International Students: 4 Simple Ways to Put Your Family at Ease

person-woman-hand-smartphoneFew events elicit as much excitement as leaving home to study abroad. Making a long distance move is a wonderful way to explore new cultures and make memories that last a lifetime, but your family may experience some anxiety and worry about your wellbeing while you are away. To keep your family feeling confident in your safety while you’re at school, consider the following four useful tips. 

#1 Share Important Contact Info
Sharing important contact info will go a long way towards easing your family’s nerves, but the key here is to go beyond the basics. In addition to the phone number and address of the place you’ll be living, provide your family with information for your assigned academic advisor, residence hall monitor (also known as an “RA”), and the International Student Office at your school. This may feel excessive, but for your parents it offers added peace of mind.

Once you arrive at school, figure out blocks of time that work for regular catch-up conversations with your family. If you are not a big talker, consider setting times when you can be reached in case your family needs to speak with you. Be sure to give them a general idea of when you may be out of range (for example, during your gym workout). Finally, let your family know if there are certain times or places where your phone does not get reception. Maintaining regular contact with your family is the best way to keep them from worrying. Email works too, of course.

#2 Research the Culture Together
Before leaving for school, spend some time with your family researching the communication nuances of the region you’ll be living in. For instance, sitting in the back seat of a taxi and chatting on your cellphone is perfectly acceptable in New York City, but in some parts of the world such as New Zealand, this will offend taxi drivers. Using a “thumbs up” gesture is a positive one in many countries including the U.S., but it’s considered offensive in Israel, South America and Italy.

Work together to dig into the unique customs, gestures, and language of your new country. Your family will feel better about your safety if they know you have done your research into the region’s customs.

#3 Prepare for Unforeseen Costs
Before you leave home, work with your family on a financial contingency plan and discuss what will happen in the event that unforeseen costs arise. These may include costs associated with medical or housing emergencies, or mundane occurrences such as a laptop repair or lost phone. Connect with your bank, credit providers, and other fiscal institutions to ask questions regarding services offered. Setting up an emergency fund with your family for unforeseen situations will go a long way to ease your family’s nerves, not to mention reduce your risk of getting stuck halfway around the world without the ability to pay for services. It’s also worth investigating the emergency services offered abroad by your school before you leave, as well as services offered by your bank or credit provider once your arrive.

#4 Plan a Family Visit At Your School
If possible, plan a time for your family to visit you at school once you’ve settled into your classes. Many students find that Parents’ Weekend is the perfect time for a family visit. Most schools host a broad range of activities and programs designed specifically for Parents Weekend. Students often report that a campus visit – offering a chance to familiarize your family with the campus, the locale, and your friends − was the perfect way to ease their family’s concerns.


Joy Miller Photo 1
About the Author
As the lead editor for Accelerated Degree, Joy Miller reviews schools offering fast-track degrees and courses through online study.

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Travel Europe on a Budget

shutterstock_279759455For the international student studying in Europe, the expression “the world is your oyster” is especially true. A flight from London to Paris takes only an hour; a drive from Milan to Zurich takes only three. With so many cities offering equal doses of history, culture, food, architecture, and nightlife, you’ll never find yourself lacking for excitement while studying – and traveling – in Europe.

Traveling across Europe is fast and easy – but keeping your travel costs reasonable requires a bit of planning. Read on to discover expert tips on taking in the sights across Europe without draining your pocketbook.

Travel Off-Peak, Book Early, and be Vigilant
If you don’t want to pay peak fares, avoid traveling on Fridays and Sundays. Leisure travel peaks on Fridays and Sundays, resulting in flight, train, and hotel rates that can be 2-3 times higher than other days of the week.

Whether you’re traveling by train or plane, buying your ticket early can save hundreds of dollars. Prices can fluctuate daily, but almost always spike as your departure date approaches.

If you want to be spontaneous, frequently check the travel rates to destinations you hope to visit to get a sense for the fares. Fares and hotel rates sometimes drop at the last minute if bookings are slow. As a result, booking at the last minute can save you lots of money, but it requires you to be flexible with your plans. It may also mean that you have to finish a key assignment while on the road!

Find the Right Hostel
Hostels are a great option when traveling on a budget, and most are clean and reliable. Keep in mind, however, that the location of a hostel can make or break your travel experience. When researching your hostel, consider its distance from the city center and key attractions. Hostels farther out will be cheaper, but the transportation costs and hassle of getting into the city may outweigh or eliminate the cost benefit.  Spending a few extra dollars per night on a hostel located downtown may be the smart decision, especially if your time in a particular city is limited. Again, be sure to book early if you’re looking for the lowest nightly rate.

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The International Student’s Guide to Madrid Nightlife


Welcome to Madrid: capital city of Spain, world-class provider of fine cuisine, and haven for nightlife that is second-to-none. Madrid is the perfect city for the international student with a strong sense of discovery. Exploring Madrid can be a full-time job, and the daily routine in Spain may be very different than what you’re used to at home. Read on to learn what to expect from a typical day and night in Madrid.

Similar to other Europeans, Spaniards wake between 6 – 8 AM on work or school days. But that’s where the similarities end. Breakfast is typically on the light side. A small snack follows in the late morning or early afternoon, tiding you over until lunch, which does not start until 2 PM.

After lunch, Spaniards like to take naps known as siestas. Try making time for a siesta or two — you will enjoy it. After siesta, it’s common to enjoy merienda, a small meal such as pastry and coffee, to fill the gap between lunch and dinner.  Dinner takes place late, between 8 and 11 PM.

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Communicating at Australian Universities – What to Expect

Queens College

So you’re headed for an Australian university.  Maybe you’ve passed the TOEFL or IELTS exams and will be taking degree classes, or maybe you’re going to study English. Either way, congratulations! Australia is a fantastic country with a world-class university system.

As you get ready for your adventure down under, remember that Australia is an island nation, quite a distance from other native English-speaking countries. Australian English is not the same as other types of native English. And beyond the language, Australia has its own unique culture of communication.

English in Australia is closer in sound to British English than to North American English. While North American English is “rhotic,” with strong “r” consonant sounds, Australian English is not rhotic. The “r” sound is generally dropped at the end of words, similar to the UK.

Australian vowels are also different from both British and North American English vowels. One of the most distinct differences is the sound of the long “A,” which Australians often pronounce more like a long “I.” So the name “Kate” in UK or U.S. English would sound more like the word “kite” in Australian English. But there are many other things that make Australian vowels unique. Australian English teacher Hal Hopper’s YouTube Channel can give you a good look at all of these differences.

When compared to other forms of native English, Australian vowels and Australian communication (in general) tend to be shorter. Australians like to speak in brief, direct sentences. Be ready to hear a LOT of Australian slang and abbreviations. For example, ‘breakfast’ is “brekkie’ and ‘barbeque’ is ‘barbie’.

Australian language is very direct and to-the-point, as is the culture. The very polite, indirect speech you sometimes hear in Great Britain and North America (especially Canada) is not used as much down under. Australians say what’s on their minds, and make statements that may seem rude to people from cultures that employ a less-direct approach. In fact, Australians regard directness as a sign of honesty and trustworthiness. Be ready to make lots of eye contact with Australians, regardless of their social status or authority, and prepare to give your honest opinion about things, especially when you are directly asked.

Above all, expect diversity.  Australia is a culturally mixed, open society. You won’t just meet Australians— you’ll meet people from all over the world, and find yourself learning about communication and customs from many cultures.

Cheers mate, and have fun in ‘Straya!

This post was written by David Recine, TOEFL and ESL expert at Magoosh. For advice on TOEFL preparation, check out Magoosh’s TOEFL blog.

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4 Time Management Hacks for College Freshmen


A common tendency among college freshmen is to overcommit during the first semester. Between classes, clubs, intramural sports, and making new friends, you may find yourself strapped for time as classes pick up speed and exams roll around. Here are a few tips to help you manage your time and avoid end of semester burnout.

Screen Extra-Curricular Activities Before Joining
At the beginning of the year, your school will likely offer an activities fair featuring an endless supply of exciting clubs and sports for you to choose from. In the first week, when your class schedule is light, go to as many club and sports meetings as you can to find the best fits. After you get a taste for each of these activities, narrow your list to the top one or two (or three at most) and sign-up. While extra-curricular activities are important, juggling five extracurriculars alongside a full time course load is a recipe for burnout. If you do find yourself with extra free time, keep in mind that you can always add more activities during your second semester.

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What to Expect When Moving into a U.S. Dorm

Moving into DormStudents beginning their studies at a U.S. college or university have a lot on their minds. Whether American or international, incoming students arrive on campus with a dose of nervous anxiety, accented by a host of concerns about roommates, dorm rooms, class schedules, even food!

International students have even more to consider, including getting a visa, acquiring translations of academic transcripts and personal documents, managing foreign money, and shipping their belongings cross-border.

Packing college supplies can be especially difficult for international students.  Unlike your U.S. counterparts, you can’t pack a car-load of stuff and simply drive to school. Since you’ll likely be limited in how much you can pack, stick to the basics – clothes and personal electronics. School supplies, linens, toiletries and the like can all be purchased at reasonable prices when you get to school.

Before you send everything you own (or a little less!), consider the shipping costs, how much luggage you can physically carry, and how much is provided and furnished by the school. Consider shipping clothing such as winter coats which are light but bulky — and will cost less to ship than some of your smaller but heavier items.

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How to Answer 5 Common Interview Questions

Job InterviewWhether you’re applying to work at the campus bookstore, or interviewing for your first professional job post college, it’s likely you’ll need to conduct an interview to land the position. To help you nail your interview, we’ve rounded up 5 of the most common interview questions. Read on to find out what hiring managers are really looking for and get a head-start on preparing thoughtful responses.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”
This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here’s the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise, compelling, and shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role.

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Everything International Students Should Know About Working in the U.S.

shutterstock_244632844Are you an international student studying in the U.S.? Are you looking to gain experience or make extra money by working while attending school? If you answered yes to both questions, you should know the U.S. has specific rules about how and what type of work you can do as an F-1 student.

The U.S. government takes working illegally very seriously, and for F-1 students work eligibility is often dependent on your visa and program of study. Read on for the 4 main types of work opportunities available to you as an international student in the United States.

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10 Essential Apps for International Students


From planning trips home to calculating currency exchange rates, studying abroad comes with its own set of unique challenges. Luckily, the app market is chock full of apps that will have you navigating your new life as an international student like a local.

1. Google Maps
This free map and navigation app will quickly become a favorite as you explore your new city. Use it to get walking, driving, or public transportation directions and locate shops, restaurants, and landmarks nearby. Get voice prompts, traffic alerts, and best route suggestions. This app is free for Android and iOS.

2. Converter+
Wondering how much to tip the waiter? Need to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit? Converter+ contains over 100 converters and calculators including temperature, length, weight, and currency. It’s simple to use, and invaluable for those adjusting to a foreign country. Download Converter+ for free on iTunes.

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How to Ace the TOEFL Speaking Exam




If you’re an international student looking to study in the United States, you’ve probably heard of the TOEFL exam. The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized English language proficiency test for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities. Most universities require it as part of their admission criteria, so passing the test is a must if you plan to study in the States.

Though the TOEFL Speaking section is the shortest section of the TOEFL test, many students struggle with it the most. Speaking in English, into a microphone, under a time constraint, in a room full of other test takers—it can be stressful if you’re not prepared.

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to prep yourself. By understanding the format of the TOEFL Speaking section you’ll be able to answer all six speaking questions in the allotted time. Check out the infographic below for a preview of the test format, question types, scoring, and tips for boosting your performance. If you’re a parent or friend of a student about to take the TOEFL test, be a hero and pass this post along.

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