Prepare for Your Departure

Seek assistance from an EducationUSA advising center and the international student adviser at your chosen university while planning your journey to the United States.

By Natasa Milas

July 2021

Prepare for Your Departure

When it comes to higher education, the United States is one of the most desired destinations for students across the globe, including from India. According to the Open Doors Report published by the International Institute of Education, nearly 200,000 Indians studied in the United States in the 2019-20 academic year.
To help international students navigate the application process, the U.S. Department of State created EducationUSA, a network of international advising centers which promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States.

EducationUSA has created a simple five-step process to help students navigate their journey to studying at a U.S. university: 1. Research your options 2. Finance your studies 3. Complete your application 4. Apply for your student visa, and finally, 5. Prepare for your departure. If you successfully completed the first four steps, you are a few months away from your trip to the United States.

One of the first things students can do at this stage is to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the website of the university or college they will attend. Here students will find information regarding housing, local weather, campus, transportation and more.

It is very important to attend the pre-departure orientation at the nearest EducationUSA center, which will offer advice on a variety of topics, including which documents to take with you, how to acclimatize to a different culture, what are the academic expectations at U.S. institutions and how to pack for your trip. At the EducationUSA pre-departure orientation, students can meet with advisers and alumni and ask questions to better prepare for their upcoming trip. This year, EducationUSA centers across India presented virtual preparatory sessions, titled the Prepathon series, to help students learn about pre-departure formalities, port of entry procedures, tips on settling in, ways for international students to maximize their educational experience and more. The entire webinar series is available for viewing on the EducationUSA India Facebook page. Another great resource for information is the international student adviser at your chosen university.

Students traveling to the United States should have their passport, visa and eligibility documents from their educational institution (I-20 or DS-2019) at hand. Additionally, each student should acquire an I-94 document upon arrival in the United States. Once in the United States, students need to report immediately to the office of international services at their university or college.

Students should also think about health requirements for traveling. With new COVID-19 regulations, students should remain up-to-date with requirements to board a flight to the United States. It is essential to bring all medical records with you as well as your immunization records. Additionally, every student is required to have health insurance during the course of their studies. Therefore, students should inquire about their healthcare options before their departure.

Once you take care of your immigration and healthcare arrangements, you need to think about housing. Ideally, you will make your living arrangement before arrival, especially if you want to live on campus. With off-campus living, you may have the option to arrange beforehand or once you arrive. It is important to get in touch with the housing office at your institution which will provide you with necessary information on housing or finding a roommate.

Once you are settled in, sign up for an orientation session at your university. Every university or college offers orientation sessions for new students. New students can also check out student clubs and organizations at their institutions. Many universities have international student organizations or even more particularly, Indian student organizations. These are great places to meet fellow students from India or other countries. Universities across the United States host Indian student organizations, including the Indian Students Association at the University of Texas at Austin, the Students of India Association at the University of South Florida or the Hindu Students Organization at Columbia University, all of which offer opportunities for Indian students to meet, socialize and keep in touch with their Indian roots while acclimatizing to American culture.

Next, think about the geographical area where you will attend your college and the local weather. This will influence how to pack for your trip. Traveling to California will require a very different wardrobe than Midwest. Learn about local transportation, especially if you plan to live off-campus. Mostly, prepare as best as you can, seek out the myriad assistance possibilities available from EducationUSA and your institution, and get ready for an exciting academic adventure in the United States.

Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.


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