Studying in America and Canada

We now move to addressing your needs, beyond obtaining the international student visa, as they relate to travel and settling in America or Canada. Chances are - if you are a typical international student - that you are planning for your first trip to America or Canada. The trip is unlike any vacation that you might have had elsewhere. This time, you have to prepare for "living" in a foreign land for at least 2 years, depending on your program of studies. This trip is not a vacation, as you know. It requires leaving your friends and family behind for a substantial period of time, arriving in a foreign land with different culture, outlook, and lifestyle, facing a new system of education, making living arrangement and adapting to a new way of life.

We can understand the range of emotions that you might go through: excitement for what the future holds, curiosity and apprehension for what you may find, concerns about the challenges you may face, and a sense of "losing" your family and friends from your immediate circle of supporters and advisors. Your family and friends will go through similar emotions. You may, however, wish to take comfort in the fact that excitement, tempered with apprehension and sadness, is not an unusual emotional state that is peculiar to you.

You are about to undertake arguably the most significant step of your life, and that you would do so without overt or covert emotional feelings is simply not natural. You are about to embark on a life-altering experience, and your life will change forever without a doubt. You will have an enriching experience that goes beyond just further education in a foreign land, as your learning will extend well beyond the classroom to a new way of life. The challenges will be numerous, but so will be the rewards as you overcome these challenges. You will no doubt overcome the challenges, as you must, and as others do and have done in the past.

Learning about the challenges and circumstances you are likely to face is the first step in dealing with them. This chapter deals with precisely the information that would make you aware of what lies ahead and what you can do to deal with it effectively. In this chapter, we will deal with your planning for the trip, your arrival at the port of entry, and your first several weeks in the new country.

As you go through this stretch of preparation and settling in, the international student advisor at your new academic institution will be the best source of information, advice and guidance. Do not hesitate to contact the advisor, should you need help. It is the advisorís job to help you. However, you must be mindful that the advisor is also helping many other international students; you are not the only international student that the advisor is expected to help. Be judicious in your requests for help and understand that the advisor is for all international students: he or she is not your personal guide.

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