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Eating healthy while studying in the US

Arriving in a new country can be confusing in so many ways and the last thing you want to worry about is your most basic necessity--food. But simple food plans and grocery lists can help guide you through an American grocery store.
First come up with with a healthy meal plan at the beginning of each week. Not only will this save you valuable time throughout your week, but it will also save you a lot of money, as you will only spend money on food that you need. Planning your meals will also minimize wasting food. Your meals and snacks should have an emphasis on fruits, vegetable and proteins like meat, poultry (unless you are a vegetarian of course), dry beans, eggs and nuts. You should also drink water throughout the day. Carrying a reusable water bottle with you will get you to your eight cups a day and will also minimize plastic waste.

Once you have planned your meals for the week, start drafting a grocery list based on those meals and what ingredients and foods you will need for each one. Cooking meals that require similar healthy foods will make your trip to the grocery store more convenient and less expensive.

But which grocery store should you bring your food shopping list to? There are several options depending on where you live, but the same rules still apply everywhere. Try to avoid small convenience stores, which are usually more expensive and should only be visited in last minute food-related emergencies. Bigger grocery stores are your best and cheapest option. They have huge selections of food and a variety of options for every kind of food, but be careful and stick to your list--it’s easy to get carried away in the vast food options and buy items that were not originally on your shopping list. Trader Joe’s is a well-known grocery store that can be found in most areas. They are considered a healthier grocery store, with many organic options, and also a considerably cheaper health food store, compared to Whole Foods, which can get pricey.

You can and should, of course, indulge in your guilty pleasures throughout your study abroad adventure, as there are so many exquisite restaurants that you will definitely want to try, but the key is indulgence in moderation. Indulging in unhealthy food or restaurants in moderation will help keep your US experience within your budget while also keeping it exciting and healthy.

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Applying at the last minute to study abroad: Is it possible?

The application deadline for most international programs is just a days or a few weeks away and you just realized that your dream is to studying abroad in the US! Is it possible to fulfill your dream in a mere couple of weeks?

Tip 1. Timetable: Before anything else, build a calendar. You must maximize your valuable time in order to be successful in this rapid yet tedious process. Applying to graduate school in two weeks is possible, but requires a great degree of dedication to the process, without focusing on anything else. Create your timetable and ensure that you dedicate most of your time to it in order to achieve your application goals.

Tip 2. Prioritize: Be conscious about how much time you actually have to apply--there is a lot of information to learn and not so much time. Because you don’t have a great deal of time, it’s important to focus only on the information of utmost importance. When shuffling through university websites, aim your attention at the information that is most relevant to you. You also might want to focus on schools that might not require a GRE or GMAT test, if you haven’t take it. Signing up for and taking a GRE or GMAT test in only a few weeks is doable, but you may not receive the scores you’d hoped for, or may miss the deadline for application.
One of the first things you should do is figure out who you want letters of recommendation from and ask them immediately because the time restraint will affect them tremendously. It is proper to give your recommenders a few weeks notice so that they have enough time to craft a well-written letter that speaks to your strengths and captures your spirit and success.

Tip 3. Work on your resume and essay: Your resume and essays are a crucial component in your application, as they tell the university who you are and what you have done to get there. They’re one of the first parts of your application that the admissions committee will look at, therefore you’ll want to perfect them. When you’re done drafting them, have a native English speaker proofread and edit them with you. American universities prefer superior writing skills and proper grammar, and poor English can make you look bad and unprofessional.

Tip 4. Talk to the right people: Don’t ask everyone for advice. You don’t have time to listen to everyone’s opinion on why they think you can’t or shouldn’t apply to university abroad. You have better and more important things to focus on during these few weeks. You should get in contact with the international admissions counselor and speak to them about why you’re applying late and ask if they have any advice specific to that school. Also use GradTrain to talk to a mentor who studied at that school and may be able to give you the edge when applying to that school.

Tip 5. Focus: Buckle down. Find caffeinated coffee. Get good WiFi. Cancel your plans. Understand that you will have to devote all your time in these two weeks to your application, but, as you know, your dream is worth it. You will feel good at the end of the two weeks knowing that you gave the application your all.

Need more help with getting accepted, planning your studies, and the steps following graduation?

2018: A year full of new opportunity for international students

Get ready to bid farewell to 2017 and ring in the new year, with all of its new possibilities and opportunities for improvement in 2018 to make your study abroad dream a reality and a success:

1. Take care of yourself
You should be your number one priority before anything else because it will be hard to succeed academically and professionally if you don’t succeed personally. So start rethinking your eating and exercise habits! Put a greater emphasis on brain foods and a lifestyle that will fuel your ambitious goals. Simple dietary improvements can make a world of differences, and your budget should not be an excuse to treat your body and mind poorly, there are several ways to have a healthy diet on a budget.

2. Start saving
Studying abroad as an international student can be costly, which can cause plenty of stress. But you can easily relieve a lot of the stress by drawing up a personal budget plan and sticking to it! By having all your finances in front of you, you’ll be able to pinpoint unnecessary expenses and use the money toward something that you actually need or you could save it for later. There are a plethora of ways to minimize your spending and get your financial life in order.

3. Make new friends
American university campuses are full of intriguing and diverse people who are also looking to meet new people. Find a committee that interests you or a club that you would love to learn more about and you will definitely meet interesting people who you might not meet otherwise. You’ll have new, stimulating conversations, combat loneliness and you might even create a lifelong friend!

4. Improve your English
If you haven’t started working on your English, there’s no time like the present! As an international student, improving your language skills can only benefit you and your future. There are many ways to expand your English language arsenal, so find the best way for you and get to it!

5. Stop procrastinating
It’s finally time to break the vicious cycle of procrastination. In order to succeed personally, academically and professionally, you need to get on top of your game. Putting off until tomorrow what you can do today adds a significant amount of unnecessary stress to your life and can hurt your overall wellbeing. In order to actually achieve your new year’s resolutions, you must be committed to fulfilling them. Take the first steps toward making your dream a reality - do some research, choose the programs that are right for you and talk to someone who has been through the process who can guide you.

Need more help with getting accepted, planning your studies, and the steps following graduation?
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Lonely Living: How to combat loneliness while studying abroad

Everyone has felt lonely at some point in their lives. Loneliness is a normal feeling, especially when you are living thousands of miles away from home in an unfamiliar and maybe even daunting place. It’s okay to feel lonely at times, but it becomes a problem when your loneliness debilitates you and stops you from enjoying your daily life. There are many ways to combat loneliness when you go abroad before it reaches such a severe degree:

1. Join a club, committee or team
There are a multitude of clubs, committees and teams on every university campus, full of people who are eager to make new friends and partake in interesting events or fun activities. These committees are also full of international students just like you, who understand your feelings of loneliness. You could pick a club that is centered around something that you have always been passionate about, where you can meet like-minded people who are just as excited about that subject as you are. Or you could join a committee with a topic that you are unfamiliar with in order learn more about that subject and meet interesting people that you would have never met otherwise. You could even do both! The opportunities to learn, meet new people and build close relationships on campus are endless.

2. Connect with fellow expats via expat Facebook groups
Although it may feel like you are the only one in the world dealing with loneliness, you are definitely not alone. You may not realize that there are hundreds of people just like you who are also trying to overcome loneliness and they are only a click away. There are Facebook groups dedicated to expats living in foreign countries, where they discuss what it’s like living in a foreign country and how to deal with any problems you might face. Many people who are studying and traveling abroad join these groups to be a part of a community that understands them. Expat Facebook groups are an excellent source of human companionship and these people know exactly what you are experiencing and would love to help you. You may find that you talk to someone in the group and want to meet them in person or even attend an event organized by the group. You should also stay in touch with your GradTrain coach who has gone through a similar process and experience just a few years back.

3. Stay in touch with your friends from home
Talking to your friends from home is the simplest way to fight your lonely feelings. Your closest friends, those who know you best, are only a Facetime call or text message away. Set up a convenient time for both of you, despite that annoying time difference, and dedicate an hour or so to catch up with them, see what they are up to and share all of your exciting American adventures with them. Although it’s important to keep in touch with your friends from home when you’re feeling sad and lonely, you shouldn’t be talking to them constantly, as it could be a distraction from meeting new people and having amazing experiences. You should find the right balance between speaking to old pals and making new friends in order to settle in and finally feel comfortable in your new environment.
Need more help with getting accepted, planning your studies, and the steps following graduations?

The importance of improving your English before attending university abroad

Improving your academic English can be one of the most advantageous favors you could do for yourself before arriving on your American university campus. You might have known how to speak colloquial English throughout your life, but while engaged in a lecture or writing an essay, you will need to have a superior understanding of academic English. The English skills that you developed for the TOEFL or IELTS are definitely useful but it does not stop there. The academic words that you learned for the test are not enough, despite having a high score.
Procrastinating your language development would only be a disadvantage to yourself. Your classmates have not only spoken informal English their entire lives, but they have also written, attended class and spoken with professors in high-level academic English many more years than you have. In order to reach, and maybe even surpass, your peers’ English level, follow these preliminary steps.

1. Research and start to learn the vocabulary that is specific to your area of study. You should begin to gain a deeper understanding of your specific academic words and in which context they are used, in order to understand the high-level books you will be reading and the complex lectures that you will have to interpret. Reading academic publications about your area of study is a great way to start. They are full of necessary words and information that you will be expected to know when you arrive on an American university campus. Creating a personal dictionary or glossary is a helpful way to remember the words that you learn.
2. English lectures, classroom discussion and intellectual arguments require a greater level of communication and listening in academic English. In order to communicate effectively with your classmates and have a profound debate, you must develop an ear for conversational and argumentative flow. Listening to English podcasts, such as TED Talks and RadioLab, pertaining to academia or related topics is a helpful.

3. Improving your reading and writing skills before attending university abroad is crucial because you will need to write various essays throughout your application process, such as your personal statement, even before starting university. You should read classic and academic English books, American news and articles. This will expand your knowledge of American academia and how scholars use certain topics or phrases to cultivate a convincing argument and ultimately prepare you to read graduate-level textbooks and write collegiate papers. Programs like Grammarly are helpful for checking proper English spelling and grammar.

4. One of the most beneficial ways of improving your English is taking online classes. There are a multitude of online services that provide private lessons with language experts at a low cost, such as: Verbling, italki and Verbalplanet. Taking courses online will increase your familiarity with conversational English and therefore increase your confidence when speaking to your new American friends on campus.

Don’t wait until you arrive in the US to advance your academic English. Starting early and learning from various resources is crucial for your success and will help you adapt to your new surroundings and achieve academic success.

Need more help with getting accepted, planning your studies, and the steps following graduation?

Finals Week: Ten tips to strategize, de-stress and succeed

Final exams are just around the corner! Finals week, especially for an international student, may be daunting and stressful at first glance. Unlike in many other countries. In US universities, you need to take a large amount of exams all in one week. Follow this guide to ensure your ultimate success:

1. Start early
You probably spend the majority of your time outside the classroom and in a library studying and reviewing what you learned in your lectures. You must manage this time wisely, particularly before finals week because you don’t want to be caught cramming the night before the exam. If you wait until the last minute to quickly study, you will not retain the information and will therefore be unprepared for the next day. Creating and following a study schedule will guarantee that you have time to thoroughly study all the content that will be on your test. Start a few weeks early and set aside time every day dedicated to studying for your exam. Studying a little every day is significantly more effective than studying all at once the day before.

2. Attend a study group or review session
Studying with other people has several benefits and proves to be superior to working alone. If your group meets regularly, you will be less likely to procrastinate or push off studying. You may also gain an improved understanding of the material: if you don’t understand a topic, someone else will and could explain it to you in a simplified way. Moreover, teaching someone else a topic that you understand to a greater degree could also sharpen your knowledge of the subject. Studying with others can give you a new perspective on the subject matter and will end the monotony of studying alone.

3. Find a quiet space
If studying with groups isn’t your style or if you need a break from your group, find a quiet place to sit, relax and review your information by yourself. Try not to study in your room, as it can be boring and distracting. University campuses are full of hushed libraries, peaceful parks and vacant classrooms. Pick a spot you like and make it yours.

4. Disconnect
Disconnecting during your study time is a great way to keep yourself focused and on track. Picking up your phone, checking out what’s new on Facebook or Instagram can distract you and steal your valuable study time. Many people choose to disable their social media accounts during finals week and enable them after their last exam to make sure that they are never distracted by them. Others simply turn off their phones when it’s time to study. Other constructive ways of unplugging are, ironically, apps! An app called Forest plants a seed that grows into a tree after a certain amount of time that you stay off other apps and kills the tree when you leave the app. You build a forest with all your trees, each tree representing the time that you focused, rather than being on your phone. Self-Control to Focus is another app that locks you out of certain distracting apps for a set time and restricts access once you’ve set it. Don’t let technology get in the way of what’s important!

5. Study for the exam format
Understanding the format of the exam is critical. If it’s multiple choice, you should study concepts, key points and word definitions. If you’ll be writing essays, you should be able to fully understand, explain and give examples on the topic.

6. Meet with your professor
Your professors want to help you succeed. You should approach them with prepared questions and the desire to receive constructive advice and information. Additionally, it will give you a chance to demonstrate your desire to learn more and prosper in their class.

7. Make your own study guide
Studying from your professor’s study guide is a great start but creating your own study guide will help you review the information and allow you to practice putting everything in your own words which will give you a stronger familiarity with the subject matter. You could make a study guide hand written, typed on a document or with flashcards. Apps such as Quizlet or Tinycards are also helpful--they use virtual flashcards and games to aid you in retaining information.

8. Take a break
Taking a break can be as advantageous as studying. Giving your brain time to rest will allow you to study more and study stronger later on. Go outside for fresh air, take a nap, go for a run, watch that new episode you’ve been dying to watch or even attend a university event! Even if you have a little amount of time, take it and do something you love so that you can be more focused when you’re working hard.

9. Fuel your brain
Having the right food in your system while studying is an important step in proper brain function. Try eating brain foods to naturally boost your brain power: fruit, salmon, eggs, walnuts, kale, broccoli, almonds, spinach and even a bit of dark chocolate. A balanced diet, rich with nutrients and antioxidants, is a balanced brain.

10. Get rest
Being well rested throughout your studies is essential to your success--especially the night before your exam. Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep a night leading up to the big day. Research shows that sleeping between your study and the exam can increase your retention of the material by 25%!

Once your exams are over--celebrate! Applaud all of your hard work and dedication to your studies and your eventual success.

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What international students must know before signing their off-campus leases

The process of signing a Lease on an apartment is complex - and making mistakes in this process can cost you a lot of time, money and aggravation.
Here are the things you must know before signing your new lease.

This is Urban Dictionary’s definition for finals week:

A state of HELL in which the whole school is either cramming or having a panic attack. The worst week of a college or university student’s life. Finals week involves pulling an all-nighter to reverse the months of slacking that have killed their grades. Finals week involves a lot of stress and very little sleep, the college or university student will be on edge the entire time, thus it is not a good time to screw with them by playing practical jokes or something you might find funny.”

Sounds bad, right?

As an international student in a foreign country, the last thing you need during this “state of hell” time, is to deal with your off-campus landlord because there is a misunderstanding over your lease’s termination clause. But if you sign a contract without understanding it first, that’s exactly where you're headed.

In order to help you avoid this, Legally gathered some of the important clauses you’ll need to look out for when signing onto your dream school’s off-campus lease:

1. Termination/break clause
A break clause is a term in a lease which enables either the landlord or the tenant, or both, to end the lease early. For various reasons, this clause is activated frequently, so you should make sure you’re protected.
The way you are expected to serve the notice of termination is important. Sometimes it is expected that you’ll serve it through multiple methods, so make sure you check the names and addresses of the individuals you should serve the notice to. Also, make sure that you know the required notice period and that it allows you enough time to respond if you’re on the receiving end. Additionally, make sure that the clause guarantees you a refund for the rent that you paid for the period after the termination date.

2. Term of tenancy
In your home country they may be the same, but in the US there is usually a difference between a rental agreement and a fixed-term lease. You need to ensure that you sign the type that best suits you. Leases typically last a year and provide you with security while rental agreements usually run from month to month and self-renew unless terminated by the landlord or the tenant, which allows you more flexibility.

3. Repairs and maintenance
Your contract should clearly state who is responsible for repairs and maintenance in your apartment. There may be a division of the responsibility for different types of maintenance, for example, that you, the tenant, are responsible for electrical devices and damage that you may cause. Nonetheless, it should be very clear that any damage which is caused by reasonable use is fixed by the landlord. Make sure you know how you're expected to alert about defects and repair requests, and what the landlord's timeframe for compliance is.

4. Deposits and fees
This part of the contract is often a serious bone of contention between landlords and tenants and causes frequent friction over the use and return of security deposits. In order to avoid unnecessary hassle and confusion, your agreement should be clear on:
  • The amount of the security deposit and that it’s in compliance with the relevant state laws; some states legislated a maximum amount of deposit which could be collected by the landlord. In Massachusetts for example, A landlord may request a security deposit of no more than one month’s rent.
  • How long after you move out of the apartment will your deposit be returned to you, how it will be returned, and what are the terms in which deductions will be made from the deposit before it will be returned to you. It can be really difficult to deal with getting your deposit back after you return to your home town.
  • What the circumstances are which will allow the landlord to use the deposit and whether it will be possible for you to use it as last month’s rent in the case that the landlord has no claims towards you.
  • If there are any legal, non-returnable fees, such as cleaning or pets?
  • Where the security deposit will be held by the landlord, and more importantly: whether an interest on the security deposit will be paid to you as a tenant.         
5. Subleasing
Summer vacation is just around the corner and you’re not going to be in the apartment for few weeks because you’re returning home for a visit. You might wonder: why not feed my student loan with a some sublet income? But alas, right after you return from your time off, you receive a phone call from your landlord saying that in the lease you signed it is specified that any income from subleasing should be shared with him.
If you think that you’ll likely sublease the apartment, try to make this clause work in your favor.

6. Use of premises  
This clause restricts the number of people living in the apartment at any given time based on the initial group of tenants. Meaning that if you were three roommates when you entered the apartment, the lease is restricted to only you three.
Why should this bother you? Let’s say that your brother comes to town for two weeks and you would like him to stay with you, or you just met someone awesome and you want him or her to move in with you for a while before you move out to get your own place – when this clause is in effect, you can’t.  
7. Surrender of premises
Let us take you back to your finals week, you are stuck in the library trying to make up for the ridiculous amount of slacking you've done over the course of the semester, when you receive an email from your landlord with the subject: “Move out cleaning instructions,” which specifies that you are responsible for hiring, coordinating, and paying for a professional cleaning of all the carpets prior to the lease’s end. Sucks, right? To avoid this, read this clause carefully.

These are only a few of the clauses you should look out for when signing a new lease. Unfortunately, we can’t go over every potential problematic clause, but remember that the lease should protect the basic rights you have:
  • The right to have a safe and habitable space
  • The right to privacy and reasonable notice of entry
  • The right not to be discriminated against
  • The right not to be charged for unreasonable rent prices, security deposits, or fees
  • It’s illegal to add a clause that negates a state or federal law.

Legally is a platform which allows individuals to upload their lease (or any other legal document), and receive a contract review, done by real lawyers, in under 48 hours. Visit Legally’s website on Contact Legally by email ( or Facebook (