Study in the US – To Go or Not to Go?

Your diligence and hard work have paid off. You’ve gone through the selection process and made your decision to study in the U.S. You have your papers, your packing list, your adventure in front of you, and you are ready to go. Or are you? Perhaps the realization is beginning to sink in that you will be leaving your family support system, your community, your friends, indeed, your whole way of life. You ask the question, study in the US – to go or not to go?

You may be going off to high school, where you will be looked after to some degree by either a host family, a dorm parent or another supervisor. Or you are going to college, where you really are pretty much on your own except for the assistance you can find through your deans, residential advisors, or international students’ office. In either scenario, it can feel intimidating.

You are not alone. The U.S. is currently home to close to over one million international students studying at all different levels from secondary education (high school) to university and beyond (graduate and post-graduate degrees), and that number is going up every year. U.S. schools and institutions have come to appreciate the internationalism, diversity, broad worldview, and varied insights and experiences you bring to their campuses. This time will be one of growth and with that come growing pains. But armed with the right attitude and preparation, you will be well on your way to adjustment.

Is this really happening?

While you may have been distracted and swept up with the business of applications, interviews, school selection, and improving your English skills in order to bring this study abroad dream to fruition, you may now be wondering if this is really happening. A lot of thought and planning has gone into making the decision to further your education and language skills in the United States. You’ve done so much research to determine which school best suits you and will help you meet your educational ambitions and goals. You’ve worked so hard on applications, essays, and interviews. You’ve contemplated what type of living arrangements you would most enjoy.

Feeling anxious or worried that you will not be up to the challenge?

After everything you have been through during the selection process, you can be confident you can manage it. All the people who wrote recommendations believe in you. The people who read through your application and/or interviewed you obviously feel you are capable of succeeding in this transition or they would not have selected you.

Try to manage your anxiety with self-soothing and affirmative thoughts.

One way to do this is just before falling asleep at night. Reflect on a difficult experience that you managed successfully and repeat a mantra with statements such as: “I am…

  • hardworking and smart
  • capable of succeeding
  • confident and capable
  • ready to leave.”


You may have heard the phrase, “Attitude is everything”. In the case of a major life transition, this especially rings true. Having the right attitude is the key to unlocking the adventure to be just that – an adventure – rather than a chore, an obligation, or a duty. However, some of you may be making this international relocation under duress. Maybe it wasn’t your choice to study in the U.S. and perhaps you have already decided that you are not going to buy into it or work to make it a successful venture.

I can tell you from the experience of others that this would be a huge mistake and you would only be hurting yourself. It would be a waste of time, money, and energy to let this incredible opportunity slip away.

Actually, it takes a lot of energy to work at being miserable all the time. It doesn’t take much to begin enjoying certain aspects of this adventure. Look for the good, the fun, and the positive in everything and soon you will find life isn’t so bad in this new place. In the U.S. it is called, “Having an attitude adjustment.”

Adjusting expectations

Sometimes people are disappointed right away when things don’t quite meet their expectations. Keep an open mind about what your experiences will be like and try not to be disappointed if things end up being very different from what you had envisioned. Remember that all these experiences are serving to grow you. 

Special thanks to Tina L. Quick for providing us with this article. Tina is the author of two extraordinary books dedicated to international students going to study in America: Survive and Thrive: The International Student’s Guide to Succeeding in the U.S. and The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition.