Students looking to pursue a study abroad program in the U.S. know there’s a lot of real estate to choose from. Anyone who followed the 2012 presidential election is aware that America, to borrow from Charles Dickens, is a Tale of Two Countries. The landscape and geography, however, is more diverse than just being Democratic or Republican.
From world-class urban centers and coastal communities to the amber waves of grain blowing in the small towns of the Midwest, studying in the U.S.A. is going to be a different experience depending on where you choose to go. Before you pick a city, town or region you want to study in, it’s a good idea to exam your own sensibilities. You want to make sure the destination is a good fit.
Three Classic Cities
New York City, Boston and San Francisco are magnets for students and tourists. The Big Apple is a cultural crossroads, and the number of things to do in New York far outweighs other U.S. cities. Furthermore, New York has a certain long-standing mystique, and many people feel they haven’t made it in America unless they make it in NYC.
Known as the Athens of America, Boston has a reputation for being the center of education in the U.S. There are 33 colleges in Boston, including such high profile ones as MIT and Harvard. Boston is a small and it’s easy to walk around the city, and for this reason, it’s far less intimidating than the chaotic boroughs of NYC.
Talk about mystique. California has it in spades. California is the size of the entire eastern seaboard, so diversity is the name of the game in this laid-back and flip-flop wearing bastion of cool. San Francisco is the bohemian capital of California. From Mission Hill to Chinatown, this liberal, West Coast jewel is filled with numerous cultural enclaves to explore.
For every classic American city, there’s an off- the-radar destination to match it. Instead of studying abroad in NYC, you could settle down in one of the pastoral communities in the Hudson River Valley. This is antique and artisan country, and it has the type of woodsy beauty absent in the city. However, the Big Apple is only an hour away by train, so if you want to head to the Museum of Modern Art, it’s feasible.
The streets of Boston are teeming with history, but a short ride will bring you to the salt- and pine-scrubbed coast of Maine. Portland, in the southwest corner of the state, is a hip and youthful city. If you travel up the coast, you’ll find a host of quaint communities that make ideal places to hit the books. If you love the beach and the outdoors (and lobster), Maine is a good option.
California might be sunny and laid-back, but it’s nothing in comparison to the vibe down in the U.S. Virgin Islands. St Thomas, St. John and St. Croix are known as America’s Paradise. Studying abroad on island time is a dream come true, so why not swap California for St.Thomas?
Before you go, you need to get a few things in order. Unless you’re from the U.S. or one of its territories, you’ll need a passport to enter (yes, even you, Canadians). Remember to pack light; there are plenty of places to buy cheap clothing in the States, so bring your favorite staple pieces and let Walmart supply your basics. You can donate them before your return journey.
You should also look into traveller’s insurance in case your policy doesn’t cover your trip. The U.S. isn’t a welfare state and healthcare costs can be pretty pricey. You’ll also want to program emergency numbers in your phone to ensure you don’t attempt to dial the wrong one in a crisis.
America is a lot like that Dr. Seuss novel, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” In other words, “Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places!”