ITEAn African Student’s Guide for Preparing for Graduate School in the USA

You are thrilled. You have gotten your admission letter and hopefully some funding offer as well. So what should you do next? What kind of preparation can you make to enable your transition into graduate to be as smooth as butter? Here are a few pointers that may be useful in that regard.
  1. ?Find out as much as you can about your new school and the city where it is located using internet search engine tools such as google or bing. Find out about the weather and read some local news of the city. Arming yourself with such information will inadvertently lessen the shock associated with such a transition and give you some local knowledge to enable you ask the right questions during friendly chit chats. In my experience, most Americans I’ve met are good conversationalist and you are expected to hold your own in a good conversation.
  2. Be in constant contact with your school’s international student office and request from them the contact of an international student from your country or continent. This is a very important point to consider because these two contacts can save you some avoidable stress as you tap into their experience and advice.
  3. ?Avoid making any assumptions unless you have been reliably informed by a resident in the locality you intend to visit but consult your contacts mentioned in point 2 about anything that you are confused about and let them clarify.
  4. One of the first issues to discuss with your contacts should be about accommodation. Rent is relatively expensive in the US compared to most places in Africa and so it will be in your interest to start making arrangements for a place to stay as soon as possible. If money is a big issue for you, ask about shared apartments, such arrangements can save you a bunch of dollars.
  5. For international students who have had little or no exposure to American food, they can find themselves in a dire situation especially if the city has a small international community and no foreign shops where they can have access to ingredients for cooking their traditional foods. Some students have been known to get fed up with American food to the extent of depriving themselves of food till they are dangerously malnourished. Prepare adequately to counter this problem by inquiring from your contact about what food ingredients to bring to the US that is not available at your destination.
  6. ?Make preparations to be picked up on your arrival. Ask your contact or the international student office and they will work with you. Some schools even offer an initial place of abode for international students until a more permanent place is found, the important thing is to ask.
  7. In your preparations to come to the US, ensure that you have some money on you even if you are expecting some funding as a graduate student. Your first stipend may be available a month or so after your arrival and so ensure that your finances are adequate.
  8. Consider obtaining a Visa or MasterCard debit card in your home country that can be used to access your bank account internationally. In this way, you can simply request for your family to deposit monies into your account for your retrieval in the US when you hit a wall.
  9. Do not spend money shopping in your home country for clothes to wear upon your arrival in the US, that money will be better spent when you arrive because you will have access to the appropriate clothes that will suit the weather of the place you are going to. You should expect international shows that feature traditional dresses and so it will be wise to prepare adequately by bringing along some clothes that are unique to your culture.
The list of all things to consider when preparing to come to school in the US are not exhausted in this blog but the issues raised covers essentially all the basic preparations one can check make as they count the days to departure. ?It is worthwhile reiterating the importance of contacting the international student office of your school as well as an international student in the school who hails from your country. They may make additional recommendations that will ensure no unpleasant surprises when you arrive for school. Veterans of this transition are welcomed to suggest additional words of wisdom by commenting below. Happy packing!
Story by Tsatsu Apronti

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