Planning and Packing

Planning and Packing

After you decide what to study and where, you need to think about what to bring to the USA

Plan your flight to arrive in the USA no later than the date shown on your Form I-20. Arrange for your homestay agency or program staff person to pick you up at the airport, if they provide transportation for new students.

Clothing and Linens

Students and professors dress casually on U.S. university campuses, particularly in the summer. American students wear jeans, tennis shoes, sandals, T-shirts and sometimes shorts to class.

There probably will be some occasions for more formal wear. Men will want to have a sports jacket, slacks (or a suit), shirt and tie. Women will want to have at least one nice dress or pantsuit.

Should you bring any sports equipment? Certainly you will want your bathing suit. You may also want to bring your tennis racquet. Leave heavy golf clubs, bicycle, soccer balls, etc. at home. You can easily rent or borrow this equipment.

If you plan on living in a residence hall, you will need to provide your own sheets, pillows and towels. At some U.S. schools you can purchase a service that will provide linen and also launder it. Some schools will only provide your bed. As a precaution, bring soap and towel for the first night, buy anything else you need after you have settled in.


Make arrangements to open a credit card account (VISA, MasterCard) before you leave your home country. These are sometimes referred to as "charge cards."

After you arrive in the USA, you should open a bank account (checking and savings accounts). It is not safe to carry a large amount of cash with you at any time, in any place.

Most banks require a passport and one other form of identification for an international student to open an account. You will receive personal checks when you open your checking account. You can pay bills by mail or online, and purchase items with your personal checks. You will also get an ATM card to get cash or deposit money at an automated teller machine .You can also use this as a debit card in lieu of checks.

Some international debit cards cannot be used to pay your tuition at U.S. universities and colleges. You should find out how payment is accepted at your school.

Do not give out your credit or debit card numbers over the phone or on the Internet unless through a secure system. Be sure you know and trust the person and/or business that is asking for your account number.

In addition to money for tuition, room and board, you should have at least U.S. $2,000 available for additional expenses.

Other Items

Bring a good English dictionary that will help you to translate from your own language to English. Other books are better left at home if they are heavy and will not be useful to you.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring an extra pair. Also, bring a copy of the prescription for your glasses, so you could have another pair made easily.

Your medical insurance is not likely to cover items such as personal medications, eye examinations and dental work. Take care of these matters before you leave.

Bring your international driver's license if you have one, and your personal address book.

Bring with you on the plane: your passport, F-1 visa and I-20 form. Keep the name and telephone number of your U.S. school or homestay advisor in your carry-on luggage.

Photographs and Gifts

Americans will be interested in your country. They will want to see photographs of your family and where you live.

You will want to give presents to your new friends. Bring small, lightweight gifts that are typical of your home city or country. Choose items for people of different ages, since you will probably be invited to American homes.

If you have a camera, take most of your photographs of the USA during the first two or three weeks of your stay, when your surroundings look new and different to you. But wait to buy gifts to take home until the last two or three weeks of your stay. By that time, you will have a better idea of value. You also will know which items truly represent your stay in the USA.

What Else to Bring

Some things you need to bring to the USA won’t be packed in your suitcase, they will be packed in your mind. Your expectations and attitudes can make a difference in how you enjoy your summer in the States.

American people value individual experience. Be prepared to be independent!

As an international student, you will miss home, family and friends at first. This will only be temporary until you meet new friends and become familiar with your new environment.

You also will want to bring special attitudes. These include a readiness to reach out to strangers for friendship and to ask for directions or assistance, if you need them.

You will want to have an open mind as you observe your new environment and American culture. Try not to judge what happens and what you see as either "good" or "bad". Realize that what you observe simply is “different” from what you have experienced, or from what you may have expected.

Be sure to bring your sense of humor! You will no doubt misunderstand some of what is going on around you. Be ready to laugh at mistakes you make, they are part of learning English and discovering your new surroundings.

Have a good trip, and enjoy your educational adventure in the USA!

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By Destyn LaPorte
Program Manager, El Camino College Language Academy, in Torrance, California.

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