Financial Considerations Upon Arrival

As an international student, there are several financial matters that you need to keep in mind. You are unlikely to have much income during your time as an international student, so budgeting and keeping track of your finances is extremely important.

Costs to Consider

  • Tuition
  • Communication (phone bills, internet, postage, etc.)
  • Transportation (bus, subway, taxi)
  • Gym membership and fees related to other extracurricular activities
  • Entertainment
  • Personal travel
  • Books and other course supplies
  • Personal expenses (toiletries, laundry, etc.)
  • Food
  • Insurance
  • Cost of living (this will be much higher in some areas than others)

Living Arrangements

The very first thing you’ll have to do after your arrival - if not before -is settle your housing arrangements. You have a wide variety of accommodation possibilities available to you, and the cost will vary depending on what you choose. You might be living on-campus, in which case your housing will already be arranged. If you do not have a kitchen and are on a meal plan, you won’t have to worry about buying kitchenware or a large amount of food. Some universities, however, do not offer on-campus housing to international students, in which case you will have to find off-campus accommodations. You can cut down on this cost by finding roommates or housemates with whom to live. If possible, you will want to visit potential houses or apartments before committing to one.

Before you leave, make sure you know how you will be getting from place to place - whether someone is picking you up from the airport or you are taking the subway or a cab. This might be another post-arrival cost you have to plan for.

Post-Arrival Shopping

Rather than trying to jam all your worldly possessions into a suitcase, you might want to consider packing light and buying things you’ll need after your arrival. These essentials can be divided into several categories:

Bedding
Pillows, pillow cases, sheets, blankets, mattress pads, etc.
Toiletries
Toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, hairbrush, deodorant, etc
Electronics
Fan, batteries, flashlight, etc.
Kitchen Supplies
Microwave, slow-cooker, dishware, etc.
Laundry Supplies
laundry bag, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, etc.
Cleaning Supplies
Vacuum, mops, all-purpose cleaner, etc.
Office Supplies
Notebooks, pens, stapler, hole punch, etc.

A quick Google search will yield hundreds of more detailed shopping lists, but you can use this to get you started. Some of what you’ll need will depend on the specifics of your situation including both your accommodations and where you will be living.

Opening a Bank Account

If you are studying internationally for an extended period of time, you might want to consider opening a bank account in your host country. Compare the student services of several different banks before choosing the best bank for you. You’ll also want to choose a bank with a branch on or close to your school. Compare and research the different types of accounts that banks before settling on one. Ask banks about accounts just for international students, if there is a minimum balance required on your account, and how long it takes to “clear” a check (how long after you deposit a check before you can withdraw money your money). For more information, check out more information on opening up a bank account in the US.

Money-Saving Tips

As an international student, you may be able to work part-time during your studies. This is a good way to supplement your funds, but it is unlikely to produce much income. For this reason, you’ll want to find ways to save money as often as possible. Some of these money-saving techniques include:

  • Renting textbooks or buying used. Textbooks can be extremely expensive, and those prices add up fast. International students can save a lot of money by renting textbooks, shopping online from sites like amazon.com, buying electronic textbooks, and borrowing available textbooks from the library.
  • Shopping for clothes smartly. When creating a budget for clothing, you’ll want to make a list of clothing items that you need, and subtract from that list items that you already own. You might want to break this list down into categories: casual clothing, business casual, and one nice suit. Contact your school’s student money management center to ask staff members about clothing needs related to details such as climate, region, prices, places to shop, and local events. When shopping for clothes, try shopping at thrift shops, consignment stores, and discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart.
  • Plan transportation carefully. Many schools in the US provide free transportation into surrounding areas for their students; if this is the case with your school, try to take advantage of it as much as possible. In other cases, you’ll want to take public transportation like subways and buses, rather than more expensive methods of transportation like taxis.
  • Eat in as much as possible. Dining out often is extremely expensive; try to make your own meals as often as possible. When you do go out, avoid expensive tourist traps; ask around for inexpensive local restaurants or restaurants that provide student discounts.

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