Now that you have your student visa, you need to start planning for your arrival in the United States. Booking your travel from your home town to your university is just one part of that process. Here are a few things to consider:
- Attend a Pre-Departure Orientation. EducationUSA advising centers organize live or virtual pre-departure orientations for students getting ready to depart for the United States. EducationUSA advisers and U.S. alumni provide information and resources that will help you prepare for new experiences and develop skills to adjust to new challenges. Topics discussed include cultural differences, motivation, changes from your home environment, academic systems and expectations, housing, and coping in a new cultural setting.
- Make your Travel arrangements – You probably have a good idea of how you will get from Fiji to the airport closest to your university, but do you have the details for getting from the airport to the campus, and do you know where to go on campus once you arrive there? Make sure you have contact details for the International Student Office and know where to go if you are arriving outside of normal office hours.
- Arrival/Documents – Make sure you travel with original documents in your carry-on bag, don’t put them in your checked baggage. It’s also a good idea to make physical copies of all your important documents including your passport, visa, letter of acceptance, and medical records. You may want to keep scanned electronic copies on your phone and/or other devices. Think about how you communicate with people once you arrive – both contacts you need to connect within the U.S. and friends and family back home.
Other things to think about before you go:
You may want to take some U.S. Cash or a money card, not heaps, just enough for some initial essential purchases, until you set up a local bank account. Be aware of changes to the exchange rates.
Prescription and over the counter items – check if they will be available locally before you travel.
Medical coverage supplied by U.S. university usually the best option, but it is good to look at options before you go.
There are four time zones in the continental United States, and the difference between the U.S. and Fiji changes at the beginning and end of Daylight Savings time, which happens on different dates in the two countries.
The U.S. is huge, and the weather can reach extremes we may not be used to in Fiji, and in the U.S., temperature is measured in Fahrenheit not Celsius.
Drinking / Smoking / Drugs
The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21 not 18, and smoking may be prohibited on campus and other public locations. The penalties for illegal tobacco/alcohol/drug consumption vary wildly by location. Many campuses have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol: If you get caught on campus, you may be immediately expelled!
Tipping / Sales Tax
Tipping is a cultural norm, a way of showing gratitude for service in the U.S., it Is expected and often required, especially in restaurants. Tax is usually not included in the displayed price for an item, and sales tax rates vary by location.
As you can see, there are lots of things to keep in mind, and the list above is not comprehensive. Going to study in the U.S. can be the adventure of a lifetime. It will also be a big transition, so we encourage you to do all you can to be well-prepared and contact EducationUSA if you have any questions.