obtain internships at top companies.
“When you combine the academic training with exposure to the real market, you can see how valuable U.S. business training is for international students,” Yan says.
There are more than 4,600 degree-granting institutions in the United States. How can you narrow those choices to find the school that’s right for you? Here are some tips:
THINK ABOUT LOCATION
The U.S. is a huge country, with geographic, demographic, and climate diversity. You may want to select a school that allows you to experience all four seasons or one that provides endless summer. You may prefer a school in a vibrant city or one in a charming small town.
As a business major, you may want a college or university that is close to a financial center such as Chicago or New York City and one that has a proven track record of helping students network with professionals. The opportunity to shadow a business professional for a day or work in a corporate setting as an intern is priceless.
After graduation, your international student visa allows you to work in the U.S. for one year to gain practical experience. With your American business degree, you may work for one of the leading companies in the world!
LOOK FOR SPECIALIZED COURSEWORK AND FACULTY MENTORS
Although many U.S. business schools offer degrees in general business management, most give students the opportunity to specialize in specific areas of business, such as finance, accounting, marketing, global management, or entrepreneurship. These programs also allow you to gain a well-rounded education through elective courses that include world languages, math and sciences, social studies, literature, and the arts. You’ll graduate with a wealth of knowledge that will boost your ability to think critically across many disciplines, a skill that employers value.
Don’t underestimate the importance of faculty in American business schools. Professors who trained at top universities can deliver the most up-to-date information to students, Yan explains. They are not only professors, but also researchers and mentors.
Professors schedule office hours when students can consult with them one-on-one to review coursework or discuss career plans. They will advise you of internship opportunities and help you complete applications for employment or graduate school.
Susquehanna University student Amanda Grosz, an economics major, attributes her recent internship success to such advocacy. Grosz participated in a unique leadership development program with JPMorgan Chase & Co. that introduced her to the business, its products and customers.
She credits courses such as Global Business Perspectives for giving her invaluable preparation for a finance career.
"It helped me develop that mindset of being able to identify opportunities and factors that would impact the decision of a proposal," Grosz says.
As you search websites of schools that interest you, read about the faculty members in your area of specialization. Knowing their educational background and research interests will provide insight into what you might learn from them.
CHECK FOR ACCREDITATION
How do you know if a business school meets the highest standard of excellence? Look for accreditation from AACSB International. The hallmark of excellence in business education, it’s awarded to fewer than 5 percent of the world's business schools.
AACSB accreditation ensures that the school follows a rigorous curriculum taught by highly qualified faculty and undergoes continuous assessment and improvement.
Lindy Kravec is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
By Brianna Burrows
The United States has a wide variety of institutions that provide higher education. There are so many options that it can be very overwhelming for international students to understand the different choices.
One of the more common questions asked by international students is: What is the difference between a public and a private university?
A public university, also commonly called a state university, is funded by the public through the government of that state. For example, UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) is a public university and is funded by the state of California. Every state in the USA has a public university or college.
A private university is not funded or operated by the government. For example, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles is not funded by the state of California, but is partially funded by endowments which are given by private donors. Every state in the USA has private universities or colleges.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The most obvious difference is the price. Public universities are less expensive than private universities. Private universities can cost well over $100,000 for a four-year degree.
While public universities might be less expensive, private universities tend to be more geographically diverse — drawing students from many different states as well as other countries — because the tuition is the same price for students regardless of whether or not they live in the state in which the university is located. Alternately, public universities are more demographically diverse due to the lower cost of tuition.
There are many highly reputable private and public universities throughout America. Don’t focus only on rankings. According to U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, the first 19 institutions are private universities. That does not mean that there aren’t prestigious public universities in the USA. There are many highly ranked public universities. Lower tuition does not equate to a lower quality education.
By Ryan Hickey
A friend of mine was ready to go to school to study physical therapy. He was all set with prerequisites and started looking for a good program when he found himself courted by a school that seemed wonderful. The school was new, but even Harvard had to start somewhere, right? It touted excellent faculty and facilities and modern amenities. It even had its academic accreditation pending...
That was the catch. The college's lack of accreditation meant that, even though his classes may have been well taught, my friend would not have had the same benefits with this school as with an accredited U.S. university. For example, he would not have been eligible to join certain medical societies (which are very important for job placement), and jobs from many employers would have been out of reach. If he wanted to transfer to a different school or attend graduate school, his credits may not have been accepted by the other institutions. Don’t let this happen to you!
WHAT IS ACCREDITATION?
Accreditation is a status awarded by private peer review boards that evaluate schools based on certain academic criteria including:
WHY WOULD A SCHOOL NOT BE ACCREDITED?
It could be because the school is new and still waiting to be properly assessed. However, many for-profit universities falsify their credentials — falsely claiming to be accredited — in order to fool students who don’t think to check.
HOW DO I KNOW IF A SCHOOL IS ACCREDITED?
You can check with the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. This group has a searchable list of higher education institutions and programs accredited by recognized U.S. accrediting organizations.
Or visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website for information on accredited institutions. For English-language programs, check the Commission on English Language Accreditation’s site.
BE SURE TO CHECK THE PROGRAM, NOT JUST THE SCHOOL.
It’s possible that one program at a college may be accredited while another is not. For example, degrees from the law school may,not be recognized by the appropriate Bar Association. It’s more legwork to check this, but you’ll want to do it in order to avoid a worthless degree.
SOME RED FLAGS THAT A SCHOOL MAY NOT BE LEGITIMATE:
IS IT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY THAT MY SCHOOL BE ACCREDITED?
Actually, no. There are certain schools that offer practical training that doesn’t require accreditation.. These include technical colleges and some arts colleges. You don’t need accreditation in many cases because your portfolio or tech skills will speak for themselves.
The moral of the story is: Student beware! Make sure to go in with your eyes open, and don’t fall for a program with a lack of accreditation when you can just as easily attend a school that will open all the doors you will need.
BY CONNIE SHOEMAKER
Twenty-one-year-old Matsumi hurried to the Conversation Table where her new friend, John, a college student, was waving to her.
“I am shy at home in Japan, so speaking English is so difficult,” she said, “but now I practice with Conversation Partners and my home stay family.”
Matsumi, who is a student at Spring International Language Center in Littleton, Colorado, has taken advantage of two programs that bring community friends into her life in the United States. Her home stay with an American family provides daily opportunities to speak English. The Conversation Partner program at Spring International offers the chance to meet and talk with Americans of all ages at lunch and during listening and speaking classes in school.
Success as a language learner requires more than studying English during class time. Language and culture go hand-in-hand. Becoming involved in U.S. culture not only enhances your study of the English language but also gives you real-life listening and speaking opportunities with a cultural component. As Mia, another student from Japan, says, “I get ideas about restaurants and clothing stores from my Conversation Partners and learn about things to do here.”
From the moment you arrive in the U.S. you will encounter differences between your own culture and American culture. Connecting with people in the community you live in will help you to understand and become comfortable with these differences. You can do this in several ways depending on the location of your language study: a home stay with an American family, living in a dormitory or apartment with Americans, and active participation in your language school’s activities.
As a home stay student, you become a family member who is learning about new customs by participating in meals, activities, and typical routines of daily life. The family also supports you in the new culture by giving you advice, answering cultural questions, and guiding you in your new surroundings.
“I was afraid about how to get to school, but my host mother showed me how to take the train and bus and not get lost,” Matsumi said. “She helped me with words for questions like ‘how do I get to’ and ‘where is.’”
Matsumi explains that she learned why Americans are so busy when she saw her host mother working at a job, taking her daughter to lessons, and cooking and cleaning the house.
In a recent survey, Spring International students listed some of their difficulties in adjusting to American culture. At the top of the list were:
On the other side of the question were the benefits of home stays:
If you choose not to live with an American family while you study, you can still participate in the culture by living in a college dormitory or sharing an apartment with American friends. When you choose a language school, be sure to ask what opportunities they have for interacting with Americans.
Meeting high school and university students, businesspeople and retired people broadens your information about the culture. This can happen in a Conversation Partner experience, such as Matsumi’s, or in your own participation in school activities, sports, recreation events and community events.
(Connie Shoemaker is co-founder and director emerita of Spring International Language Center in Littleton, Colorado.)
No matter where you’re at in the school search process, one thing is true: life is unpredictable. You may not be accepted to the university of your choice. Or, what if after a year you decide the college or major you chose is not the one for you?
Before you whirl yourself into an anxious mess, know that these things are very common and the U.S. education system is flexible.
Here are some tips on how to choose a university or college, whether it’s for the first, second or third time!
STEP 1: KNOW THYSELF
When beginning your school search, start with what you do know about yourself. This can give you some direction and narrow down your search.
Ask yourself questions like these:
As an international student, you must also consider these questions:
STEP 2: DEFINE YOUR PRIORITIES
Think about all those questions? Now you need to prioritize what’s important to you and your family. Your list of priorities could be ranked …
Or, you could simply have a general list of what’s important to you …
When you’re writing your list remember to be realistic and open-minded.
STEP 3: GET TO KNOW YOUR OPTIONS
In order to be realistic and flexible you should know your options. There are thousands of universities and colleges in the United States and there are good choices for just about everyone, from community colleges to career schools to private, liberal arts colleges to large, public universities. The ivy leagues aren’t the only universities with stellar programs.
Don’t start meticulous research just yet. Simply start reading, talking to people, exploring websites, etc. Here are some fantastic resources to get you started:
STEP 4: RESEARCH
"The ability to research is a skill that will benefit you both personally and professionally. Period. Although each field requires a different set of skills the common and preeminent quality of a researcher is resourcefulness", says Richard Shenkman, journalist, historian and publisher of the History News Network.
“If you don't find what you're looking for on Google, try another search engine. If a search engine doesn't help, talk to a librarian. Just keep trying.”
And don’t forget to go to the source – the school!
American universities and colleges want to hear from you, so contact them, ask questions and request information. Your education is an investment in your future. Invest the time to find the right school for you!
International students cheer as their rafts clear the rapids on a Rocky Mountain stream. They dig for clams along the beaches of New England. They dance to Cajun music and go bungee jumping for the first time.
All these students are benefiting from planned activity programs developed by their colleges and universities to help them have fun in the U.S.
As an international student, your life in America will not stop at the campus gates. You will be able to enjoy many activities in the nearby town or city, and you may travel to other parts of the United States.
Most schools offer special activities for international students to get them acquainted with the U.S. and American culture and to help them meet other students on campus and in their programs. Campus life offers many opportunities for expanding interests and making friends.
On some campuses international students are treated as special guests, with exciting events planned just for them.These events range from pumpkin carving for Halloween to live jazz music to swing dance to fly-fishing lessons.
The International Programs office at Whatcom Community College in Washington state makes it easy for international students to participate in all kinds of activities, with a staff member who organizes activities and provides transportation.
"I love that I can be involved in a different activity almost every weekend, and I don't even need a car," Claudia Davila, a student from Peru, said. "It seems like every week I am doing something that I never would have had a chance to try at home."
The college organizes trips for skiing, sea kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and golfing. In winter, there are ski and snowboarding trips to resorts in the U.S. and Canada for both experienced skiers as well as those with no experience on the slopes. In addition, many U.S. students join the trips, providing an excellent opportunity for all students to make new friends.
At Marquette University in Wisconsin, international students have the opportunity to participate in the International Friendship Program. New students are matched with individuals and families from the local community and experience life at a typical U.S. home through family dinners, holiday gatherings, sporting events and more. It also provides Milwaukee community members firsthand knowledge of another culture, increasing international understanding..
Down south, students at Rice University in Houston, Texas, celebrate regional pride with "Go Texan Day." A tradition that dates back to 1954, Go Texan Day is when Houstonians dress in Western wear to show their Texas pride and celebrate the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. As honorary Texans, Rice University Intensive English Program students come to class that day wearing their best cowboy and cowgirl attire. There is a Best-Dressed Cowboy and Cowgirl Contest, and the winners get cool Texas-themed prizes.
Many schools offer activities that are unique to their locations. For example, The Spring International Language Center at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, sponsors hiking, canoeing and ice skating outings. There are trips to Eureka Springs, a historic Ozark mountain village famous for traditional American arts and crafts, as well as jazz, blues and bluegrass music..
Skiing and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains provide a winter adventure for students at Spring International’s Colorado center.
"Since there's no skiing in Libya, the school ski trip was a first for me," student Afaf Ramadan said. "It takes a lot of endurance to ski downhill, but when we finish skiing we get to drink hot chocolate."
Often, the best way to learn about a new culture is not through a book or lecture but by experiencing it firsthand. Several programs at Rockland Community College, a unit of the State University of New York near New York City, are designed to integrate international students into American culture. The college invites all 200 international students to a special Thanksgiving luncheon in November so they can learn about the American holiday. Students hear about the history of Thanksgiving, sing along to American folk music and indulge in a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
The colorful city of New Orleans lends itself as an endless source of adventure for international students in the New Orleans Culture class within the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) at Loyola University. Weekly field trips to places like Destrehan Plantation, Jean Lafitte National Park and the French Quarter allow students to practice their English skills creatively outside of the classroom. LIEP students integrate class content through experiencing jazz music, festivals, French and Spanish colonial architecture and Creole food.
No matter where you choose to study in the United States, there will be many events and activities planned by your international programs office. Take advantage of these fun, cost-effective ways to meet new people, improve your English, and see the “real life” side of the U.S.