THE prospects of studying in the United States 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 options available for students who have their hearts set on earning a US degree without having to break the bank.

Some students from INTI’s American University Programme (AUP) alumni shared their experiences on how they made the most of their US university learning experience without bursting the “FaMa” (father and mother) account.

(Clockwise from top left) Cyber security student Arif Nazran M. Radzi at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota; INTI American Universities Programme alumni Lim Khang Lim Khang embracing the cool weather at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Wisconsin; Yiyi Ho (third from right) with her friends from Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Former INTI AUP student Yiyi Ho advised those who plan to study in the US 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 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 has a goldmine of information on US universities and a great place to start for students who are unsure of where they want to go,” said Yiyi, who is pursuing her degree in Computer Engineering at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Michigan.

Beyond financial aid, Yiyi mantained a modest lifestyle by managing her living expenses, such as food, housing and school materials. While her university estimated a budget of US$800 (RM3,162) per semester on books, she managed to cut her cost down to US$50 by renting five books in her most recent semester, a significant savings compared with spending US$600 at the university’s bookstore.

She advised 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, GVSU student and AUP coursemate Jowei Yek manages his 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 be expensive. My alternative has been to cook for myself. Groceries are cheaper so don’t be afraid to cook for yourself if your living centre provides a kitchen facility. I usually make a week’s worth of meal and microwave them as the week goes by. It has worked well for me so far,” said Jowei, who is an Advertising & Public Relations sophomore and scholarship holder at GVSU.

Grand Valley State University student Jowei Yek at a college football rally.

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 in Wisconsin, 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,” shared Lim.

In an effort to reduce his daily expenses, cyber security student Arif Nazran M. Radzi, 19, said he had 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 with some of my peers, as my parents tagged along for the first few weeks when I transferred to the US — just to make sure my accommodation was decent and comfortable. However, when they left, the real test started, and the situation warranted calculated decisions,” said Arif, who is on scholarship at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota.

All four alumni attributed their successful transition into the US to INTI, who provided guidance on scholarship offers to visa applications, and even connected them to the relevant representatives at their respective US universities. Through its close ties with over 300 North American universities, INTI students enrolled in AUP are eligible for exclusive scholarship offers awarded by INTI’s American partner universities.

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