Arrival in the U.S.
When to Arrive
When to Arrive
If any of the following circumstances apply to you, we suggest you arrive up to three weeks before classes begin:
- You have chosen to participate in the optional Global Gopher Academy (fall students only)
- You have chosen to live off-campus in privately-owned housing and need to secure accommodation (see Housing section for more information)
- You have an "AZ hold" because you need to take the English proficiency exam. You should arrive early to allow extra time for the exam to be scored and register for classes.
What to Bring
People in Minnesota prefer to dress casually, both in and out of the classroom. Feel free to dress informally during most of your program. It's a good idea to pack one formal outfit for special occasions.
Don’t forget the essentials, such as medication and identification documents. You don’t want to arrive at the airport without your passport! Make sure to pack enough prescription medication to last you for the duration of the program.
For students choosing to live in university housing, please refer to the suggested packing list from the Office of Housing and Residential life.
Sample Packing List
Please note that this list is only a guide. Most of the items listed here, other than certain prescription medication and travel documents, can be purchased in Minnesota. However, during orientation, we will have limited time for shopping, so please do your best to come prepared.
Information about packing restrictions on international flights can be found on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website, or by checking with your airline.
- passport & photocopy of passport
- vaccination certificate
- prescription medications
- health insurance card
- GO Minnesota Important Contact Information
- extra spending cash for gifts, meals, and activities not included in the program
- credit/ATM card (for emergencies or instead of cash)
Fall, Spring, Summer
- shorts / skirts / sundresses
- light jacket / rain jacket
- thermal clothing or many layers of clothing
- winter coat
- thick gloves or mittens
- warm winter hat and/or earmuffs
- thick shoes or boots
- winter scarf
- wool socks
- casual shirts
- jeans or casual pants
- swimming suit
- fitness / outdoor shoes
- dress shoes
- 1 semi-formal outfit
- razor for shaving
- shaving gel
- shampoo / conditioner
- sanitary items (women)
- comb / hairbrush
- other personal care items (hair products, makeup, fingernail clippers, hand lotion, etc.)
Other items to consider
- small backpack for day trips and classes
- books, music player, or other entertainment
- snack for the plane
- wall socket adapter (North America uses the NEMA Types A and B connectors)
We are fortunate in Minnesota to experience all four seasons. However, Minnesota weather can also be unpredictable. To help you prepare for your time in Minnesota, we recommend referencing usclimatedata.com for an overview of monthly climate data for Minneapolis.
Arrival at the Airport
Immigration and Customs
Immigration and Customs is a security checkpoint staffed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The staff might ask you some questions about your travels. After Immigration and Customs, you will proceed to Baggage Claim to collect your checked bags.
Baggage claim at MSP is similar to other large airports. You can check the TV screens as you walk through the claims area to see which port has your flight’s luggage. Each port is numbered.
Here’s a tip! Tie a ribbon or something else distinctive to one of the handles of your luggage. This will not only help you to find your own bag, but also prevent someone from mistakenly taking yours!
Sometimes, accidents happen and the airport might have misplaced your luggage. If you have searched the conveyor belt and still can’t find your bags, locate the Lost Baggage counter for assistance. They will ask for your address during your stay in Minnesota (so make sure you have the information about your residence hall or other housing on hand), and they will hand-deliver your lost bags to you as soon as they have retrieved it.
Transportation to Campus
Gopher Chauffeur (Fall Semester Only)
In the fall semester, the University of Minnesota provides a free airport shuttle called the Gopher Chauffeur during the month of August. The Gopher Chauffeur will arrive at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport every hour on the hour and will wait at the airport for 20 minutes before leaving for the University of Minnesota. After collecting your baggage from baggage claim, follow the arrows on the overhead signs that lead to “TAXIS, LIMOS, VANS, and SHUTTLES.” The Gopher Chauffeur operates two large vans. They both say Gopher Chauffeur and have a picture of Goldy Gopher, the University’s mascot.
Other Transport Options
If you cannot take the Gopher Chauffeur, you may take the lightrail train (approx. $2) or a taxi (approx. $30-$40). Look for Ground Transportation information desks at the airport.
Where to Go?
Fall semester students who requested Radius or Yudof Hall may move in anytime after August 15. Fall semester students living in Centennial Hall will need to reserve International Early Arrival Housing. Spring semester students should contact their housing in advance of arrival to request an early move-in date.
Summer session students may proceed directly to their assigned residence hall from the airport.
There is no cafeteria service on campus before school begins, so students will need to visit local grocery stores or restaurants (see the Shopping & Eating section for more information).
After-hours Emergency Phone Number: 323-741-4666
This number will direct you to a GO Minnesota staff member, who you can speak with at any time of the day. A GO Minnesota staff member will always be available should an emergency occur. GO Minnesota staff must be informed of any serious issues during your time in the U.S. However, if you have a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 immediately to speak with the police or other emergency services.
Priorities Both Before and When You Arrive
International Student Preparation Course
The University of Minnesota’s international student orientation begins with an online preparation course. All new international students must complete the International Student Preparation Course. This online program is designed to help you learn about your immigration status and prepare for success at the University of Minnesota. As part of it, you will also make a reservation for your ISSS Check-In (a mandatory check-in procedure). You should complete this orientation prior to your arrival in Minnesota, and at least one week before your ISSS Check-In. In total, the program will take approximately two hours to complete. Visit www.isss.umn.edu/new to access the preparation course.
The online orientation will help you:
- Learn critical rights and responsibilities of international students
- Learn of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) programs
- Learn about accessing health care and understanding insurance coverage
- Receive an introduction to valuable campus and community resources
- Review expectations of students at the University
The International Student Preparation Course is mandatory for all students participating in the Minnesota Semester or Summer Session programs.
Here are a few tips for completing the online module:
- You are a non-degree student. You are not a sponsored student.
- When asked, please schedule your ISSS Check-in at least 1 day before the GO Minnesota orientation program begins.
- Leah Brink is your program coordinator.
- You are an F-1 Student.
- You are a new student (not a transfer).
You will sign up for an ISSS Check-In appointment when you complete the mandatory International Student Preparation Course. During check-in, the ISSS staff will do a document check and immigration information session. Please see your welcome letter from GO Minnesota to choose the appropriate date for your ISSS Check-In. You must upload the following documents to MyISSS before the check-in (it is also recommended that you bring the originals):
- I-20 form
- Letter of admission to the University of Minnesota
Students cannot register for classes until they have completed ISSS Check-In.
Complete English Proficiency Testing
Students without a valid English test score, or a score below the minimum required by the University, will be required to take the Minnesota Battery English language test on arrival. You will have an “AZ” hold on your student record instructing you to go the Minnesota English Language Program when you arrive. Please plan to arrive before the mandatory arrival date, so that you have enough time to take the test. You will not be able to register for classes until you have taken this test. You should register for this exam before the GO Minnesota orientation takes place. The test will take about 2.5 hours and the cost is $35.
Detailed information about the Minnesota Battery English language test is available online. Based on your placement test score, you may be required to take several hours of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes during your first, and possibly your second semester on campus.
More information about minimum test scores, how to send your scores to the UMN, and the English as a Second Language course requirements is available on our website for each program:
- Minnesota Semester - Undergraduate Students
- Minnesota Semester - Graduate Students
- Minnesota Summer Session
GO Minnesota Orientation for Minnesota Semester and Summer Session Students
All GO Minnesota students will participate in a specially-designed orientation session before the start of your classes. During orientation, you will get to know more about:
- Course Registration
- Health and safety for travelers in the U.S.
- Minnesotan and American culture
- Emergency information and resources during your time at the University of Minnesota
- American academics and classroom etiquette
Obtain U of M Identification Card
Every University of Minnesota student must obtain a UMN ID card. The “U Card” is your key to many campus services and facilities, such as the library, recreation center, computer labs, and residence hall dining rooms. Once you arrive on campus, you can obtain your U Card by bringing your passport to the U Card office in Coffman Union between 8:00 am and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is no charge for the card. For more information, visit the U Card Office website.
Sign Up for Phone Service
If you want a cell phone in the U.S., contact one of the wireless companies in the Twin Cities. You can find a complete list of major wireless providers and their locations online (such as AT&T, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon).
Remember to bring an official ID (passport) with you to the store. It will be required for most services including getting a new phone, signing a new contract, or getting a new SIM card. Some companies require a Social Security Number (SSN) if you want to be billed for your service. There are also options for obtaining cell phone service without an SSN, such as “pay-as-you-go” plans and prepaid phones.
Dialing in the U.S. and Twin Cities
For reporting an emergency: Dial 911 from any phone to request fire, medical (serious illness or injury), or police assistance.
All other telephone numbers in the United States have ten digits, for example: 612-555-9000. The first three digits are the “area code.” The area codes in the Twin Cities area are 612, 651, 763, and 952.
Students may open a bank account in the U.S., even if they will stay only one or two semesters. There are several banks with campus branches that are accustomed to working with international students. Having a U.S.-based bank account will make paying University charges much easier.
Model adapted from S.H. Rhinesmith, (1975). Bring home the world: A management guide for community leaders of international programs
When you travel to another country, you are choosing to place yourself in an unfamiliar environment. The people, the language, and even the food will probably seem different from what you are used to in your home country. This can be a great experience! You will learn much more about U.S. culture while you are here in Minnesota living alongside Americans. However, it is also important to remember that sometimes, these experiences can be overwhelming, uncomfortable, or just plain hard to understand!
It is very common for travelers to have these feelings of apprehension or discomfort. They are all a part of what we call “culture shock.” Culture shock can happen to any traveler, and it is important that you learn how to understand your own culture shock and eventually overcome it so that you can accept and enjoy the environment around you.
The diagram above is a depiction of the “cultural adjustment model.” It illustrates the emotional highs and lows that occur naturally when you are out of your comfort zone for an extended period of time. The model starts with pre-departure and continues through your return home. Experiencing these ups and downs while in another country is normal and will likely be experienced by all students in some way.
Your experience may be mild or extreme during your time in Minnesota. If you are not experiencing any ups and downs at all, you may not be engaging enough with your program or classes. Remember, you chose this program to experience something new and different from home. Embrace it, even if you feel uncomfortable at times! If you are experiencing extended lows, though, it is very important to discuss your situation with GO Minnesota staff. Here are a few tips for dealing with culture shock:
- Remember to take time for self care: eat a healthy diet, get fresh air, maintain a healthy sleep schedule, and exercise.
- Stay in touch with friends and family, but limit contact to a few times a week to allow your mind and body to adjust to your new living environment.
- Join a fitness class, student group, or club to make new friends.
Students often say that dealing with cultural adjustment upon returning to their home country is more difficult than cultural adjustment experienced while in the U.S. This can be attributed to many factors, and is commonly referred to as reverse culture shock. After a new and exciting experience, it can be difficult to adjust back to a normal routine back at home. Also, because family and close friends may not have experience traveling abroad, it might be difficult to find others who understand what you experienced. If your emotional lows upon returning are excessively low, or seem out of character for you, the most important thing to do is to talk to someone.
Remember, everyone who has traveled abroad has to deal with culture shock. It’s part of the experience! And talking about it helps you better understand that experience.