Living in the U.S.

Links to More Information on U.S. Life

Below are links to some additional useful sources of information on U.S. life for students from the Middle East/North Africa, all available online. See also the resources related to planning for U.S. arrival on the Visas section of this Web site.

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Questions and Answers on U.S. Life: Your Rights, Health, and Safety


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Questions and Answers on U.S. Life: Maintaining Your Visa Status

Start with our page on U.S. Life, which covers the most frequently asked questions on this subject.

Below are the additional questions that we’ve researched so far related to visa regulations for international students in the United States. Each month, we add any new questions that we’ve responded to on this subject, so check back for more.

If you have questions not currently answered on our site, please write us.

What’s a “DSO”? An “RO”?

If I fail an exam or course, could I lose my visa? 

Can I get paid work under my student visa?

Can my spouse or children get paid work under their visa status?

What will happen if I work more than the hours allowed under my visa?

What other types of circumstances (in addition to working without permission and academic problems) are likely to cause visa status problems?

What if I decide to transfer to a different college after I arrive in the United States—do I need to go home to apply for a new visa?

What if I want to leave the United States for a while after entering?

Why must I undergo a security check if I have already been to the United States and was simply home on break?

What about travel within the United States?

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Questions and Answers on U.S. Life: Cultural Concerns

Start with our page on U.S. Life, which covers the most frequently asked questions on this subject.

Below are the additional questions that we’ve researched so far related to cultural differences and concerns for individuals from the Middle East/North Africa studying in the United States. We regularly add any new questions that we’ve responded to on this subject, so check back for more.

If you have questions not currently answered on our site, please write us.


How common is the practice of Islam in the United States? 

How will my religion affect how I am treated in the United States? 

Will it be all right to wear hijab/my headscarf in the United States? 

What if I want/my wife wants to wear a chador/be fully veiled in the United States? 

Am I likely to be discriminated against or harassed because of the country that I come from or my religion? What do I do if something like this does happen? 

Will my U.S. friends and professors understand if I follow Islamic practices? 

Are certain areas of the United States more positive about Islam than others? 

How much control do universities generally maintain over students who are attending? For example, will female students be chaperoned?

In the United States, to what extent do men and women have separate facilities? 

Does U.S. culture treat men and women differently? 

Can you tell me about homestays? If I want to try a homestay, will my religion or other cultural differences be a difficulty? 

Can I get housing that is for men or women only off-campus? 

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Questions and Answers on U.S. Life: Practical Matters


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U.S. Life for Arab Students

How many international students are in the United States?

Open Doors, a survey published annually by the nonprofit Institute for International Education, reported that approximately 623,805 international students were enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education in 2007-2008.

What types of support services will be available to me on campus?

Your college or university international student adviser will be your first stop for many types of questions. Part of this adviser’s job is to serve as a liaison between international students and other resources in the campus and community—if your adviser can’t answer a particular question themselves, they can probably refer you to someone who can.

At most U.S. colleges and universities, you will also be assigned an academic adviser. This person will generally have expertise in the field that you are planning to study and will provide guidance on your institution’s requirements as well as responding to other questions you may have about your course of study. If you want to change your academic adviser for any reason (maybe you find the person you are assigned to difficult to talk with, or you have decided to change majors), that is very common—usually you can choose a professor who you like or think would be helpful and ask them if they would be your adviser.

Many universities have counseling centers designed to help students with a variety of more personal problems, from working out family difficulties to diagnosing learning disabilities. You don’t have to have a “serious” problem to visit these centers—they offer a chance to get some professional, confidential support and guidance if you, for instance, are stressed out over exams or homesick. Different institutions offer different levels of support and organize it differently—this should be covered during orientation.

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Preparing for U.S. Study: A Checklist

Use this list to check that you have taken care of all essential arrangements before you depart for the U.S.

Once letters of acceptance or rejection arrive, decide which university to attend, notify the admissions office of your decision, and complete and return any forms they require. Notify other universities that offer you admission that you will not be attending. Return any official forms that you will not use.
If you are being sponsored by an organization, notify that organization of your plans. Stay in contact with your sponsoring organization, which can help you with predeparture arrangements.
Contact the nearest EducationUSA advising center for predeparture information and advice.
Upon receipt of your I-20 or DS-2019 form, pay the SEVIS fee and then apply to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa. Do this well in advance of your departure date. Visa application forms can be completed and all fees paid online; however, check the U.S.
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Tips on Planning Your Travel to the United States

Travel to any new place can be stressful if you’re not well-prepared. Here are some tips for a smooth trip to your U.S. college or university.

Timing Your Entry

You can arrive in the United States using your student visa up to thirty days before the start of your academic program. At a minimum you will want several days to recover from jet lag and adjust before your schedule becomes busy. Also find out when your college or university’s orientation program for international students will be held. Arrive in time to attend this and other student orientation events—such programs cover important information on campus resources and requirements.

If you will have to change planes during your trip, allow plenty of time—at least three hours between flight arrival time and any connecting flight’s departure. Remember that you will have to go through port of entry procedures, you may need to travel from one airport or terminal to another, and of course your arriving flight may be delayed.

Planning Ahead to Avoid Travel Complications

Let the international student office at your college or university know your travel plans well in advance of your departure; also ask them about the best ways to get to campus and the approximate cost.

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Living in the United States

These articles for students from the Middle East/North Africa discuss what to expect during your time in the United States, from arrival to graduation and return home.

We will be updating and adding material to this web site so be sure to visit regularly. If you have been accepted to a U.S. university, be sure to visit the AMIDEAST office nearest you for support with everything from packing to preparing for U.S. life and study.

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