Thursday, July 11, 2019

FAQ: Studying abroad in the U.S.

Hey everyone - it's Megan!
Over the past two years, I have received many questions from friends, family and strangers about what it is like to study in the U.S. A couple weeks back, I got an email from two Norwegian girls who had a lot of questions about this topic for a school project, asking me if I’d be willing to answer them. After reading through their questions, I found myself thinking that these are questions a lot of prospective students might ask. So, for my blogpost this week, I figured I would share some of my answers as well other frequently asked questions I receive. Hopefully this can be of help for some of our incoming and prospective international students!

Have you ever been unsure about traveling to and studying in the U.S. ?
The last photo I took before moving!
Surprisingly, no! My mother studied in the U.S. back in the day, so she was always an inspiration for me to study outside of Norway. The only real concern I've had comes from comparing finances between studying abroad vs. studying in Norway.  
Did you travel alone?
My mother came with me to help get me moved in, but I came to PLU "alone" in the sense that I didn't know anyone before coming here. I'm very glad I traveled alone! Studying abroad is one of the few opportunities you get to start from scratch -- nobody knows who you are and it's nice to have a clean slate when meeting new people. 
Did you miss your family and friends? Were you homesick?
I do miss them from time to time. It's hard to explain, but I rarely feel homesick due to the fact that I've created a new home for myself over here. I have my own friend group, two jobs, classes, and all these things that keep me occupied from feeling homesick. That being said, I love coming home to visit my friends and family, and we still have very close relationships. I think feeling homesick is a very personal thing, though. Some of my international friends here feel homesick a lot, so it just depends on you and how you deal with distance.

Culture & Communication
Did you notice any difference from your home country? Etiquette, manners and customs? 
Americans are a lot more open and social! Norwegians are known for being reserved and more anti-social, unless a situation calls for it. Despite being an extroverted person, I definitely still struggle with social interactions from time to time simply because I've grown up in a "stranger danger" culture. Studying abroad has taught me how much culture plays into who you are as a person, and you can tell which students on campus have an international background. That's the beauty of difference, and (most) Americans love to learn about different cultures and experiences. 
Did anything surprise you?
I was shocked by the academic level of American universities. If you have a decent English proficiency, you will find that the course load and structure of higher education here is a lot less strenuous than back home. Basically, I find it easier to get good grades here than I did back home. This might also have something to do with me having better time-management skills than I did when I was in high school, but comparing the work I have to do with what my friends in Norway are doing, I think American universities provide an easier learning process and a more wholesome education. 
When you first got to America, did you have any problems with communication?
Not for me, as I've grown up speaking English. I do have some other friends from Norway studying at PLU, that didn't grow up speaking English. I think most Norwegians will be surprised to find out that our English is very good when compared to other international students, so communication is rarely an issue over here. I do still "think" in Norwegian though, so sometimes it's hard to think of the English word of something I have in mind.

How and where did you live? Roommate? Distance to campus?
I lived in a dorm on campus. For prospective students, I highly recommend living in dorms as it is an important part of the "college experience" over here. I shared my room with a roommate for the first half of my freshman year, but we ended up not being a good match so I lived in a single room for the remainder the year. Regardless, having a roommate was a valuable experience, and most people end up having good relationships with their roommates! If you would like to see an overview of the different dorms on campus, check out this blogpost I wrote!
My dorm room freshman year - this is in Tinglestad Hall! 
Do you have to live on campus?
No! PLU requires that all freshmen and sophomore students live on campus, or all students under the age of 20. Once you turn 20 (or you will turn 20 during that academic year) or have junior standing, you are able to move off campus. I moved off campus last spring, and have since lived in a house with four other girls! The house itself is barely a minutes walk from campus, so I would almost say that it still feels like living on campus.

Keep in mind, some of these questions are based on the Norwegian school system.
Which grade did you get in English in VGS (High School)?
Not always easy, as you can see!
I've grown up with an American dad where English was my native tongue, so I ended up with a grade 6. That being said, you do NOT have to have perfect English to study in the US! Studying abroad is a great way to learn how to speak and write in another language, so don't feel like you need to have it all down before you go. If you're a grade 4 or above in English, I wouldn't be worried at all. If you're under a grade 4, I would put in some extra effort to improve my English skills before earning your undergraduate degree in the language!
Did you have English in VG2 and VG3?
I chose English as an elective in VG2, and I wish I chose it for VG3 as well! From my understanding, VG3 introduces you more to English (American) literature, and includes a lot of readings that my American peers read throughout their years in school. I learned how to write a research paper in English from my VG2 course, which has been very useful for my undergrad degree! American universities require a lot more paper writing than Norwegian universities, so getting your written English skills down before studying in the US is great practice!
Were the admission requirements strict?
I don’t think the admissions requirements were very strict. For example, Scandinavians don't need to take the TOEFL test, or the SAT/ACT, and PLU doesn't have a minimum GPA requirement. I think the acceptance rate at PLU is 74%, so it's not the hardest school to get into.
Are the studies difficult?
Like I mentioned, I think the studies here are easier than they seem in Norway! American universities function a lot more like high school, in the sense that you have to take general education courses in addition to your preferred major/minor combination. I really enjoy this aspect of the studies, because it allows me to broaden my education and gain different insights rather than studying the same field throughout all three years. At PLU we also have multiple "exams" (read: tests) throughout the semester, instead of having one cumulative exam at the end. 
Which minors and majors did you choose?
I am majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, and I'm also taking a minor in Communications. 

Is there any possibility to work in addition to your studies? Can you only work on campus?
Absolutely! Unless you have American citizenship, you will only be permitted to work on campus. I have two on-campus jobs as a barista and an internship position at the International Admissions office. 
Did you at any point regret your decision about studying in the U.S.?
Do you recommend studying abroad?
Yes! Yes! Yes! I cannot recommend it enough - if you're thinking about it, do it!
Do you want to return to Norway when done studying or do you want to live in the U.S.?
Again, unless you have U.S. citizenship, you will most likely have to return to Norway at some point. I'm American because of my dad, so I have the option to stay if I want. Based on how my life is going right now, I'm planning on staying in the Pacific Northwest for some time!

I hope these answers are able to give you more insight into what moving to the States is like. Leave us a comment below if you have questions in particular you would like to know!

Until next time,
- Megan