At this time of year, universities are just getting back into session.  Freshmen and first years are arriving in new cities, and even new countries, for the first time and getting to know the place where they will spend the next few years of their lives.  Our bloggers remember what it was like to arrive in the U.S. for the first time, and give their number one piece of advice for traveling here.

In this part, our bloggers look at the practicalities of travel, including what you'll need and what to pack.  Part 2 will look at how to get settled in and adjust to life in a new country.


Nareg Seferian

Entering the US requires more paperwork than just your passport and visa. As a student, you need to have your I-20 ready, signed recently by the listed responsible official of your college. It doesn't hurt to have your SEVIS receipt either, especially if it's your first arrival.

On top of that, everyone entering America fills out a form or two, something called an I-94 and a customs declaration form. They are pretty self-explanatory, but you will require an address to fill in and perhaps a telephone number of where you will be in the country (your university's address, if you're living on-campus). The I-94 gets stapled into your passport. Needless to say, be very cautious and make sure you don't lose it!

Have a look at the State Department's student visa page for further details and check out Nareg's previous post about his experiences getting his paperwork in order.

Zhamal Zhanybek kyzy

Before traveling somewhere, make sure that you know how you are going to get to your destination. Carefully discover which airlines you are going to use, and then make sure you know the bus routes in your town if nobody is going to meet you at the airport. Do not forget to take a little cash in case you want to buy some snacks or drinks.

My first trip was via London's Heathrow airport. And of course, it was raining there, but I forgot to take a sweatshirt with me, so I was frozen. So, look up the weather and dress accordingly. Also, if you are going to California, my best advice is to not forget to bring with you a good pair of sunglasses. Have a good trip!

Senzeni Mpofu

What to pack - dispelling the myths...

MYTH 1: Do not bring a lot of clothes because they will not be the American fashion. Nothing could be farther than the truth. Carry all your best clothes and all the clothes that you feel comfortable in, otherwise you will kick yourself for the rest of the year for leaving that fancy dress when everyone else puts on theirs!

MYTH2 : College kids wear t-shirts and jeans like a uniform. Probably true. But pack at least three formal outfits. I had to attend five receptions and dinners in the opening week of freshman year where t-shirts and jeans were a definite no-no.

MYTH3: American winters are sooo cold! Yes, pack a lot of warm winter clothes, especially if you are coming from regions where snow has never been seen except on television and postcards, like Zimbabwe. However, summer clothes are equally important. When you arrive in August, the weather will be hot and humid and you will love yourself for bringing a tank top and a pair of shorts.

Tara Cheng

Before I left China, my mother tried to put everything in my home to my suitcases. She was worried if the U.S. has this, if the U.S has that. Well, all could say was, "Come on, mom, America is not a primitive society!" Well, it is true that you can get 80 percent of what you have at home in the US, especially if you live in LA, San Francisco, New York or other cities with ethnic and immigrant communities. However, there did end up being things I couldn't find in the US.

Here is my list of "Only China Has" - things you have to bring from China to the US:
-- Seasoning for Chinese cuisine. If you got used to spicy food in China, you may have to bring the super diversity of Chinese pepper here.
-- Electric rice cooker. The American cooked rice here is harder and with each grain detached. You can only get the same taste of rice you have in China from a Chinese rice cooker. Well, it is easy to buy a used rice cooker from other Chinese/ East Asian students if you do not want to put a big cooker in your already full suitcase.
-- BB cream. Hey, girls! Remember how BB cream is popular in East Asia? Unfortunately, you can not find the exact same one in the US. You might find it in some asian store here, but the price is at least two times higher. Or you can try tinted moisture, which is the most similar thing to BB cream in the US.