Approximately 300,000 new international students will arrive in the US this year to study. Here are five things every international student should know when first arriving in the US.
This month, international students begin coming to or back to the US for studies. Approximately one million international students are expected to study in the US during the 2018/19 academic year, where about 300,000 of them will be new to studies in the US.♦
Many campuses include information sessions on culture shock during orientation, but there’s a lot to know even before getting to that part. Whether a student is coming for high school, college, university, English, or a Pathway program, here are five things international students should know when first arriving in the US for studies.
1. Someone is responsible for your arriving on campus
Every school has someone who is responsible for you arriving on campus. The contact information for this person or team should be included in your pre-arrival information communications, so if you have any questions or want to confirm transportation arrangements, feel free to email or call.
If you don’t have contact information for someone responsible for helping you arrive on campus, reach out to the person listed on your letter of admissions – typically a Director of Admissions or Director of International Admissions. They too have a strong interest in your arrival on campus and can help.
2. Most Americans are more than happy to help
Most Americans, even in a busy airport, are happy to help if you need help. Even if it’s finding your gate, finding a bathroom, or finding Wi-Fi at the airport (which every airport has), people are happy to help. Granted, people in some airports are more helpful than others, but chances are if you ask three people one person will give you the help you need.
Learn the phrase, “excuse me….” This is the polite way to get someone’s attention while also asking for help. This will help in all situations like:
“Excuse me, bathroom?”
“Excuse me, Wi-Fi?”
“Excuse me, gate?” (While showing your ticket)
3. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere
You can survive using just credit cards or bank cards till you get to campus. There’s no need to carry money on you, plus if you carry more than $10,000 USD you need to declare it at customs.
If you don’t have access to a credit card or bank card and must carry cash, you should be fine with less than $500. This will cover meals at the airport which should be less than $25 each, ground transportation to campus, and emergency funds.
4. The weather is probably different where you’re going
The US is huge, and the weather will vary based on where you’re studying. Look at the weather now and look at weather for the upcoming three months to know how to prepare. We always recommend bringing a jack, even if you’re studying in southern California because even there some days get cold.
You can always go shopping after you arrive on campus, so come prepared with the clothes you’ll need if the weather got really hot and really cold all of a sudden and then later buy more of what you really need.
5. Your roommate doesn’t hate you
School do not put random students together. Housing coordinators try to match students based on personality traits (do you wake up early or stay up late?, other) to help pair you with someone you will like and who hopefully likes you back. Many schools now ask students if they would feel good about having an international student as their roommate; so there’s a strong chance your roommate said, “yes” to that question.
Many campuses ran a campaign on social media for #yourewelcome, which welcomes international students and cultures to campus. Schools want you to feel welcome, so if anything happens beyond reason speak up.
If you have a roommate (that’s what they’re called in the US) and you’re a first-year student, chances are they are a first year student too. They’re probably living away from home for the first time, so getting used to living with people other than their immediate family. If you two get along, great. If not, then you can use it as a learning experience. But if things get serious and out of hand, then absolutely speak up and someone may be able to help with a roommate switch.
Special note for fall 2018 if you’re arriving on the west coast
Please excuse the large amounts of smoke in the air. The west coast is beautiful and the air is clean, but this year there have been fires you may have seen in the news which has been causing unusual amounts of smoke. This smoke will go away in the next 30 days, but just know this is not normal and it’s not caused by pollution.
Safe travels, and welcome to the US.
♦ IIE Open Doors. https://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Insights/Open-Doors/Fact-Sheets-and-Infographics/Fast-Facts