Top 5 Readings for International Students Studying in the USA
image: Back-Seat Travel Library (sssdc1)
by: Florian Hollender
Congratulations! You’re going to the US to experience studying abroad. I did the same thing in 2005. Spending fall term at USC in Columbia, SC, was a definite highlight of my studies and a time I wouldn’t want to miss. Studying in the US is a fine thing to do, and there are a few things you can do in preparation. Being the student that you are – why not hit the books? I’ve put together my favorite reads on the topic. Without further ado…
1) To give you context for the culture you are immersing yourself in, check out good old Geert Hofstede and his cultural dimensions. This might sound overly scientific – but give it a whirl, and compare the culture of your home country with the USA here: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php (there even is an iPhone application available at http://www.culturegps.com). You may find that the american culture is in sync with yours in some aspects and totally different in others. Although a broad generalization, I found it rewarding to pay special attention to those areas of differences during my visit. Hofstede’s dimensions don’t give you a blueprint to “the typical american”, but they might help you put the differences you encounter in perspective.
2) Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a big country”. I simply loved it. An assembly of columns that describe the little things that are different in America – in the most hilarious way. As always, with something so funny, there is some truth to it. Take it for what it is though – entertainment in the first place.
3) Go get the Lonely Planet a) for the region you will be living in and b) for all of the USA. Read through the former to get an idea of what is going on in your new temporary hometurf (also a great conversation starter!) and through the latter to make plans for travel…. you are planning on getting out and about during your stay, aren’t you? If not, oh boy, you are missing out. Try to see as much as possible while you are in the USA. I know, you come to study, and study you will – but studying abroad is always about the personal experience, too.
4) If you are going to study at a business school, you will most likely be working with case studies a whole lot. Should you not be familiar with this teaching method yet, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the case method (an HBS invention). There is a lot of information available online (Google is your friend) on how to solve case studies. If you want to see first hand what that is all about, you can buy a case and the teaching notes (including solutions) either at Harvard Business press (www.hbsp.harvard.edu/products/cases.html) or at the European Case Clearing House (ecch.com). Bonus points for those of you who find the case I was co-writing at the ecch 😉
5) This last tip is not about reading, but it is essential. When coming to the US (or, for that matter, any foreign country) to study, leave your prejudices at home. However well informed you are, you should still come open and willing to form your own opinion. Take in the new environment, get to know the people that make up the country you visit – in most cases, you will be surprised. Don’t rid yourself of that opportunity by believing that you already know everything.
Now go out and enjoy your stay abroad!
About Florian Hollender
Florian studied business at WHU in Germany and spent two terms abroad – one at IPADE in Mexico City, the other at Moore School of Business at USC in Columbia, SC. He currently works as a consultant for a big firm in Germany and runs KillerConsultant.com, a website with tips and tricks for young and prospective consultants that is all about having fun while doing a killer job.