As the United States continues to admit an increasing number of international students to US schools, international students are faced with deciding where, in such a large country, they will be able to make the most of their study abroad experience.
Immediately thoughts of famous US cities spring to mind—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, etc. However, there are a number of reasons why international students might want to consider studying in a smaller US town.
Studying Abroad in Smaller US Towns VS Larger US Cities
1) Most large US cities have significant international populations.
While on one hand this can be comforting to international students, it can also take away from a truly immersive study abroad experience. Part of the benefit of studying abroad is observing, absorbing, and experiencing the local culture. Large communities of people from home may present a temptation for international students to remain within their comfort zones rather than embrace and explore the foreign culture in which they find themselves. Moreover, the presence of these communities can reduce a student’s reliance on English, further proving a disservice to their study abroad experience!
2) Smaller towns represent a more uniquely American style of life.
Many large metropolises are very similar across the industrialized world—many of the same businesses, architectural styles, and industries can be found in major cities around the globe. These cities tend to be “melting pots” with more cosmopolitan cultures.
However, smaller towns represent more localized forms of life. The opportunity for international students to have a truly “American” experience during their time abroad in the states is significantly increased in smaller towns.
3) Smaller towns have less competition surrounding desired academic, professional, and personal positions.
Just in virtue of searching for schools in smaller US towns international students can significantly increase their chances of landing funded academic positions, fellowships, scholarships, departmental appointments, etc. Also, now that many international students in the United States will be able to work off-campus (something previously restricted) this reduced competition also extends to the professional realm.
4) Smaller towns more greatly appreciate individual international students
Somewhat related to the previous point, international students represent a source of both cultural and actual capital to small towns. Bringing in more international students means an increase in funding as well as local spending.
Moreover, the lack of established international communities often guarantees interaction and cultural exchange with local populations. This cultural exchange enriches both the international student as well as the community in which they are studying and living.
Smaller US towns typically have more tight-knit communities than major metropolises, and feeling appreciated by the community is something that can prove quite fulfilling during a study abroad experience.
So, while often overlooked, smaller US towns can, in many respects, represent a more enriching and fulfilling study abroad experience for international students!