Editor's Note: This report is part of a continuing series about international student life at colleges and universities across the United States. Join us over the next several weeks as we bring you stories about international students and the American higher education system as a whole.
Growing up in Hong Kong, Jasmine Lee always planned on going overseas for her higher education needs.
Lee attended the Hong Kong International School, a private Christian school. It offers an American-style education from kindergarten classes all the way through high school.
The Hong Kong International School teaches both Hong Kong natives and foreigners who live in the former British territory. Almost all of the school’s classes are taught in English. So Lee improved her English skills and learned about the rest of the world at an early age.
When Lee finished high school in 2015, she already knew she wanted to go to a university in the United States. But even before then, she had one school in mind.
Her older brother started taking classes at Boston University in the American state of Massachusetts in 2012. He loved his experience at the school, she says, so it became her first choice.
Boston University, or BU, is a private research university with about 30,000 students. It was officially established in 1869, but it is even older. The school that would become BU was set up 30 years earlier as a religious college in Vermont.
Ever since moving to Massachusetts, the school has had a long history of producing world leaders and important thinkers. For example, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone while working in one of its laboratories in 1876.
Lee liked the feeling of openness her brother described as part of his experience at BU. Many colleges and universities require students to choose a specific field of study before their first year of classes. But BU admitted Lee’s brother under its general studies program, which let him delay his decision on a field of study.
This made Lee so sure she wanted to attend BU that it was the only school to which she applied for admission. She even applied under the university’s early decision program. Usually, American students seek admission to more than one college in the late winter of their final year of high school. They learn which schools have accepted them by spring.
But the early decision process is for students who are very interested in attending a specific college or university. Schools with early decision policies let interested students apply earlier. And requesting early decision can help a student’s chances by showing schools just how much a student wants to study there.
Lee moved to the United States and began her studies at BU in 2015. She is hoping to complete a bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education.
From very early on, the 19-year-old says she enjoyed her newfound independence. On weekends, she explores the city and goes to stores and restaurants with her friends.
Boston is a city with a lot of history, especially events related to the American Revolution against Britain. Several parts of the city still have buildings and streets that date back hundreds of years.
But the past really is not what concerns Lee. She says she likes to make plans for the future and sets difficult goals for herself. Luckily, she has been able to establish personal connections with her professors at Boston University. Those ties will most likely help her reach her goals after college, she says.
"If your professor is in your field … I think you get to build that network with your professor. They can sort of guide you towards your career in the future."
For Luka Miladinovic, preparing for the future and life after college has never been more important.
Miladinovic is from Belgrade, Serbia’s capital. He began attending BU in 2013. He just completed a bachelor’s degree program in finance. But that was not what he planned on doing four years ago.
Miladinovic was at one point listed among some of the best rowers in the world. In fact, he competed in the world championships of rowing in 2011.
At that time, Miladinovic was completing his high school education and considering universities to attend both in and outside of Serbia. He wanted to find a school with a top rowing team. After the 2011 world championships, several schools in the United States offered him large amounts of financial assistance if he agreed to join their rowing team.
At first, Miladinovic liked the University of Washington, which he says has the best college rowing team in the country. But as soon as he agreed to attend the university, the BU rowing team contacted him. Its coach told the young man he was coming to Belgrade to meet with him in person.
When they met, the BU coach said that Miladinovic could join the best team in the country and work to continue its success if he liked. But an even greater test lay in helping a weaker team improve, the coach argued.
Miladinovic says he did not agree with that argument at first. But after thinking about what they discussed for several days, he did think the coach might be right. So Miladinovic decided to attend Boston University instead.
In the end, Miladinovic says he made the right decision. BU completely covered the costs of his studies in exchange for being on the rowing team. It is common for American universities with the biggest and best sports teams to do so. And he notes the way the coach led his team taught him a lot about how to value the team’s rowers and not be too critical of others.
This is a skill Miladinovic says he knows is very important outside the world of sports.
"Right now, I believe I can talk to whoever about whatever topic and I’m not going to be judging right away, because I know that so many reasons that stand behind any decision people made in their lives. And that helped me the most, I believe."
As his studies at Boston University came to an end, Miladinovic noted that his rowing career will likely end as well. That is why he is thankful he was not just interested in sports when he was considering which school to attend. He says he placed equal value on study programs.
Miladinovic says his classes were difficult, but satisfying. He is also happy that he was able to find a job with the university, working in the office responsible for paying BU’s employees. Most student visas do not let students work more than a few hours a week. But Miladinovic says even his short time working in the office greatly improved his communication skills.
These are skills he knows he will need for his next big steps in life.
I’m Pete Musto.
And I'm Alice Bryant.
Pete Musto reported this story for VOA Learning English. Lucija Milonig produced the video. George Grow was the editor.
We want to hear from you. How do colleges and universities in your prepare students for life after they complete their studies? What are some things you think they could do to improve how they prepare students? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
kindergarten – n. a school or class for very young children
class(es) – n. a series of meetings in which students are taught a particular subject or activity
specific – adj. special or particular
applied – v. asked formally for something, such as a job, admission to a school, or a loan, usually in writing
admission – n. the act or process of accepting someone as a student at a school
bachelor’s degree – n. a degree that is given to a student by a college or university usually after four years of study
network – n. a group of people or organizations that are closely connected and that work with each other
rower(s) – n. a person who participates in the sport of racing in long, narrow boats that are moved by using oars
financial – adj. relating to money
coach – n. a person who teaches and trains the members of a sports team and makes decisions about how the team plays during games
topic – n. someone or something that people talk or write about