The month before you head to the US is full of excitement (and stress). To help make your preparations run as smooth as possible, here are eight things you need to keep in mind before you jump on a plane.
1. The only thing worse than being stranded at the airport is being stranded and jetlagged. Don’t try to “wing it” when you arrive, make sure you research if there is a bus system from the airport to your first night accommodations or if your school offers a complimentary pick-up service.
2. Make copies of any important documents that you’re taking with you. Ensure that you leave one copy with your parents or guardian, and place another copy in your checked baggage. All important documents like passports, health insurance, travel documents, etc., should remain with you in your carry-on luggage.
3. Don’t overlook your mobile phone- if you’re as attached to your phone as most individuals are these days, you will want to figure out your cell phone situation before you land in the US. If you would like to use your cell phone you can buy a SIM card like campusSims. Also, make sure to contact your wireless provider to schedule your service to end when you head to the US. Otherwise you could have to pay for service you can’t use, or even worse: international roaming fees.
4. Medical costs inside the US are expensive and if you become ill or injured, bills can add up fast. At minimum, your plan should include doctor’s visits, hospitalization, prescriptions, emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. Before you purchase a plan, also make sure it will meet your school’s requirements.
5. Get your finance ducks in a row:
- At this point, you’ve already had to show proof of funds. However, as we all know, sometimes life happens and funding falls through. If this has happened to you, find finds asap! Start with scholarships, then turn to an international student loan if you still need to fill the gap.
- If you haven’t already, contact or visit your bank and notify them that you will be inside the US for a few months. If you will be traveling to other countries while you study in the US, make sure you call your bank before each trip. Not notifying your bank could result in your funds being frozen.
- While you’re at the bank, make sure you order US currency. Typically $200-$300 is enough to see you through your travels to the United States. Once you have arrived you can visit an ATM if more cash is needed. Although businesses throughout the US typically accept all major debit and credit cards, having cash for your journey is a safe option in the event of an emergency.
6. Pack as though your life depends on it. Packing is an important part of your journey and will have an impact on your entire time abroad. What you bring is what you’re stuck with- unless you decide to tap into your funds. Because of this, you will need to choose what goes you’re your suitcase (and comes out) wisely.
- Before you pack, do research on the weather within the state you will be visiting. The US is a vast country and each state has different weather patterns throughout the year.
- Don’t just pack for the weather, pack clothing items that will work for each type of occasion.
- Bring clothes and shoes that are easy to mix and match. Although your neon yellow shoes look great- do they really go with a good majority of the items you’re packing?
- Don’t bring photographs. Although this might seem like a packing “must,” bulky photo books will only take up valuable space. Wi-Fi is highly accessible throughout the US (and typically free on campus)- this means you’ll have access to social media and numerous photos of your friends and family.
7. Make sure you’re not sleeping at the airport your first night in the US and make your accommodations ahead of time. Depending on when you arrive in the US, your dorm or apartment might not be open. Prior to departing, contact your advisor or apartment manager for a time line on when you’re allowed to move in. If you’re not able to move into your accommodations right away ask your advisor if they’re aware of any homestay options in the meantime.
8. Make sure you have a map app on your phone or print a map of the city or town in which you’re studying and pinpoint on the map where key items like hospitals, your college or university, your accommodations and your international student office are located.