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Navigating your first days as an international student

As an international student, the process of applying to study overseas is now over and the day that you have been waiting for is finally here. You arrived abroad in your new country and after months of applications and tests and resumes you are standing in your new campus. So now what? The hard part of applying and getting accepted and choosing your university is over. There are no more plane tickets to buy or scholarships to apply for. It is finally time to settle down in your new home and start your study abroad experience.

The very first thing you need to do is become familiar with your campus. Get a map and find where your dorms are or where your off-campus housing is, where the dining halls are, and where your classrooms are. Grow accustomed to the area and do not be afraid to ask for directions. Everyone gets lost on their first day! Go around and try the dining hall food and explore the empty classrooms that you will soon spend many hours in.

It is very important to settle into your dorm or apartment as quickly as possible. Unpack everything from your suitcase and fold your clothes into the drawers. Make yourself at home because this will be your new home for a while. It is very common for Americans to put a lot of posters and pictures on their wall so if you want you can also decorate your room to your personal taste. Meet your new roommate and organize your room however you want.

Go meet new people! You’re finally in a new country so go and meet the people and see how they are both different and similar to you. On the first day, everyone is very friendly because everyone wants to meet some new friends - so go and be social. The sooner you make friends the easier life will get at university because now you have someone to walk to class with, eat dinner with, join a sports team with, and study with. More than 50% of international students are still in contact with their friends from the U.S even after their studies ended. Universities also use social media and email in order to update students on events so make sure your social media and email accounts are up to date in order to stay in touch with friends and be connected and involved with what the university does. Your university may have an app to download which will be helpful. Also, if you can, download all the social media and email apps on your phone so you receive the notifications on a daily basis.  
Have fun and explore on the first day but don’t be fooled! Classes are right around the corner so make sure you have everything you need such as a computer, pencils, a notebook and a calculator which can be bought at the campus bookstore. Read the syllabus for all the classes you are taking so you can be prepared on the first day and have everything you need. Professors really like students who read the syllabus in advance.
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International students: Trump’s support of the RAISE immigration act may give you a slight advantage

President Donald Trump's support of the new RAISE immigration act may have you wondering - is this going to affect me as an international student? Should I be worried? The answer is simply that this new policy will have little affect on your student visas, however, if the bill passes it may affect you after your time abroad. You may find some connection to your second home and decide that you want to work in America as well. This is where the new act may affect you, though not necessarily in a negative way. See the full text of the bill here.

Positives of being an international student
This new immigration policy will favor those with a higher education, especially with a degree from an American university, in addition to earning potential and ability to speak english. This is good news for you because you will have a degree from an American university, which will give you extra points in the new system, and because of that you will have a higher earning potential and you will likely be able speak English pretty well. Additionally, if you win some outstanding achievements during your studies abroad, that will also work to your advantage. This is due to the fact that President Trump's new policy is point based and you will have earned some points right away.

The point system   
Mr. Trump’s system will make it a little harder to get green cards, nevertheless, your studying overseas will have already given you the upper hand.

Applicants would have to get at least 30 points in order to apply for immigration, as judged by their:

  • Highest educational qualification: maximum of 13 points for a US doctorate; one point for a US or foreign high school diploma.
  • age: people over 50 would get no points, with younger people being judged on a sliding scale from two to 10 points, with the ideal age being 26-30 according to the proposal.
  • English proficiency, as judged by a test. Between 0-10 points with 10 for fluent English.
  • Future salary: 13 points for a job offer that paid 300% of the median for their destination state.
  • Investments into the US economy: 12 points for a $1.8 million and above investment in a US business.
  • Achievements: 15 points for an Olympic medal, 25 points for a Nobel prize

This system will make it more difficult to obtain a green card, however, it is also similar to other countries’ immigration policies, such as Australia and Canada. Whether you agree with this new policy is up to you. Fortunately for you, as an international student, you will have a better chance than many. You will have a degree from an American university, you will likely be of a younger age and you will likely speak English well, all of which will grant you some additional points.

The bill has not been passed yet
Note that the bill has not yet been put through the Senate and Congress, and until then it will not be in effect. There is a pretty good chance that it will not pass at all. Regardless, it is an indication of how this administration views immigration policy and may be followed with additional bills if it does not pass.

Have fun during your time abroad and good luck on obtaining your work visas, if you choose to stay and work in the US after you graduate.

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An international student's secret weapon - the smartphone

Do not underestimate the use of your smartphones while you study abroad. There are thousands if not millions of applications out there that can help with a wide variety of things, including the GradTrain site and app that has great tools, tips and mentoring which you will find useful before and during your studies abroad. When traveling to a new place, especially for long periods of time, applications can be your best friend. Google Maps, for instance can be an amazing tool for initially finding your way around. Aside, from Google Maps there are applications for finding restaurants, for translating words you do not understand, for finding entertainment and obviously for calling or texting friends if you need help or just want their opinion on a great restaurant in the area. Apps are also a key way for staying in touch with your family and home country while studying abroad. Below are a few key ways to leverage your phone while studying abroad.

One of the most well known applications for translation is google translate. However, there are many more like it, but no matter which one you use they can really help you during your studies abroad. For example if you are in a grocery store and you are looking for something and do not know the word for it or if the cooking instructions are in a language that is not your first language all you have to do is type in the word to show it to someone or take a picture of the instructions in the google translate app. Also there may be times that you are in a conversation and do not know how to say a certain word or phrase - you just type it in. the little things like that can help a lot and you can learn from it to the point where you will need to use it less and less.
Applications: Google Translate, TripLingo, iTanslate, Waygo, etc.

When you first get to a new country traveling around may be confusing as an international student. You do not know how the bus or subway works yet or you simply do not know how to walk back home from class or how to get to a building at your university. Eventually you will not need to use these as much, but they are helpful in the beginning and later on, to explore new areas. With the exception of maybe the bus or subway applications that you may need to use regularly for bus numbers, timetables or which rail to get on, and the shared economy transportation apps that you may want to use instead of public transportation in some areas.
Applications: Google Maps, Waze, Uber, Lyft, NextBus, Moovit, Transit - NYC, etc.

Your friends who live in the country you are studying in will probably know all the best restaurants and entertainment, though there are many apps that can help if no one is available or if you just want to see reviews or ratings before you decide to spend your money. You can reduce the chance of wasting your money on a restaurant or anything else you are planning to spend money on by using applications like Yelp and others.

Modern technology has made life so much easier so take advantage of. Your smartphone has internet access practically everywhere. Even if you do not have mobile data there are always wifi hotspots near by. The internet, along with the millions of phone applications out there, are useful when you are in your home country, so why would it not be useful in a new country. Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal during your studies abroad and your life will be that much easier.     

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Top festivals and entertainment during your studies abroad

Entertainment in America is not in short supply. If you have adequate transportation and some money to spare, interesting things to do in the States are relatively easy to access. Aside from day to day activities such as arcades, amusement parks, paintball, comedy shows and all the year round activities, there are the popular music festivals that people all over the states travel to see. These festivals are a great way for international students to get a dose of popular American culture through music and social interaction outside a professional or school environment.

List of festivals
Here is a list of a few of the festivals that you may find near you.
- AFROPUNK FEST Brooklyn: Brooklyn, New York -  The Afropunk Festival is an arts festival that is celebrated annually and unifies the cultural milestones of AFROPUNK or african american culture through music, film, skate, and art.
-Electric Forest: Rothbury, Michigan - Electric Forest Festival is an eight-day, two-weekend, event with a focus on electronic and jam band genres, which takes place in Rothbury, Michigan, at the Double JJ Resort.
-Made In America: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Budweiser Made in America Festival is an annual music festival held in Philadelphia, which was formerly held simultaneously in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
-Electric Zoo: Randall's Island, New York - Electric Zoo is an annual electronic music festival taking place over Labor Day weekend in New York City on Randall's Island.
-Austin City Limits Music Festival: Zilker Park, Austin, Texas - The Austin City Limits Music Festival is an annual music festival taking place in Zilker Park in Austin, Texas on two sequential three-day weekends.
-Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas: Las Vegas, Nevada - Electric Daisy Carnival, known commonly with its initials EDC, which is one of the largest electronic dance music festivals in the world and is held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada.
-Sasquatch! Music Festival: Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Washington - Sasquatch! Music Festival is a music festival held annually at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington. In previous years, it has taken place on the Memorial Day weekend, running for three to four days.
-Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival: Great Stage Park, Tennessee - The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is a four-day music festival held in Tennessee featuring a wide variety of genres.
-Ultra Music Festival: Miami, Florida - Ultra Music Festival is an annual outdoor electronic music festival that takes place in March in Miami, Florida which puts on an exciting and memorable show.
-Lollapalooza: Grant Park, Chicago - Lollapalooza is an annual music festival featuring popular music of a variety of genres such as alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock, hip hop, and electronic music, dance and comedy performances guaranteeing an exciting and eventful experience.
-The Governors Ball Music Festival: Randall's Island, New York - Governors Ball Music Festival is a music festival taking place in Randall's Island, New York City, USA with musical entertainment for anyone into almost any genre of music.
-Pitchfork Music Festival: Union Park, Chicago - The Pitchfork Music Festival is an annual summer music festival focusing primarily on alternative rock, rap & hip-hop, electronica, and dance music for many big names and local artists.
-Burning Man: Black Rock Desert, Nevada - Burning Man is an annual gathering that takes place at Black Rock City and is a unique experience based on self-expression where the entertainment stems from the community itself rather than big name bands.
-South By South West: Austin, Texas - South by Southwest is an annual film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that found in mid-March in Austin, Texas.
-Coachella: Indio, California - The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (well-known as Coachella) is an annual music and arts festival featuring many genres of music, including rock, indie, hip hop, and electronic dance music, in addition to art exhibits displaying sculptures amongst other forms of art.

If these specific festivals do not appeal to you, do not worry. There are many more. All you have to do is a quick google search of: “festivals in _____”. (Insert the State you are interested in)  

While you will see the biggest names in music at these music festivals, they are expensive. In addition to being expensive, you may be looking forward to seeing one performer in particular. These festival are not the only places these performers play. There are concerts played in most major US cities where you can see the famous musicians live, that are expensive, though not as expensive as festivals, since you are only seeing one musician. If you look for them via search engines online and on major ticket sites such as ticketmaster and StubHub, you will find them.Do not forget to make sure they are performing near you. You do not want to pay all this money for a ticket for a show in Florida if you are in California.

During all major holidays you can find some popular concerts and amusement parks that will be great for celebrating American culture. It is important that you try to experience american   
Holidays such as 4th of july, thanksgiving and halloween in traditional forums. After you go to a thanksgiving dinner, set off some fireworks at a barbeque and attend a costume party you can use the rest of that time to experience the unique festivals that are customized to be themed around holidays, such as fright fest at Six Flags Great America for halloween.

Festival accessibility
Most of popular music  festivals are found in major cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and Chicago. So if you are planning on attending a school in a rural area, you are going to have to travel a bit to attend these festivals. Though a road trip with some friends can be an exciting experience in itself.

Music, comfort and expenses
These popular festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza feature the biggest names in American music in all genres. These events are usually three day long events with a wide price range depending on your budget. It is important to be aware that this three day event will be costly, however how much will depend on you. Admission tickets in themselves run in the hundreds of dollars. If you can afford it, do not let the prices deter you, because these kinds of events are part of the American experience and it may be a once in a lifetime experience for you.

It is possible to find good entertainment on a budget, though if you are trying to make memories, you may have to spend some money every once in awhile. Also do not miss out on celebrating American holidays which can be celebrated in a wide variety of ways. So try to have some fun during your time abroad.     

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7 important tips to find the best apartment in New York City

Who doesn’t want to live in New York City? It is an amazing place to live, many people know that. That’s why it is not always easy to find an apartment there. Below you can find 7 things that are important if you are looking for an apartment in New York City!

1.Allocate a budget

New York can be expensive, so before you start looking set a general budget.
-    Make sure you are aware of the additional fees that some landlords have
-    What are the average utility costs? (sometimes they are already included within the monthly price)
-    Try to calculate an average of daily expenses in the city (which is probably more than you are used to)
2. Make sure your budget equals your expectations
Are you looking for a room in a shared apartment (most of the time the cheapest option), a room in a residence hall, a whole apartment or a studio. Check out the prices and set your mind on something you can effort.
Also important to keep in mind; a place in Brooklyn is most of the time cheaper than a place in Manhattan. Brooklyn is a very up and coming neighborhood near Manhattan, perfect if you have a lower budget but still want the Manhattan experience. There is a very efficient Subway system you can use to get to Manhattan when you want to.

3. Find a roommate
If you really want to have your own place, but it is kind of expensive, you can also choose to share the apartment with a roommate! But where can you find a roommate? There are lots of useful websites and facebook pages where you can find roommates for different cities, for example; “AbroadTalk”.
4. Use a company to help you find an apartment
When you want to go abroad, it can be extra hard to find an apartment. Most of the time you can’t visit the apartment before you move in, besides that; you can’t meet the landlord. If you want to be a 100% sure you are not getting ripped off, it is smart to get some help from a company that is specializes in it. They probably placed people in many apartments before and have contact with the landlords. For example; Study Abroad Apartments.
5. Be open minded
I am sure we all know some great places out of movies or maybe you already set your mind on an apartment in a specific location, but there are so many more great places to live within New York City. Try to go in with an open mind and look for different options. Maybe your perfect apartment is something or somewhere you didn’t think of in the first place!

6. Do your research
It is very helpful to do good research after the neighborhoods you can live in. Some apartments may seem really great and nicely priced, but there is a chance that they are located in a not so safe neighborhood. Make sure you did your research before you agree to live in a particular neighborhood.
Also; check out transportation options before you agree to take an apartment. New York City has a great underground system and it is so helpful if you are nearby a subway station from where you can go straight to work or school.
7. Google the terms.
While looking for housing, you will bump in several terms you never heard of. If you are not sure what they mean, google them.
For example, do you know the difference between a rental and a sublet?
Rental: this is an apartment where you sign a lease for a fixed period of time, you’ll also have a landlord (mostly long term).
Sublet: someone (the owner) already signed a lease for that apartment but the current tenant wants to rent out the apartment for the time they are not home (mostly short term).

This post was contributed by the team. [Study Abroad Apartments is the global marketplace for student accommodation. SAA helps customers find and book rooms, studios and apartments for their studies abroad across Europe and the USA. Study Abroad Apartments' US headquarters are in New York City and the Europe HQ is in Barcelona, Spain.]