How New International Students Can Prepare for their First Semester


Ed Zaleck | Jun 12, 2024 Student Life

As a first-time international student leaving home, the process of travelling to the US for your first semester abroad can be taxing. You’ll soon be immersed in a different environment while having to focus on your studies and working towards graduation, leaving you with limited time to adjust to this transition.

With this, we prepared some tips on how international students can prepare for the fall semester prior to leaving their home country:

1. Obtain The Necessary Paperwork

When you enter the U.S., you will need multiple documents when you arrive to be allowed in. This would include your passport, student visa, I-20 and acceptance letter from your university. It is also essential to have any required medical records depending on your embassy/school requirements, including vaccination records if needed.

If any of this information is close to expiring, make sure to get it renewed as soon as possible to avoid any issues. It’s also best to figure out where you will be packing these documents to ensure they are secure and will not get misplaced during the journey.

2. Complete Medical Check Ups

If you are unaware from our other articles, medical treatments in the US are the most expensive in the world and can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for very basic treatments. With this, it is smarter to get any re-occurring medical visits out of the way while you’re still home, so you can save money on the amount you’ll be asked to spend.

To make the most, we’d suggest scheduling a general health check-up, dental/vision screening, and re-fill any existing medications you may have prior to leaving. This is also helpful as you’ll be able to ensure you’re in the best state of health prior to leaving and can avoid stressing about it into the future.

3. Purchase Health Insurance

Going hand in hand with the point above, health insurance is going to be a major key when preparing to go abroad. Not being insured can cause you to go into thousands of dollars of debt if you need unexpected medical treatments and most schools will require you to purchase a school-sponsored plan or show proof you’re enrolled elsewhere.

If you’re looking for an affordable option you can enroll in 5 minutes, feel free to review the plan options that we offer at ISO. Plans start at $31/month and will cover you in the event you suffer any injuries/sicknesses. Get peace of mind at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

4. Arrange For Housing

Housing applications move quickly, and options are limited so you should settle this well before you move into the US. Begin your research early about the available housing options, such as dormitories or off-campus apartments. Research the costs, amenities, and location to find the best fit for your needs.

If you’re arriving for your first semester, you will most likely have options offered to you by your university. Be sure to communicate with your university’s housing office to ensure a smooth transition and see what is provided to you at any university-sponsored housing.

If you live off campus, you will most likely be responsible for furnishing your apartment and setting up things such as your internet and heating/AC bills. Take whatever preparations you can while at home, so you don’t have to live in non-ideal conditions when you first arrive.

5. Research Your Destination and Pack Accordingly

The US is a vast country, with many different subcultures depending on what area of the country you find yourself in. Make sure to research the area you will be living in prior to get a better idea of things such as food options, available transportation and where emergency services are. Knowing what to expect can help ease the transition and make you feel more comfortable in your new environment.

In addition, the US has a variety of climates to deal with, with many areas experiencing both brutal winters and scorching summers. Preparing which clothes to bring will be crucial, especially since you will most likely want to be saving space for everything to fit in your travel bags. Keep this in mind as you pack other essentials – such as bedding, toiletries, and other personal belongings.

6. Open a Bank Account

Though you may be relying on a credit card or wire transfers from home while abroad, it’s still a good idea to explore the idea of establishing your own U.S. bank account. This will make it easier to track your budget, save on exchange rate fees and gives you an option to deposit money safely if you begin working or receiving income.

Applying for a bank account is relatively simple once you have the required paperwork and there are a multitude of options in the US. You can read the following link to learn more about setting up a bank account.

7. Connect With Your University Staff

Most schools will have a large staff dedicated to serving the international student population so feel free to reach out to your university’s international student office or advisor to ask questions and learn about resources. They can help you with any concerns or issues you may have, such as transportation, banking, and healthcare.

Familiarize yourself with the academic requirements, course expectations, and deadlines. Prepare by reading textbooks or contacting professors. Be aware of the grading system and ask for help if needed.

Though the start of the Fall semester is still a while away as of this point, the best way to make the transition as smooth as possible is to begin your preparations sooner rather than later. You can pat yourself on the back once you’ve checked all these items off, and we wish you good luck in all your upcoming endeavors!

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About ISO Student Health Insurance

Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

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