It’s always interesting to hear why people make the leap to study in the US when there are decent universities on their doorstep. I’d love to hear from current or past international students about what appealed to them about the US and/or what their motivations were. Thanks!
Hey there Alex!
This is an interesting question, and it really differs for everyone. Until 2015, I never even considered studying overseas - the obvious choice was going to a good University reasonably close to home, and then work domestically. My parents had never put any pressure on me to go overseas, the desire ended up being entirely of my own volition.
In 2015 however, I was fortunate enough to attend a number of meetings with companies in Silicon Valley, and one of those happened to be at Stanford University. As someone who’s always been interested in computers and technology, and has become more interested in entrepreneurship over the last 5 - 6 years, the atmosphere instantly struck me as a cultural fit. When I had lunch with a Professor there, this notion was really cemented. I had decided on that trip that I wanted to work in the technology industry, and the epicentre of that industry is Silicon Valley. Nestled right in the centre of the valley is this great University that embodies a lot of the principles that I value - entrepreneurship, creativity, technology, hard work, diversity…
With my end goals in mind - working in Silicon Valley - Stanford therefore became the obvious choice. Its computer science department is one of the best, if not the best in the world, so coupled with the location and history of the school (which lends a rich set of experience and connections into the technology industry) there’s really no other place that offers similar opportunities in the area of my passion. That’s what convinced me that I should study overseas - particularly at that institution. I’m unsure if I would’ve applied to other places in the US had I not been fortunate enough to be accepted.
I suspect my story is slightly unusual in that I really targeted one place specifically, rather than wanting to go to the US in general (although I did consider others along the way, particularly MIT).
I hope this information is useful!
I will quickly brush over the main reasons of what motivated me to try to go to a US university.
First of all, is the liberal arts style education. At the age of 18, I, like most other people, had no idea really what I wanted to do in life. In NZ / AUS, I really didn’t like that you are expected to make a major decision that really impacts what course your future career and life will go. Whether I decided to pursue an engineering degree, commerce degree or decided to go to med school, committing my future and pretty much selecting my career path at such a young age just felt really uncomfortable. US universities typically have much more freedom and provide a liberal arts style education. Here at Duke, we don’t declare our major until half way through second year. For the first 2 years, you are able to explore different fields before deciding what you want to specialise in. For example, so far I’ve taken classes in Chinese, Art History, Computer Science, Biology, Maths and Writing. I’m intending to major in economics (finance concentration) which I thought I would before I started uni, but now I’ve also decided to pick up a second major in computer science. It amazes me to think that if I stayed at the University of Auckland (I attended for one semester initially) I would have never been exposed to computer science and would not have the opportunity to pursue a career in tech, something that I’m heavily considering. I’ve witnessed my roommate change his mind on what he wants to do so many times: from investment banking, to engineering, to med school, tech and back to investment banking. If we didn’t attend a US university, we simply wouldn’t have the flexibility to still be able to decide what we want to do with our futures and the decision would have been largely made during our final year of high school, which seems ridiculous to me since I’m in a liberal arts education.
Another simple reason why I wanted to apply to the US was that having gotten into University with year 12 grades, as a lot of people in my school had, students typically became demotivated in year 13 and it was viewed as a year that didn’t matter. As a very competitive person, to me, it seemed like excelling in classes in year 12 was a little bit wasted in that even those who performed much lower than me would make the grade boundaries in year 13 and we would end up with the same result in the same place out of high school. I thought, why not take advantage of my academic achievements and use them to gain something that others without the same achievements wouldn’t be able to? Furthermore, applying to US universities was something to keep me motivated during year 13, and not simply slack around knowing I’ve already gotten my university entrance in Auckland.
Finally, I simply knew that the universities in the US are the best in the world for undergraduate education. Attending one would place me with the best opportunities, so if I had the potential to get into one, then passing this opportunity would be something that I could only regret.
I applied to US schools because of the offer of liberal arts education. I didn’t know what I wanted to study and going to the US meant that I had more time to decide on what I wanted to study.
US schools have a sense of spirit that can’t be found in any other school. College sports is huge, and it’s crazy how passionate the schools get whenever a game comes around.
Finally, just by touring around a US university you can get the feel that the facilities are honestly just so much more impressive than in other countries.
Before anything … I’m not saying that universities in Australia are mediocre in any way because they are in fact internationally recognised and are great in their respects. However, after touring several universities in America, I found that it was very clear that education over there was definitely for me.
First of all, coming out of high-school I wasn’t one hundred percent sure about my passions and career path. I considered dentistry at La Trobe University, Biomedicine or Commerce at Melbourne University and Law or Medicine at Monash University. This would mean that if I wanted to switch courses in an Australian university I’d have to start over and go through a confusing process. However, the liberal arts education offered in the US left me more time to explore and decide what I wanted to study.
Secondly, there was a pride and a sense of community surrounding universities in the states that just did not exist in Australia. People were proud to be where they were and it was almost like a competition with other universities in terms of college sports. Adding on to this, the college life described by many students was also appealing with unique traditions and a huge party scene.
Finally, to experience the beauty of some of these schools would require you to visit some of them because they have some of the most amazing campuses. The architecture and atmosphere of these schools could not be found elsewhere.