Is this your first time in the United States? Make sure you are doing the right thing!

Are you a student, visiting scholar, or a working professional who just arrived US (or any other developed country) for the first time?

Congratulations, you finally made it to the United States of America.  Of course, the US is one of the best countries in the world to live in. A lot of people around the globe dream to study,  work and settle here for obvious reasons. But this is just the beginning. You are about to get introduced to a new culture.  You are about to enjoy the marriage between anxiety and excitement.  Based on 3 years of my experience in the US, I have summed up few pieces of advice for Internationals for easier acclimatization in this wonderful country of opportunities called, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. These dos and don’ts are also applicable to a foreigner in any other country.

  1. Do not talk bad about your country. When you arrive here, you will notice a lot of differences in the infrastructure, the way people behave and dress. If you find that US has a better infrastructure that your country then appreciate the US for that without insulting your own country in front of foreigners. It is OK to have a discussion when you are sitting in a group from your own country that’s the place to be a critic for the betterment of your own culture. Not in front of people from other countries. Remember ! A culture is a result of many decades of human practices that are dictated by the geographical location, economy, upbringing, literacy rate and human values. You can not change it overnight by insulting your own country in a foreign land. Rather learn and spread awareness.
  2. Smile to a stranger. Some countries are very conservative, where smiling to a stranger means that you are either creepy or you need some favor. In the US or even in Europe, strangers might smile at you out of their goodness. Just reflect it back the same way. Neither the pretty girl who smiled at you while jogging on the road is attracted to you, nor the guy who smiled at you need anything from you. So do not act creepy. Take it the way it is no less or more. Next time smile at every person you see on your way. Some might not give you the same smile back but most of them will.
  3. Do not feel inferior. The way you spend money or dress up or eat might have been completely different in the country you belong to. If you find people more sophisticated than you then there is no need to feel inferior about it. Rather learn from them and grab all good habits and behavior that you can. At the same time share your good habits with them. Trust me, this gradient can bring the best in everyone.
  4. Be a little flexible and show empathy. It would be much easier for you to acclimatize if you will accept that you are in a different country and the way things happen here is a bit different from your native land. In India, we tend to have a big group of friends, share food before we eat or discuss family problems very often. In the US, if the natives do not indulge in over talking then do not consider them rude, they just need their personal space.  If someone does not offer you their food, don’t feel bad about it, their idea is to not offer you’re their left over. Basically, do not compare them with respect to the standards of your native land. Understand their angle before making a judgment.
  5. Do not talk about your country all the time. Yes, you are proud of your country. Everyone is and everyone should. But when you are a part of a conversation, try to listen to them rather than jumping into the conversation and say, “Oh really! But in my country, they do it differently ..“ or in another case, “Oh yeah yeah, that’s how they do it in my country also”.  Its great to be proud of your country but its also important to be a good listener. Don’t keep talking about your country and culture all the time unless it is required in the conversation.
  6. Do not cook right before meeting people. In some countries, very strong spices are heavily used in cooking, particularly is North Asian and South Asian Countries. Spices smell can be really intimidating for some people. This can sometimes give an impression that you do not take shower when that actual reason is that you used strong spices in your cooking. Be careful ! if you cook at home, either avoid going out right after you cook or take a shower before leaving the house or at the least change the clothes. Always wear deodorant, cologne or perfume. Smell like a professional, not like the food. Haha!!
  7. Do not just hang out with people from your own country. Americans are great people in general. If you did not find a good one, it’s just your bad luck. Do not hang out only with people from your own country, this will halt your learning process. When it comes to choosing a roommate, do not always live with people from your own country. Rather go for American roommates, you will learn about their culture much fasterWatch American TV shows and Movies or sports. This will help you to understand and pick up their accent much faster in addition to making you aware of people behavior and expectations. Basically get out of your comfort zone.
  8. Indulge in new hobbies and recreation. When you are new here, you might be left with a lot of free time. Reason? Simple you don’t have a social circle. This can make you homesick.  Do not waste your time on youtube and facebook or over watching TV. Instead go to the gym, play pool, read good books, learn to play some musical instrument, write blogs, join Toastmasters (or any another public speaking group). In short, add value to your life rather than wasting time on useless pursuits or feeling homesick.
  9. Give tip at the restaurants. I know it’s not the kind of advice that is pocket-friendly. Tipping is not a part of a lot of cultures. In the US, it is very common though. I understand that for a lot of international students, it not possible to tip a lot of money. In worst case tip just $1 but a tip. A lot of restaurant staff income is based heavily on the tip that you give. So tip if you can afford.

What do you think? Please add any advice that you might have to help newcomers better acclimatize in a foreign country.







6-Life Lessons from the Bollywood movie, the “Secret Superstar”



Secret Superstar, a Bollywood movie about a 14-year-old girl, Insia who dreams to be a singing sensation but is scared to live her dreams because she has a conservative father who thinks that a girl’s life is only meant to serve the husband. Nonetheless, the girl becomes a Youtube Superstar but she has to disguise her identity by wearing a burkha so that her father cannot recognize her.

Here are the 6 life lessons that we can take from the movie, which can enhance our personal and professional life.

See big dreams: A dream is the starting point to any successful journey. It does not matter what age, gender, country or society you belong to. If you have the courage to see dreams you are one step closer to be successful.

Have Faith: Dreams, when combined with faith, give us the energy to keep going despite the initial failure. It gives us the reason to go against all the odds. So have faith and nurture your dreams.

Do not listen to the naysayers: Its unfortunate but very common that, sometimes our own family can make us handicapped by expecting us to play small. Sometimes the people who should support our dreams and passions become the real obstacles to our success journey. Know that if you are morally right you should listen to no one but your heart. But make sure that you do not harm in the process.

The action is the difference between hunger and fantasy: No amount of dreaming, positivity, and faith can make us successful if we do not take small actions every day to reach our goals. The action is the bridge between a dream and the reality.

Love your Family: Never underestimate the importance of your family while reaching your goals. No amount of success can make us happy if we do not have a family to celebrate it with. Remember how Insia love towards her mother became a driving force for her to take chances that turned her into a Bollywood Singer. Do not get confused between point 3 and 5, understand the context 😊

You are a superstar yourself if you have these 6 personality traits.

Thanks and best regards

Jitendra Pant

Read more of Jitendra Pant’s post by clicking the link below.

Does being emotional bothers you?




Have dreams to make it big one day by getting the best education in the world but don’t know where to start from? Here is a precise guide for you to take the very first step i.e educating yourself with the right information about the two most crucial tests to study abroad GRE/TOEFL.

What is GRE?

GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. GRE is a standardized test that is one of the admission requirements for most graduate schools (Master and Ph.D.) in the United States and other developed countries are known for their quality education. GRE is conducted by ETS, which is a non-profit US-based organization. It is conducted in two modes: online and paper-based depending on the country. Online mode is the common mode in India, US, Canada and most of the countries.

What does GRE evaluate?

GRE tests are categorized as GRE General Test and GRE subject test.

GRE General Test: The GRE revised General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do in graduate or business school.

  • Verbal Reasoning: Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Measures problem- solving ability using basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
  • Analytical Writing: Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.

GRE Subject Test: Prospective graduate school applicants take the Subject Tests. Applicants come from varying educational and cultural backgrounds and the GRE Subject Tests provide a common measure for comparing candidates’ qualifications. Each Subject Test is intended for students who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in one of these seven disciplines:

·        Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology

·        Biology

·        Chemistry

·        Literature in English

·        Mathematics

·        Physics

·        Psychology

NOTE -The GRE Computer Science Test was discontinued following the April 2013 administration. Scores will continue to be reportable for five years.

Is GRE mandatory to apply for Grad Schools abroad?

Most of the Grad Schools in the US consider GRE as an important criterion to extrapolate the analytical, research and management skills of a student. In almost all US based institutes, GRE General test is a pre-requisite for graduate admission. There are few institutes in the US which allow graduate admission even without GRE but in my advice, they are not the good ones. One more disadvantage of studying in such schools is that changing your University (in the case of lack of funding in the middle of your studies, clashes with Professor/University or for reason unknown) can be almost impossible. This in some cases can cost going back to your home country.

It should be noted that GRE test is not mandatory if you are considering applying to Europe, and Australia obviously with few exceptions. However, many European Universities do give preference to candidates with Subject GRE, GATE or CSIR (the last two particularly for Indian candidates).

When can I take the GRE test?

You can take the computer-delivered GRE revised General Test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days). This applies even if you canceled your scores on a test that you took previously. You may take the paper-delivered GRE revised General Test as often as it is offered. When selecting a test date, make sure your scores will be reported in time for your application deadlines. For computer-delivered tests, scores reports are sent to your designated score recipients approximately 10–15 days after your test date. Please allow time for delivery of scores and processing by the institution.

Is GRE the major deciding factor in the evaluation/admission process?

In one word, NO!! There are other important criteria such as CGPA/GPA, publications, work experience(s), projects, the reputation of your past university, recommendation letters (LOR) and Statement of purpose (SOP)/motivation letter/letter of intent etc. However, good GRE score (318-340) does play an important role in the evaluation process and it can also help you compensate for a lower CGPA or lack of work experience. Similarly a good GPA (3.5+/4 or 8+/10) and work experience, publications and projects can compensate for a low or average GRE score (295- 310).

What is considered a good GRE score?

This varies depending on the University, Department, and Institute and destination country. This should be understood that GRE is just one of the several proofs of your candidacy as a potential graduate student and depending on your field, grad level (Master vs Ph.D.) and University; its weight in the evaluation process will vary. In most cases, a score above 310 (on a scale of 340) is considered decent for good Universities. Ivy league institutes mostly have higher GRE demands (with few exceptions) it can be as high as 330-340.

Sometimes, many good Universities like Iowa State University, Ohio State University, University of Georgia, John Hopkins, Cold Spring Harbor Lab, University of Texas, University of North Carolina (Greensboro) do not have a very high GRE score (varies from 300-320) demands and look for overall profile.

From my experience, I have also noticed that GRE score requirements are little higher (by 3-10 points) for M.S as compared to Ph.D. This is mainly because Ph.D. admission relies more on research skills, publications and personal qualities of a prospective student. It should also be noted that few Universities also accept GRE for MBA admission.

Most of the Universities often conduct online skype interviews (mainly for research-based Master and Ph.D. students. Sometimes, this can be followed by an interview by a Professor who would want to hire you.

Do you recommend some good books for GRE?

The books that helped me the most are: Official GRE guide by ETS, Kaplan, Princeton, Magoosh.

What else can I do to boost my GRE preparation?

Download the free app on verbal and quantitative analysis on your smartphone and go through it over and over again. Devote a great deal of time to it as much as you do surfing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I personally used Magoosh app and it was a great help. Eat, drink, think and sleep GRE. If you are not crazy about your passion than you don’t deserve to achieve success. Period!!

Can I choose not to give IELTS/TOEFL exams if I have a GRE score?

Well, this depends on the country you are applying to. IELTS/TOEFL are exams taken by non-native English speakers to prove their proficiency in English. While GRE does evaluate vocabulary and writing skills, it does not compensate for IELTS/TOEFL as the later also evaluate listening, speaking and reading skills. All US based Universities demand GRE + IELTS or GRE+TOEFL scores from international students. For the UK, Australia and Canada based Universities IELTS or TOEFL alone (without GRE) does the job. For most of the European Universities (except the UK), an Indian candidate need not provide an IELTS/TOEFL score given that he/she can prove that he did his schooling and higher education in English medium. This means that you can apply to European Universities (well most of them) without GRE or IELTS/TOEFL.

NOTE/DISCLAIMER: These are the personal views of the writer (Jitendra Pant) on GRE based admission process.

About the author

Jitendra Pant is a Research Assistant and Ph.D. Scholar in the Department of Engineering at the University of Georgia, US (Connect here on LinkedIn). He has published 8 papers in highly reputed international peer reviewed journals (Click to see his research on Google Scholars).  He is a motivator and believes in the power of words+ actions (join FB group here Career Counselling and Higher Education). He is a BITS alumnus and Ex-Scientist in Research and Development (R&D) Department at Biocon Research Ltd, Bangalore. His motivational novel “A fool who ate his hunger” is getting released soon worldwide.  He is also an amateur singer  and have been a second runner up in Idea rocks India (click here to watch and subscribe Youtube Channel

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