The View From Campus: Pre-Arrival Checklist for New International Students to the U.S.

Congratulations! As an international student, getting your U.S. visa is a huge step toward your goal of traveling to the U.S. for university study. You’re nearly there, but there are three key items recommended as a pre-arrival checklist to keep you on track at this critical stage of the U.S. college admissions process. From your destination college or university, to an in-country pre-departure orientation, to the required immigration documents recommended by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the resources exist to help you travel to the U.S. like a pro.

Connect with college international office staff

No one can provide you, as a new incoming international student, all the details you will need to know about getting ready for life at your college as well as the international student office can. It is vital that you maintain close contact with your university in the weeks leading up to arrival and orientation. Over the past few years, many U.S. colleges and universities have improved their pre-departure information for students through a combination of emails, pre-recorded webinars, and live chats. Of course, you will need to pay attention to your email as there likely will be many documents and forms you will need to review to prepare for your arrival.

Depending on where you are in the world, and the institution you plan to attend, some U.S. colleges hold in-country pre-departure orientations if they have a large enough group of students from one country or region.  For example, the Ohio State University recently held four sessions across China for incoming students. Meanwhile, Northwestern University held three sessions in China, two in India, and one in Korea this June. Alternately, other U.S. colleges and universities have their alumni from your country host receptions for incoming international students. Both these opportunities, if offered, should be taken immediately! Not only will you get the pre-arrival information you need, but you will meet other students like you going to the same university.

Consult local pre-departure experts

While your U.S. college knows everything you need to know about what to bring for your studies, how to get to campus, and what to do once you arrive, others closer to you can assist you in getting ready mentally for your journey. The U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA network of over 400 advising centers in 170+ countries provides pre-departure workshops for international students preparing for their arrival. These meetings may attract between 20 and 300 people like you getting ready to travel. What a great way to build a network or new friends and contacts at colleges across the United States!

Other local educational advisers may also be hosting sessions for their students who are about to travel. But perhaps the most significant local resource you should speak with before you leave are the people you know best – your friends and family. Before you leave for the U.S., connecting with relatives who have traveled to the U.S. recently or older classmates from your school who may be studying at U.S. colleges and universities are two great sources of information about the arrival process at the airport, what documents to bring, and how to prepare for going through passport/immigration control as a student. 

Comprehend required immigration documents

Before you arrive, make sure to review the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s useful Study in the States site, in particular the Preparing For Your Trip to the United States page. On this site, the team at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol outline all the relevant documents (and where to keep them) as you travel to the United States. The best advice recommends that you carry with you on the plane the most essential documents you will need: academic transcripts, passport, I-20, admission letter, financial documents, contact information for the international student office at your college, and any medicines you need.

Summer Travelling on a Student Budget

Image courtesy of Jack Snell via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The Long Hot Summer

The one sure thing about university is that you get holidays – lots of them! And summer is the biggest and the best time to set off on some adventures. But they can burn a hole in your pocket too, so here are some tips to keep you on the road…

 

Make the most of them – plan your trip

Planning your budget for your holiday is of course the most important way to keep costs down. Contingency money and travel insurance(!) are also must-haves. You never know when you’re going to need it and you’ll be glad that you have it when you do. If you travel a lot, think about getting annual cover, as the costs tend to be less.

Planning can also steer you clear of the dreaded ‘tourist traps’ that will quickly see your bank balance go south! Main tourist spots will attract a hike in prices, so be sure you know as best you can before you go what you should expect to pay for food, hotels etc.

It’s a long summer, so working and saving before going anywhere is always a good option for students. It gives you the time to save your pennies and plan your trip before setting out.

 

Work whilst you’re away

Finding a job whilst you’re travelling can give you a great chance to get to know the people and culture of a place you’re visiting. Best of all, you’ll make friends for life.

It can also give you a base and the money to explore the country from. Your new friends can give you the inside information on the best places to go and how to avoid the tourist traps that will drain your bank account.

Having experience of working in different countries always looks impressive on a CV too.

 

Use your Social Media

As well as the must-have travel guides in book form, there is a lot you can now research online to find the best deals and most exciting places to go. Social media is also a good way to check what’s going on in certain places and potentially find a job for when you arrive. As ever – be cautious on the internet and never give over your details. Only use it for extra research, as things may be very different when you get there!

Once you’re there, social media can help plug you in to what’s going on in town, and find the best places to explore

 

Festivals and Camps

Festivals and camps that only exist in the summer will often be looking for employees, so can be a great way of having a cheap holiday. Camps like Camp America will pay for your room and board, and you’ll have extra money to spend as you see fit.

Again, this type of work will look great on your CV and you’ll have made great friends whilst enjoying yourself – that can’t be bad!

 

Failing all of that, you can start saving now and travel the world next year!

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