What You Need to Know About Living in America

Today was the final class meeting for my English as a Second Language (ESL) advanced speaking course, and it was the most fun we’ve had all summer. They’re a great class, as well as a very small group, which is wonderful for them and obviously for me too. Because it’s a course designed to improve their general speaking skills, we’ve done everything from short, timed speeches ala-Miss America (“Is it better to love your job or to make gobs of money?”) to idioms (“I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth!”), in addition to more formal presentations. For their final projects, which they presented today, the short version of the prompt was:

What do new international students need to know to survive/thrive in America? Pretend you’re on a plane loaded with students from all over the world, on their way to the U.S. The plane will land in 30 minutes, and your speech will help them prepare for what’s in store.

My students are a smart, articulate, funny group, so I expected great group presentations from this, and they were even better than I’d hoped. While I won’t bore you with the full transcript, I noticed that the tips my students gave were brilliant, and pretty solid advice regardless of your background (or whether or not you’re on our fake plane). So, I present the highlights:

What International Students (or, really, we all) Need to Know to Thrive in America
– “America is bigger than you probably think it is. One area could be entirely different from another. Choose carefully.”
– “You’re not going to want to carry all of your money around with you all of the time. Banks are safe here! Use them.”
– “Try to look interested when people are talking to you, even if you’re not, or even if you don’t understand them.”
– “You need to set goals. Go to college. Get a beautiful wife. Or husband! Have so many kids. Make money and reach success.”
– “Even though people have money here, they will still steal your things.”
– “These people are crazy for the baseball. And the football. But not the soccer.”
– “The studying here, it’s not a piece of cake.”
– “Everything here works with internet. Stores use internet. And teachers. And apartment buildings. Even if you’re not really used to using it, you’re going to have to learn fast.”
– “Learn how to say no. In my country everybody says yes even when they don’t mean it to be polite. This is very dangerous here, I’ve learned. I end up buying lots of things I don’t need because I keep saying yes and the sales people are very persistent, like they keep on telling you that you need this stuff, you really need this stuff. They also are very good at convincing you. For example, I wanted a gym membership, but when I went to sign up, they told me that I really had to get a personal trainer because I am a little fat and I want girls to like me. This is true, so I got it. But I never go.”
– “It’s terrible to end up in failure.”
– Another American holiday you should be aware of is Memorial Day. It’s about the wars. Or the men in the wars. Or maybe that’s Veteran’s Day. But you can have a picnic!”
– “Don’t just sit in your room and study. Go out and talk to people. Do fun things. This is how life is best and how you learn stuff.”
– “Do you know the paintball? It’s crazy. Do it. Don’t wear your nice clothes.”

    Good advice all around, I’d say.

    2 Comment

    1. This:

      – Another Amer­i­can hol­i­day you should be aware of is Memo­r­ial Day. It’s about the wars. Or the men in the wars. Or maybe that’s Veteran’s Day. But you can have a picnic!”

      This made me laugh out loud. :oP

    2. OMG: – “Do you know the paint ball? It’s crazy. Do it. Don’t wear your nice clothes.”

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