One aspect international students shouldn’t overlook in their search for a U.S. university is the helpfulness and information richness of the university’s international student services. The international student office is the go-to place for any international student, from initial research into international programs to finding support and resources while enrolled.
The first step for any prospective international student is to make a list of the institutions that you are interested in. From there, find the international student office and gather the information necessary to not only have a smooth transition in your international studies, but also to gain insight into the level of resources available to international students at that school. This site should include information about visas and accommodations on campus, along with travel information and events for incoming international students.
Not every university is going to have a large international department, so if you feel that this is something you need, you should certainly look into the services offered to ensure that you will feel safe and welcomed.
Most of the universities in the U.S. are extremely modern in terms of technology, and have information-rich websites that give crucial details and advice about what exactly the university has to offer in terms of programs and campus facilities. A quick Google search with the name of the university and “international student services” will quickly bring up the website of the office for international students.
Alternatively, the university will usually have a section on their main university website with a link to the department for prospective international students. Something as simple as this can give facts about the resources and facilities available to you as an international student.
In my personal hunt for universities I looked at a wide range of institutions, and some were certainly more helpful than others. For my search I knew I wanted to be in California, so I checked out a number of the most well-known universities in the state.
Part of the reason behind my choice to attend the University of California—Berkeley was the availability of sources of information about all necessary documentation, and resources made convenient for all students, but especially those from abroad. A thorough look through the international student office website will help you get a feel for that institution’s environment and level of engagement with international students.
Next, getting in touch with the university’s international student office is invaluable. This can be done via email, drop-in hours on the campus itself if you are planning on visiting campus or by calling during office hours. Campus tours are available to students who can attend a visit to the campus before enrolling.
From there, think about all the details and information you feel you need to make your search and potential enrollment as easy as possible. I found it helpful to come up with a list of questions I could have ready when talking to an adviser to ensure that I didn’t leave anything out.
It is important to ask questions regarding visa issues, which are handled by the office of international students services. International students will generally need a visa to attend a university in the U.S., so it is imperative you ask plenty of questions about how to obtain your visa, wait times and length of study to make sure the visa you apply for meets your needs. Accommodation is of great importance also, as having a safe and secure place to stay during your study is crucial.
Ask also about the level of resources available to international students in terms of advising, gym facilities, food and dining, other recreational interests that may pique your interest and about the campus and surrounding area. I found in my research that some universities are willing to send information packs to you in the mail that detail facilities, the location, and groups and events set to make your experience as enriching and fulfilling as possible.
UC—Berkeley has a YouTube channel with videos of interviews with current and former international students, instructions on how to file for a visa, finding accommodations and more. They also hold events and webinars for prospective students so that you can ask questions of international student advisers and get firsthand information in talks with campus officials about what to expect from the campus.
These can be of great assistance to students and lend a visual aspect to the information to help you even further in making your choice about where to study in the U.S.