So you’ve been accepted to study in the USA, that’s amazing! The USA is a fantastic place to be, especially over the holidays. Americans celebrate a few different holidays compared to the rest of the world, and as a foreigner, you will learn to love and appreciate them almost just as much as the Americans do. American holidays are a time when you can indulge, have fun and get a taste of the American culture you travelled so far to explore. Here are some of the best American holidays.
It’s that time of the year again, the 4th of July. This holiday is high on the list of favourite holidays for Americans. On the 4th of July 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the birth of the USA as an independent nation arose. This is the day America claimed independence from Britain and became a democratic country.
Today, the 4th of July celebrations usually involves friends and family getting together for parades, cookouts (with lots of red, white and blue themed snacks), swimming, and an array of beautiful fireworks to end the night off. When attending one of these gatherings, it’s important to bring a dish to share. A salad, dessert, or even a special dish from your home country to share your culture. Whatever you do, make sure to add a bit of American spirit to your day, and have fun!
On October 31st all the ghouls and goblins come out to play, and the dead walk the earth. Just kidding, but Halloween in America is huge and a lot of fun! Kids go door to door dressed as their favourite princess or superhero, collecting different chocolates and candies from houses in their neighbourhood. Halloween isn’t just for the little ones though, even parents get to have some fun! Many employers have costume contests and Halloween parties for the adults! As for college kids, students dress up in different costumes for a night out on the town, as many bars hold competitions for the best dressed.
While all of this sounds fun, it’s not just the costume contests, candy, and parties that make Halloween so great, but also the days leading up to it! Many cities and small towns have festivals where they close down streets and allow vendors to open up shops selling caramel apples, taffy, funnel cakes, and trinkets. There are also different activities that you can partake in such as; haunted hayrides, corn mazes, visiting cider mills, or even head into a pumpkin patch and find the perfect pumpkin to carve.
If you’re more of a homebody, don’t worry! October is also full of fun Halloween movies leading up to the 13 days of Halloween! Young or old, Halloween in America is for everyone! So take advantage and enjoy this fun holiday, and all the days leading up to it!
Oh boy, nothing says ‘American holiday’ quite like Thanksgiving. The beautiful decorations, all of the food, family, and of course American football to end off the day. Thanksgiving is probably the most loved family-oriented holiday, and for some, it may even top Christmas.
Thanksgiving falls on the 4th week of November, where relatives travel from all over to gather into one house to be with family and give thanks for all that they have. The Thanksgiving dinner typically involves turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, yams, candied sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar and marshmallows... Don’t be afraid! I promise it’s delicious)
After dinner, everyone makes their way into the Living Room with their full bellies to enjoy some American football. As an international student, you’ll most likely be invited to one of these gatherings from a friend. American families will welcome you with open arms because “the more the merrier”.
If you are not joining a family Thanksgiving, why not throw your own “Friendsgiving” which is just the friend's version of Thanksgiving. Get together, eat traditional meals, and give thanks for your fantastic opportunity to be able to study in this unique county.
Christmas is huge in the States and may be celebrated a little differently to back home. The day after Thanksgiving finishes, decorations come off, and Christmas decorations go up. Everything from homes, restaurants, malls, and city centres are all decked out with giant Christmas trees, garlands, white lights, and red ribbons; and not to forget all of the Christmas music being played everywhere you go; and I mean everywhere (let’s just say you get your Christmas music fix early).
Depending on where you are studying, many parts of America experience cold weather, so you may get to enjoy that beautiful white Christmas everyone dreams of, and what many people associate Christmas with. The Christmas celebration isn’t too different from what you’d typically expect. The family, gifts, and dinner; however, because America is so diverse, depending on their cultural background, the meal could be completely different. For example, some Italian families go all out with pasta and lasagna!
Although many of these holidays have become hugely commercialized, and people sometimes get caught up in all of the decorations, and commotion, the end is all worth it. These holidays do one thing, they bring everyone together! So If you’re into new traditions, cultures, dressing up, and having a lot of fun, America is the place for you!
So you want to study in the USA? Great! The USA tertiary education system is a unique place, offering students a diverse range of universities, over 23 sports to play, and an unparalleled level of flexibility when choosing your degree. It really is the best place to further your studies!
Before you get too excited, there is one important hurdle you have to navigate in order to become a USA college student; The SAT. If you are asking yourself “What is the SAT?”. Simply put, it is a standardised exam that tests if you are academically capable of performing at a USA university level. All students, including Americans, are required to take it. This exam requires practice and preparation! Students need to spend hours preparing and taking practice exams before attempting the test. Below we have put together a list of tips that you can follow when preparing for the exam.
Take The SAT Diagnostic Test
The SAT Diagnostic Test is an evaluation quiz which is taken online that assess how well you know each section. This Diagnostic Test is vital to your success on the real exam because knowing your weaknesses will help you to identify where you need to spend the most time preparing for the actual exam.
Did we mention that you need to study? The SAT is designed to American Standards and USA students have spent their entire high school career preparing and taking standardised exams like the SAT. Unlike Americans, international students need to spend as much time as possible catching up, so take advantage of this opportunity and prepare well! it will change your life!
Don’t Confuse The SAT With The ACT
There is an alternative to the SAT test, known as the ACT. Both tests are college admissions tests and even sound similar, but they are completely different! If you study for one but take the other, there’s a high chance you will not obtain the score you are aiming for. The main difference between these exams is that the ACT has a science section while the SAT does not. Before booking either test, make sure to do your research before deciding which is the right one for you.
Book For The SAT In Advance
Booking for the SAT should not be done last minute as there are registration deadlines. You may be able to get onto the waiting list after the cutoff date but you do not what to be in that situation. Once you have booked a date to take the test, set a reminder in your phone and schedule times every day where you will dedication two hours to prepare. Note: If you miss the test for whatever reason, you will not be reimbursed. Being punctual in all aspects of life is important, this is no exception!
Take A Practice Test
If you’re thinking you can just study the night before, you are setting yourself up for failure! Studying months in advance while taking practices test to assess your improvement is vitally important! The great thing about taking practice tests is that there are many tools online that provide students with free practice tests with answers and explanations.
SAT Preparation Apps
A mobile app will definitely not substitute real studying, but it can be a great tool when you’re on the go. Both the Apple and Android stores have many different apps that will help you prepare for the exam. We recommend doing a little research and find an app that works for you and use technology to your advantage.
There’s only one way to ensure you won’t bomb the SAT, and that is preparation. Do your research on the different exams, allow yourself time to study, book the test in advance, and lastly, practice practice practice. At the end of the day, you are the only one who can prepare for this exam. So sit down, take a deep breath and get ready to explore the world and gain admission into the university of your dreams. You’ve got this!
University is a fascinating period of your life. You’ll get to make decisions that will define your career path, you will experience more freedom than ever before, and you'll make completely new friendships that will last a lifetime. Why not expand on these amazing experiences and grow yourself a global network by exploring foreign shores. Below we have put together a list of 10 reasons why you should further your education internationally.
Understand Other Cultures
Having travelled overseas on holiday is great! However, you’re a tourist, and it's fleeting. Actually living in another country gives you an entirely new perspective and you will get a much richer experience. You will engrain yourself in the lifestyle and learn many cultural nuances. One of life's greatest lessons is to understand other cultures and respect their differences. By understanding that, "different" is not wrong, will help you grow into a global person.
There are soooo many different cooking styles all around the world, and you’ll find that dishes differ from the tantalisingly delicious to just plain weird, but hey that's half the fun! In the states, make sure to try out the delicious Maryland Blue Crab up north, or if you are feeling brave, head down south and tuck into some deep fried Alligator. International education allows you to take advantage of these experiences, so get out and let your taste buds run wild.
Boost Your CV
There is no better way to differentiate yourself than having an international degree. By exploring entirely new cultures and picking up skills unique to those countries, you will approach business problems in different ways than your peers and these skills will give you a leg up when applying for jobs.
Having exposure to different people will not only help you hone your interpersonal skills, but it will help grow yourself a global network. In an ever-changing world, digital connectivity is allowing business to cross borders faster than ever before. By studying internationally, you could be roommates with the next Fortune 500 CEO or simply make a great contact who will help you solve a business problem!
Leaving home and the comforts of having mom and dad can be scary, but it's a crucial step in your development. No one said being independent is easy, and if they do they are hampering your personal growth. Once you get over that 3-month hump, and the teary-eyed Skype calls back home, that little taste of freedom will change you forever! In fact, the chances are that you won’t want it any other way.
Give Back to Your Community
Studying in another country will expose you to many different processes and ways of life that will help you give back to your community. As a South African based company, there is no doubt we face many problems, however, instead of complaining, take the opportunity to see how other countries have solved these problems, experience them and bring them home. Yes, South Africa is unique, but it is also one of the most exciting economies in the world, with massive room for growth. By merely living abroad, it will provide you with a world-class education and experiences that will equip you to be an agent for change.
Discover Who You Are
Like most teens, you may feel a little lost after high school, relax, this is entirely normal. Studying overseas places you into a new environment and pushes you out of your comfort zone. By pushing yourself, emotionally, academically and socially, you will discover more about yourself in 1 year than you have in the previous 18. Getting an international education will help you to assess your relationships, explore your passions and find your calling.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Money makes the world go round right? Well, most of the time! In the USA, a students academic and athletic ability can make an International education a reality regardless of how much money you have. Three of Aspire Atlantic's employees studied in the USA and paid absolutely nothing to do so. Of course, this depends on where you study in the USA but in 2017 USA Colleges and Universities gave away over $3.2 billion in scholarship opportunities. Types of scholarships you can win are for sports, academics, cultural activities and even for just being an international student! What's cool is that colleges like Harvard and Princeton have Need-Based Financial Aid, which means if you can get in but can't afford to go, they will pay for you, and you don't have to pay a thing! Pretty cool right?
If the USA is your first choice when looking to study overseas, you won't be disappointed! Americans are known for being bigger and better when it comes to materialistic things, but the same holds true for their personalities! In general, they are extremely friendly and hospitable people, so don't let the news or Donald Trump fool you. Of course not everyone you meet is going to become your best friend; however, chances are that you will meet many lifelong friends along the way. We live in an age of Social media and Facetime! Keeping in touch with your international friends has never been easier.
Enjoy The Simple Life
Going to college anywhere in the world is not known for living in the lap of luxury. Being a student usually means living off a set allowance and working part-time to make ends meet. If you ask the founder of Aspire Atlantic, Tyler Hollingsworth, how he got by in college, he'll tell you he juggled being a full-time student, a scholarship soccer player and working shifts between class and practice at the Dean's Office. Working teaches you many things, like the value of what you have, and to work hard for the luxuries you want. Especially being an international student, you will generally have fewer possessions than the average and being away from home can make you miss familiar comforts. But soon, you will learn that living a minimalistic life will give you an entirely new appreciation for what you have and determination to achieve what you want.
University is generally the first time people move away from home. It is an amazing time with so much to look forward to! However, no one is going to wake you up on time or tell you to do your homework; it's up to you to make the most out of your experience. So get out there, learn about other cultures, grow your global network, find your passions, come back to your home country, and be an agent for good. Our chief aim at Aspire Atlantic is to inspire you to not only change your life but to change the world, and we know that there is a giant within everyone reading this blog. So good luck in college, we know you will do great things!
It’s the end of the summer and your freshman year at University in America is creeping up on you. New experiences, new classes, and new friends. So exciting, but also a little intimidating. As an international student, you may be feeling overwhelmed, but don’t worry you’re not alone. Even the local first year students are feeling exactly the same; you’re all in the same boat! Consequently, people are very interested in making friends their first year.
Here are a few different tips to making friends in your first year at University.
Be Yourself & Take advantage of your culture
No matter what University you decide to attend, there will always be people who share similar interest as you and even meet your personality type. Whether you’re into sports, theatre, or art, there will always be someone to share your interests with. Yes, you come from a different culture, but in my experience, Americans love internationals. You are new, different and exciting! Take advantage of it.
Take advantage of the dorms
Dorms are filled with other freshman going through the same experience as you. Everyone is eager to make friends. Many dorms have common rooms where you can watch tv and play games. Something simple as joining a few kids at a game of table tennis or watching a program on TV is a great way to meet someone new. Remember that even though you may be farther away from home than many of your peers, it’s likely that they are missing home just as much as you. Bond over shared feelings like this.
Don’t stay in your room
Although the dorms are an awesome place to meet friends, don’t limit yourself, and don’t lock yourself in your room all day! Get out and be social. There are so many events happening around campus all the time, especially for freshman. Check flyers on the walls and your school email, there is bound to be something to do. Universities are always having events, especially for freshman, whether it’s a weekend picnic, game night, or movie night; there is always something to do.
It’s okay if your roommate isn’t your best friend
Having a roommate, you share common interests with certainly makes things easier, but don’t fret if you don’t click. There are so many students on campus, don’t stress if you don’t find your best friend in your roommate your first year, I certainly did not.
If there are clubs based on your interests, do it! Joining something you love with others can help create a bond with other students and it makes for great conversation and long lasting friends. You may even meet older students who can help you get adjusted in your first year.
Do your research before you go
It is impossible to predict what type of people you’ll meet or what conversations you’ll have, however, knowing just a little about the things people talk about can prepare you for any introduction. For example, you may not know every NFL football team in America, however just knowing what American Football is may help you in a conversation.
Americans also use a lot of different slang and phrases. For example, if someone was to ask you “pass me the ball” some Americans may say something like “let me see that ball”.
Preparing for a few small differences like this may help you when adjusting to your new temporary home at university. If you don’t understand something someone says, don’t fret! Just ask! No one will judge you for not understanding.
Eat Meals with people
Since the dawn of time, people have always bonded over food. Just like how families should sit down to have dinner together, so should friends. College is no different; a meal is a great way to bond and get closer to a new friend or even chat with an old one. Just met someone new? Ask them if they’d like to grab lunch with you at the cafeteria, or local shop.
Ask the usual questions
It may seem obvious or Cliché, but small talk is important when meeting someone new.
For example: “Where are you from?” “How do you like it here so far?” “What classes are you taking” “What’s your major?” “Are you involved in any clubs or sports?”
These are just a few small basic questions that prepare you for any conversation.
Invite people to do your regular activities with you.
Perhaps you work out or do yoga every day. Invite a friend to join! Even if it’s not something they have done previously, they might be open to trying something new. Vice versa, if someone asks you to do an activity with them, even if it may seem strange at first, try it anyways! You never know, you could really enjoy it.
This may seem like an obvious topic, but it’s important. We all have different personalities. You may be really sarcastic and like to joke around and that is okay! Always remember to be yourself, just be aware of how far to take it. I’m not saying you need to be a people pleaser, that may be a step too far, but just be aware of your friend’s feelings. It’s very important to care for them. You will notice how your attitude towards them can reflect their attitude towards you.
All in all, studying in a different country is just that. Different; but don’t be afraid. Be outgoing and get involved. Remember that everyone is just as nervous an eager to make new friends as you are. You WILL make friends, and soon enough you’ll get used to the different lifestyle America holds. As different as it may be, different is okay. At the end of the day you will have had an amazing and unique experience, and will have made so many wonderful memories along the way.
University Interviews are something most South Africans students are not used to, but if you are looking to study in the UK and the USA, interviews play a significant part of the admissions process and can be the deciding point between acceptance and rejection. Top international universities get many more qualified applicants than they can accept, so interviews are a way of seeing if you will be a good cultural fit. Below we have put together a few steps to help you ace your interview.
It goes without saying that you should always prepare for an interview, regardless if it’s for Harvard or to work the drive-through menu at McDonald’s. By demonstrating an interest in the history of the university, it is a good way to show that you will be a good fit. Just because attending Stanford would be cool, and it will impress all your friends, that is not a good enough reason to be accepted. Failing to learn about the university is one of the most common mistake students make.
International students may or may not have the interview in person. Sometimes, the interviewers will conduct a Skype/FaceTime meeting, or have alumni meet with you at a coffee shop. Do not let this informal setting confuse you, the interviewer may be friendly and laid back, but you must be professional.
When answering questions, you need to be professional in your approach and concise in your answers. Show evidence of your successes without being arrogant and demonstrate a personality of selflessness and emotional intelligence. It's important to note that you must not have a prepared speech, which will come across as cliché, but you should have a list of points that are relevant to the university and why you will be a good fit.
Before the interview, write out your achievements and what you are most passionate about. Then clearly identify the value of those achievements and what they will bring to the university. Next, visit the school's website and see if the university has clubs, organisations or projects where you will be able to contribute in those area's. Remember your achievements need to make you stand out and show what makes you different!
CV or Resumé:
In South Africa, we use CV’s to display experience, while in the USA they use a Resumé. The nice thing about a Resumé is that it is a summary of your achievements which can be used all over the world. CV’s are going out of fashion, due to the twitterisation of the modern world. Interviewers write a recommendation to universities, by providing them with a resume it will ensure they know your skills when drafting the letter.
The interviewers look at three main things during your interview, 1) Depth of commitment to something other than academics, 2) Intellect and, 3) Personal skills. If you can clearly express something you care about, show evidence of initiative, and demonstrate thoughtfulness, you will have had a successful interview. Remember that most of the interviewers are not being paid, meaning they have given up their time to meet you! Generally, interviewers are nice; they love meeting new people and will enjoy learning from you. All you have to do is explain yourself in a clear, concise manner and they will send a positive letter to the admissions committee.
The college interview process should be a fun experience where you get to meet a person who wants to be your champion at your dream university. If you are prepared and confident, they will help you get in! So congrats if you have earned yourself an interview, just follow the points above, and you will be well on your way to acing the interview.
All blogs are written by former student-athletes. If you would like to learn more, please leave a comment below and the author will respond to your questions.