Admitted International Student FAQ
- Which office is dedicated to international students at Vassar?
- How can I communicate with current international students?
- Should I have a departure checklist?
- How can I equip my room?
- Where can I ship my belongings to?
- What is SEVIS?
- What is the procedure for applying for an F-1 Visa (four-year students)?
- What is the procedure for applying for J-1 Visa (exchange students, language fellows, and scholar)?
- Are there additional resources about the visa application and the interview process?
- Do I need to fill out any forms on the plane?
- What is the immigration process like?
- What is International Student Orientation? When should I arrive?
- Will there be an opportunity to shop for essential items during orientation?
- What is the International Host Program?
- Booking return flights: Is it possible for international students to stay on campus during breaks?
- Do you have any advice for the long flight?
- Does Vassar offer a shuttle service?
- Are there directions available to Vassar from the three major New York airports?
- Telephones: phoning home and cell phones
- How should I handle money and banking?
- Is there an International Student Organization?
- Are there cultural differences to expect?
- How many international students are at Vassar?
- How do I get a campus job and a Social Security Number?
- What about immunization requirements/health insurance?
- How well known is Vassar?
- Will Vassar award credit for my advanced program of study?
- How is the weather?
- Do you have any unanswered questions?
Preparation for Arrival
Which office is dedicated to international students at Vassar?
The Office of International Services (OIS) is dedicated to help students adjust to their new life in America. OIS provides year-round assistance to all international students, language fellows, and scholars, with the visa/immigration process as well as workshops during the summer and post-graduation employment. Our office also organizes cultural events to enhance the experiences of international students on campus and encourage them to share their experiences with the greater Vassar community. Our goal is to make this type of cultural exchange extremely valuable and to help international students transition to Vassar.
OIS staff and international student interns are available to answer any questions you may have. To reach out, please contact:
Andrew Meade, Director of International Services: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robyn Cox, Post Baccalaureate Fellow for International Services: email@example.com
For OIS interns: InternationalServices@Vassar.edu
How can I communicate with current international students?
There are several means to communicate with our international students. First, feel free to like us on our OIS Facebook Page. Second, you can also join the Vassar International Student Association, VISA Facebook Group. During the summer, you will receive a Facebook Group invitation from VISA, which will be sent to your personal email account on file.
Also, it is highly recommended to start checking your Vassar email prior to your arrival to campus. Your Vassar email address is the official medium for receiving important updates, critical information, and ongoing events from Vassar officials and Vassar student organizations. You will receive login instructions in the beginning of the summer.
Should I have a departure checklist?
Yes! Below is the international student departure checklist for your convenience. Also, you can download and print it out.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS DEPARTURE CHECKLIST
____ Exchange foreign currency for $100-200 in U.S. currency for use when you first arrive. Include small bills (i.e., $1, $5, $10).
_____ DO NOT CARRY LARGE SUMS OF CURRENCY (i.e., no more than $200 in cash)
_____Give your family a contact address in the U.S. and keep Vassar’s emergency contact information handy. In the event you need to reach someone at Vassar during your trip to campus, call Andrew Meade at 1-845-235-9967.
_____ Have Vassar’s address/your American address at hand at all times, or memorize it. You will need it to complete immigration forms.
_____ Write down the complete telephone numbers of the people you would like to call once you have arrived in New York City. Be sure to include your country code and all applicable area codes.
_____ If you are being sponsored by an organization, notify the organization of your plans and complete all of the sponsoring organization’s necessary documents.
_____ Pack all identification and important correspondence from Vassar in your hand luggage. These documents include the following: letter of admission, financial-aid award letter, valid passport, Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or DS2019), SEVIS I-901 Fee receipt, financial documentation, driver’s license, copy of birth certificate, etc.
_____ If your passport was issued less than one year ago, you will need your birth certificate or another photo ID more than a year old in order to obtain a Social Security Number (necessary for employment).
_____ Bring necessary health immunization records. (You will need a copy for Vassar Health Services as well as a copy for your own records.)
_____ Pack your carry-on with emergency personal items, such as medication and a change of clothes, in case your luggage is temporarily lost during your journey. And finally…bring photographs and other items to remind you of home!
How can I equip my room?
Your room is already furnished with a bed frame and a mattress, a desk and a chair, and a chest of drawers. The Residential Life Office has a list of useful items and another list of prohibited items. There are several essential items we recommend you plan on either packing or purchasing upon arrival. There will be several opportunities to purchase these during international oriention weekend. These items include:
- Sheets, blankets, and pillows.
- Weather appropriate clothing. Please be advised that the weather is extremely cold during winter time in Poughkeepsie and the temperature typically drops below zero. So plan on purchasing snow boots, snow suits, heavy jackets, gloves/mittens, scarves, and hats. However, the weather can also be very hot during the last two weeks of August.
- Cosmetics and personal hygiene items: most of the things you need can be purchased in the U.S. Nonetheless, be sure to have everything you’ll need for the first few days.
- Portable electrical appliances (hair dryers, electric razors, desk lamps, stereos, etc.) may need an adapter to work in the U.S. The electrical voltage is 110-115 volts, 60 cycles AC. However, it may be more practical to buy these items in the U.S. as the adapters may become expensive and these items may take up valuable room in your luggage.
- Books and photos from home.
Where can I ship my belongings to?
During the summer, you will receive your Vassar College post office box number via an email from the Office of Residential Life. If you plan to ship any of your personal belongings to Vassar in the weeks prior to your arrival, use the following address:
Vassar College Box Number ___
124 Raymond Ave
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
If you decide to send your parcel by the regular mail service, it will be held at the campus post office in Vassar College Main Building. We suggest you note “HOLD” on the parcel.
If you choose to use a courier service (DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc.), your package will be held at the Shipping and Receiving Department for you to pick up when you arrive.
What is SEVIS?
What is the procedure for applying for an F-1 Visa (four-year students)?
Once we have received your signed Candidate’s Reply Card, the enrollment deposit, and your I-20 Request Form that is included in your admitted student package - which is also available here as a PDF - the Office of International Services (OIS) handles the paperwork process of your I-20 form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OIS will mail out your I-20 request form by the end of May, provided we have received your request form and any other supporting documentation that may be needed.
We are happy to inform you that Vassar will pay the $200.00 SEVIS fee for all new international students applicants on F1 Visa. We handle the entire visa procedure and pay this fee in order to spare international students both the complicated process and the inconvenience involved. Along with your I-20 Form, you will receive a payment voucher for this fee via mail. You need to present this voucher to apply for F1 visa.
Students applying for F-1 student visa must either present the “Certificate of Eligibility,” or Form I-20, SEVIS fee voucher, a passport, and supporting documentation to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please be advised not to schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate until you receive your completed paperwork by early June from the Office of International Services. It is important to note that Canadian students are not required to schedule a visa interview.
What is the procedure for applying for J-1 Visa (exchange students, language fellows, and scholar)?
To enter the U.S. with a non-immigrant status, applicatns on J-1 visa must have the “Certificate of Eligibility” or Form DS2019. OIS will mail out to our exchange visitors Form DS2019 and SEVIS payment voucher of $180, which Vassar is pleased to pay on your behalf.
You will take the DS2019 form, the SEVIS fee voucher, your passport, and any further supporting documentation to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request the J-1 visa. Vassar Exchange Visitors will usually receive their DS2019 forms and fee vouchers by early June. Afterwards, please schedule a visa interview at the nearest U.S. Embassay or Consulate.
Are there additional resources about the visa application and the interview process?
Do I need to fill out any forms on the plane?
An American citizen, a permanent resident or green card holder is not required to complete any forms.
If you are a non-citizen, you will need to fill out the I-94 form. You will be able to access this form electronically after leaving the airport. Please make sure to memorize your Vassar address to complete this immigration form.
What is the immigration process like?
It is very important that you bring all the required documents that certify you are an international student or an exchange visitor (I-20 or DS2019, and your SEVIS receipt) when going through immigration in the airport. Please remember to bring these forms on the plane with you.
Upon arrival, you will have a short interview with a customs officer, who will check your documents, take your fingerprints and a photo of you, and ask you several questions. These questions might include why you chose to study in the U.S., Vassar, and perhaps inquire about your major. Do not be afraid to say you have not yet decided your field of study. This is the normal and standard procedure.
Arrival and Orientation
What is International Student Orientation? When should I arrive?
All international students should plan to arrive at Vassar on Friday, August 21, 2015. Our two-day International Student Orientation will begin on Saturday, August 22, and general New Student Orientation starts up on Monday, August 24. We strongly encourage all international and overseas students to attend International Student Orientation, as we believe it will greatly facilitate your initial adjustment to Vassar and provide an opportunity to build long-lasting relationships. We welcome parents and other family members and we have special activities prepared for them, including a private Q&A session with administrators and students where we can address their concerns.
You will be able to move into your own room on Friday, August 21, 2015. (See the section on “Arrival Information” on the New Students website for information on transportation to the Vassar campus.) In addition, during the Orientation week you will have the opportunity to meet the Office of International Services interns and other international upperclassmen.
Will there be an opportunity to shop for essential items during orientation?
What is the International Host Program?
Members of the Vassar faculty and staff and a few members of the neighboring community volunteer to be “hosts” for new internationals. The program opens with a special reception a few days into the term, to which hosts and students are invited. The program is very informal and unstructured from that point on. It is not a homestay program, but it is not uncommon to be invited for a home-cooked meal with the family of the host. More information about this program, including the opportunity to sign up, will be forthcoming this summer.
Booking return flights: Is it possible for international students to stay on campus during breaks?
Yes, all students can apply for summer/intersession housing and stay on campus for the longer breaks. For more information, please visit the Residential Life website:ResidentialLife.Vassar.edu/Summer.html
Intersession housing is usually given in the dorms that have kitchens in them as the All Campus Dining Center is not open during breaks. The Retreat is usually open until 3pm on weekdays of breaks, but students might find it more convenient to cook for themselves at their own leisure. There is a small fee charged to your account for the intersession housing.
Do you have any advice for the long flight?
Many of you will be traveling great distances, some of you for the first time! Here are suggestions for the flight:
- Set your watch for Poughkeepsie, NY, time as soon as you board, to allow you to start mentally preparing for your new time zone.
- Dress for maximum comfort and remember that the air conditioning on airplanes can make the air cooler than you might expect. A sweatshirt or the like is recommended for this reason, and it is a good idea to dress in layers that you can easily add or take away.
- Accessories like earplugs, an eye-mask, an inflatable pillow, and herbal tea can help you rest, especially on longer flights.
- Aircraft cabins are notoriously dry, so plan on drinking lots of water and juice. It is wise to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other dehydrating liquids. Dehydration is a real concern, especially on longer flights, and is typically characterized by headaches and nausea. You will need to drink a lot more water than usual in order to stay hydrated.
- It can also be helpful to load up on snacks in case the time between meals is longer than you’d like.
- Finally, you may want to nap on the ride to Vassar or when you first arrive at the school. Remember that it is best to eat and sleep at “normal” times in order to get over jetlag as soon as possible.
Does Vassar offer a shuttle service?
Yes. The Office of International Services operates free shuttle vans for international students from JFK Airport. See the section on “Arrival Information” [LINK] for details about the shuttle and directions to Vassar from other New York metro airports.
Are there directions available to Vassar from the three major New York airports?
Telephones: phoning home and cell phones
One of the first things many of you will want to do after you have arrived is to call home to let your family know you are safely here. The best way to make an international call, unless you have a cell phone that works in the U.S., is to use a telephone card.
Instructions are generally printed on the back of the telephone card. You will typically dial a toll-free number, (the initial call is free of charge from any pay phone). You will be asked to enter the PIN number on the back of the card, and then you will be asked to dial the number.
- To make a call in the United States, dial 1+area code+number. (For example, the number you will call to let us at Vassar know you have arrived is 1-845-235-9967).
- To make an international call, dial 011+country code+area code+number. It’s obviously a good idea to write down these complete numbers before you leave home.
- There are also online phone cards you can use to call home. To purchase one, go to EnjoyPrepaid.com.
There will be some computers available with Skype installed, so that you can contact home shortly after arrival at Vassar. You may choose to create a Skype account before arrival.
If you wish to purchase a cell phone for long-term use, there are several options available. You can buy a pre-paid phone from one of the major retailers in Poughkeepsie for around $15 and then continue charging your account. If you want to become part of a plan, then you should be prepared to pay a fee of around $400 to the company as a guarantee, in lieu of either a Social Security Number and/or credit history in the U.S. Usually this sum is refunded at the end of a one-year contract. Some international students get organized and purchase a family plan together. Do not worry if this sounds confusing. We will cover cell phones during International Student Orientation!
How should I handle money and banking?
You should plan to have at least $200 in foreign currency which can be exchanged immediately at any of the airports in the New York area or at most large banks. This money will cover initial expenses such as taxi or bus fares, meals, etc. Be sure that you do not carry large sums of cash with you!
You will want to open a bank account shortly after arrival. When opening a bank account, keep in mind that foreign checks may require 4 to 6 weeks before funds become available. Traveler’s checks are the best way to make initial deposits. Two pieces of identification are generally required to open an account: usually your passport or driver’s license, and your Vassar ID card (which you will receive at orientation). You may want to make arrangements to transfer funds to a bank in Poughkeepsie prior to your departure. You may wire money from your bank at home directly to a bank in the U.S. Transfers take up to 48 hours, and the fees vary from $10 to $30.
The two banks with branches within walking distance of the Vassar campus are First Niagara Bank and Bank of America. At Bank of America there is no fee for the first 6 months (5 years if parents have an account), then a $3.95 monthly fee unless you set up direct deposit. Bank of America requires a minimum of $25 to open an account, but requires no minimum balance thereafter. First Niagara is brand new; the location is converting this summer from HSBC. Due to recent changes in banking laws, most banks require you to be at least 18 years of age in order to open an account with them. Currently the only known bank to allow minors to open an account is Chase Bank.
First Niagara Bank is located at 1 LaGrange Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603. The local branch telephone is 1-845-454-5512. First Niagara will have an ATM located in Vassar’s Student Center.
Bank of America is located at 11 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603. The local branch phone number is 1-845-452-2041.
During check-in, representatives from both banks will be able to assist you in opening an account right on the spot!
Is there an International Student Organization?
Other Issues and Concerns
Are there cultural differences to expect?
Depending on the culture you are coming from, you can expect many differences in the U.S. and at Vassar. International Orientation will help familiarize you with some of those differences.
The Vassar campus is very informal in terms of dress and relationships. The social environment at Vassar is an open one. You will encounter students espousing many different viewpoints on religion, politics, personal conduct, and interpersonal relations. While students are certainly not expected to agree with everyone else’s point of view, you will need to be prepared for an environment that is very tolerant of diversity. Respecting such differences is a foundation for the Vassar community. Another difference you can expect is the severe restrictions on smoking in buildings and public spaces in the U.S.
Academically, you will also encounter a good deal of informality in relationships between students and faculty. It is common for faculty to be on a first-name basis with their students and for friendships to develop outside of the classroom. Moreover, the classes at Vassar will each involve a heavy discussion component, and a willingness to participate in class is essential.