Valerie Do, 19, accidentally applied to Miami University in Ohio instead of the University of Miami in Florida.
She went anyway because it had a good business school, it was safe, and she was offered a scholarship.
She enjoys Ohio's lower cost of living, its changing seasons, and the diversity of the area.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Valerie Do, 19, a TikTok creator who posts about life as an international student. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Despite living in Vietnam, I have been surrounded by American culture since I was young. I grew up listening to lots of American music like Nicki Minaj and Katie Perry, and watching American TV like the Disney Channel, "Friends," and "How I Met Your Mother."
When it came time to apply for college, I wanted to go abroad. My sister studied in the UK but after visiting her a few times, I felt my personality didn't match up with British culture. I also really don't like the weather in the UK — it rains a lot.
Instead I decided to apply to colleges in the US — I thought I'd like it from what I'd seen on TV — and Florida appealed because I figured I'd be able to spend so much time on the beach.
I was shocked when I realized Miami University wasn't actually in Florida — it was in Oxford, Ohio. But having moved here I think it was the best mistake I could have made.
Miami University (in Ohio) has been so supportive
I decided to go ahead and enroll at Miami University despite it not being in Florida because it had a great business school and offered me a scholarship. I started studying there in 2021 as a business major student.
As an international student, the transition from high school in my home country to college in the US was challenging. After orientation, the adjustment process was rough. It took a lot of work to get used to the language barrier.
But Miami University was really helpful, and they supported me through the transition. I always knew where to go or who to ask for help if I needed it.
Oxford isn't a big city, but it has a lot to offer
I'm from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam which is a big city, so I thought being in another big city could be fun. I was seriously considering Memphis, Tennessee, but then I was put off by its high crime rate and realized I'd feel safer if I went to Ohio.
Oxford is a college town, so there's always something going on. There are also lots of fun things happening on campus like movie nights, game nights, festivals, and concerts. There is a very diverse group of people and experiences to enjoy.
The cost of living here in Oxford, Ohio, is also much lower than many other big cities in the US. Right now, I'm living with three other roommates in a four-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and I pay $565 per month for my room. The apartment complex feels super safe, and we have our own hot tub, swimming pool, and gym.
I love experiencing the seasons in Ohio
In Vietnam, we have two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. Being in Ohio is the first time I've experienced living through four seasons. I first moved here at the end of summer, and I got to see the leaves turning from green to yellow and orange as the weather changed. It was so pretty. I'd walk to class listening to my fall playlist and romanticizing my college life.
Initially, I was worried about winter because I didn't know what to wear or how to get to class in the snow, but they have people mowing the snow out of the way, so it's not that bad. The only thing I don't like about the weather in Ohio is that sometimes it gets really windy, and it makes my hair look bad.
I won't stay in Ohio forever but I have no regrets about not ending up in Florida
After going on a trip to Florida with my friends, I'm glad I don't live there. I didn't really feel safe. There were lots of sketchy areas and lots of cops everywhere. I didn't expect to feel so unsafe while I was walking around there.
At the beginning of October, I made a TikTok video making fun of my mistake. The video went viral and was viewed over 1.9 million times. I'm glad so many people got to enjoy the video and saw the funny side of it.
I hope I can stay in the US after I graduate in May 2025. Although I love it here, I won't stay in Ohio because I want to travel more and diversify my experience. I've always been like that — it's a big reason why I wanted to study abroad.
Right now I'm aiming to go to Chicago, Illinois, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to work after I graduate. I'm particularly drawn to Chicago because it seems like such a fun and diverse city. I visited a lot during my sophomore year to visit a friend, and we had lots of fun exploring together.
In retrospect, I'm glad I ended up studying in Ohio instead of in Florida. Miami University has been great, and I'm really enjoying my time here. It was a great mistake to make. I wouldn't change anything.
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