International travel is one of the greatest adventures you'll ever experience, but every trip has its own limits in terms of what you can comfortably handle and enjoy. Being away from home is a strain all on its own, and the stress of such travels can be amplified by the cultural discomforts and challenges faced wherever you're going.
In order to nail down your plans for studying abroad in the U.S., you need to make numerous preparations beforehand. It's important to take care of such considerations as making sure your passport is valid for the duration of your trip; purchasing a travel health insurance policy to cover you in the event of any medical emergencies; and obtaining the proper visa for a temporary or extended stay. Apart from those housekeeping tasks, here are some cultural considerations any would-be student should think over before embarking:
Different views on work/life balance
In general, the United States tips the scale more toward work than life happiness. Americans take fewer vacations than the average worker in many other countries. Hours may be longer, and in many professional positions it's expected that work will be brought home for completion in the evenings and over the weekend. For some people who have grown up in less demanding environments, that sounds like torture. If you're interested in education but don't want to sacrifice your quality of life to get ahead in your career, a short-term stay in America might be best.
Prices are as marked
Many markets and stores around the world allow for haggling and negotiation over prices, but this is a rare occurrence in the United States. You might be able to chew down the price of goods sold by outdoor vendors, or for larger purchases like a car or house, but in general, prices are not negotiable. This is a harsh reality for consumers who aren't used to paying full price on most of their purchases, but that's life in America.
Some restaurants are everywhere
Expect to see a lot more homogeneity when you go out to eat in the United States. The restaurant industry is dominated by national chains that you'll see in cities and towns across the nation. Consequently, those restaurants also sell most of the same entrées wherever you go. Some people like the idea of being able to find a restaurant and a meal they like in nearly any city in the country. If you're adventurous, though, you'll want to avoid these chain restaurants in favor of tracking down good, local establishments that offer a wider variety of regional cuisine.
And the food embraces salt and sweet
Mediterranean cuisine loves its olives. American cuisine? Sugar and salt, please. That's not to say that a ribeye steak comes with a caramelized sugar glaze, but in general the foods you eat in America will have their saltiness and/or sweetness level pushed to further extremes than you'd find elsewhere.
Ultimately, your time spent abroad is all about comfort—finding comfort in your surroundings and being happy with it. Short periods of travel make it easy to ignore the lesser aspects you might not enjoy, but over a long residence in America you may lose your tolerance for some of these differences. Consider your personal tastes carefully and don't commit yourself to more than you're confident you can endure—or else you might not return home with fond memories of your studies abroad.