Thinking of studying in the U.S? “It was my first visit to the United States and it was amazing…”

Continuing our series of posts from Consular staff, and concluding International Education Week, read about one local staff member’s experience of U.S. graduate school.

“During the summer before my final year at university, I worked as a camp counselor in upstate New York.  It was my first visit to the United States and it was amazing.  After camp I spent a month traveling coast to coast, and remember vividly the first time I saw the Grand Canyon – it was awe-inspiring.  I knew that I would go back.

Grand-Canyon-River-Straight-300x225

 

On my return to university in the autumn, I decided that I would continue my studies and pursue a degree in American government at a U.S. university.  I was already a little late in making this decision as the process of selecting and applying to a school can take 12 months.  But luck was on my side and having been offered a place at two universities in California, I chose Claremont Graduate School, part of the Claremont Colleges.

Photo of Claremont College
Claremont College, California – courtesy http://www.cgu.edu

The campus was small by U.S. standards with around 6,000 students, but for me, having studied a very small university in the United Kingdom, it was at first overwhelming.  I soon settled into student life.  I was there during a presidential election year and was able to observe firsthand the inner workings of both a presidential and congressional election campaign. When not studying and working on campus in the library as a cataloger, I traveled extensively throughout California and spent a very cold new year in New York when the Hudson froze.

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge, San Franscisco

I can honestly say that my time in the United States was one of the most rewarding periods of my life both educationally and culturally.  To anyone thinking of studying in the United States, I‘d say do it! There are so many opportunities: from exchange programs for a semester or academic year, to undergraduate or graduate degree programs.   I traveled on an F-1 visa and applied for the visa not only in the days when you could apply by mail, but also before the World Wide Web; it was some time ago.

Although many things have changed since I was a student, you still need to plan early and do your research.  There’s lots of great information available online that can help in making that all important decision to study in the United States such as the Fulbright Commission at http://www.fulbright.org.uk/ and Education USA at www.educationusa.info and http://j1visa.state.gov/programs for those of you interested in exchange programs.  Although applying for the visa is the last step, don’t leave it too late to became familiar with the process and once you have been accepted by a school and are in receipt of the forms, schedule the appointment to apply for a visa.

And one last thing, don’t forget to pay the SEVIS fee before the interview.  It is the number one reason why we refuse student visa applicants in London! See london.usembassy.gov for further information.”