Education doesn’t end in the classroom, so those who choose to study in the United States should take advantage of their time here and explore the country as much as they can.
With a population of 323 million people and more than 9 million square kilometers of land, the U.S. has no shortage of opportunities for enjoyment and enrichment. To make the most of these opportunities, international students should know what to expect while they explore, taking into account size, sights, health and safety.
The continental portion of the U.S., alone, is larger than the European Union, with thriving population centers and geographic wonders scattered throughout. Divided into West, Midwest, South and Northeast regions, the U.S. provides international students with varied cultural experiences at every turn.
Here are some of the best cities to visit:
San Francisco, California (West)
This West Coast city is a must-see for international students. San Francisco offers excellent hikes, sights and nightlife, and is close to dozens of other points of interest lending to easy day trips. A visit here should last four days.
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota (Midwest)
While the obvious choice for Midwest travels may be Chicago, Illinois, international students should check out the iconic Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a more historical experience. They can visit this location in a weekend, or gather friends for an extended weekend road trip through America’s Heartland.
New Orleans, Louisiana (South)
The food, culture and history of this rebuilt city draw travelers from across the globe, and should be included on an international student’s bucket list. A trip to New Orleans should last three to four days.
New York City, New York (Northeast)
The largest U.S. city, NYC is a confluence of different cultures. For anyone who has heard the metaphor, “The U.S. is a melting pot,” this city of more than 8.5 million people is the perfect example. Students should spend an extended weekend here and explore not just Manhattan, but the city’s other four boroughs as well.
The most common language spoken in the U.S. is English, but don’t be discouraged if you haven’t perfected your English skills. The second most spoken language in the country is Spanish, followed by Chinese (including Cantonese, Mandarin and other Chinese languages), French and Tagalog.
International students may find others who speak their native languages in these U.S. locations:
- California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are home to large populations of Spanish speakers. In Puerto Rico, Spanish remains the official and most commonly used language.
- California and New York City boast large populations of Chinese speakers.
- International students who speak French will feel at home speaking their native tongue in Maine, Vermont, Louisiana, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
- Behind English and Spanish, Tagalog is the most common language spoken in California and Nevada.
There are dozens of other languages spoken by populations throughout the U.S. Dearborn, Michigan, for example, hosts many Arabic speakers, while Rhode Island and Massachusetts host many Portuguese speakers.
While it would be wise to learn some common English phrases before studying in the U.S., students shouldn’t worry if they don’t have a strong command of the English language.
Health & Safety
Just as they would when traveling anywhere else, international students should be mindful of any dangers their destinations may present.
Crime rates vary significantly across the United States, with certain cities being among the country’s safest (Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Shoreview, Minnesota; Ridgefield, Connecticut; Franklin, Massachusetts; Zionsville, Indiana) and others among the most dangerous (St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; Rockford, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan).
Additionally, the U.S. is home to insects and animals that can pose health and safety risks, including alligators in the Southeast, cougars (or mountain lions) in the West, venomous snakes in the South, and venomous spiders throughout the country.
Cases of the Zika virus have also been reported across the U.S., with New York, California, Florida and Texas each reporting more than 15 cases in 2017.
International students should be mindful of safety concerns when traveling to or studying near these locations, and take necessary precautions.
For more information on staying safe, connected, and covered while studying and traveling in the United States, visit IMG's International Student Health Insurance plans page.