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What I Have Gained As an International Student in the United States

Op-ed

I believe I am fortunate, as I recently had the chance to study abroad in the United States of America. Thanks to its high-quality education, I have learned, and also gained, a lot— even more than what my family and I initially expected. I now also understand why so many parents work so hard and are willing to do anything to get their children an American education. So, if you are curious about what it is like to be an international student and why the U.S. has such a successful education sector, this article is for you.

1. Learned updated and practical knowledge

Compared to what I learned in Vietnam, the lessons I've been taught in the United States so far have been much more updated and practical. I was really surprised at first because there is no permanent English curriculum. Each year, the books students read at a certain grade level are different. For example, this year, we were assigned to read American Dirt and The Hate U Give. The content of these books was, indeed, practical. In my class, we not only focused on analyzing the text but gathering around and discussing our favorite quotes and scenes, too.

Additionally, there were elective classes that gave us time to relax and develop our artistic talents. In my school, we had the option to take classes in fundamental art, instrumental art, theater, digital art, and the culinary arts, and I chose to learn the piano. What's so wonderful about it is that I was given plenty of opportunities to perform in front of crowds— something that has undeniably helped me polish my confidence and skills.

2. Gained independence

This time last year, I was on my way to the U.S. without the hope of any familiar faces. When I was in Vietnam, everyone in my family seemed to guide me and protect me from everything. Well, studying abroad alone changed some things. I had to live on my own, and most of my problems, from the small to the serious, had to be solved without much outside assistance. Because of this, I'm confident that I have acquired a way of acknowledging when to ask for help and when to do it myself. Needless to say, independence is one of the most essential qualities required in being a successful person, especially for those who want to study abroad or conquer the world. There will definitely be times when your own strength and volition are the only weapons that can help, so be strong and be ready for any obstacles.

3. Made new friends

At first, I was a bit shy about getting to know new people. I finally summoned up the courage to step out of my comfort zone by initiating a conversation. It is absolutely amazing to have new friends, especially other international students because learning about their different cultures and religions is such an eye-opening experience.

Besides, the extracurricular activities at school play a really important role. I joined the newspaper club, and the International club (my job and also other members are to organize our international student's national celebrations or festivals; be in charge of the school's thrift store). I also participated in the tutoring program, which considerably helped me make more friends.

4. Started sports

Although we do have physical education classes in Vietnamese schools, they are not considered as serious as those in the U.S. Despite being clueless about sports, I began to do cross-country, tennis, and even softball! I was surely not the best athlete, but I still gave these activities a try and had an amazing time with my teams. I would really like to say thank you to my cross-country and softball coach, who was the man who encouraged me to participate in sports.

My mom told me that the most essential thing about a human is not the level of wealth, but the level of health. Every weekday, we spent 2 hours doing sports, including both individual and team activities, and the thing I liked most about them was the diversity. At my school, we had basketball, soccer, swimming, volleyball, tennis, horse-riding, and more!

5. Spent time in a wonderful environment

Attending a private high school in the U.S. was the best decision I have ever made. While my school was definitely not perfect, my experiences were still wonderful because of the people I met along the way. Now, I have two new friends who will always be there when I need them, along with my passionate teachers who have always made me feel cared for.

Studying abroad has never been easy, but the value it brings is really precious. Like other people, I did suffer with homesickness at first, particularly because of the language barrier. Nevertheless, these hard times really lasted for only a month, giving way for all the wonderful experiences that followed.

Vi Cao
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Vi is a writer from Vietnam. She is studying in the US as a high school student. Vi loves watching movies, reading books in her free time. Hope you will have a good time while reading her articles.