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5 Things International Students Are Surprised by in the U.S.

Written by ESLI
Published on 2017-05-31
Studying in a new country is a unique adventure. There are so many new things students will experience—food, people, language. Talking to someone who is new to your country is always interesting because you get to learn about your culture from the perspective of another person.

Since I began working for ESLI, I have gotten to know people from all over the world and have learned many things about other countries. But I’ve also learned, through stories, what it’s like to come to the U.S. for the first time. And while everyone expects the food to be different or the weather to take some getting used to, there are a few other things that surprise students about life in the U.S.

In many countries, public transportation is the main mode of transportation, especially in smaller, more populous areas where there isn't room for six-lane highways and rolling parking lots. But in the U.S, we have much more space, and places tend to be more spread out. Because of this, almost everyone has a car, and public transportation is only really present in bigger cities.

A few students have mentioned to me that they were immediately surprised by how clean the U.S. is. We're relatively litter-free, we monitor and regulate the pollution allowed in our air and water, and some students were even surprised to learn you can get a ticket for littering here.

One of the most common surprises students experience while studying in the U.S. is that the people are so friendly. While it’s ingrained in American culture to be polite, smile, say hello to strangers, ask everyone how they’re doing and how their weekend was or how crazy the weather is, not all cultures are like that. Whether we’re apologizing for walking past someone at the grocery store or smiling and nodding at a stranger on the sidewalk, it can seem strange to people who aren't used to it.

We're Big
Everything is big here-our country, our cars, our food portions, our houses, our national parks. Some students are shocked when they realize you can drive longer than a day and still not leave the U.S. It's why we're such a car-centered culture, and Americans love their Hummers, Suburbans, and anything that takes up the most space. Do we really need 3000-sq foot houses, loaded triple cheeseburgers, Escalades, and unlimited refills? Probably not, but it seems to be the American way.

Beatiful and Diverse
No two people in different parts of the U.S. will have the same experience. Even just traveling from the east coast to the west coast will feel like you’re in a completely different country. Appalachia is nothing like northern New England, and slow southern nights look nothing like the hustle and bustle of New York City. Inside just one country, you can find arctic wilderness, snow-topped mountains, desert, miles of flat fields, stretches of rolling hills, tropical beaches, cowboy ranches, quiet fishing villages, big bustling cities, vast canyons, waterfalls flowing to clear lakes, muddy rivers rushing to the sea, swamps, geysers, volcanos—it's all here.

ESLI Centers in the United States are accredited by CEA.