All posts in Student Life

  • I’m studying in the US. Can I stay in America after I finish my degree?

    It’s possible to stay in the US under certain circumstances. We take a closer look at two options – OPT and H-1B

    Most international students studying in the US have been granted entry into the country on an F-1 visa. This visa allows students to attend college, university, conservatory, high school, elementary school, and seminary or language school in the US. If you are studying in the US on an F-1 visa, once the study program is finished, you will have 60 days to depart the country, get a new visa or otherwise validate your stay in the country.

    If you would like to stay in the US after you have completed your program, the first possibility you should consider is the Optional Practice Training (OPT) program.

    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Intern. International student. Portrait Of An Office Worker

    OPT is a program that allows international students to work in the US after their graduation, and gain practical experience.  Students with F-1 visas may apply for 12 months of OPT after each level of education complete. For instance, after completing their bachelor education, students can apply for 12 months of OPT, and then for another 12 months after the completion of their master degree. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates have the option to extend their program by 17 months (to total 29 months).

    While you participate in your OPT program, you do not need a new visa. OPT program participants are treated as F-1 status holders.

    H-1B Speciality Occupations

    Another option available to you is to change your visa status to H-1B by applying for an interim OPT phase before H-1B, or to apply for H-1B directly from F-1.

    H-1B Specialty Occupations is a non-immigrant visa that gives graduates temporary employment authorization in high-skilled occupations. H-1B applicants are required to have specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent). Most H-1B jobs are in industries such as science, engineering, and information technology. Under this visa you are allowed to work in the US for initial period of three years, and you may apply for an extension which, if your application is successful, will entitled you to a further three years in the US.

    Here are some useful tips on how to get started

    Start early

    Intern. International student. Woman's hand writing on a notebook with a pen on a wooden desk.

    Plan ahead and try to secure a job or an internship as soon as possible so you have time to prepare all of the required documents. You can even start looking before your graduation, and by doing this you can be sure that you have explored all available options.

    Choose your start day wisely

    You are allowed to choose your OPT start date. Keep in mind that with OPT status you can stay in the US for 90 days while unemployed, and the 12-month work period begins on the start date you choose on your application.


    Building connections is also very important when you are looking for an internship or a job. You never know how the person you met yesterday can help you in finding the perfect job tomorrow. Therefore, go out, attend different events, and make connections that may turn out to be very effective.

    Attend career forums

    Career forums can be quite useful so give them a chance! You will get to meet people representing different companies and sectors, and you can be introduced to other people that can offer you exactly what you have been looking for.

  • Moving to the US to study? Here’s 10 things to expect

    From your daunting first day to excelling in the classroom – top tips to make the most of college life

    Are you planning a move to the US for study? You’re not alone.

    In fact, the US attracts 1,000,000 international students to its colleges and universities every year. And it’s very easy to see why.

    American universities are amongst the best in the world and offer truly high-class education opportunities to their students. Away from the campus, the US boasts a large mix of cultures which makes it a really interesting place to study and live.

    But moving to a new country is always a big deal for any international student. And it can be hard to know what to expect.

    With this in mind, here’s 10 things to expect when you arrive in the US to study.

    1 – You might freak out at first!

    Let’s face it. There’s a lot to do at first when you move to a new country.

    You’ve got to move into your accommodation and unpack. Next you have to familiarize yourself with the local area. And then you’ve got to get set up with supplies, college necessities, a new phone, a bank account ……..

    And then it hits you. ‘I’m an international student in America. And I’m a long way from home.’

    But don’t freak out! This is when the exciting stuff starts to happen. Go out and meet new people.

    It’s likely there’ll be lots of international students that are going through the same things you are. Talk to them. Pretty soon you’ll be feeling right at home in your new surroundings!

    2 – You can hit the ground running

    ‘Orientation Week’ or ‘Welcome Week’ can be a really useful time to help you get used to your new surroundings. During this week you’ll have a great opportunity to explore your new campus and find your bearings. You’ll also be properly introduced to your course, tutors, and peers.

    Make sure you use this time to sign up for lots of on-campus clubs and societies as these are a good way to meet people.

    3 – There are top-notch student support facilitates available on campus

    Studying in the US is no doubt a rewarding experience, but navigating your way through day-to-day issues can sometimes be tough. The aim of an international student office is to assist students, just like you, to adapt to their new environment.

    That’s why they offer a wide range of student services such as:

    • English-language practice courses
    • Orientations, and trainings
    • Financial aid
    • Career advice
    • On-campus psychiatry and counselling

    They can also help to answer any questions you may have regarding your visa status, housing, employment possibilities, health concerns and more.

    4 – You’ll find cutting-edge technology

    American universities pride themselves on being at the forefront of technology and research techniques.

    If you’re chosen discipline doesn’t directly involve science or engineering, don’t worry. You’ll still have tonnes of opportunity to become skilled in using the latest technology to conduct research, as well as obtain and process information.

    5 – Life in college is relaxed…. until the grading begins!

    Life on campus is usually pretty relaxed and flexible. In fact, it’s normal for US students to work classes into their own schedules.

    Most students are not obliged to show up at every single class, or even to stay for an entire lecture. But, just because you can avoid and skip classes, doesn’t mean you should!

    Remember, the importance of your grades and Grade Point Average (GPA – an average score based on the grades and results of every class you’ve taken during your studies) can’t be overstated.

    The key is to find the right balance between your studies and enjoying campus life.

    6 – You’ll acclimatize to the culture sooner than you think!

    If you like sports, you’re going to feel right at home in the US. Between all of the professional sports like basketball, American football, ice hockey, baseball and soccer, there is something on pretty much every night of the week!

    And Americans take their college sports pretty seriously too. In fact, some of the biggest stadiums in the world were built for US college teams.

    Rooting for your college team is a great way to feel part of the community. Not only will this help you to have conversations with native students, it will also provide you with an authentic experience of American culture.

    Away from the sports field, you’ll find no shortage of options to keep you entertained. America is at the cutting edge of the music, film and literary worlds. So it won’t take you too long to find something you like.

    If you like going out on the town, remember that the legal drinking age in the US is 21. And you’ll need a proper ID to get into most bars and clubs.

    7 – Opening a bank account may take some time

    You’ll find a US bank account to be very useful, especially if you plan to work part-time, pay bills or keep savings. Setting up a bank account can take some time, as there a number of steps to complete. So it’s a good idea to start this process soon after you arrive in the US.

    Here’s further information on how to set-up a US bank account and some more tips for international students in America.

    8 – You shouldn’t work too hard!

    You may be intending to search for employment in your spare time and earn some extra cash. But be careful, as not all types of employment are eligible under the conditions of an F-1 (student) visa.

    For instance, F-1 students who want to work off campus can only do so in roles that are related to their studies. Most of the other off campus roles are not authorized under F-1 and you will need permission by a DSO (Designated School Official) in special circumstances to do this work.

    F-1 students are entitled, however, to find employment on campus.

    But it’s important to note that while school is in regular session, a student can’t work for more than 20 hours per week. During extended holidays, breaks and summer sessions, you can work full time (up to 40 hours per week).  If you are confused whether a job is considered on-campus employment, ask the employer before you accept the role.

    9 – You’re going to have to file a tax return

    You may find this a bit strange if you are normally resident in a country where you don’t have a tax filing obligation.

    Yes, every international student is required to file a tax return (federal and state, if required) for each year present in the US, and pay tax if they earn income. In fact, it’s one of the terms of the student visa.

    And even if you don’t earn money during your time in the US, you will still need to file with the IRS by the April 17 deadline.

    Many international students find the prospect of filing a tax return to be quite daunting and this is completely understandable. Fortunately help is on hand!

    Sprintax can file your fully compliant Federal, State and FICA tax return. We can also help you to retrieve your maximum legal tax refund. And, if you’re confused about your US tax obligations, Sprintax can answer any questions you have. Get in contact with us today!

    We’ll take care of the complex tax requirements so all you have to do is enjoy your time studying in America!

    10 – You’ll have a blast

    You’re studying in the United States after all!

    Each day you will have opportunities, not only to broaden your knowledge in top academic institutions, but also to collect countless life experiences that will stay with you forever.

    Most universities offer a variety of student clubs and organizations to meet every interest. You’ll also have the chance to immerse yourself in American culture, meet new people and make new friends.

    What could be more exciting? Enjoy!

  • 10 Tips to Decorate Your Dorm Room

    dorm room

    Need to spruce up your dorm room? Maybe everything is looking a bit flat! Here are 10 tips to help you decorate your room.



    1. Plants




    Small indoor plants can bring your room to life! If you don’t like maintenance try some hard wearing indoor plants or get a cactus. They are a pretty, healthy way of brightening up your room.



    2. Removable wallpaper




    Get some awesome patterns on your wall with removable wallpaper sheets from Chasing Paper. You can even wallpaper your nightstand drawers with floral papers or patterns which can quickly transform tired or boring furniture.



    3. Rug

    rug and dog



    Soft furnishings like rugs are a great way to add some comfort and personality to your room. Your school may have rules about dimensions so check first but a nice rug can really pull a room together! Buy a slipmat for underneath.



    4. Photo/wall Mural

    photo mural



    Create a personalized photo or wall mural as a quick way to brighten up the walls!



    5. A nice headboard




    Find a nice headboard to make your bed a bit more plush and attractive. You can use a bold headboard to make a statement and offset it with some fresh white linens.



    6. Picture/Photo Collage

    photo collage



    One of the best things about university is making friends! A photo collage is a great way to have your friends and family with you right in your dorm room and can be a warm colorful way to brighten up the place!



    7. Lighting




    Decorate your room with some string lights or some fun lamps. Be careful to always switch them off at night.



    8. Shelving

    washi tape

    Decorate your shelves with Washi tape on the edging. If you get bored you can just get new tape. Add custom bookends to keep your books in order.



    9. Mirror, Mirror




    Get a nice mirror! Buy a full length mirror to create the illusion of space or a small mirror you can decorate with lights. You can always decorate or paint the border if it needs sprucing up!



    10. Cushions and pillows

    cushions and pillows



    Find some fun cushions or throw pillows to add some color or to soften up the room.

  • 50 Facts About Thanksgiving


    Thanksgiving is a big celebration in the US and takes place  on the 26th November this year. Did you know that Americans spend around $2.8 billion every year on food for Thanksgiving? Or that the first “meal on the moon” was roast turkey? Find out all you need to know about Thanksgiving in the US with these 50 fascination facts!


    history of thanksgiving


    1. The Plymouth pilgrims were the first people to celebrate Thanksgiving and it was organized by Governor William Bradford. (Despite earlier Thanksgiving feasts probably taking place, this is the most-cited and one of the most influential on modern Thanksgiving in the US)


    2. At the first Thanksgiving, everyone was probably a bit drunk, including the children. Beer was often considered safer than water and it was served to everyone at meals, including babies.


    3. It’s estimated that around 90% of Native Americans were wiped out by diseases such as smallpox even before the pilgrims arrived.


    4. When pilgrims landed in North America, the Wampanoag Indians taught them how to cultivate the land.


    5. “Squanto”, a Wampanoag, befriended and helped the pilgrims on planting corn, how to fish, and how to gather berries and nuts.


    6. Wampanoag means “Easterners” or “People of the Dawn”.


    7. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted 3 days.


    8. Historians believe wild game and vegetables were served at the first Thanksgiving feast.


    9. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a public holiday in 1863 after pressure and campaigning from Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote ‘’Mary had a little Lamb’’.


    10. The longest Thanksgiving in history lasted four months. It was held in Hawaii and was called “Makahiki”.


    11. The first “meal on the moon” was roast turkey.


    12. “Jingle Bells” was originally a Thanksgiving song composed by James Pierpont in 1857 for his Sunday school class.


    13. There were no forks during the first Thanksgiving; only spoons and knives!


    14. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade took place in 1924 in New York. Now 3 million people attend the parade every year while 44 million watch on T.V.


    celebrations at Thanksgiving


    15. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving too, on the first Monday in October. The first Canadian Thanksgiving is often attributed to the explorer Martin Frobisher back in 1578.


    16. The Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York is the world’s largest inflatable parade.


    17. More alcohol is consumed on this holiday than at any other time in the US.


    18. The Virgin Islands celebrate traditional Thanksgiving Day but also “Hurricane Thanksgiving Day” every October 19th if there have been no hurricanes.


    19. The National Football League held the first Thanksgiving Classic Games in 1920.


    20. Thanksgiving Day is the busiest travel day in the year in the US.


    21. Other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving include Germany, Grenada, Korea, and Norfolk Island.


    22. The night before Thanksgiving is the biggest day for bar sales in the US.


    23. Snoopy has appeared in the Macy’s Parade more than any other character in history.


    24. “Un-thanksgiving Day” is celebrated at Alcatraz Island every year, commemorating the survival of Native Americans following the arrival of European settlers.


    25. The Friday after Thanksgiving is called ‘’Black Friday’’ and is the biggest sale day for retailers. The name comes from the idea that the sales will take them out of the red and back into profit.


    Food at Thanksgiving


    26. Around three quarters of Americans serve store-bought cranberry sauce vs homemade.


    27. Americans consume 5,062,500 gallons of jellied cranberry sauce each holiday season; the equivalent of more than 7 Olympic-sized swimming pools.


    28. Americans spend about $8 billion each year on holiday staples for the feast.


    29. Approx 2.4 billion lb: The weight of sweet potatoes made by major sweet potato producing states in 2014.


    30. “Turducken” is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken and is becoming a popular dish for Thanksgiving.


    31. More than 40 million bean casseroles are served during Thanksgiving.


    32. Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York are the top pumpkin-growing states.


    33. The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was 3,699 lb and over 20 ft. in diameter.


    Turkey at Thanksgiving


    34. Around 46 million turkeys are consumed during Thanksgiving, with the average Turkey weighing 16 lb.


    35. The largest man-made turkey is in Frazee, Minnesota. “Big Tom” weighs over 5,000 lb.


    36. Butterball, a brand of Turkey, opened a Turkey Talk-Line nearly 30 years ago with 6 home economists answering questions from 11,000 phone calls in its first year.


    37. The largest gathering of people dressed as Turkeys is 661 and was accomplished at the annual Capital One Bank Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot in Dallas, Texas, in November 2011.


    38. The world’s heaviest turkey (ever recorded) weighed 86 lbs. (39.09kg).


    39. There are four places in the US named Turkey: Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; Turkey Creek, Arizona, and Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot in Pennsylvania!


    40. Commercially raised Turkeys cannot fly!


    41. A large group of turkeys is called a “flock”.


    42. Turkeys sometimes suffer and die from heart attacks.


    43. The state of California consumes the most turkey.


    44. Each year, the US president pardons a turkey to spare it from being eaten at Thanksgiving dinner.


    45. Females turkeys do not ‘’gobble’’. It’s only the males.


    46. Around 88% of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving.


    45. Thanksgiving is responsible for T.V. dinners. In 1953, Swanson began creating them to sell a large surplus of frozen turkeys they had leftover.


    46. Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state in the US.


    47. If it was up to Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of US, the turkey would be the national symbol instead of the eagle.


    48. In the 1930s, hunters had almost decimated the population of wild turkeys, but thankfully their numbers increased after the introduction of hunting regulations and conservation efforts.


    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 3 Awesome Ways Students Celebrate Halloween in the US

    Halloween in the US

    Students in the US have really embraced the Celtic tradition of Halloween and as an international student in the US, you’ll get to experience first-hand just how much they like to celebrate.

    So…exactly how big of a deal is it?

    Halloween is a HUGE deal in the US, with Americans spending over $7 billion on the holiday last year, including more than $2 billion on candy and around $2.8 billion on costumes!

    Here’s a breakdown of Halloween spending in the US:

    sprintax infographic

    If you haven’t experienced Halloween in the US yet, you’re definitely in for a treat! The mass immigration of Irish and Scottish in the 1800s dramatically increased the popularity of this Celtic tradition and it’s now celebrated by millions of people in the country on October 31st each year.

    On this night, it’s estimated that around 170 million Americans start carving pumpkins, put on their best fancy dress, and revel the night away at a party or trick or treat to celebrate this tradition.

    Being a student at Halloween

    Students in the US have really embraced Halloween and international students are always welcome to join in the festivities. It may be your first Halloween but you’ll get to experience an entirely new type of fun!

    As well as small house parties, you may come across ‘’block parties’’, where celebrations take place across several street blocks. For example, in Athens, Ohio, the annual Halloween block party spans a number of blocks and around 10,000-30,000 people in fancy dress descend upon the city, almost doubling the population. It’s so big now that the University of Ohio will only let each student have one guest stay for the weekend!

    1. Parties

    From house parties to Halloween balls and haunted houses, there are always lots of ways to celebrate. For students in the US, this is one of the biggest party seasons of the year and you’ll find many fraternities, sororities, and student organizations holding Halloween parties where the students get to show off their scariest costumes.

    Pennsylvania State University hosts a week long “pumpkin festival” each year dedicated to the art of pumpkin carving. The festival also has music, food, and crafts alongside the pumpkin carving competition.

    Every Halloween, Texas A&M University takes students on a trip through the “haunted woods”. The funds from the trail go to charity so patrons have the chance to be philanthropic whilst getting the fright of their lives.

    Check out some of the best university Halloween parties in the US here.

    2. Haunted Houses

    Do you enjoy a good fright? If so, you’re in luck, because the US is home to some of the best haunted houses in the world.

    Frightland in Middleton, Delaware, has eight different and uniquely terrifying haunted attractions, from a zombie ghost town to a haunted barn and more.

    Erebus in Pontiac, Michigan, houses four stories of horror and Philadelphia’s Terror Behind the Walls is set within a now defunct US prison believed to be haunted by former inmates.

    Here is a list of some of the top haunted houses and attractions in the US.

    3. Horror Movies

    Another way US students like to celebrate is by watching a horror film, for example, Georgetown University screens the Exorcist each year in honor of the scenes that were filmed on campus. So why not grab a bucket of popcorn and enjoy a scary night at the movies?

    As you can see from above, there are lots of ways to get into the Halloween spirit. What could be better than dressing up, decorating the house, and heading to a party?!

    Have fun and happy Halloween!

  • Food on a Budget

    With the rising cost of books and accommodation, being a student can be a costly affair. One of the best ways to stick to your budget is to save money on food.


    1. Keep it simple

    Keep your meals simple. Instead of buying processed foods, ditch the pot-noodles and buy basic staples such as rice, beans, and pasta. They’re cheaper, will last longer, and are healthier for you!

    Shop in cheap chain supermarkets such as Wegmans, Trader-Jos, and Walmart, and try your local fruit and vegetable markets and stores for fresh, cheap produce.


    2. Eat Healthy

    Eat three square meals a day, including a healthy breakfast to keep you from pining after that croissant. Cook your meals from scratch instead of buying expensive ready-meals and try to incorporate at least one fresh vegetable or fruit into each meal.


    3. Shop smart

    Don’t shop when you’re hungry! Shop at times when prices will be reduced and look out for deals.

    • Do your shopping in the evenings for reduced prices
    • Look for items like baked goods that are reduced to clear
    • Buy store-branded products
    • Get fruit and vegetables in-season
    • Keep one day to do your weekly shop


    4. Go Vegetarian

    Meat is expensive, so going on a vegetarian diet, even for just a few days a week, will save you money. Meat-free Monday is fast becoming a trend! If you want to buy meat, shop at the local butchers or meat market to find deals.


    5. Learn to cook

    Make your own juices, sandwiches, and coffee. This will save you from wasting money in the canteen and you can make your own meals in a matter of minutes.


    6. Look for deals

    Feel like eating out? Try the daily deal sites for discounts or go to the restaurant early to catch the early bird. Tipping is mandatory in the US so don’t forget to budget for at least a 15% tip. Also, be aware some restaurants will add a sales tax at the till!


    Bon apetit!

  • Getting a Job in the US

    Every student comes to the US with dreams and ambitions. Here are some tips to turn your dream job into a career:


    Plan your Career

    Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day! Get networking–it will help you gain useful contacts. Most importantly, do what you love– choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!


    Start Your Search

    Focus on what you want to get from your career. Set goals and patiently execute them one by one and aim high. Search for jobs in the newspapers, employment centres, and on websites such as, specifically for recent graduates.


    Resume Vs CV

    A US CV is usually called a ‘resume’, and is different to the CV that you’re used to.

    Here’s why:

    A CV showcases your experience and is a ‘story’ about your academic and professional life, while a resume is a much shorter document with highlights of your academic life and career.

    Resumes should be one page long, and include a short, chronological list of previous experience and education. Get some good references from within the US if you can.


    Going for an interview

    Once you get the interview, remember these tips:

    • Don’t be late!
    • Research the company thoroughly
    • Practice your answers
    • Ask some questions
    • Look clean and professional


    And lastly, don’t forget to show your enthusiasm and let them know you really want the job!




  • Getting a Scholarship for the US

    Getting a scholarship to the US can make a fairy-tale come true. Here are some tips on getting one:


    Apply for as many scholarships as you can! Start researching early and meet deadlines. Contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend, use the public library or research online. Double check everything and make sure the offers you receive are legitimate.

    Keep a record

    Retain all your documents. This is very important and can be applied to all paperwork involved with becoming an international student in the US.  Make a photocopy of your application before mailing it and send the application by certified mail.

    Meet the terms and conditions

    Usually you can’t apply for a scholarship until you’ve been accepted on a course. You can pay your tuition fees and travel expenses without a scholarship first. That way, if you win a grant, you can pay back your bank loan or have a bit of extra spending money.

    Be yourself

    Personalize your essay or letters to the principal – don’t let someone else write them. Don’t rush yourself, just take your time, and be positive and clear. Don’t forget to list all your awards, community work, and career experience.

    Your online profile

    Use a professional email address (for example And don’t forget to clean up the contents of your online accounts, removing any inappropriate or immature material.

    Have a back-up plan

    The scholarship amount will not cover all your expenses. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a full scholarship, you’ll still have a lot of expenses (food, travel, books, etc).

    Don’t forget to apply for as many scholarships as you’re eligible for and provide as much relevant detail as possible.

    Good luck!