All posts in Student Life

  • 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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 college.monster.com, 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:

    Research

    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 firstname.lastname@gmail.com). 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!

     

  • Getting a Student Visa for the US

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    If you want to study in the US as an international student, you’ll need a student visa. Your course of study and the school you want to attend will determine if you need to apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa.

    Before you apply

    You must get a place in a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school before you apply for your visa. You can search the Department of Homeland Security website Study in the States for SEVP approved schools. You’ll need to be accepted by a SEVP school 6-12 months in advance. There’s also a SEVIS fee you must pay separately to visa and school SEVIS administration fees.

    Types of student visas

    Depending on your course of study, you’ll need an F-1 or M-1 visa.

    F-1 Visa:

    • University or college
    • High School
    • Private elementary school
    • Seminary
    • Conservatory
    • Other academic institution (incl. language training)

    M-1 visa:

    • Vocational or recognized non-academic institution (other than language training)

     

    How to apply

    Once you secure a place, you should visit your US embassy or consulate website for specific information. However, generally there are a number of steps:

    1. Complete an online application (Form DS-160)
    2. Upload a photo
    3. Print the application confirmation
    4. Schedule an interview with your local embassy or consulate
    5. Take your application with you to the interview

     

    Fees

    You’ll have to pay a non-refundable application fee. The amount depends on the country where you apply. New students can get an F-1 or M-1 visa up to 120 days before the start of their course, but won’t be allowed to enter the US earlier than 30 days before the start date.

     

    What documents do I need for my interview?

    • Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond your stay)
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page
    • Application fee receipt
    • Form I-20A-B or Form I-20M-N (your school will send you Form I-20 once they’ve put your details in the SEVIS database)
    • Check the instructions on your embassy website as additional documents may be required

     

    Upon finishing your course

    F-1 visa holders can stay in the US for an extra 60 days after completing the course but M-1 visa holders may only remain an extra 30 days after their course is finished.

    This is called a ‘grace period’ and lets you prepare for your departure from the US.

    Good luck!

  • F1 Visas: Facts for International Students

    Can you imagine yourself going to the United States to study and have a ton of fun at the same time? If this is your dream, then your wish could come true if you apply for an F1 Visa (Student Visa).

    Below is some essential information to help you achieve these goals:

    Your ability to pay

    One of the requirements for applying for an F-1 visa is that you prove you can pay the fees for your course of study for the first year and show how your costs will be paid for in the coming years.

    I-20 Form

    One of the most important elements in the application process is the I-20 form, also named the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, which will be given to you by the university you’re applying for.

    Can I work in the U.S. while studying at the university?

    Students are usually allowed to work on the campus of the university and training programs are also permitted, but you must take note that it’s a visa for academic purposes. If any F1-students are interested in starting work, they should first ask for advice from their DSO (Designated School Official) or any foreign student advisor.

    Can I transfer to a different school?

    Yes, but you should notify your current school first and get an I-20 form from the new school and give it to your new DSO within 15 days.

    The F1 visa is the best and most popular choice for foreign students. It’s a great chance to widen your horizons, expand your knowledge, and make new friendships. If you would like to learn more, then don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team for more information.

    If you’re already on your way, then don’t forget to check out our essential tips to studying in the US.

    Be open to new adventures and you will have an amazing time in US!

     

  • Tips for International Students: Columbia University

    (Photo by AlMare)

    The oldest institution of higher learning in New York State, Columbia University was originally founded in 1754 as King’s College by Royal Charter of George II. Eventually renamed as Columbia College, it was renamed again to Columbia University in 1896. It counts the Five Founding Fathers of the US, three US presidents, and nine Supreme Court Justices among its alumni. Columbia also has a large underground tunnel system that’s over a century old, with the oldest portions predating the current campus.

    The university administers the Pulitzer Prize annually, an award for achievements in journalism, literature, and musical composition. As well as 20 schools and affiliations with many institutes of higher learning, the university also has several global centres dotted around the world in cities such as Amman, Beijing, and Istanbul.

     

    Getting Around:

    1. Inter-campus shuttle

    The best way to get around campus during term time is to use the Intercampus Shuttle buses running Monday to Friday. They will take you around all the main centres and departments on campus and are fully accessible. There’s also a handy app that lets you track the shuttle in real-time so you know when it’s approaching your stop.

     

    2. Public Transport

    Columbia University covers 32 acres in Morningside Heights in the borough of Manhattan in New York and is served by many buses and subway trains all over the city and in and out of Le Guardia and JFK Airports. Luckily, Columbia University has partnered with NJ TRANSIT to offer full-time students a discount of 25% off the price of a bus, rail, or light rail monthly pass.

     

    3. By car

    If you don’t want to cycle, take public transport, or you just want a day trip, then one option is to use a car. You can easily rent or share a car using Zipcar, a university-approved car rental service where you simply become a member, reserve your car, and drive off from one of the locations around campus. If you have a full driver’s license in your home country, then you’ll be able to use it to drive in the US legally. You can also apply for a New York State license but your authorized stay must be a total duration of one year, with at least 6 months before the expiry date.

     

    Accommodation:

    1. Student housing

    Most first year students live on campus, unless you have specific permission to live with a parent or a guardian. Columbia has apartment buildings and traditional residence halls in the neighborhoods of South Lawn, East Campus, West Campus, and The Block. As a first year student you’re guaranteed housing for up to four years, and to get the guarantee, you must complete a housing application form. You might not always get your first choice, as it’s often determined by random number selection and seniority, but you’ll be allocated campus housing in some form!

     

    2. Off campus housing

    Off campus housing is a more feasible choice for sophomores and graduates, Columbia’s Off Campus Housing Assistance Office (OCHA) will help you find suitable rental accommodation in the area. You can search the OCHA’s Housing Registry database for rooms and apartments and for potential roommates. The office will also help you with advice and tips on your search and familiarize you with New York’s rental process which can be confusing for newcomers.

     

    3. Homestay

    A nice, clean, safe option is to stay in a homestay with a family nearby, which may work out even cheaper than renting. You’ll get to practice your English, meet locals, and learn all the customs of an American family.  You’ll also get a set number of meals included each day and access to laundry facilities. You’ll get a safe, comfortable private room, and the experience will greatly benefit your language skills. Try searching sarahomestay.com, which has a wide range of available homestays and shared lodgings.

     

    How to find food on budget:

    1. Campus dining

    If you live on campus, depending on your type of accommodation, you’ll have a set number of meals included in the fee. Otherwise you’ll have the option to purchase a meal plan card for the year which will entitle you to food in the university’s dining facilities. As a first year student, you’ll be given the option of certain dining plans to choose from. Getting a meal card will save you time and hassle, and a lot of effort if you’re not a fan of cooking!

     

    2. Dining out

    A whole melting pot of dining options awaits you in the vicinity of Columbia University. There are tonnes of great places to eat nearby so you’ll have plenty of choice depending on your tastes. Tom’s Restaurant, famous for the outside shots on the hit show Seinfeld, is popular among students. If you’re into Asian food then you should try Thai Market, where Bangkok meets Morningside heights.

    For healthy veggie or gluten free options,  go to Maoz, a Dutch falafel bar originating in Amsterdam. As well as plenty of restaurants and diners, there are a number of food markets in the area such as The Columbia Thursday Greenmarket on Thursdays and Sundays on Broadway west of the campus.

     

    3. Shopping

    If you want to shop for tasty, convenient foods then you should pop down to West Side Market where you’ll find everything from microwaveable meals to gourmet specialty items. The Apple Tree Supermarket store on Amsterdam Ave has a 24 hour deli but is slightly more expensive than the Met Foodmarket nearby.

    Cooking meals from scratch will be much cheaper and by sticking to simple, fresh ingredients, you’ll feel healthier than if you consistently dined on processed foods.

     

    Heading to the US?

    Download our free guide for International Students in the US below.