Information for new students to the US

Congratulations on your acceptance in an American University. Along with the professional training, you also have an excellent opportunity to interact with students from all over the world. For those of you not privileged to study in the REC's, or IIT's, it is also an opportunity to meet Indian students from different parts of the country.

In this article OISNET provides relevant information and useful suggestions to new students coming to the US. We hope you find this information useful. Do contact us if you have any suggestions, or specific information that you would like to see here..
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Things to bring from India

  • I-20
  • Passport with valid US visa
  • Any sealed documents given by US Consulate
  • Letter of admission/financial aid (if applicable).
These documents should be carried in your person at all times. Make copies of these documents and keep one set at home.
This is very important and can save you a lot of money. Contact your department or faculty advisor or senior students and get a list of books that you will need. Also bring any good general reference books that you already have. A Dictionary, Calculator, Cookbooks, recipes are also very useful.
Clothing is expensive when compared to India. Students dress casually to school (Jeans and T-shirts). There are a few occasions when formal clothing (suit, tie, leather shoes etc.) is required. They are typically needed when you are close to graduating, and are interviewing for jobs. Since washing clothes is usually a weekend event you will need sufficient undergarments and socks. Ensure that the clothes you get from India do not run colour, as this can get very messy when using washing machines. Do try to get clothes that do not need to be hand-pressed. Clothes bought from India are also vulnerable to shrinkage when they are dried using the drying machines here.

In most parts of the country (except in the South), the winters are brutal. You will need sweaters and a heavy jacket during winter. The jacket should be bought here since most Indian jackets are not sufficient for the cold here.

Ladies might want to get a few Churidars and Salwars, which can be used going to school. A couple of saris and/or any other traditional apparel are useful on special cultural occasions.

Sneakers are used most of the time, however one pair on arriving is sufficient as you can buy them at reasonable prices here. Formal leather shoes are expensive in the US, so do get a pair from India. Chappals/sandals, Hawai slippers (with extra straps) are all useful.
Everything that you need for Indian cooking is typically available at the local Indian grocery stores. NRIOL provides a comprehensive list of Indian grocery stores in the United States.

You can however bring small quantities of the following to get you started: Coriander powder, Dhania powder, Red chilli powder, Turmeric powder (Haldi), Cloves (Laung), Cardamom (Elaichi), Cinnamon (Dalchini), Mustard seeds, Cumin seed (Jeera), Asafoetida (Hing). pickles, papads, and other ethnic specialities.
A Pressure cooker with spare gaskets and valves is useful. Some utensils unique to Indian cooking like cooking tongs, rolling pin, are helpful. Commonly used crockery items (plates, small plates, bowls, spoons, cups, knife, forks, serving spoons, sauce pans etc..) can be purchased here at reasonable prices.
Some commonly used medicine for headache, fever, coughs and colds such as Disprin/Crocin/Dristan/avil/Septran are useful. Eye drops, ear drops, bandage rolls, band-aid, cotton, etc.. are also useful. A spare pair of spectacles is very important.
These are to get you started and can save a little money. However these items are not very expensive so there is no need to get multiple sets. Useful toilet items include shaving set, combs, hair oil, toothbrush and paste, shaving cream, soaps, washing powder, cold cream, face powder etc.,

A Nail cutter, scissors, safety pins, sewing thread, needles, spare buttons and hooks, a penknife, screw driver, etc. are also useful.
Do not bother too much about linen. The beds here are usually larger than the beds back home, and the bed sheets and bedspreads that you get from India fit very poorly. Its better to buy these items here.
Typically rental apartments require you to pay an initial deposit equal to one month's rent along with the regular month's rent. You will also have other initial expenses to settle down. This will usually add up to at least $1000 or more. Do not carry large amounts of cash, Traveler's cheques/ personal drafts are recommended and are easy to use till you get a bank account opened.

Keep some money with you during the flight from India. You might need change to make phone calls and $1 bills for trolleys at some Airports

Here are some average costs. In general it is less expensive in smaller university towns, and gets correspondingly more expensive in bigger cities. Big cities like New York and Chicago are significantly more expensive than small university towns.

Apartment Rent (monthly) - $400 - 1000
Utility bills (heating -air conditioning, monthly) $ 50 - 75
Groceries (monthly) $ 80 - 150
Text books (each) $ 50 - 150
Jeans (Pair)$20 - 30
Sneakers (Pair) $ 25 - 80
T-Shirt (each) $5- $20
Average meal $ 3 - 10
Spectacles (pair) $ 100 - 150
The cost of medical expenses in the United States is exorbitant. It would take a brave soul to risk not having medical insurance while studying in the US. Many universites are affiliated with different insurance companies, that offer insurance plans at competitive rates. It would be best to find out about the insurance plans popular in your university. NRIOL has created an user friendly insurance comparison engine. This facility allows you to compare between different plans, and select the plan which best satisfies your requirements. The insurance comparison engine can be accessed at NRIOL insurance comparison engine.
Remember to get family photographs, deities and religious books (if so inclined) and ethnic gifts. Ethnic music cassettes are a good idea since non-English selection is limited and/or expensive. There is no value in getting electronic equipment as the voltage is different here (110 V).
While driving might be a luxury in India, it is usually a necessity in the United States. Sadly only few big American cities, and some University towns have decent public transportation. Students have little choice but to drive, especially if they live outside the university campus.

A driving license along with being required to drive is the universally accepted form of identification. The alternative to a driver's license for proof of age/identity is a passport, which is not safe to carry around. An international driver's license is valid for on arrival in the US. The duration of validity will vary from state to state.

It makes a lot of sense to learn driving in India. To learn driving in a school in the US is an expensive proposition. You have to depend on friends to loan their cars, and to teach you driving.

On the flip side, owning a car can be expensive on a student budget. While second hand cars are usually available at reasonable prices, their maintenance cost is correspondingly high. Also, owning a car involves a mandatory insurance expense, which is significant.

To summarize, it is extremely useful to learn driving in India. However, it also makes sense to defer buying a car if one can manage without it.
This is one facet of American student life that most Indian male students find themselves completely ill-equipped to handle. While some may harbour illusions of being able to makeshift by eating inexpensive American fast food, the reality remains that Indian taste buds are too dependent on hot spicy food to accept bland American cuisine quickly. This leaves little option but to cook at home. While the gastronomic adventurers can create new culinary styles in the US, it might just be safer to spend time in the kitchen before leaving India. This is also the preferred option for strict vegetarians, as the local definition of "vegetarian" could be different from India.
Medical care in the United States is very expensive. All students are well advised to get adequate medical insurance in the US. However do try to get a complete medical checkup and bring your medical records along. This is especially important if you are currently being treated for any medical ailment. However basic medical insurance does not cover dental and eye care. It is prudent to visit a dentist and also get a spare pair of spectacles or contact lens (if required) before leaving India. If you are currently under medication, bring the prescription and a sufficient quantity of the medicine along.

Contact information:

As a student in a new environment, you are bound to feel lonely. It is very helpful to know other students in your university. Most American universities have active Indian Student Associations, which are very helpful. OISNET has a list of Indian Student Associations, which can be looked up by clicking here.

Do also remember to get a up to date list of telephone numbers of any friends or family in this country.

Miscellaneous Information

Try to contact other students in the university regarding the availability of financial aid to new students. Also try to contact the specific department and even the concerned faculty members in areas of interest to see if they can offer assistantships. Also, it helps to arrive at the university a few days before the semester/quarter starts. These few days can make all the difference in getting some form of assistantship.
On a students (F-1) visa, you are not allowed to work outside the university campus. However there are on-campus jobs that are available. The available jobs vary for different universities. Typical on-campus jobs can be working in the library, the cafeteria, in the computer centre etc.. Arriving at the university a few days before school starts improves your chance of getting a good on-campus job.

Students can work outside the university on an internship. However this is usually not available to new students.
Living in the campus dormitories is usually more expensive. This also forces the students to eat in the dormitory cafeteria. Indian students usually share apartments or houses close to the university.
American universities attract students from all over the world, thereby offering excellent opportunities for cultural interactions. Universities also often play host to distinguished personalities, and it is not too uncommon to hear famous academicians, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer prize winners or even Political leaders speak on campus.

Universities that have large Indian students often have a vibrant Indian student Association. These associations typically celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali, Holi etc.. These are occasions when students wear traditional clothing.
Most universities have excellent sporting facilities and students are usually given free access or are charged a nominal fee to use them. Basketball, American football, Tennis, Lacrosse, is the more popular sports with American students. Soccer is fast gaining popularity with Americans. Many universities have cricket clubs that are usually organised by students from the Indian subcontinent. Table Tennis and Badminton are some of the games played by many foreign students.

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