F1 Student: Yes, you CAN!



Hello everyone!

Hopefully you are all doing well. The past weeks have been crazier than usual
and I haven’t had a lot of time to write. This month was the closing ceremony
for the CUNY Service Corps at Lehman college. I woke up so early
(whoever knows me well, also knows I am not a morning person…unless I am
getting paid for it, then I can wake up at 3am, 4am… hahah ) to take the
subway all the way from Brooklyn to the Bronx and it took me over 1h and 20
minutes to get there!

I was happy to see my friends and heard the awesome news that some of them got
hired!!
I’ve also had a chance to talk to other international students that were not
able get job afterwards because of visa restrictions.

Every single person I’ve ever met who was not in our f1 visa have no clue what
we go through.
Sometimes international students move to the U.S with little or no English at
all… other times, we face the struggles of paying for our college tuition (no
financial plans, no FASFA, not a lot of scholarships, out-of-state tuition,
etc.) and so much more.

The reality is that we come here alone and we are probably leaving alone
(unless you get married at some point ! lol) that is the reason we need to set
a goal and work as hard as we can to accomplish it.

I am not going to lie and say I was the best student at High School, in fact I
was really bad. I couldn’t care less about my grades and if I got a passing
grade, I was happy. Failures have shown me that I needed to change something in
my life, I had to keep trying, I had to find my passions and set up GOALS.

Moving to the U.S has changed me in a dramatic way. The American system works
differently; not only in terms of college education, but also personal
relations, networking and the paths to get to your dreams. The best way to
improve yourself is moving to a country where you have to conquer you job through
you academic rating and understanding your flaws and limitations.

When I started to participate in college activities and I was exposed to what
was available for me in terms of friendships, jobs and personal development; I
could not stop. Self-improvement is addictive!



  A special thanks (and I will always be grateful for this person) is to Mr.
Harry Mars, who is the Director of student activities of my college. He is
ALWAYS there for students, not only as a director but taking multiple roles;
such as a father for students, a role model, a counselor, a peace-maker and he
will always be his best it doesn’t matter what the situation is. Oh! Just a
funny thing that happened last semester:



When I was the Vice-President of the Beauty and Fashion
Club, we were hosting a big Christmas party for students and the president of
the club got some donations, which were HUUUGE panels from a previous Fashion
show she has attended. Since we did not know who to talk to, one of the club
members just drove this huge truck and dropped everything off on a space that
had an open door (for college deliveries and stuff like that). Since we were
not allowed to do it (but unaware of it) The college security started looking
for us, investigating cameras and everything and they were also decided to call
the city trash collection to take it away hahah

So Mr. Mars was contacted, and after talking to us, we explained that it was
our first club, we were not aware of where to dispose things, college
permissions, etc. As usual, he went above and beyond, he talked to security
with us and did his best to try to accommodate all the stuff we had but
unfortunately the panels were so huge that they couldn’t even pass the
college’s door. But anyways, it was just one situation that Mr. Mars showed his
professionalism and understanding of student needs and at the same time, we
learned what to do and definitely what NOT to do on campus haha. 




Through him, I’ve heard and participate of leadership academies ( B.O.L.T and P.L.U.S) and I’ve made friends for a lifetime. THANK you again Mr. Mars.

Going back to our topic, as an international student myself I faced and
continue to face a lot of challenges every single day. I found out some tips
for international students are they seem to be very accurate!

1- Get involved

One of the best ways to make new friends is to join a club or an
organization. Do you love music or play an instrument? Mix with a group of like-minded
people and maybe even join a band or choir. Participate in sports or some other
activities that you like and have maybe even done before college – Sports are a
great way to meet new people because you all have a common goal. Whatever it is
that interests you, you will have no trouble finding a group or organization,
either on or off campus that you can join and enjoy. Once you are a member,
join group activities and volunteer to help. You will get to know others while
doing good. Club activities easily turn into social activities and you’ll find
yourself going to the movies or for a bite to eat with fellow members.

2- Learn English phrases and slangs

This seems obvious, but the slang is the important part. College students in
America typically don’t speak as formally as the books and guides that teach
non-English speakers, so be sure to research some commonly used phrases and
slang terms among the youth of America. If you hear a phrase that confuses you,
don’t be afraid to ask! It will be easier to make friends with other students
if you show genuine interest in what they’re saying.

3- Tip!

Tipping, while not a common practice throughout the rest of the world, is
expected in the U.S. Restaurants do not typically add gratuity to a bill, so
patrons are expected to tip their server somewhere between 15-20% to reward
them for their service. It is considered extremely rude not to do so, so be
sure to check your bill and tip your waiter if gratuity hasn’t been added.

4- Keep up with pop culture and sports for good conversation topics

College students in the U.S., just like everywhere else, love to talk about
entertainment and sports. Use your free time to read magazines and update
yourself on entertainment news, watch popular TV programs, and learn the basics
of popular American sports like football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Not
only will this help you have conversations with native students, but it will
provide you with an authentic experience of American culture.

5- Befriend American students as well as other international students

I’ve been an international student before, so I understand that it’s often
difficult to break out of that classification and make friends with the locals.
International students are grouped together in living arrangements and classes
at many universities, so you should make a conscious effort to befriend some
Americans. It may seem intimidating, but it’ll give you a more authentic
experience and hopefully provide you with lifelong friends that you can go back
and visit someday!

6- Don’t be intimidated

This advice goes for pretty much anyone studying abroad: no matter who you are
or where you’re from, you’ll be interacting primarily with other college
students, and we all have many similar qualities and interests deep down. Take
the rest of these tips into consideration and get ready for the experience of a
lifetime!


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TOEFL test preparation



 Hi friends,


Back in February, I wrote a post about my experiences as an international student in New York.
Today, I will respond a comment that a reader, Agata, left on my post about the TOEFL test. :]


Just to give you a brief description, the TOEFL iBT test measures your ability to use and understand English
at the university level (it evaluates how well you combine your
listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to perform academic
tasks.) The TOEFL test is required for international students at most American universities.



”Hi Li, I read your blog! Its gorgeous how long you’ve been writing about your life
here:) You see, u regret a little that u didn’t come here before
high school ! So I guess I can say the same thing because I came here after finishing High School. Yes, we
would have saved a lot time for our current goals; but who knew…?
Nobody can predict the future:(  Maybe is finally time for forget!
2-5-even-10 years in comparison to our whole lives is just a little bit:)  

BTW Your blog is very interesting and it is easy to read, but,  to be honest, it was not that easy to read (for me). Soo here I
have a lot of questions: 

1. How did you improve your English? Do you have
any special way or course which u can recommend? 2.When was the first time that you started thinking about studying here and how many time did you need
to prepare yourself for the TOEFL exam? 

3.Everything about TOEFL exam: Did you
take classes before the exam? It was during the time when u were an Au-pair? How was your level of English when u came here? How many points u needed
to get accepted to college? It was really difficult? 

4.When you pass exam what is
next…? They need from you any extra exams or credits? I know that every school have its own application process
and I know I can find everything on-line, but just I would like to know
how it was  from a student perspective. 

5. Money, money, money…How much
do you need study here? And Do u know if the financial assistance and
work on campus can help with pay for school? If you are citizen
the price is very low, but how about the recruitment. They are
supposed to have a credits from courses, classes what exactly? I will come up with more questions but maybe it is enough for now. Hope to see your answer to my comments on your
blog:)”



Hi Agata! First of all, thanks for your kind comments about my blog. I really appreciate it and hopefully you continue to read my posts. I am trying to be more active here but sometimes life gets a little crazy…haha I am happy that you are interested about the TOEFL test and college admissions process. It is a bureaucratic process but definitely worth at the end. I will answer you questions one by one and if you need to know something else, you can leave a comment and I try to get back to you as soon as possible.


1. How did you improve your English? Do you have
any special way or course which u can recommend? 



 As soon as I moved to the U.S, I started studying English at Drew University (Madison-NJ). After a year there, I started taking TOEFL classes in at a school called ALCC. In my learning process, there were a few things that helped me. Watching movies, TV series and news (with NO captions -remember that is how we learn as babies 😉 ) In addition, I signed up for random activities and classes. There is a website called Meetup that offers a lot of groups and meetings. Just pick your groups of interest and meet people that share the same interests! YouTube is also a great learning source,you can find a lot of video classes there. Websites such as Livemocha and Busuu are a wonderful resource for beginners. Last thing is to speak a lot, to everyone, everywhere. You can’t and you shouldn’t be shy.    



2.When was the first
time that you started thinking about studying here and how much time did
you need
to prepare yourself for the TOEFL exam? 



I started thinking about going to college here during my Au Pair year. It was probably around my seventh or eighth month.For the test, I prepared myself for almost 4 months, but I would highly recommend people to take classes for at least a year if your English level is not that good.


3.Everything about
TOEFL exam: Did you
take classes before the exam? It was during the time when u were an
Au-pair? How was your level of English when u came here? How many points
u needed
to get accepted to college? It was really difficult? 



 As I answered previously, I took classes during a period of 4 months. When I took the test, I wasn’t an Au Pair anymore. My English level it was ok; I could read and engage in a basic conversation but it was very limited. Every college has its own standards for the TOEFL test. The TOEFL (online based test) has a total score of  120 points. In order to apply for my college, they asked for at least 45 points (which is very low because it is a community college). I got 98 points. Universities like Columbia or Harvard ask for a minimum of 100-110 points. The test is divided in 4 sections; reading, writing, listening and speaking and usually it has a duration of 4 hours. Oh, and no, it is not that easy. haha remember it is academic English level (there are texts and words there I have never heard! Super tricky to be honest)


 4.When you pass exam what is
next…? They need from you any extra exams or credits? I know that every school have its own application process
and I know I can find everything on-line, but just I would like to know
how it was  from a student perspective. 



The exam does not guarantee your acceptance at the college you are applying. Every college has a different admission process. In my college, I had to send my TOEFL score, fill out forms, send my official high school transcript (which is done by WES) and my transcript from my previous college. When I got the acceptance letter, I had to send my Immunization records, my sponsor (dad) forms and  my sponsor (dad) taxes and assets in order to get my i-20 (most important document for international students).


 5. Money, money, money…How much
do you need study here? And Do u know if the financial assistance and
work on campus can help with pay for school? If you are citizen
the price is very low, but how about the recruitment. They are
supposed to have a credits from courses, classes what exactly?



It really depends on the college you are going to. In my college it is about $9000 a year. Some colleges have a payment plan called Sallie Mae or other plan. Sallie Mae plan allow students to make monthly payments for the semester. Finding a job on campus is really hard and you can only work 20 hours a week. Usually college assistants make $8 -10 dollars per hour ($160- $200/week) so this is not enough to pay all your expenses. We are required by law to maintain a course load of 12 credits per semester, some classes have 3 credits, some have 2,etc. You have to combine classes and have A MINIMUM of 12 credits in total. When you are registering for classes, you will be able to see how many credits each class has, the credits are based on how many hours the class meets during the week.