The prospects of studying in the U.S. is a dream come true for those who aspire to gain the American experience. However, in today’s economic climate, the fear of burning a large hole in their pockets has held many students back from pursuing this dream. Even so, there are many viable options available for students who have their hearts set on earning a U.S. degree without having to break the bank.
Speaking to alumni from INTI’s American Universities Program (AUP), one of the oldest American degree transfer programmes in Malaysia, who have gone on to pursue their degrees in the U.S., these once wide-eyed dreamers shared their experiences on how they are making the most of their university experience without bursting the PaMa (father and mother) account.
Former INTI AUP student, Yiyi Ho advises students to start the decision making process by doing thorough research and looking into financial aid such as scholarships and grants.
“Most international students apply for scholarships in a different pool than American students, making it less competitive. I found most of my options and opportunities through attending university representative talks while still studying in Malaysia. I would advise students to talk to these representatives personally, exchange emails, take an interest in what they have to share and express what type of school you are looking for. Furthermore, INTI’s University Placement Office was a goldmine of information on U.S. universities and a great place to start for students who are not sure of where they want to go,” shared Yiyi who is currently pursuing her degree in Computer Engineering at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Michigan.
Beyond financial aid, Yiyi maintains a modest lifestyle by managing her living expenses such as food, housing and school materials. While her university estimated a spend of USD800 per semester on books, she managed to cut her cost down to USD50 by renting five books in her most recent semester, a significant savings compared to spending USD600 at the university bookstore. She strongly advises students to find alternatives like borrowing from the library, buying books online which can be cheaper, renting from Amazon or sharing it with a friend.
Like Yiyi, fellow GVSU student and AUP course-mate, Jowei Yek manages daily expenses by cooking meals instead of eating out or settling for the university’s meal plan.
“Lifestyle is a key area where you can monitor your finances. Most American universities have meal plans, where students pay at the start of a semester and receive meals throughout that semester. But these meal plans can sometimes be expensive. My alternative has been to cook for myself. Groceries are much cheaper so don’t be afraid to cook for yourself if your living center provides a kitchen facility. I usually make a week’s worth of food and microwave them as the week goes by. It has worked really well for me so far,” said Jowei who is an Advertising & Public Relations sophomore and scholarship holder at GVSU.
Working while studying is another option for students to earn some money to supplement their daily expenses. AUP alumni, Lim Khang, who secured a scholarship to study at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, works part-time on campus to cover some of his personal expenses which include meals and housing.
“International students can work up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters. During summer and winter breaks, however, we can work up to 40 hours a week. While the money earned may not necessarily go towards my tuition fees, it does help support my daily expenses which are just as important,” shared Lim Khang.
In an effort to reduce his daily expenses, 19-year-old Arif Nazran M. Radzi says he has tried everything; from becoming his own culinary chef and making affordable gourmet recipes, to sharing his apartment with a friend, which essentially cut his accommodation cost in half.
“The initial stage was not as hard for me compared to some of my peers, as my parents tagged along for the first few weeks I transferred to the U.S. – just to make sure my accommodation was decent and comfortable. However, when they left, the real test started, and the situation warranted calculated decisions,” shared Arif who is on scholarship at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota pursuing his degree in Cyber Security.
All four alumni attribute their successful transition to the U.S. to the dedicated staff and faculty at INTI who provided guidance on scholarship offers to visa applications, and even connected them to the relevant representatives at their respective U.S. universities. Through its close ties with over 300 North American universities, INTI students enrolled in the AUP are eligible for exclusive scholarship offers awarded by INTI’s American partner universities.