Are you planning a semester abroad in the United States? College life in the USA may be very different from your country, so let us help you get you ready for this unique experience.
Universities vary in size, from a few thousand to 50,000 students. Each year of a 4-year university has a name. The first year is called “Freshman year,” the second year is called “Sophomore year,” the third year is called “Junior year,” and the fourth year is called “Senior year.”
Most colleges require students to live in an on-campus residence for one to two years, unless you commute from your parents’ home. Dorm (short for dormitory) life is one of the most fun parts of the college experience. You can choose to share a room with a friend or, if you don’t know anyone, you can “go potluck.” This means that you fill out a questionnaire and the university will match you with a roommate. You will most likely be required to purchase a minimum meal plan which you can use in the cafeteria or different restaurants around campus.
School spirit is a big part of college life. Every university has a mascot, or a team name. Some common college mascots include bears, hawks, and tigers. Most universities have sports programs, and students often go to the games to support their team.
There are many ways to get involved on campus. You can participate in all kinds of organizations and clubs related to music, foreign languages, volunteering, and more. The most popular organizations are called fraternities and sororities. Fraternities are social organizations for men only, and sororities are for women only. The names are made up of 2-3 Greek letters.
Now, let’s talk about classes. The area of study you choose is called your “major,” for example, Medicine, English, or Psychology. Class sizes will depend on the university size. You might be in a class with 100 other students in an auditorium, or 5 other students in a small classroom. One thing that differentiates universities in the United States from other countries is that you don’t need to decide your major until you are a Junior. Your first two years are made up of “core classes.” These are basic classes in all subjects which students are required to take.
All students are assigned a counselor, to help with choosing classes and any other questions you may have. There are counselors who specialize in helping students studying abroad, so they are a great resource if you ever need help. The week before school starts, colleges will have an orientation for students to show them around the campus, learn more about the university, and meet other students.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do get involved. Join a club, or attend a sporting event. This is the best way to meet people. However, don’t forget to study.
Don’t take on more classes than you can handle. Try to find a good balance between classes and your social life.
Do use the campus resources available to you. If you have a question, ask a counselor, they’re there to help you. Your professors are required to have office hours for tutoring, so take advantage of that time to ask questions or get help.
Get Ready With ABA
We hope you feel more prepared to make the most of your semester abroad. Many of the people you meet at college will become your lifelong friends.
Robin Motheral, a Texas native, has been living in Spain for several years and teaching English for around 7 years. After studying Spanish and Marketing at Texas Christian University, she decided to make the move to Spain to teach English in Barcelona. A lover of animals and the outdoors, Robin volunteers at a dog shelter on weekends and loves hiking in the mountains.