Tips for Life in the US
The United States is a large and diverse country. Life in the US can vary from region to region and even from neighborhood to neighborhood within a city, so it is difficult to generalize. However, below are some statements that are most likely true of any community which houses a college or university in the US.
Renting an Apartment
- Apartment rental leases are legally binding and are very, very difficult to break.
- Be certain all of your questions about the apartment rental lease are answered to your satisfaction before you sign.
- If it can be avoided, don’t rent an apartment before you see it.
- Assume your apartment will be completely unfurnished and be prepared to buy or rent furniture and household items (e.g. bed, tables, chairs, sofa, clothes washing machine and dryer, eating utensils, linens, etc.).
- Consider a rental lease for “short term” or “temporary” housing; these apartments are usually (at least partially) furnished, and you can get familiar with the area before renting a longer term apartment.
- It is risky to assume responsibility for an apartment contracted to another person (referred to as “subletting”). You may be held responsible for damage caused by the previous tenant.
- Read your apartment lease carefully and follow all instructions for how and when to request repairs, extend your lease, or give notice that you are leaving the apartment.
- If you leave your apartment before the rental lease ends, you will be held responsible for payment of rent for the duration of the rental lease.
- Public transportation may not be as efficient or extensive as you are accustomed to in your country.
- Be prepared to buy a used car which can be sold again when you are leaving the US.
- You can legally drive with a valid driver’s license from your country or an International Driving Permit for up to 12 months.
- Driver’s license regulations may vary by state. In Texas you must have six months or more of legal visa status at the time you apply to qualify for a driver’s license.
- If you are learning to drive you may be issued a “learner’s permit.” However, to legally drive with this permit you must be accompanied by a licensed driver.
American Research Culture
- The research environment in US colleges and universities is highly competitive.
- Don’t be surprised if you are expected to work long hours on a daily basis, possibly including Saturday and/or Sunday.
- Postdoctoral research is considered an apprenticeship or temporary training, lasting only 5-6 years, with the objective of advancing after that time to a faculty position.
- Postdoc salaries vary from one institution to another and are relatively low since the Postdoc is in training.
- Benefits including health insurance and retirement options may vary even within the same institution based on the type of payment received; be sure to ask for details on this.
- It is a good idea to learn more about the research culture of the institution you will visit by communicating with the student, postdoctoral, and/or international organizations at that institution.
Rules, Regulations, and the Law in the US
- Most US nationals take the law seriously and believe laws exist to protect people.
- Police and other law enforcement officials in the US protect the rights of everyone by upholding the law.
- While living in the US you will be expected to know and operate in accordance with pertinent rules, regulations, and the law (this includes immigration regulations, traffic and safety rules, college/university policies, etc.).
- If you break the law (e.g. drive through a red light), you should expect that there may be consequences, such as a monetary fine.
- People in the US are generally helpful and friendly, but if you break a rule, regulation or law even the friendliest US native may not be willing or able to protect you from the consequences.