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Celebrate American holidays while studying abroad

Holidays in America can be an exciting experience, especially American specific holiday’s such as 4th of July and Thanksgiving. International students should experience these holidays while they are studying abroad in American universities. However, religious holidays are a bit different depending on your religious beliefs. Christmas is a big holiday in America and you should not have a problem finding a church near you. As for other religions you will be free to observe your holidays or prayer requirements. As long as you give your professors notice and communicate with them you may get exemptions for your religious practices. Admissions, registration, class attendance, exams and assignments may be pushed back, but remember to communicate this with your professors. You will not be penalized for missed classes though you most likely will have to make up the work.

General holidays in America
Some holidays are more popular than others in the US. The 4th of July is widely celebrated with beer, barbecues and fireworks along with many events to attend that are 4th of July themed such as concerts, firework displays and sporting events. In addition to the 4th of July there is also Thanksgiving and New Year's which both feature famous parades and, for Thanksgiving, there are always football games to watch. That is if you watch American football. It is kind of a tradition in many households to watch football on Thanksgiving and there could possibly be some sort of gathering on campus somewhere to celebrate thanksgiving and watch football during your studies abroad. It is also important to mention Halloween, though it is not a holiday per se, it is an American tradition. Halloween is mostly advertised toward children and parents, however college students celebrate it as well. As an international student you should experience halloween by making or buying a costume and going to have fun in a Halloween party or parade. Other holidays such as Martin Luther King day and Columbus Day are recognized, but are not really celebrated.

Below is the list of the Federal holidays
On these days, you most likely will not have classes, and most people in America do not work on these days. Government offices will also be closed on these days:

January 1st: New years eve
January 15–21 (Floating Monday): Birthday of Martin Luther King
February 15–21 (Floating Monday): Washington’s birthday
May 25–31 (Floating Monday): Memorial Day
July 4 (Fixed): Independance Day
September 1–7 (Floating Monday): Labor Day
October 8–14 (Floating Monday): Columbus Day
November 11 (Fixed): Veterans Day
November 22–28 (Floating Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December 25 (Fixed): Christmas Day

Religious Holidays
Depending on your religion or culture you can probably find somewhere on or off campus to celebrate it. For example most Universities have prayer facilities for all major religions, as well as religious student organizations. For example, many universities have a Hillel, which is a Jewish student center, for celebrating Jewish holidays and organizing events. If you ask around campus or look on your University’s website you will probably find a group event. Additionally, you will definitely find an event off campus and friends who observe the same religion will probably be open to inviting you to celebrate with them and/or their family.

Holidays are always an exciting time, whether they are new to you or not, especially when you have never experienced them before. Remember to find an event to go to or a group to stick with during a holiday. You will not regret it. It is also important to know that any holidays you personally celebrate, religious or not, there will be an event for you or a group of people who also celebrate the same holiday. No matter what you do, have fun and make the most of your time abroad.

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Best tips to study well on an American campus

Summer is almost over, you are happy and are thinking about your new life as an international student on your dream campus. Of course, you should enjoy this great and exciting period after all of the stress of the application process, however, preparing yourself to succeed during your study abroad adventure is key. You will experience a lot of changes once on campus such as the method of studies, the food, the culture, the social events. You will need to adapt and learn about yourself. You might discover a lot about your skills and limits.

One important preparation is to get ready to study and learn on an American campus. Once you receive your schedule of classes for the semester, you might find it to be very light, but it is just an illusion, a lot of work will be required from you.
Here are our best tips, to prepare yourself for the studying habits of an American campus:
Schedule and classes rhythm: You will be surprised once you get your semester schedule, seeing the low number of classes. Compared to many universities in Europe and in other parts of the world, the system of learning in American universities gives a lot of autonomy to the students. Still, do not fall into the trap, usually if you have 1 hour of class you might need several hours in the library to study and prepare for it. Your schedule will probably have about 10 to 15 hours of class per week, but this means double the amount of personal preparation work! If you are a future law student, you should look up the Socratic method which is used on American campuses. In a nutshell, in any class, you may be called upon by name to give an answer for a question from the professor, in front of the whole class. Therefore, you need to be prepared.
Plan out your study schedule and stick to it: All this freedom is great and exciting but this might become a significant issue at the end of the semester, before the exams, if you did not study regularly. You should prepare a schedule for your week: studying, classes, homework, sports, hobbies. Regularity is the best advice to succeed in your study abroad experience. Utilize real discipline and stick to it.

Read, read and read again: You will end up with a certain number of reading suggestions from Professors after each class: manuals, quizzes, online classes. This is not optional! Read, read, and read again. Actually, all the learning material your Professors will give you is essential in the understanding of the class, and this is also why you will not have so many hours of classes. It is essential to read and study all the materials and books recommended for each class.
Do not hesitate to contact the Professors: Contrary to many other countries, on an American campus, you might experience a different relationship with your teachers than the ones you had in your home country. The Professors are extremely involved in the studies of their students, they are easy to contact and you will also learn a lot from them directly. Do not miss out on this opportunity! The relationship is less formal than in many other cultures and you should really take this opportunity to improve in your studies. You can go have a coffee with your Professor and talk about your studies and future aspirations. You never know, maybe that Professor will end up being your advisor for your doctorate or a recommender for you. And, the Professor’s experience can contribute a lot to your success.
We hope these tips will help you to succeed in your study abroad experience, and to fully take advantage of this adventure.
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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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Is Trump’s RAISE immigration act good or bad for international students?

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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