The Ultimate Packing Guide for International Students Studying in the US

You’ve been accepted to university in the United States (yay!) and now comes the exciting (but sometimes overwhelming) task of preparing for being an international student living on campus at an American university. Of the many things you’ll have to do between acceptance and arrival, you most certainly will have to consider what you need to pack and bring with you versus what to leave at home or buy in the US.

That’s why we’ve created this packing guide, which outlines all the things you’ll need (and the things you won’t) so that you can use it as you get ready to start your next chapter of campus life in the US.

What to Pack, What to Leave at Home, and What to Buy in the US for Campus Life


These are the things you’ll want to throw in your luggage and bring with you via plane.

All travel-related documents – originals as well as copies

You know you need your passport and visa, but make sure you have any other travel-related documents necessary to get into and study in the US. Additionally, make sure you have hard copies (and perhaps digital copies as well) in the event that something goes missing.

Copies of your medical records, and anything you need for prescriptions

Similarly, you will want to make sure you have easy access to medical records (with physical or digital versions) to ensure if you need care, the medical staff in the US can offer better treatment and diagnoses. Make sure you also have any prescription medicine you take regularly. If you wear glasses, take an extra pair – same goes for contact lenses. Also, don’t forget to bring copies of your immunization records, even if you have already submitted them to your school. This is especially important for any COVID vaccination records.

Clothes and shoes

There are going to be plenty of places to buy clothes and shoes in the US, but you’ll need some things to start. Sometimes, things are more affordable in the US, and you might want to consider which clothing will be easier to purchase upon arrival. You’ll need a variety of clothing for all of the different scenarios you’ll encounter while at university. Most universities have a more casual dress code, but you’ll want to double check with your university to ensure you dress appropriately for classes and events.

  • Undergarments (you know!) and socks
  • Pajamas and other sleepwear and slippers
  • Loungewear for outside of class and hanging out in your dorm or with friends
  • Athletic apparel or clothes for working out, if you are into fitness
  • Casual attire – jeans, t-shirts, etc. for everyday wear
  • 1-2 outfits that are appropriate for a job/internship, interview, or other networking types of events
  • A few cocktail/party/event outfits for those fun things that come up during the school year

Of course, you’ll also want to check the local weather/climate to ensure you have items that are appropriate for the temperature – such as swimsuits and sandals, or winter coats and accessories.

Personal electronics, such as a laptop, tablet, and mobile phone

You can always buy a new laptop when you arrive in the US, but you should definitely look into whether you can bring your current mobile phone so you are connected as soon as you arrive. Services like campusSIMS help students sign up for mobile phone service before they get to the US. Check if your phone is compatible here.

A SIM card

If your phone is compatible, then you should consider ordering a FREE SIM card from the campusSIMS website (click here to order) and getting it while you’re in your home country. Then, you can sign up for a mobile phone plan in advance and get your US phone number before you head to the US. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to complete activation and start using the service – and that’s when your billing cycle will start as well, so you’re only paying when you’re ready to use it.

Power adapters

To ensure that any personal electronics and chargers you bring are usable, you’ll want to make sure you have 110 volt adapters for North American plugs.

Sentimental items

Though you should leave your most valuable items at home, if you have anything that you would like to keep with you to remind you of home (perhaps some photos, a favorite stuffed animal, etc.) you might consider taking them with you to have if you get homesick.


Having US dollars on-hand can be really helpful, especially in the first few weeks in the US if you encounter any issues with your international debit or credit cards. Most retailers in the US accept credit and debit cards – including international ones – but you might need to let your bank or credit card company know in advance that you’ll be in the US so there’s no issue processing transactions. In the meantime though, having cash ensures you can still pay for things even if you’re working through any permissions with the bank or your credit card company.

Your favorite non-perishable food or snack

If there’s a food item you absolutely need to bring with you from home, make sure it’s non-perishable. We don’t necessarily recommend giving up precious luggage space for food, as you might be able to find a local favorite at a specialty grocery store or restaurant, but if there’s something that might bring you comfort as you’re adjusting to life in the US, it could be a welcome treat.


These are the things that are too bulky or big to include in your luggage or that are much easier purchased in the US, as well as items you just won’t need while on campus.


Things like pillows, sheets, blankets, and comforters/duvets are way too bulky to pack, and much easier to purchase. You’ll want to confirm the size of your dorm bed so that you can buy sheets that fit (most will claim to be size Twin XL). Some students will also buy mattress toppers to increase the comfort of the bed, as dorm room mattresses are known to be a bit uncomfortable.

Towels and toiletries

Additionally, you’ll need items for all of your bath needs, including towels and various toiletries, including toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, soap, deodorant, etc. Make a list of all of the things you use on a regular basis and plan on getting them in the US. If you want to bring travel-sized items for when you first arrive, that will help you manage until you get to a store. We also recommend getting a “shower caddy,” which is a plastic tote that makes it easy to carry your toiletries to and from the shower. Because you will likely be sharing a shower, you may want to also consider getting “shower shoes,” or plastic sandals or flip-flops you can wear while in the shared bathroom.

Laundry supplies

This includes things like laundry detergent, fabric softener, and an easy-to-tote laundry hamper for when you need to wash your clothes. Most dorm facilities will have a big laundry room that all students share, and you’ll want a hamper that’s easy to carry for when you need to bring your dirty clothes to wash. Other dorm room needs You’ll need some other items for your dorm room, especially given that’s it’s a small space. With limited closet space, you’ll want hangers, a shoe rack, and other organizational items to keep things tidy. You may also want to invest in a “microfridge” which is a combination of a microwave and mini-refrigerator that is permitted by the school. These are usually available for rent ahead of move-in. You’ll also want to buy a TV for your room, as that will be difficult to transport. Consider reaching out to your roommate to get their opinion as to what sort of TV they’d like to purchase if you’re planning on putting it in a shared space.

School supplies

This includes things like notebooks, pencils/pens, folders, and other items that you’ll need for class. Some of these things are not mandated, and you may prefer to do a lot of your work digitally, but for many exams, your professor might require completion with pen and paper. As for textbooks, you can buy them, but we’d recommend renting them, as that’s less expensive and it’ll be easier for you.

Certain clothing that’s either cheaper in the US or that you won’t need right away

Even though we recommended many clothing items earlier in this guide, there are some you can potentially buy later or upon arrival. This includes some of the more formal attire for various events, as well as the bulkier items like winter coats and accessories that you wouldn’t necessarily need upon arrival in August.

Food / snacks

Not only will you likely have a meal plan or on-campus food options, but there will be many local grocery stores at which you can purchase various snacks, food, and beverage items to have accessible in your dorm room. Plan on making a stop so you have some things for when you are in-between meals or perhaps busy studying in your room.


There are quite a few items that many dorms and campuses do not allow. The below list is not comprehensive, and you’ll want to check in with your school and your specific dorm for a more extensive list as to what’s allowed or not.

  • Hot plates
  • Candles
  • Microwaves
  • Alcohol (the drinking age in the US is 21+)
  • Printer (the school library will have a printer and ink)

As always, the best resource for knowing what to pack, leave at home, or buy upon arrival, consult your university’s international student office.

7 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner as an International Student

On the fourth Thursday of November every year, Americans observe Thanksgiving Day, a secular national holiday centered on giving thanks. The first Thanksgiving occurred in the 1600s when the Pilgrims and America’s indigenous people (also known as Native Americans) came together for a feast to celebrate the harvest and other blessings.

Though some things have changed since that first “harvest feast,” the holiday still centers on gratitude, and celebrating with friends and family over a shared meal. Dinner is the main event on Thanksgiving, and for many Americans, their traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of: roast turkey, turkey stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Of course, many Americans will have other dishes and desserts to commemorate the day, and will also participate in activities such as watching football on TV or going to see a local game, or watching the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV (or in-person if you live in New York City).

Regardless of what’s eaten, what’s watched, or how it’s celebrated, at its core, Thanksgiving is really about coming together with friends and family and reminding ourselves how much we have to be thankful for. As long as you’re reflecting and giving thanks, you are celebrating Thanksgiving.

If you’re interested in hosting your own Thanksgiving feast, we’ve gathered seven tips to help you celebrate the holiday:

Plan out your meal as far in advance as possible…

Start by figuring out your menu at least the week before (if not earlier) and determine what supplies you’ll need. Some things to start thinking about:

  • What food and ingredients you’ll need for the recipes you want to make
  • How many dishes and utensils you’ll need for your dinner guests
  • What sort of space do you need to host all of your guests — will you require more chairs or another table?
  • What time you want to host dinner

By starting to plan out the details of Thanksgiving Day, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to prepare and host the meal, and also means you have a game plan for grocery shopping, as the stores get crowded in the week leading up to the actual day. Planning ahead also means you can give your friends or family members enough time to make arrangements or to contribute and help you prepare.

…Including purchasing non-perishable items ahead of time

In addition to planning out your meal as far in advance as possible, try to buy as many ingredients or supplies as you need in advance too. For example, many families will purchase cranberry sauce pre-made in a can, which is something you can buy early. By purchasing some items well ahead of Thanksgiving, you can ensure that some of the ingredients or supplies are in stock and readily available for purchase.

Incorporate your own culture and traditions

The original Thanksgiving brought together the Pilgrims and the Indigenous people in America – each group coming from very different cultures. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, you too can bring your own culture into this American tradition to make it distinctly yours. Consider some of your own favorite traditions or holidays and the food and rituals that accompany them. Is there something you can incorporate into your Thanksgiving meal? Maybe it’s choosing one of your favorite dishes that could pair well with some of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Maybe it’s adding a course that represents your culture, or playing games that you typically associate with a holiday from home. It’s okay (and encouraged) to make Thanksgiving a holiday that is personal and special to you.

Accept help!

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is that it brings people together, so if you’re nervous about cooking the entire meal yourself, ask for help from the people you’ve invited. Encourage American friends to bring their favorite dish, or ask your fellow international students to contribute a dish that’s from their culture to complement the meal. You don’t need to do it all on your own, and oftentimes the meal is that much more enjoyable when you have friends and family sharing their dishes and participating in the cooking.

Create a cooking schedule

Cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal — with the turkey, all of the side dishes and desserts — is certainly a big undertaking, and one that requires a plan. Just the turkey itself can take several hours to cook, so you’ll need to plan when and how you’ll cook your other dishes with this in mind. Many dishes can be prepared completely or partially the day before (or in some cases, even a little earlier) so that you are only finishing or re-heating those dishes on the day of Thanksgiving.

Set the table the night before

If you have the space and are able, set your table the night before the meal to save yourself some extra steps on Thanksgiving. Lay out the utensils your guests will need and any other necessary dishes, so that you can be ready to serve and eat. This will save you time, and also cut down on any commotion in the kitchen during the meal.

Focus on enjoying the deal and your meal — not perfection

This is definitely the most important tip we could give you. Like we mentioned at the beginning of the post, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and being with your family and friends. It’s not about having the perfect table set up or the perfect meal. Don’t stress out too much about getting your mashed potatoes just right, the turkey taking a little too long, or having to fit a lot of people into a small space. What matters most are the memories you’re creating. Enjoy the work you put into your meal and be proud of yourself for bringing your friends or family together.

How to Write a US Address

Whether you’re trying to get food delivered from Uber eats, providing an address to your parents, or trying to order a free SIM card, it’s important to understand how to input a US mailing address to ensure all packages, mail, and late night food cravings arrive at the right destination. Though it might seem obvious, US mailing addresses are a little different than those in your home country. Understanding each component needed for an accurate address will prevent delays or returns of your parcels, which is why we’ve outlined the requirements below for your reference.

US addresses are written based on most specific information to least specific information. Addresses consist of:

  • The recipient’s first and last name
  • Street number and name (address line 1)
  • Apartment or unit and its number (address line 2)
  • City, state and zip code (include all of this on one line with a comma between city and state, but not zip code)
  • Country

We’ll share what each component of an address means so you know why you need it and where to find it.


Okay, this one is easy. Who will be receiving the package or delivery? Make sure to include first and last name. If you’re sending the package or delivery to more than one person, include both first and last names of the recipients.

Address lines

The first address line should include the number of the house or building where you live, and the name of the street you live on. The second address line is only applicable if you live in an apartment or building with multiple units, in which case you should include the specific apartment, suite, or unit number.

Think of it this way: are there other apartments in the building? Are there individual mail boxes for your neighbors? If you live in a house at 123 First Street with your family, you’re the only inhabitants so the mail will likely make its way directly to you. However, if you live in an apartment at 123 First Street that has other units inside, you are not the only inhabitant so you’ll need to include “Apartment #1” or “Unit 3” depending on how your building identifies individual units for its inhabitants.


Another easy one! See, it’s not so hard. You’ll need to include the name of the town or city you’re living in.


On the same line as the city, you’ll want to include the name of state to which you’re addressing the letter or parcel. There are 50 states in the United States. You can spell out the entire state name or use its abbreviation, which you can find a list of here on the United States Posal Service (USPS) website:

Zip code

Zip codes are really important in ensuring proper mail delivery. A US zip code is at minimum five digits long, with an optional four-digit add-on (that provides extra detail but is not required for delivery.) You can find the right zip code for your address using this link from the USPS website:

And yes, the numbers do actually mean something. The first digit represents a part of the country, the second and third digits represent a region within that part of the country or in that section of states, and the fourth and fifth digits represent a group of delivery addresses within that region. The zip code provides the deliverer with that specific yet crucial information to ensure successful delivery; without it, you’ll risk non-delivery or even having your mail returned to you.


If you’re sending mail to a US address from an international location, don’t forget to list the US as the final line in your address.

A few more tips
  • According to the USPS, “Automated mail processing machines read addresses on mailpieces from the bottom up and will first look for a city, state, and ZIP Code. Then the machines look for a delivery address. If the machines can’t find either line, then your mailpiece could be delayed or misrouted.” This is why it’s crucial to have every part of the address (and ensure each part is accurate).
  • If you’re sending a letter or package, you can include a “return address” on the top left-hand corner of the parcel or envelope. A return address is simply the address of the person sending said letter or package. If there is an unsuccessful delivery, the post office or other delivery service may return the letter or package to your return address.

Giving Back on a Budget

Happy Pride Month, folks! As the world opens up, you’re probably planning how to budget for that music festival (hello, Outside Lands), a pair of shorts (Everlane, anyone?), or just the increasing amount of “drinks!!” invites in your Google calendar. This Pride Month, though, is as good a time as any to start thinking about philanthropy.

That’s right: philanthropy. As in giving some $$$. You might be thinking, “HellooOoOOooo, I’m broke?? I have nothing to give, and even if I did, I could never give enough to make a difference.” That, my friend, is where you’re wrong.

According to MarketWatch, most people give around 3-5% of their income to charity (although many people donate much more). For you, that could just be $5, which is equivalent to:

  • A little bit less than a coconut water from the dining hall
  • A little bit more than a bag of Boom Chicka Pop 
  • Basically a Venti Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks

You get the point. But what’s all this have to do with Pride?

Pride month is a reminder to honor LGBTQIA+ folks near and far. It’s a celebration of queer culture and history. It calls us to remember all the folks who died fighting for liberation (like Marsha P. Johnson) and uplift those still in the fight (like television writer Janet Mock, deputy director for transgender justice at ACLU Chase Strangio, and many more). Pride is also a call to support LGBTQIA+ folks with cold, hard cash.

If you identify as an ally, how can you contribute? Start by either making a one-time donation or, if you’re able, set up an automatic monthly donation to the organization of your choice (even if it is just $5). Here is a list of LGBTQIA+ led organizations currently needing donations:

If you identify as LGBTQIA+, June could be your month to treat yourself and focus on self-care. That could mean going out for a nice dinner, unwinding with some Netflix, or hitting up your local Pride parade. Honor whatever you need right now.

However you identify, we stand with you.

This post is brought to you by Deserve and has been re-published on the CampusSIMS blog with Deserve’s permission. Deserve is a digital-first, mobile-centric, highly configurable credit card solution that uses machine learning and alternative data, Deserve partners with universities, associations, financial institutions, fintechs and modern consumer brands to develop, rapidly deploy and power white label and co-branded credit card programs for any audience. The cloud-based platform also provides millennials and Gen Zs fair access to credit products and the tools to achieve financial independence. They’re award winning EDU card offers great benefits for international students without Social Security numbers and domestic students. Cardholders can receive Amazon Prime Student on Deserve, 1% cashback, no international transaction fees and $0 annual fees. For more information, visit

Credit vs. Debit

No one can grow a money tree for you, but you already have the seeds to plant your own.

The biggest secret of the ultrawealthy is that many of their fancy toys—cars, boats, houses—probably weren’t bought with their own money, at least not at first. With proper money management, anyone can finance their way to the lifestyle they want.

The key to accessing that money (at a low interest-rate) is pretty simple: have good credit. Now, talk of debit vs. credit might sound a little confusing at first, but it’s relatively easy once you understand the basics.

First thing’s first: what’s the difference between a debit and a credit card? Well, both are little pieces of plastic that live inside your wallet and can be used in place of cash but the similarities roughly end there.

Debit cards act like cash. When you swipe your debit card, your own money is transferred instantly from your bank account to the seller. No debt is involved. Debit cards are useful for getting money out of ATMs and they typically don’t have fees added for regular use.

Because debit cards use the money you already have, it’s important not to charge more than you have in the bank. If you do, your card may be declined or you may be charged an overdraft fee, a penalty for using more than you own.

Credit cards are based on a different principle: you’re paying with the bank’s money. This is how the wealthy appear even wealthier. Buying on credit allows you to make purchases now and pay them off when you’re ready. At the end of each month, you can pay either the total amount or minimum amount required on the account to avoid late fees. Credit cards often come with perks, like cash back or freebies (hello Amazon Prime Student!).

An important facet of financial freedom is having a good credit score. A credit score is essentially a measure of trust, and paying your credit card bill on time is one way to build it. Banks, insurance companies, and landlords want to know if you’ve made good financial choices in the past and paid back owed money on time. Does the car dealership trust you to pay back the loan on that Ferrari? Your credit score will give them a good idea.

This fancy little number increases as you build good credit or decreases if you miss out on payments. Having a high credit score opens a lot of doors, from getting a better house loan to landing a job. Debit cards don’t affect your credit score, but using a credit card wisely can help you build it.

Beyond building a credit score, credit cards typically have more built-in security than debit cards. Unauthorized purchases or fraudulent charges on your card are covered by credit card companies and typically reimbursed much faster than debit cards. Credit cards often come with insurance on purchases and may even insure your cell phone. They’re also great for emergencies. Next time you get a flat tire on your new car, you can charge the towing fee to your credit card and pay it off later.

Because credit involves money that is not your own, it’s important to use credit cards responsibly. This means only charging what you can afford to pay back and being mindful of taking on debt. As rapper Kendrick Lamar sings, “Money trees is the perfect place for shade.” In order to grow your tree, however, you must regularly water the roots.

Do your best to pay off your credit card bill as quickly as possible so the interest doesn’t add up over time.

Choosing when to use a debit or credit card is up to you. Many people prefer to use credit cards when traveling to earn rewards and to maintain the extra layer of security against fraud. Credit cards can also be useful for bigger purchases that you can’t pay off in full right away. Debit cards are handy for any situation in which you would normally pay cash or for purchases where you don’t want to receive a bill. Finding a system that matches your comfort level while also building your credit score is the best way to go.

Legendary investor Warren Buffet echoed Lamar’s sentiments when he said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” In other words, developing responsible money habits like building good credit can have large returns in the long run.
Both debit and credit cards are useful to own, and most people have both. It’s great to get financially savvy early on so that you can plant your own money tree and benefit for years to come.

At Deserve, we’re here to help you invest in your independence and manage your money wisely. Be sure to visit our Credit Education learning platform to get into the nitty gritty of financial independence.

This post is brought to you by Deserve and has been re-published on the CampusSIMS blog with Deserve’s permission. Deserve is a digital-first, mobile-centric, highly configurable credit card solution that uses machine learning and alternative data, Deserve partners with universities, associations, financial institutions, fintechs and modern consumer brands to develop, rapidly deploy and power white label and co-branded credit card programs for any audience. The cloud-based platform also provides millennials and Gen Zs fair access to credit products and the tools to achieve financial independence. They’re award winning EDU card offers great benefits for international students without Social Security numbers and domestic students. Cardholders can receive Amazon Prime Student on Deserve, 1% cashback, no international transaction fees and $0 annual fees. For more information, visit

Working in the US as an International Student

Whether you’re looking for a job while studying or you want to pursue a career in the US after you graduate, working in the US as an international student can come with a lot of questions and challenges. Given all of the rules regarding working with your student visa, we wanted to compile a guide to help you find and get a job in the US depending on where you are in your career path. Though we aren’t immigration attorneys and don’t claim to provide legal advice, we can at least get you started and point you in the right direction so that you can begin working on your job skills, and pursuing your desired career path.

Yes, you can work in the US!

Let’s start with the basics. You can work in the US while studying and even after graduation, but there are some parameters around how you can do so legally.  There are four ways that international students can work in the U.S. with their F1 visa.

You can work either through:

On-campus employment

This allows you to work anywhere on campus or anywhere that’s affiliated with your school educationally, even if it’s off-campus (think: labs, research facilities, etc.). You can do this in your first year at school and apply up to 30 days before your classes start.

Off-campus employment

This employment type is an option only if you have completed one year at university, and qualify through an economic hardship. This is not the same as CPT (which we’ll explain more about next.)

Curricular practical training (CPT)

This allows students to work off-campus in a position directly related to your degree and curriculum, and is designed to help you achieve an academic objective. You can pursue internships or co-op positions (whether paid or unpaid).

Optional practical training (OPT)

This allows for temporary employment directly related to your chosen major or area of study. You can pursue OPT either during or after your studies for a maximum of 12 cumulative months (or with a one-time extension of 24 months for qualifying STEM degree recipients.)

CPT and OPT are the types of employment that are most important in providing you with skills and experience to help you pursue your career in the US, so let’s dive into the details on each including: more about what they are, their regulations, and how to find jobs that qualify.

Curricular practical training (CPT)

CPT is a great way to get some work experience directly related to your studies and that will help you learn more about practical ways to utilize your degree through a potential career path. In general, you can apply for CPT if you’ve been enrolled full-time in your program for an entire academic year (or two consecutive terms), have F-1 visa status, and any other regulations that your university requires. It’s important to note that CPT is not a regular, ongoing job — it is meant to supplement and complement your academic experience.

CPT includes employment options such as internships, co-ops (i.e. cooperative education that alternates academic study with employment), or other positions tied to your curriculum. Through these positions, you can work either full-time (up to 40 hours per week) or part-time (up to 20 hours per week) earning money and gaining work experience in your field of study.

To apply for CPT, you should first speak with your International Student Office as they will be able to provide you with the most accurate details regarding requirements. From there, you will likely need to: confirm eligibility for CPT, speak with your academic advisor and the department to get more details on internship or co-op requirements, and then find a position. Once you have a position, you’ll need to work with your International Student Office to get the necessary paperwork so they can coordinate to ensure you have everything you need to work legally and in accordance with immigration and your visa under CPT in the US.

Optional practical training (OPT)

OPT is different from CPT, but another great way to work in the US as an international student. According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the major difference between OPT and CPT is the time period in which you are eligible for these programs and the type of work allowed in each program. CPT is a program you can only participate in during your studies or before graduation, whereas you can participate in OPT during or after graduation, for up to 12 months. That means you can work in the US even after you complete your studies. However, if you participate in OPT before graduation, that duration is deducted from your 12-month total. For example, if you participate in OPT for three months before you graduate, you can work for up to nine months in OPT in the US. The only exception to this is if you qualify for an extension as an applicable STEM degree recipient.

Similar to CPT though, your OPT position (whether work or volunteer) must be in a field related to your academic degree. You also cannot participate in OPT until you’ve been enrolled for at least one full-academic year, and be physically present in the US.

Your options for OPT are a little broader than with CPT, but only in the sense that you don’t have to tie your work experience directly to your curriculum. Obviously, your OPT position must be a natural extension of your academic degree, and should have a connection to what you studied. For example, if you were an accounting major, it might not be realistic to pursue a career in acting or graphic design. However, you should consult with your designated school official (DSO) and likely your career services center for help determining the sorts of career paths you can pursue in accordance with OPT guidelines. Additionally, you can work multiple jobs while on OPT, but you need to work a minimum of 20 hours combined for all jobs.

To apply for OPT, you will need to work with your DSO at your university. Your DSO will need to recommend the OPT, so you may need to request that recommendation from them. You’ll also need Form I-765, an application for employment authorization with USCIS, the required fee, and any supporting documentation described in the form instructions.
The timing can be really tricky in finding a position after you graduate as you try to find a position that qualifies you for OPT. You’ll want to work with your International Student Services office, DSO, and Career Center to help find a position to reduce any time between graduation and starting your job. You can remain in the US while your OPT is pending (even beyond the expiry of your grace period) but you will lose any time during that waiting period against the 12 months of OPT time. If you do not have a job after you graduate and are applying for some for OPT, you are only allowed 90 days of cumulative unemployment.

How to find a position

If you’re interested in pursuing CPT or OPT, there are a few ways you can find a position. It’s important to plan ahead, especially if you’re looking to pursue OPT, as timing can cause issues in securing employment, given the requirements from employers and you as an employee to adhere to immigration regulations. You have 60 days after you graduate to remain in the US with your F1 visa, so the earlier you can prepare and plan ahead for life post-graduation the better. Make sure to involve your DSO or an advisor from your International Student Office as they will be able to direct you to the best information — and even have experience helping other students like you.

Remember that not every employer in the US offers sponsorship for international students, but that there are still many that do. Consider looking into Fortune 500 companies, as they are more likely to hire and sponsor international students to fulfill a gap that cannot be met only by the local talent pool of the country. Don’t be discouraged, though. Through some of the following methods, you’ll find many opportunities that can help you work in the US and pursue your career goals.

Career center

Your school likely has a career center and this will be an incredibly important resource as you start to look for internships, co-ops, volunteer opportunities, and jobs. The administrators at your school’s career center can help you with: drafting a resume, writing a cover letter, discovering networking opportunities or events, and helping to connect you with companies in the school’s network. It’s really a one-stop shop for everything you need as you start navigating the job search. We highly recommend making an appointment with this office early-on in your academic career so you can become familiar with the staff and so they can help you identify potential job opportunities, and career paths. They’ll be able to connect you with alumni or other people within your university network that could also be a resource.

Job fairs

Your school likely hosts many job fairs (virtually right now, but also in-person when safer) as a way to introduce employers with their students. These employer will come to the Zoom call or to campus and set up a “booth” (usually an area designated for the employer’s representative, a table, and some chairs) so they can have conversations with students about what the employer is looking for in terms of hiring for jobs or internships.You can also ask questions about the employer itself and the available positions, so you can get a sense of whether to pursue a position with that company. When you speak with these employers, you can ask about whether they hire international students, or if they’ve hired international students in the past. This can give you an idea of where to look for an internship or job when you’re ready. 

Additionally, even if you’re not a graduating senior, you should still attend job fairs for a few reasons. By attending, you can improve your networking skills and practice speaking in a professional setting. You can also get more information about particular job opportunities and what they entail. Also, you’ll feel more confident when you are actually ready to apply for jobs through the fairs, and you’ll know how to have a more successful interaction.


Networking is extremely important, whether or not you’re an international student, and will be important throughout your entire career. Like job fairs, your school – and academic departments – will likely host many networking events. Some networking events will include professionals from local businesses, while others will invite alumni to mix and mingle with students. No matter the exact circumstance, you should participate in as many of these events as you can to practice speaking professionally, and build relationships that can help you find new job opportunities. In networking, you’ll also be able to speak with professionals or alumni about their jobs, and this is a great way to hear more about what other jobs are like, or how they got to the position they currently hold. The more you’re able to network – with professionals, with alumni, and even with older students – the more information you’ll be able to have about what it takes to get a job, and learn about potential job opportunities that can help you work in the US.

What Is Networking? And How to Do It

You’ve heard the word before: networking. You have probably heard it from your professors or the Career Center at your school, and you most definitely have heard it in relation to some sort of event promising “networking opportunities.” But no matter how much you hear the word, you might still not be sure what it is — or even how to do it — so we’re offering some insight into what networking is, why you need to network while at university, and how to network effectively.

What is networking?

Networking is really just a fancy term for: “meeting new people and building relationships,” but with a mutual understanding that you can draw on those relationships for career advice or help. When someone talks about a “networking event,” it just means that the event is an opportunity to meet people who might be good resources as you explore career options or set career goals. Usually, at a “networking event,” you’ll be able to meet people in careers you aspire to have, or at companies you aspire to work for. When you meet people while networking, you might discuss your own career goals and ambitions, and learn more about how they navigated their own career path.

However, just because something is labeled a “networking event” doesn’t mean that those are the only opportunities to meet people who could become invaluable to your own career journey. If you’re out at a school event with alumni, faculty, or staff, then you can meet people who might be able to provide the same sort of career help as if you were at a networking-specific event. In fact, as you travel to new places, join clubs or start jobs, and make new connections and friends, you will naturally build relationships with people who might be able to help you with your career questions and journey. Conversely, you may become a resource for those connections as well, as they may turn to you for advice or insight into job opportunities.

Why do you need to network?

We know why building relationships is so important in other parts of your life. For example, your friends and family are there when you need help in all aspects of life. Your classmates are there when you need help studying or better understanding the course material to earn a good grade. So why should you network?

With networking, you build relationships with people who can help you navigate your career path. You can call upon these connections when you notice that they work for a company you’d like to work for, or if they have pursued a career path that you’re interested in. They can give you advice if you are looking for the best way to excel in your current job, such as addressing questions about getting a raise, going from an internship to a full-time job, or anything that comes up in relation to your career path and goals.

By building a robust network of business connections, you are securing helpful resources for your professional life. If you’re trying to secure an internship or a job after graduation, especially as an international student, you can ask the people you meet through networking if they have any leads for job opportunities, or if they can provide advice as you navigate the visa process. These connections may be able to help you better understand what the process is like timing securing your visa with securing your job, or they can point you in the direction of resources that could help you.

Ultimately, the people you meet through networking are there throughout your career journey – whether that’s in your first job after college, or as you pursue new opportunities in the years that follow. You maintain those relationships – and continually build new ones – to keep your network strong and relevant to your professional life’s needs.

How do you network?

The easiest way to network is by attending networking events hosted by your university (whether virtual or in-person). Often, the Career Center at your school will invite local businesses or alumni to attend an event and give students the chance to learn more about different job opportunities, what it’s like to work in certain career fields, and anything else that can help students with their professional life after graduation. You can also attend Career Fairs that are more obviously tied to your job search, but can still be an opportunity to meet new people, even if you’re not looking for a job at that exact moment. By attending a Career Fair, you can add new contacts to your network, and reach back out to those contacts when you are ready to job hunt or if you are looking for more information into that particular company or field.

Outside of your Career Center, sometimes university clubs or organizations, or even academic departments may also host similar events to assist students in creating these connections. They might label these events as networking events, but also look out for “career nights” or any time the club, organization, or academic department brings in a speaker or hosts another event. People from a relevant industry may attend regardless of whether it’s specifically for networking, and you can still introduce yourself to other attendees and add them to your network.

When you are at these networking events, there’s no need to be self-conscious. Everyone there understands that this event is to meet new people, and other attendees are likely there to grow their own network. Introduce yourself and be prepared to answer questions about: what you’re studying, what career field you’d like to pursue after university, and what you are most passionate about. If you get nervous meeting new people, you can practice your answers in advance, and you might consider developing an elevator pitch (a brief overview of your skills, experiences, and career goals) to make it easier to respond to these questions.

Another great way to maintain your network is through LinkedIn, of course. LinkedIn can be a great resource for reinforcing the relationships you make and grow through networking events or other opportunities for meeting people relevant to your career interests. After you meet someone through an event, ask if it’s okay to exchange contact information and then later, you can add them on LinkedIn. If there is someone you had a particularly good conversation with, make sure to follow-up with a thank-you and keep in contact with them to maintain the relationship – similar to how you would with a friend you might want to keep in touch with.

Networking doesn’t have to be scary or complicated. Just remember: networking is just another term for connecting with people who have career goals, experiences, and skills that you are looking to have or want to grow. And this is a mutually beneficial relationship! As you advance through your own career and develop your own skills and experiences, others can rely on you to help them as well.

How to Talk to Your Professor about a Bad Grade

Listen. It happens. Sometimes even when you try your best on an assignment, you still don’t manage to get the grade you were hoping for. You might be disappointed and angry, feeling as though you deserved a better grade, but going to your professor accusing him or her of giving you the wrong grade isn’t the best approach. Instead, we want to offer you a step-by-step guide to discussing your grades (especially when you don’t get the grade you want) with your professor (or teaching assistant in some cases) in a productive way that helps you earn better grades in the future.

Step 1: Review your professor’s grading rubric

Before you even meet with your professor, you should re-examine your test, essay, or assignment, and any instructions, criteria, or rubric associated with it. Professors use rubrics (or other assignment criteria) to “define academic expectations,” “ensure consistency in the evaluation of academic work,” and “as scoring instruments to determine grades or the degree to which learning standards have been demonstrated or attained by students.” Sometimes your professor will set these standards in their syllabus in regards to all assignments, while other times your professor will provide individual criteria for what they’re looking for in each individual assignment. If you’re reviewing a test with multiple choice or similar questions, you may not have a rubric, but it’s possible the teacher may have provided insight into how he or she would be grading an open-ended question.

It’s always important to review your professor’s criteria before each assignment so you have a clear understanding of what he or she expects from you to earn an A (or the best overall grade). If your professor doesn’t provide this, it’s good to ask him or her before you begin your assignment. In this case, as you’re reviewing your work after receiving the grade, review any information your professor has given you regarding what constitutes “A”-quality work and compare that to the work your produced. Does your assignment meet the criteria your professor outlined to achieve the grade you wanted? Did you follow all instructions related to the assignment? If the answer to either of these questions is “No,” then you can begin to understand why your professor gave you that grade. If you’re still confused about your grade, then it warrants a conversation with your professor.

Step 2: Review your work and circle areas where you have questions

After reviewing your work in relation to the grading criteria, you should circle, underline, and/or highlight areas where you have questions. If your professor provided any feedback on your assignment that you disagree with or are confused about, you should mark those as well, and consider why you disagree. This is not to say that you should be preparing to argue against your professor’s feedback or comments. You should be coming from a place of understanding.

For example, if your professor said your thesis statement didn’t establish a strong argument and you think it did, consider why you think your thesis establishes a strong argument, but also consider what your definition of a good thesis statement is. You might want to make a note to ask your professor to help you understand what constitutes a strong thesis statement, and where you could have improved yours. It’s important to reflect both on your professor’s feedback and comments as well as why you are confused by it and/or disagree.

When you are ready to talk to your professor, this will help you focus the conversation and also give your professor some insight into your concerns. Remember: you do not want to be defensive. You are not going in to argue against your grade. You are going in to have a dialogue regarding your professor’s standards, how your assignment compares, and what’s needed to be done to earn the best possible grade on this assignment and in future ones.

Step 3: Schedule time to talk with your professor

You might feel compelled to confront your professor immediately after receiving your assignment back and viewing the grade, but it’s better to take some time to process, review your work (as per Step 1 and 2), and then schedule a time to talk with your professor when ready. If your professor offers office hours, you can always drop by during those designated times, but you can also approach your professor after a class or send him or her an email to request a discussion. It’s best to phrase your request as exactly that: a discussion of your grade, rather than phrase the question more defensively regarding why you got a bad grade.

For example, you can say something like: “Hi Professor. After receiving my assignment back recently, I was hoping I could schedule a time to speak with you regarding my grade. I’d like to get a better understanding of your feedback and my mistakes, and get insight into how I can improve in the future. Thank you for your help!” Be sure to include your name, email address, as well as the class you’re taking from that professor, and perhaps even be specific about what assignment you’d like to discuss.

Once you and your professor schedule a time, make sure you have the assignment in question, as well as any notes or references (like your rubric or syllabus) that will help in your discussion. This ensures a more successful discussion because you can refer to your assignment and point out particular areas where you have any questions. Your professor will also appreciate your preparedness.

Step 4: Approach your conversation with an open-mind vs. being defensive

When it comes to the actual discussion of your grades, do not enter your conversation looking to change your professor’s mind or being defensive about your work. It’s important to be realistic: you will likely not walk away from this conversation with a new grade. However, you will walk away from the discussion having a better understanding of what you needed to do to earn a better grade, and how you can accomplish that on your next assignment. When you meet with your professor, you can simply start the conversation by thanking him or her for agreeing to review the assignment and answer your question.

Then, you can move on to saying that you had some questions about the assignment and your grade, and were hoping you could walk through them together. As you review together, take notes (either on the assignment directly or in your own notebook) and ask questions. If you want some more clarity into something your professor is saying, now is the perfect opportunity to ask him or her to go into a deeper explanation. If you disagree with something your professor says, fight the inclination to be defensive and instead explain your perspective and ask if they can help you better understand where there’s a disconnect.

For example, to resume the thesis statement example, if your professor says you didn’t establish a stance for an argument, and you think you did, ask your professor: “Can you explain how I could have better established a stance on this topic? How can I craft a better thesis statement for next time? Do you have tips for making sure my stance is clear and easily understood by the reader?” These questions still help you get to a place of understanding but are far less defensive than, “Why isn’t my thesis good enough? Why is my thesis wrong?”

Step 5: Ask what you can do better next time

As you review the assignment with your professor, or after you have gone over all of your questions and your professor’s feedback on this assignment, you then want to shift the conversation to what you can to ensure a better grade on future assignments. If you have your syllabus available or already have an upcoming assignment due, you might ask your professor to review the rubric or discuss what he or she is looking for in a successful assignment. If you have questions about the criteria, now is the time to ask.

For example, if your upcoming assignment includes a presentation in front of your class (whether on Zoom or in-person) you might discuss what makes for a successful presentation. You might ask what parts of the presentation are most important to the professor – speaking out loud in front of the class, or the prepared component that you turn into your professor (like a paper or presentation slides).

Ask as many questions as needed to help you feel confident in understanding what’s required for a good grade. Remember that your professor can’t give you the answers or help you prepare your assignment, but your professor can certainly steer you in the right direction.

Step 6: Accept your professor’s advice and move forward

At the end of your conversation, your professor may have decided to adjust your grade or it may remain the same. However, it’s important to thank your professor and accept their decision either way. As you encounter future assignments, or even as you’re tackling current ones, you can always schedule more time with your professor for help as needed. Not only will this show your professor that you are invested in doing well in his or her class, it will likely help you earn a better grade.

3 Tips for Starting Your Semester Off Right

At the start of a new semester (or new school year), we all have every intention of being the best student we can possibly be. We buy our textbooks and tell ourselves we’re going to start our reading early; we make sure we have folders, highlighter pens, and every note-taking accessory needed; and we even promise ourselves that this is the year we stop procrastinating. Yet, all of those things are easier said than done, especially when the school year hasn’t quite begun. Once our academic, social, and work obligations begin, suddenly, all of those promises we made to ourselves become that much more difficult to keep. That’s why we’re sharing tips for starting your semester off strongly (yes, even during a pandemic), so that you can maintain all of that positive momentum and earn good grades.

Tip #1: Actually read your syllabus.

You know that piece of paper or PDF your professor distributes at the beginning of the semester with all of the due dates, assignments, and class rules? Yeah, that’s your syllabus, and yes, you should definitely read it. In fact, we recommend reading it multiple times. Your syllabus helps you keep track of due dates, but it also helps you understand what your professor’s expectations are to earn that A. Oftentimes, if you have a question about the class, an assignment, or a rule, the syllabus is able to answer it for you. You’ll want to reference your syllabus throughout the semester, so keep it accessible (and safe).

Tip #2: Make sure you are aware of every deadline and due date

Depending on your professor and syllabus, you’ll know when every one of your assignments, exams, and essays will be at the start of the semester. That is some pretty valuable and important information — you can see into the future! And you should use that information wisely. Utilize a digital planner (like your calendar app or a productivity tool) or a good old-fashioned paper planner and start marking down all of those due dates and deadlines.

Just as importantly, you’ll want to also mark down when you have other obligations as well, like your work schedule, club or organization meetings, that weekly call you have with your parents, or even some time for self-care, even if all of these things are virtual for the near-future. This will ensure you know how to manage your time properly amidst all of the things you have to do. You’ll be able to plan when you need to get work done, and also when you need time for recharging.

Tip #3: Get help as soon as you need it – not just before test day

In a perfect world, you’ll be able to understand all of your assignments and the content of upcoming test materials and complete them without any questions or difficulty. Unfortunately, when you’re learning new materials and juggling a full course load (on top of any other extracurriculars), that doesn’t typically happen. This is why you need to utilize the resources you have available to you when something becomes too challenging for you to tackle on your own. Whenever you reach a point in the semester where something just is too confusing or you’re having trouble completing an assignment, ask for help — don’t wait until right before the due date when it could be too late. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re “giving up” or that you’re a “failure” for needing help; it means you recognize when getting another perspective, or having someone help you review your work can help you overcome any hurdles of understanding.

Make sure you know what resources are available to you at your school’s library, and look into whether your school offers tutors in various subject matter. Many schools have things like math or writing centers whether other students and professors can help answer your questions. Another excellent resource is your professor’s office hours. They dedicate time each week that’s exclusively for helping their students navigate their class and assignments. If you have a TA (teaching assistant) for a class, reach out to them too. All of these resources are there to ensure you aren’t struggling through a class; they can help you feel confident that you can understand class material and tackle assignments. If you do this throughout the semester ahead of your assignments and tests, you’ll be better positioned to earn a good grade at the end.

What You Should Look for When Comparing Universities Online

When considering which university is right for you, the ideal scenario is being able to visit each one in person and get a feel for the place, see for yourself what it is you like and dislike, as well as meet face-to-face with potential professors and students. Unfortunately, visiting universities in person can be expensive, arduous and in the current climate, risky for one’s health.

Thankfully though, many of the most important resources for comparing universities and colleges are freely available online. However, with such a wealth of information for each institution, what should you be looking for when comparing universities online?

Program Content and Structure

Perhaps the first thing you should decide on is which course you intend on studying. Once this is clear, it becomes far easier to compare colleges and universities.

When comparing courses, consider not only the content (two courses with the same name can have vastly different curricula) but also the structure. How many modules are there to take? What freedom do you have in choosing? What will the average week look like, lots of lectures or more individual study time? What degree of practical work compared to theoretical? How many hours of teaching time will there be? Your preferences for each will be key in making a decision.


Some degrees will assess you heavily by expecting lots of essays to be written. Others may have lots of exams, or practical tests, others may have presentations or group work. Compare course assessments and see which play best to your strengths, but remember: you are at university to test your limits and improve. It may be worthwhile testing yourself and choosing a course that will push you out of your comfort zone.

Academic Reputation

There are two things to consider here, the reputation of the institution as a whole, as well as of the particular course you plan on studying. Both can often be compared in some of the world’s most popular ranking lists, such as Times Higher Education, or the QS university rankings.


Would you prefer to live in the city or somewhere more rural? In your spare time, would you prefer hanging out by the beach or going skiing in the mountains?

The area in which you choose to study is always important, though especially so if you plan on studying abroad, whereupon you not only have to choose a region, but the very country itself.

Entry Requirements and Affordability

When comparing universities, it’s also important to be realistic about your chances. When comparing universities, you should be checking the entry requirements like the grades or experience required, language requirements and tuition fees, to make sure the course is affordable.

Of course, when applying, it’s good to push oneself, but remember to have a back up to fall back on if things don’t go to plan.

Student Life

Many institutions have clubs and societies for students to join, which can make it a lot easier to find friends with similar interests, as well as a good way to pass your free time. It’s also important to see what is available to do outside of university though, whether that be the nightlife, events, particular places of interest or local towns or cities to visit.

Style of Institution

Some universities have a particular reputation for excelling in individual areas. This one produces lots of politicians, and this one lots of successful entrepreneurs, for example. Some will have a particularly vibrant nightlife scene, while others excel in spotting excellence. This sort of reputation may not always be made clear on a university’s website, so make sure to search and read through message boards or social media.

Student Satisfaction

Another common metric often included in rankings lists is student satisfaction. While this can be useful (especially when weeding out some of those with the lowest satisfaction scores), bear in mind that students can base their satisfaction on any number of things, which these results do not always make clear, so if two universities have similar scores, don’t let this affect your decision too much.

Prospects After Graduation

Compare the percentages of graduate employability (as well as how many go into further study), as well as the types of employment they have found and how much they are earning. Do these percentages reflect your own plan post-graduation?

Finding the right place to study can be a long and tricky process, but luckily there are lots of resources available online, such as, which guides students that wish to study abroad.