From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada
to Mexico, the United States of America is a vast, sprawling kaleidoscope
of a country, with an enormous diversity of cultures, geography, ethnic
groups, and languages. Technically speaking, the U.S. is a federal republic
on the continent of North America consisting of 48 contiguous states
and the noncontiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii. Outlying associated
areas include Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin
Islands. But this description only hints at the tremendous variety facing
a student in this country.
There is a staggering wealth of natural wonders and the western third
of the country—roughly from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Spectacular parks such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon National
Park are located in this region, along with uncountable mountain ranges,
deserts, lakes, rivers, forests, and a great variety of wildlife. The
Northeast is also blessed with lovely scenery, particularly in autumn
when the leaves of deciduous trees ignite with color. The eastern seaboard
and the deep South have their own brand of natural beauty—rolling hills,
pasturelands, and idyllic coastal havens.
The major cities of America are centers of culture that range from theater
to opera to literary readings. For innovation and creativity on the
cultural scene, New York on the East Coast and Los Angeles on the West
Coast are two of the most important cities. But smaller cities such
as Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Seattle are also cultural hot spots where
new voices can be heard.
Students may visit the middle section of the U.S. for a taste of bedrock
values, homespun traditions, and what some consider the "heart" of America.
The landscape of the Midwest is in many places an endless ocean of grain
fields, interspersed with lakes, hills, and rivers.