Preparation advice for new life in America

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I had a Afghan interpreter guest last night from Los Angeles. He wanted to pass the following short advice to those waiting in Afghanistan for their visa and how to better prepare themselves for new life in America.

1. Work on improving your English skills.

Learn to write and speak English at the professional level as much as possible. Continue taking English courses.

English is the main language spoken in the United States. Please prepare yourself and your family by learning English as much as possible BEFORE arriving in the United States rather than worrying about it after arrival.

2. Learn computer skills.

Take Information Technology (IT) courses from a good school in Afghanistan. You will easily find high paying jobs if you have good computer skills and knowledge.

Teach yourself and your family how to use Internet search engines, like Google, to research and easily find information. This skill will become very valuable in United States for finding jobs, apartments for rent, doctor offices, etc.

3. Learn to drive car before arriving.

Unfortunately in USA, both men and women need to know how to drive car due to necessity of having a personal car for transportation. You need car for everything from going to shopping, taking children to school, to going for appointments, etc.

4. Encourage and let your wives learn English in Afghanistan.

Currently, it is creating lots of problem for newly arrived families when their wives can’t read or speak English because they need to know English to go to the shop, help with children homework, communicate with neighbors, etc.

5. Finding high paying salary jobs for newly arrived Afghans will be very hard in beginning due to lack of experience and qualifications. Accept any entry level jobs you can find. Build your work experience so you can apply for better job position in future.

6. Before arriving, make sure to research about the city you will be living. Find out about cost of rent, job availability, weather conditions, area safety and crime, living conditions, transportation availability, refugee help resources, etc. The best source is asking relatives and friends that have been living in the area for a long time. Ask them to honestly answer your questions.

Do not select to live in very expensive rent locations such as Orange County, Los Angeles, Fremont/Hayward, Oakland, San Jose, New York City, Washington DC, or Alexendria, Virginia (Northern Virginia area). Make sure you can afford to live in expensive areas before making your selection.

Do not blindly select a location without doing full research first. Use Google to research. Ask friends/relatives.

For example, it is very cheap to live in Arizona but it has very hot weather and very strong sun due to desert climate.

7. Make sure your name is correct in your application, documents and only use Afghan electronic passport to avoid the FNU (First Name Unknown) problem in your American documents.

8. After arriving in United States, don’t limit your friends and social contacts to Afghans only. Try to make friends and social connections with other Americans from various backgrounds in workplace, school or college and neighborhood. This will help you get adjusted to your new American society and culture.

9. Have realistic expectations. 

Set realistic expectations for yourself and your family in both the United States and Afghanistan. You will need to understand that you might not necessarily be able to get the same job position and high-salary job in the US. You might not have the same lifestyle as in Afghanistan and might need to set proper expectations to your family/relatives in Afghanistan about financial assistance after your arrival.

10. Watch American Television

Avoid watching only Afghan channels, especially after arriving to the United States. Start watching your local American news channels such as PBS, ABC, NBC. This will help you learn standard American English at professional level and become aware of issues happening in your area.

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