When you’re traveling to the United States for the first time, you may be excited, unsure what to expect—and maybe a little anxious, too! But don’t worry. With some advance preparation, your inaugural trip to America—and your study abroad experience—will be as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.
Square away paperwork
One of the first tasks to accomplish in the planning phase of your trip is to make sure you have all the proper paperwork completed and in your possession. This means an up-to-date passport; an F1 visa for you and F2 visas for your spouse and any dependents who might be traveling with you; proof of your F1 visa insurance policy to cover you for the duration of your stay in the U.S.; and any other necessary documents, such as further identification or a driver’s license.
What to pack
America is such a large country that the weather can vary widely from one region to the next. Do a little research about the average weather in your destination city for the time you’ll be there, and pack accordingly. Remember that you can always purchase a few things after your arrival in order to avoid carrying your whole closet with you onto the plane. And be sure to leave at home anything that could create a problem as you pass through customs.
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Lightweight clothing that can be layered, such as T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts and fleece jackets
- Toiletries, including your favorite brands/products that might not be available in the U.S.
- A light jacket
- Casual everyday clothes and at least one dressy ensemble
Generally, Americans dress casually, but the situation or event will dictate the level of dress you should wear. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to ask a friend for some guidance.
There are numerous places around the U.S. that would make ideal destinations for a trip during school breaks. Depending on where you’ll be studying, the following sites may be good choices for a getaway:
- If you’re in the western half of the U.S., go to the Grand Canyon and/or Yellowstone National Park. This might involve some significant travel time from your home base, but the breathtaking views and striking natural wonders are well worth the trip.
- If you’re in the eastern half of the U.S., visit Boston or Washington, D.C. The former is a culturally- and historically-rich city; the latter will allow you a glimpse into America’s government. Both are worthwhile destinations, and Washington’s Smithsonian Museum is a remarkable destination unto itself.
- If you’re in the South, make a point to visit New Orleans. No other city in the U.S. has quite the same mix of culture, history, music and fun as The Big Easy, and you’re sure to enjoy a great time there.
Your first trip to America as an international student will no doubt be unforgettable. You’ll create many fond memories and have an experience you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Just do a bit of preparation beforehand to make sure your trip goes smoothly and you arrive in America fully prepared for the semester or school year ahead.