Arrival in the U.S.

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When to Arrive

When to Arrive

Refer to the program dates for your optimal arrival date. In general, plan to arrive in Minnesota so that you can rest for one or two days, take an English exam if required, and attend orientation.

If any of the following circumstances apply to you, we suggest you arrive 2-3 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" and you would like 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

General Recommendations

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. 

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
  • visa
  • vaccination certificate
  • prescription medications
  • health insurance card
  • 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
  • sandals


  • 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

All Seasons

  • casual shirts
  • sweater(s)
  • jeans or casual pants
  • belt
  • swimming suit
  • pajamas
  • fitness / outdoor shoes
  • dress shoes
  • socks
  • underwear
  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • watch
  • 1 semi-formal outfit
  • razor for shaving
  • shaving gel
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • soap
  • shampoo / conditioner
  • deodorant
  • towel
  • 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
  • camera
  • notebook
  • folder
  • pens
  • books, music player, or other entertainment
  • headphones
  • umbrella
  • sunscreen
  • 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 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

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!

Lost Luggage

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

There are several options for you to get from MSP to campus. Visit the Transportation page on the ISSS website for more details. 

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.

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).

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. You should complete this orientation prior to your arrival in Minnesota. Visit 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 exchange students.

Upload Your Documents to MyISSS

After arrival, you must scan and submit your documents using the ISSS Check-in: Document Check form in MyISSS. The documents you need to submit are:

  • Passport biographical page
  • I-20 form
  • F-1 visa
  • Most recent I-94 record of entry to the U.S. (you will receive this when you enter the United States)

The AI registration hold on your student account will not be removed until you have completed International Student Preparation Course and the ISSS Check-in.

Complete English Proficiency Testing

Students with a low English test score may be required to take an English test when they arrive on campus. They may also be required to take a supportive English class during their first semester, in addition to their other coursework.

If you have an AZ hold on your student record please contact the Minnesota English Language Program for advising on how to remove the hold before orientation. If you plan to take the English proficiency test offered by the University of Minnesota, you should arrive by the mandatory arrival date.

Exchange Student Orientation

All exchange 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 UMN 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

Cell Phones

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. 

Culture Shock

Culture Shock

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 ISSS staff. Here are a few tips for dealing with culture shock:

  1. Remember to take time for self care: eat a healthy diet, get fresh air, maintain a healthy sleep schedule, and exercise.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.