Before You Leave

You’re not stressed at all about what’s left to do before you leave your home country and become an international student in the USA, right? Good, then you won’t mind if we give you these last few tasks to make sure your transition to the USA is as smooth as possible.

Walking tasks
Take your cell phone to your carrier and make sure to get your phone unlocked. This is not the same as changing a code to access the phone but rather doing fancy technological things to the phone so it will be compatible with the cell phone providers in the USA. Keep in mind that you’ll be in the USA for months or years, so even if your wifi works when you arrive you’ll need the phone to be working fully, including texts and calls, for the long term. 

Similarly, if you don’t plan on returning to your home country very often during the course of your education, it may be worth cancelling your cell phone plan there completely and getting a new one in the USA (which you’d probably have to do anyway). 

Attend a pre-departure orientation at an EducationUSA center. These centers are run by the U.S. State Department and can offer lots of helpful advice about life in the USA. 

Visit your doctor and dentist to make sure your prescriptions are up to date (including glasses or contacts) and you have enough medication to last until you can make an appointment with a doctor in the USA. This seems like it’s not a big deal, but health care in the USA is a totally different beast than it is in most other countries, so it will make your medical life much easier if you prep as much as possible before you leave. 

Sitting tasks
Alert your banks and credit cards that you may use your accounts while in the USA. Check with them about foreign transaction fees, fees for minimum balances, fees for transferring funds to a foreign account, and so on. Basically, tell them that when your card is used at a Walmart in the USA it’s a legitimate purchase, the card hasn’t been stolen, and you don’t want to pay extra for doing it. 

Send your itinerary, address in the USA, and any other relevant contact information to your parents, siblings, and other close family members. Make sure you have it accessible for yourself on both your email and on a piece of paper, because if your phone battery dies while you’re in the taxi from the airport you’ll probably have a hard time remembering the address of your dorm.

Find out about any income tax filing requirements for your home country before you leave. If your parents or guardian won’t be handling your financial affairs in your absence, arrange for an appropriate “power of attorney” or (similar official documentation) for the person who’ll be doing those things.