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When you come to US bring along loads of positive outlook, enthusiasm, and a motivated mind and body. This country is very different from India, but may not be the way it is perceived back home. You may find events and happenings that are not as per your expectations, but don’t be bogged down by that. Americans can be very helpful, warm, kind, and compassionate, but be ready for surprises and excitement.
When cooking Indian food in your apartment, make sure that outerwear (sweaters, jackets) and other clothes are stored away from the kitchen. Clothes (especially woolens) tend to retain the smell of spices.
If you have a driver’s license, it is highly recommended that you bring an IDP (International Driver’s Permit) from India.
As a part of the mandatory health regulations imposed by every university, each student should ensure that he/she is adequately immunized and carrying all the medical documents to prove the immunization record.
After landing to US, the first and foremost thing is to inform the university officials that you have reached.
Attend the international student orientation, and feel free to ask your questions as they are more than willing to help you.
You need to get a Social Security Number. Apply for one soon after arriving in the States.
DO NOT try converting dollars into rupees. Although I give this advice, even I cannot follow it myself. If you continue the converting process you will end up completely starving yourself.
Most international students face similar problems as you. Feel free to share and explain any difficulties or hardships you are experiencing with others.
The best way of getting over the loneliness of moving away from family is to mix up with people of your age and culture.
Speak clearly and slowly so that people can understand you easily. Our English may be perfect but our accent makes it difficult for people to understand us sometime.
Americans are very polite in their social interactions. Speak with respect with everybody that you interact with. Follow the queue, do not attempt to cut in. Hold the door for others while entering or exiting. Observe and incorporate such nuances in your daily interaction.
You may want to bring a tawa (flat Indian Griddle used to make chapattis), rolling pin and a board and a pressure cooker, they can be expensive here. Many Indian Lentils like rajmah, chhole, chana dal, moong dal, lobhiya, can be purchased easily at Wal-Mart (America’s huge supermarket that has everything under one roof and is super cheap). Again carry very small quantities to last you your initial period. Getting Indian spices may be advisable, as they are either not of the finest quality or are expensive. Stationery too is very cheap; do not bother carrying pencils, pens, erasers etc. You may get them here at a throw away prices.
If you are a vegetarian, then in US you have some adjustments to do. I don’t want to scare you, but vegetarianism is perceived differently in US than in India. Some people in US think eggs and fish are vegetarian while others consider milk and milk products non-vegetarian. In India, we are against killing any being for our food, while milk is an important part of our diet in various forms, but in the US vegetarianism means consuming no animal products like milk, cheese, meat, and eggs. Such a diet is called “Vegan”. So when in US, request for a “non-meat” or “without-meat” meal, and not a vegetarian one. You may have to cross check and explain a couple of times before getting the right thing, but it shall not be difficult at all. The first few days for a vegetarian like myself, can be a little challenging, but slowly it gets better and better.
I would recommend married students, who plan to come here with their spouse, to make accommodation arrangements well in advance. Finding an apartment after coming here is not easy for couples whereas students who are single can easily move in with others and share the apartment.
My advice for the people who are coming for the first time to the US is that when your booking your flights, please book them until your final destination. Most people who are traveling to bigger towns obviously do that, but for students coming to towns like State College, PA and other small university towns are often tempted to book tickets to the nearest big city. Following that, they rent a car or take a bus. This might save you a little money, but at times can cause incredible inconvenience. I have seen this happening to many friends, please do not be so adventurous for your first time.