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10 Things You Need To Do Right After Arriving in America
by Joe Vatanasombut

Are you a new international student? If you just arrived and don't know where to start, learn from the experts - other international students.

We interviewed several international students who arrived in this country over the past few years. Their responses varied, depending on personality, schools they attended, and local regulations. However, most students agreed that the following are the most important things for you to do within a few days of arriving.

  1. "Hi, mom. I'm here!"
    Immediately after landing, find a telephone and tell your family back home that you have arrived safely. They are worried about you! You probably don't have your own telephone yet. Instead of using cash or making a collect call, your best bet is to buy a phone card at the airport, or a nearby "7-Eleven" (convenience store) or gas station. It will save you money. Once you settle in, you learn more options to make cheaper international calls.

  2. "Give them the money."
    At this point, you either have a lot of cash or a lot of traveler's checks with you. It is not wise to carry them with you for long, especially when you are in a new and unfamiliar environment. As soon as possible, you should open an account at a nearby bank.

    • Be safe! Keep only a small amount of cash with you, and deposit the rest, especially large-denomination bills.
    • Exchange all your freely convertible currency to U.S. Dollars, since American banks generally only accept deposits in U.S. Dollars.
    • Request a checkbook and consider applying for your first credit card. Establishing your credit record is very important in America.
    • If you want to earn more interest with your cash, try putting some money in online banks. Generally, their money market accounts offer interest rates 1-2% higher than traditional banks. You can also do things like make online payments and account transfers on the web. If you want to learn more about online banking, click here.

  3. "Meet your advisor."
    Meet your international student advisor and program director as soon as possible, reporting your arrival and making sure that everything is okay. They will probably inform you about the orientation, the registration schedule, the beginning of classes, etc. If you haven't found a place to stay, you can also ask them about how to find housing information (e.g., apartments, dormitories, and homestay programs).

  4. "Learn from the veterans."
    While you are on campus to meet with your advisor, try to find students from your home country, and ask them for advice. Making friends with them at this point is the key to settling down! They have gone through the same process that you are about to begin. Make sure that you ask them the following questions:

    • Where are the closest (reasonably priced) grocery stores?
    • Where can I buy food and other products from my home country?
    • Where is the nearest post office?
    • How do I access the Internet and e-mail?
    • Are there any areas around campus that are not safe?
    • Is there anything else that I should know about or worry about?

  5. "Get connected!"
    The last thing to do before you leave campus (for now) is to get connected to the Internet. Open an email account at your school, so you can communicate with your friends and family, access information from your school, and enjoy the full privileges of being an iStudentCitizen. Normally, you can subscribe to certain mailing lists, (e.g., all students, international students, MBA students), which other students will use to announce their garage sales, moving sales, etc. Used furniture, textbooks, and cars are attractive deals for new arrivals, and they can be found on these mailing lists.

  6. "Where do I live?"
    Since you can't sleep in the library every night, you will need housing. Visit our Housing Center. We provide apartment hunting tips, introduce apartment search engines, information about buying and renting furniture and dormitory information. After you find your housing, you need to call nearby utility companies and activate your telephone, electricity, and cable TV.

  7. "Get that darn number."
    Here in the States, a Social Security Number (SSN) is an important form of identification, used in getting work authorization (for both off-campus and on-campus jobs), applying for an ID card or driver's license, applying for credit cards, getting student loans, etc. Some international students have reported difficulties in obtaining the number since the government has stricter regulations about issuing them to non-U.S. citizens. Since you need this number for so many things, you should try hard to get one as soon as possible. One way would be to tell the officer that you are getting an on-campus job and the university requires you to have a Social Security Number. Check out our Social Security Number section for more info and tips. Click here for the location of the Social Security Office closest to you.

  8. "Play it safe. Get insured."
    Depending on where you are from, you may never have been required to purchase health insurance before. In the U.S., international students are required to get health insurance. It is also a good idea, since medical care in the U.S. is surprisingly expensive. You will find information about how health insurance works in the U.S., and learn about things to watch out for when you get sick in America in our Insurance Center.

  9. "Don't get left out."
    Register for classes as early as you can, so that you have a higher probability of getting the courses you want. The number of students in many classes will be limited.

  10. "Become an iStudentCitizen."
    Sign up to be an iStudentCitizen and benefit from hot featured products designed for you, updated immigration information, job opportunities, and travel recommendations. Get connected with the rest of the world's citizens!

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