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Document Sample
					The Year Abroad (USA)
Updated and revised May 2007 International Office, University of Kent

Chapter Introduction Choosing a university The Application Process Pre-departure information Student Visas Visa application process Maintaining your visa Booking flights Arranging accommodation and meal plans Luggage and packing Arriving in the USA When to arrive Orientation Meeting your international student advisor Registering at your university in the USA Obtaining a student ID card 15 15 16 16 16 5 6 12 12 13 14 Working in the USA Who can work in the USA? Social Security Numbers Life in the USA National Holidays Time Zones Telephones and Making Calls Voltage and Electrical Appliances Legal Matters Smoking Alcohol Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Support and Resources 30 31 31 33 33 34 34 34 30 30 Page No. 3 4 4 Chapter University facilities Insurance Dental Care Medication Declaration of illnesses, disabilities or allergies Counselling and Mental Illness Page No. 27 28 28 29 29 29

Academic Culture Teaching style Lower and upper division classes Timetables Examinations Grading systems Transcripts Adding or dropping a class Pass or Not Pass Crashing a class Writing style Plagiarism Libraries Books Money matters Currency Budgeting Finances, travellers cheques and opening bank accounts Bank cards Internet banking Living costs Tuition fees at the University of Kent Student Loans Access to Learning Fund Sports and Healthcare Sports Facilities on Campus Health regulations and vaccinations 22 23 23 24 25 25 25 25 26 26 27 27 Preparing to return home Clearing Debts Registering for classes at Kent Accommodation at Kent Other Resources Travel Guides for the USA Frequently Asked Questions Contact Information 41 41 40 40 40 16 17 18 18 19 19 20 20 20 21 21 21 22 Travel within the USA State Tourist Offices Public Transport Driving in the USA Hitch-Hiking Hotels and Motels Youth Hostels Travel outside of the USA Canada and Mexico Returning home for the holidays Life Back Home Keeping in touch Registering to vote 39 39 38 38 35 36 36 37 37 37



Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity for students at the University of Kent. Not only does it expand your academic horizons and expose you to other perspectives of academic thought, it also provides you with a wonderful cultural experience to live and study in another country. This guide is intended to supplement any material that you may already have received, and should provide you with useful information as you prepare for your academic year in the United States. You should supplement this guide with a careful reading of any information you may receive from your American university / college and with some independent research of your own. Please read this booklet in its entirety before you leave for the USA. If, after reading it, you still have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the relevant staff (see our Contacts section) who will do their best to answer your questions in a timely manner. We would also welcome suggestions of topics which you feel should be covered, or which you think should be expanded in this booklet. Lastly, we wish you the best of luck with your year in the USA and encourage you to make the most of all of the opportunities that will come your way. Remember that you are also ambassadors for the University of Kent, so do us proud!

Best wishes from the International Office, University of Kent
Reminder: Please email Hazel Lander ( as soon as you arrive in the USA, to provide her with your new phone number, address and contact information, together with a confirmation of the classes you will be taking during your first quarter or semester. You must do this within a week of arriving in the USA. For further details, see page 38.

Deciding which university you will apply to for your year abroad

is an important process. It is worth spending time researching which university will provide the best experience for you. Do you prefer to be by the coast or inland? Do you prefer urban or campus-based universities? Is it important for you to be somewhere where the cost of living is cheaper? Which university has the strongest department for your academic interests? There are many ways to source this information – from the internet, from returning students, from your Kent lecturers and from the International Office. In some cases, it may not always be possible to accommodate your first choice university, but you should be assured that all of our partner universities have been carefully chosen to provide you with positive and fulfilling experiences.

Each department at Kent has its own criteria as to how they select students for the year abroad in the USA. In general, most departments require students to have averaged a good 2:ii by the end of their second year and you may also be invited to an interview to explain why you think you should go to a specific university in the USA. Following your interview and / or discussion with your department, you will be informed which university Kent will be nominating you for. At this point, you will then have to go through a formal application process with the partner university to confirm your place as an exchange student. The application process for this will vary from university to university; some will be relatively simple applications which ask for basic information, while others may be much longer bureaucratic processes. If you are in any doubt about how to complete the application forms, please contact the International Office for further information. In all cases, students going to the USA will have to provide academic transcripts (including A-Level transcripts or equivalent) plus financial documents to prove that you will have enough funds to support yourself during your year abroad so it is a good idea to begin collating or sourcing these documents early. Please note that the reason you are requested to provide financial documents is so that the American university is satisfied that you meet all of the criteria for a student visa, which includes having access to a specified amount of money. The university has to verify this before they can send you the Certificate of Eligibility, which is the document you will need to apply for your visa. The amount of money you will need to prove you have access to will vary from university to university since living costs vary from city to city. The International Office will be able to update you with what these figures are at the time you make your application. Please note that when you submit documents for your financial verification, you should adhere to the following general list of do’s and don’ts:

● Submit original documents ● Provide recent bank statements

● Submit photocopies or faxes ● Provide statements more than 3 months ● Submit portfolios showing shares (these

old ● Ensure documents show cleared funds

vary in value with the stock market so


● Provide original signatures and letters from

Your sponsors if your funds come from more than one source (for example, from you, your parents, your grandparents, a loan, a scholarship and / or an employer)

cannot be counted as cash or cleared funds) ● Indicate predicted earnings as part of your documentation (working over the summer cannot be used to explain where your money will come from)


Once you have been accepted by your host university, you will then need to think about applying for your visa. If you are not a US or Canadian passport holder, you must obtain a visa before travelling to the USA. Under no circumstances should you travel to the USA on the visa waiver scheme and try to change your status on arrival - this is not possible. Similarly, if you travel to Canada or Mexico and try to apply for your visa from there, the US Embassy will almost certainly reject your application since you will be suspected of trying to use a ‘backdoor’ route to the USA. The embassies in those countries will also state that they are not able to fully assess your home ties and this will also mean that you will not be able to re-apply for your visa in London for several months. A rejected visa application looks bad on your record and could jeopardise your chances of getting a US visa in the future so please go through the correct procedures. Students travelling abroad in the summer prior to attending university in the USA should ensure that they have allowed themselves enough time for their visa applications to be processed by the US Embassy. The summer is a busy time for the US Embassy so it may take several weeks or more for you just to secure an Embassy appointment. However, US embassies will usually not permit you to make your visa appointment until 90 days before the start of your study programme. Please bear in mind that you will have to surrender your passport to the US Embassy while it assesses your application. Students considering spending the summer in the USA (on BUNAC or Camp America for example) should be warned that if they choose to work in the USA over the summer period, it is likely that they will subsequently have to return to the UK after completing their work placement to then apply for their student visa from the UK before being able to re-enter the US as a student on the correct visa. Although the warnings above may make the visa application process seem quite daunting or complicated, the instructions in the following pages aim to provide you with a simple step-by-step guide to help you with your visa application. Do bear in mind that many students go through the visa application process each year, and most will obtain their visas as long as they have followed the instructions and supplied the documents as requested. Please note that we cannot intervene in any visa applications to speed up the process or to make visa appointments on your behalf, so it is important that you plan to apply for your visa in plenty of time and that you ensure that all of your documents are fully complete and well-prepared.


You will normally only be able to apply for your visa once you receive your Certificate of Eligibility (also known as the I-20 or DS-2019) from your host university in the USA. These documents are usually sent to students from May onwards and should be treated as important legal documents if you lose your Certificate of Eligibility, replacement documents can be difficult to obtain. Please note that your subsequent visa stamp in your passport is only valid for entry to the USA - once you are in the USA, the Certificate of Eligibility demonstrates your eligibility to remain there. However, both documents (the I-20 or DS-2019 and your visa) are required for entry to the USA so do not leave your I-20 or DS-2019 at home. Students who receive an I-20 will be applying for an F-1 visa and students who receive a DS-2019 will be applying for a J-1 visa. The nature of your visa, whether it is F-1 or J-1, is determined simply by which university you will be going to – you cannot choose which visa you will be applying for. The application process below was correct as of May 2007, but please note that US Embassies can change their application procedures with short notice, so it is important to check the US Embassy website just before you apply for your visa. The current overall application process for an F-1 or J-1 visa comprises five main stages: 1. Complete the DS-156 form online, then download and complete by hand the other application forms as listed below from the US Embassy website 2. Make an appointment at the US Embassy and request a paying-in slip 3. Pay the visa application fee 4. Pay the SEVIS application fee 5. Attend an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate (in London or Belfast) Further details of each of the above steps are as follows: 1. Complete the DS-156 form online, then download and complete by hand the other application forms as listed below from the US Embassy website You will need to complete the following documents: i) DS-156: Non immigrant visa application (all applicants) Go to and complete this form on-line. Once you have reviewed the information you have entered in the various fields on this form, press the continue button at the end of the form. Wait while the system processes your data and transfers it to a 3 page DS-156 form with a special bar code on the third page. Print the form after it is returned to you and then sign and date it. ii) DS -157: Supplemental Non-immigrant visa application (download and complete this form by hand ONLY if you are a MALE applicant aged 16 - 45 – see iii) DS-158: Contact Information and Work History for Non-immigrant Visa Applicant (all applicants) Download and complete the form at Take your time completing the documents. It is essential you complete them correctly or it will delay your application. For further information, please refer to the US Embassy website. 2. Make an appointment at the US Embassy.

Call 09055-444-546 (calls cost £1.30/min from BT landlines – charges may vary from mobiles or other networks). The line is open Monday to Friday from 8am - 8pm and on Saturday from 10am – 4pm. The service is not available on UK public holidays and you may have to call from a landline, as this number is inaccessible to some mobiles. When calling to set up your visa appointment, you will need to provide the operator with the following information: a. Name b. Date of birth c. Nationality d. Passport number and expiry date e. Contact telephone number f. Where you would like your appointment (US Embassy in London or the US Consulate in Belfast). When you call the US Embassy to arrange your interview time, you should also request to be sent a Paying In slip for your visa application - this is very important. As a general reminder, please note that before calling for a visa appointment, you should be in possession of your I-20 or DS2019. 3. Pay the visa application fee Once you have received your Paying In slip from the US Embassy, you need to pay your visa application fee. The Paying In slip will enable you to pay your application fee at any bank in cash. Barclays Bank makes no additional charge for this service but other banks may apply administrative charges. The application fee is $100 or sterling equivalent, which currently equates to £51. You must pay this visa application fee in advance of your US Embassy or Consulate appointment. 4. Pay the SEVIS application fee The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a US government system that manages data and application processes for F-1 and J-1 international students studying in the USA. As an international student, you are required to pay a one-time fee of $100 to the US government before you obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa. The SEVIS fee is in addition to the visa application fee. Please note that the SEVIS fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to your visa appointment and cannot be paid at a US Consulate or at a US port of entry. Citizens of Canada and certain islands exempt from visa requirements must also pay the SEVIS fee at least 3 business days before entering the US at a US port of entry. To pay your SEVIS fee, go to and select ‘Paying the SEVIS fee’, then follow the notes for the I-901 form and payment. You must have your I-20 or DS-2019 with you in order to complete all the information requested. Complete the online form I-901 as instructed, entering your name exactly as it appears on your I20 or DS-2019. Online payment should then be made using Visa, MasterCard or American Express and you will need to be able to print a receipt immediately after you have submitted your SEVIS form and payment. Print the online receipt after completing the payment form and make extra copies of this receipt. You should keep your receipt for your entire period of study in the US and also carry the receipt with you during any future travel to the US.


5. Attend an interview at the US Embassy in London or the US Consulate in Belfast: You will receive written confirmation of the date and time of the scheduled appointment and the receipt for the MRV (machine readable visa) application. You must bring the Non-immigrant Visa Interview Confirmation letter and MRV Fee receipt with you for presentation to the security guards at the gate. Check the date and time. Please do not arrive at the Embassy more than 30 minutes before the scheduled appointment time. The Embassy advises that you do not take along any mobile phones or any electronic devices (such as blackberries, IPods, or PDAs) nor large bags, such as backpacks, suitcases or packages as they are not allowed within the Embassy. Please note that if you attend an interview in Belfast and are travelling by plane, you will need to take an additional photo ID for your return plane journey. In addition, on the day of your interview, a set of your fingerprints will be electronically scanned. If you have a cut or blister on any of your fingers or thumbs, your application will not be processed. You will be required to reschedule an appointment for a later date. Please ensure you take the following to your visa interview: ( ) a) Current passport (with at least one blank page), which is valid until at least six months after the end of your academic programme in the USA b) Completed forms DS-156 (DS-157 if applicable) and DS-158 c) Signed and dated I-20 or DS-2019 Form d) One photo that complies with US Embassy requirements (see for further details). Regular passport photos will not be accepted. Snappy Snaps photographers offer the correct sizing photographs for US visa applications – see to find your nearest store. e) Proof of payment of the visa application / MRV fee f) Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee (printed receipt) g) Documentation of intent to return to your country of residence; for example, a short letter from the University of Kent stating that you are a continuing student and will be resuming studies at your home university on return to the UK the following academic year h) A copy of the financial documentation submitted with your application showing that you have sufficient funds to cover all your expenses while in the USA i) Copies of your A-Level (or equivalent) certificates, plus a transcript of your university grades to date j) £13.50 (payable in cash or by debit/credit card) to pay the Special Mail Services (SMS) at the US Embassy or Consulate. Please note that SMS is a courier agency contracted to the US Embassy and they have a desk located in the Visa Branch

Waiting Room at the US Embassy or Consulate. On the day of your visa interview you will be required to purchase an envelope from them for the return of your passport once visa processing has been completed. k) The written confirmation of your visa interview date and time The appointment at the US Embassy should be fairly straight-forward if all of your documents are in order. There are often long waits at the Embassy though (4 hours is not unusual!), so it is a good idea to take a good book with you while you wait.

NON-UK CITIZENS ONLY: You will normally have to apply for your US visa at a US Embassy or Consulate in your home country / country of citizenship. We recommend you visit the US Embassy website ( for up to date information and also call the US Embassy in London to check whether you might be able to apply from the UK. If you are not a UK citizen, you should pay particular attention to changes posted on the US Embassy website and will need to bear in mind that your application may take longer to process. Notes available at also provide more information.

If your visa application has been successful, your I-20 or DS-2019 will be returned to you with your passport and visa stamp. Remember that the I-20 or DS-2019 are very important documents and should ALWAYS be carried with the passport during your year abroad. It is also necessary to have your DS-2019 or I-20 signed by a designated signatory officer (DSO) at the international student office on your host university campus if you travel outside the US during your year abroad (including if you return home to the UK for Christmas or Easter holidays). The immigration officer at the port of entry to the US will not allow you to (re-)enter US territory without a signed I-20 or DS-2019. NOTE: This also applies for visits to Canada and Mexico. Students should contact the International Office at the University of Kent if they have not received their I-20 or DS-2019 three months before they plan to depart for the USA. During the flight to the USA, you will also be given an I-94 Arrival / Departure Record Card. You will need to complete this and the document will then be stamped by Immigration at the port of entry (i.e. at the airport immigration desk). Keep the I-94 record card with your passport at all times. ARRIVAL DATE AND DEPARTURE DATE RESTRICTIONS: Students on both J-1 and F-1 visas can enter the USA up to 30 days before the designated start date on the Certificate of Eligibility, assuming the processed visa has been received back from the US Embassy before departing for the USA. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to enter the USA without your visa. F-1 visa holders have a so-called ‘period of grace’, which allows them to remain in the USA for up to 60 days after the last date indicated on their I-20, while J-1 visa holders can remain in the country for up to 30 days past the date indicated on their DS-2019.

US Embassy Contact Website: Operator Assisted Visa Information Line: 09055 444 546, Mon-Fri from 8am – 8pm, Sat 10am – 4pm. Calls cost £1.30 per minute from BT landlines. Charges may vary from other networks or from mobiles.



Complete forms : DS-156 (online)
DS-157 (men aged 16-45) DS-158

Receive your DS-2019 or I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility)

Make an appointment at the US Embassy by calling 09042-450100

Pay the visa application fee
When arranging your interview time, ask to be sent a “Paying In” slip. The current fee is $100 or sterling equivalent (currently £51). Pay this in cash at any bank (preferably Barclays).

(calls cost £1.30/min). The line is open Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm and Saturday 9am – 4pm. You have to give the following information: a. Name b. Date of Birth c. Nationality d. Passport number and expiry date e. Contact telephone number f. Whether you would like your appointment in London or Belfast

Pay the SEVIS fee
i) Go to sa/niv/sevis.html ii) Complete the I-901 online iii) Submit payment and print receipt

Attend a US Embassy interview and bring the following:
SUCCESS! ● Current passport (with at least one blank page) ● Completed forms DS-156 and DS-158 (plus DS-157 for males aged 16-45) ● Signed and dated I-20 or DS-2019 Form ● One photo that complies with US Embassy requirements ● Proof of payment of the visa application fee ● Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee ● Documentation of intent to return to your country of residence ● £13.50 in cash (or take a debit / credit card with you) to pay for your visa delivery service (this is how your passport and visa will be returned to you) ● A copy of the financial documentation submitted with your application showing you have sufficient funds to cover all expenses in the USA ● Copies of your A-Level (or equivalent) certificates, plus a transcript of your university grades to date (if applicable) ● Written confirmation of your visa interview date and time

The US Embassy returns your passport (with visa stamp inside) and either your I-20 or DS-2019.


It is your responsibility to ensure that you maintain the terms of your student visa – read all of the guidance material available from the US Embassy to ensure you stay on top of any changes. The main points to be aware of are that: a) You must maintain a minimum academic load throughout your academic year (12 units per semester for the majority of our partner universities, or 13 units per semester for UC Berkeley). If you are in any doubt about what your minimum load is, check with your International Student Adviser. b) You must go to see your International Student Adviser as soon as possible after your arrival for check-in and document verification. You should take your passport (with the I94 entry card attached) and your I-20 or DS-2019. c) You must let your International Student Adviser know your address in the USA including any subsequent change of address. d) You must have your Certificate of Eligibility signed by your host university’s Designated Signatory Officer (DSO) if you leave the country.

There are many airline carriers which operate between the US and the UK. Prices will vary depending on the directness of the flight, the departure time and the season. It may be possible to get a cheaper flight by purchasing an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) and claiming a student discount. The ISIC card can be purchased from STA Travel agents for £7 (see for further information). Some of the most well-known airlines which fly direct to the US are: British Airways Virgin Atlantic American Airlines United Airlines British Midland (BMI) KLM


In addition to checking flights through high street travel agents or any of the above links, it may be 12

useful to look at some internet-based travel companies such as, and These companies often compare flight prices on multiple airlines for you, so this could save you some legwork!


Securing accommodation during your year abroad is an important part of your preparation. Where possible, we have made agreements with our US partners that they will make accommodation available for you to rent for the duration of your exchange programme. In some cases where on-campus provision is limited, it may not be possible for the host university to guarantee accommodation so you must be prepared for the possibility that you may not be able to live on campus. Do bear in mind that visa regulations allow you to arrive up to 30 days prior to the start of the term so if you are unable to secure accommodation prior to departure, you should be prepared to travel to the USA early to look for accommodation prior to the beginning of classes. It is sometimes a requirement of living in university accommodation that you must purchase a meal plan. Meal plans usually offer flexible catering in that you can often choose to eat your meals in your Halls of Residence or in any of the campus cafes or restaurants. Food is usually of a good standard, with plenty of choice for vegetarians. The minimum number of meals which must be purchased will vary from university to university; advice from former (and current) Kent students is to purchase as few meals as possible - usually 14 a week - but rising to 20. Please remember that although purchasing a smaller meal plan lowers your initial cost, you will still need to eat and pay for food, whether it is through a meal plan or not. Previous students have also added that at least with meals already paid for, they have not gone hungry if they have later run out of money! If you are offered university accommodation, there are some cultural differences between university housing in the UK and university housing in the USA that should be noted. What is often most striking for UK students is that most university accommodation in the USA takes the form of a shared bedroom, so it is very unlikely that you will be offered a single room. There are, however, plenty of study and social spaces in the Halls of Residences and on campuses and it can be quite a bonus to have an American student as a room-mate since they will often have a car and may introduce you to their friends and families or take you on trips in and around the USA. In addition to freshman (first year) students, most US Halls of Residences will also have Resident Assistants (‘RAs’) who are usually third or fourth year students. Their role is to enforce dormitory restrictions and oversee the halls so it is important to understand their position in 13

Halls of Residences. Due to the age of most students living in Halls of Residences, alcohol is prohibited and RAs will apply these rules quite strictly. In addition, most campus housing facilities in the US are also closed during term breaks, including Christmas holidays. Students must be prepared to travel or make alternate living arrangements during these periods, so please read your contract carefully and plan accordingly. If you choose to look for housing in the private sector, it will be easier to search for a room in an established student household rather than to look for a whole apartment yourself. If you try to rent an apartment by yourself, you could be asked to provide extensive documentation in advance of moving in, including references, a Social Security number and written proof of your finances. Some landlords may even require a US sponsor to co-sign your lease agreement. Initial move-in costs may also be more than you would expect in the UK since you will be expected to pay the equivalent of the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit before you could move in so read the terms and conditions of your accommodation contract carefully. In most cases, you will be signing a commitment for a full academic year and may be liable for the full rent even if you leave your accommodation early or decide to find alternative housing. Furthermore, utilities (such as gas, electricity, water and refuse collection / trash) may or may not be included in your monthly rental. If rooms are unfurnished (which is common) you would also need to purchase a bed. Your host university’s Housing Office can provide you with information, rental resources and important advice about your rights and obligations as a renter. Lastly, if accommodation is offered by your host university and this is the option you would like to follow, please ensure that you meet any application deadlines they impose. Most universities have long waiting lists for accommodation so if you miss accommodation deadlines it is likely that there will be other students who are waiting to take your place!

The amount of luggage you can take with you will be restricted according to the ticket you use to fly to the USA. Apart from the weight restriction imposed by your airline, there is also an article limit which will restrict the number of suitcases or bags you can take with you. In most cases for transatlantic flights it is possible to check one suitcase for transportation in the hold and then take a small cabin bag onto the plane with you. Laptops can often be taken into the cabin in addition to your cabin bag. Remember to check your airline’s size limitations too which will define the dimensions allowed for suitcases and carry-on luggage. 14

A good general rule is to take no more than you can comfortably carry. Most students accumulate additional items while they are away so it is a good idea to leave some space in your suitcases on your outbound flights. Check the climate of the area you will be going to and note any special differences that may require specific clothing (very cold winters, for example). Take appropriate clothing for the region, or buy there as you may find it less expensive than buying in the UK. Excessive baggage is expensive so forward planning is essential. Lastly, take into account that sheets and pillowcases are not usually provided on US campuses. You may wish to take these with you, but they can be also purchased locally at very competitive prices, and are of good quality.

Students on both F-1 and J-1 visas can enter the USA up to 30 days before the designated start date on the Certificate of Eligibility, assuming your processed visa has been received back from the US Embassy. In addition to the legal date when your visa permits you to arrive in the USA, you will also need to check with your host university as to their recommended arrival date – they may offer free transfers from local airports to their campuses on particular days. You should also ensure you arrive on campus during office hours, and not later than 4pm since it may be difficult to obtain your room key or meet staff after this time.


The University of Kent strongly recommends that you arrive in time for any orientations provided for international or exchange students at your host university. These orientations are an excellent introduction to life in the USA and provide lots of very

useful information which will help you settle in quickly to your new life. If you are unable to attend your orientation (if, for example, you are still waiting for your visa), contact your International Student Adviser (see Contacts) in advance to check whether it is possible to obtain any of the information or to attend a ‘make-up’ orientation for late arrivals. 15


After you have arrived in the USA, we recommend that you make an appointment to introduce yourself to your International Student Adviser. He or she will act as your first point of contact during your year abroad so it can be very beneficial to get to know your adviser early. It is also a requirement to check-in with your advisor for visa purposes, so make this a priority. A full list of the advisers, listed by university, can be found in the Contacts section of this booklet.


Registration at most American universities is an online process and may even begin before you leave the UK, but there may still be some forms which need to be completed on arrival or signed by hand. The International Student Adviser at your host university will advise you about how to complete registration. It is a good idea to take a full copy of your academic transcripts with you (particularly your A-Level and university transcripts) in case you need to provide proof of prior academic study to gain entry to a specific class or module.


Once you have completed your registration at your host university, you should receive a student ID card which will include a photograph and a student ID number. Keep your identity card in a safe place since you are likely to be asked for it frequently (as a library card, in banks, for entrance to certain parts of the university and to obtain discounts at certain stores in the USA).

Studying in the USA is very different to studying in the UK. Although some things may initially seem the same, if you look a little closer you will notice that there are in fact some very large d differences which will have an impact on the way you learn. The most fundamental difference is the different approach to undergraduate studies in the US. Whereas in the UK students choose their academic programme before beginning their degrees (for example, they will choose to apply for a degree in American Studies or a degree in International Relations for example), often students in the USA will not declare their ‘major’ (what the bulk of their degree is and what the title of their degree will be) until part way through their undergraduate studies. This is because the aim of the US undergraduate education system is to provide a more general education across a wide range of 16


disciplines so students actually have the flexibility to decide their majors at a later point. For this reason, students are usually required to take modules (or ‘classes’) across a wide range of academic disciplines and have to complete a certain number of general education classes plus a specific number of ‘major’ classes (modules within their specialist area) in order to graduate. However, there is no specific order in which students must take these classes. Most lecturers in the USA are given the title of ‘Professor’. Professors are more autonomous than in the UK and usually have full responsibility for the way a course is taught, examined, and what it contains. During the first meeting of a class, it is customary that you will be given a comprehensive class outline which covers the syllabus for the duration of that module along with detailed reading lists of what you should be reading in preparation for every individual meeting of that class. Teaching is more prescriptive in the USA so rather than ask you to do some general research on a particular area, it is more likely that professors will ask you to read specific chapters of a book they have chosen. In classes you will find a mixture of lectures, discussions and group work as well as the occasional ‘pop quiz’ (an unscheduled exam to test if you have been keeping up-to-date with your reading). During lectures, you may find yourselves in lecture theatres seating 400 students if you are taking a popular ‘survey’ class; if a class is this size it is normal that the professor will give the lecture and that the discussions or seminars will be led by ‘TAs’ (Teaching Assistants – usually PhD students). Please also note that you will be expected to participate in class discussion. Remember that American students are quite willing to speak, so do not be dissuaded by the usual British reticence! People (including your professors) will want to hear your opinions and ideas, and class participation can be a factor in deciding your final grade for that class.


Students in any particular class may come from a variety of academic backgrounds and may also be a mix of first, second, third of fourth year students. Classes in the USA are given either lower or upper division status. The basic difference between these classes is that lower division classes (often given a numerical code in the 100 series, such as ‘Literature 101’) are often introductory level classes (roughly equivalent to the UK year 1 of a degree), and upper division classes (often given a numerical code in the 200 series, such as ‘Theology 205’) are those which are more advanced (roughly equivalent to the UK years 2 and 3 of a degree). However, since students can take a combination of upper and lower division classes throughout their degree, you may find that you have final year students taking some lower division classes, and equally that a first or second year student may be taking an upper division class so you will have the opportunity to meet a wide variety of students! When choosing your classes, ensure that you comply with the University of Kent’s requirements too – for further details, contact your departmental advisor.



While you may have fairly limited contact time at university in the UK, this is not the case in the USA. Classes will usually meet twice a week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays), or three times a week (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) - the length of the classes may vary according to whether they meet two or three times a week. Outside of these classes, students in the US will often set up study groups where they meet to study together or to discuss a seminar. Although this may seem strange to UK students at first who are more used to studying in their own rooms or by themselves, this is an excellent opportunity for you to get to know other students better, and also to be able to talk to peers about any issues raised in the class. US students often ‘cram’ (or revise) together too, so be prepared for this communal approach to studying.


The method of examination will differ from course to course. On average, it is common for students to have to submit a form of written work every week or so (which may or may not count towards a final grade), and they will then have to submit a midterm paper or sit a mid-term exam (which does count towards the final grade) and then lastly sit an end of term paper and / or exam too (which also counts towards the final grade). As mentioned previously, class participation and attendance might also count towards the final grade. If you are in any doubt, ask your professor at the beginning of the quarter or semester how the class will be assessed. This information should be listed in your class schedule too. Please also note that we are required for external review purposes to ask for a copy of all submitted work, including exams, quizzes, short essays, long essays and projects that you complete on your year abroad. Students are responsible for making sure that all assessments are sent to their home department in a timely manner.


Papers and examinations are usually assessed according to an alpha letter system with A being the top grade and F being a fail (the letter I or abbreviation ‘Inc’ may be given to a student who fails to complete a class – if you fail to complete the class this later becomes an F). Within each letter grade, it is also possible to receive a plus or minus grade, for example, you might receive a B+ grade, or a C-, for example. These grades also have numerical equivalents which are used to calculate your grade point average (GPA). Your GPA is the average grade of your results from a semester, year or entire degree. As a rough estimate, to calculate your GPA, multiply the numerical figure corresponding to a grade (A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, 1 = 0) by the number of credit hours for the course. Thus, if you received an A grade for a course of three credit hours, and a B 18

grade for a course of 3 credit hours, you would make the following calculation: A = 4 x 3 credit hours B = 3 x 3 credit hours Subtotal Divided by 6 credit hours = 12 = 9

= 21 = 3.5 GPA


At the end of your academic year in the USA, your host university will send your transcript back to the University of Kent to be translated into UK percentage marks. The translation may be adjusted to take into consideration any grade inflation or mitigating circumstances, but as a general guide, the table below should provide a very general indication of what your American grades might translate to under the UK system:
US Letter Grade A+ A AB+ B BC+ C CD+ D DF US GPA 4.0 * 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0.7 0.0 UK Percentage 76% 67% 59% 52% 44% 36% 30%

* At some universities, a grade point of 4.2 is given to students awarded an A+, but at others it is 4.0.


At the beginning of each semester there is an ‘add / drop’ period during which you can try out a number of different classes and then make changes to your schedule if necessary. Therefore, you could try out a number of classes and then decide to ‘drop’ one of your existing classes to take on (or ‘add’) another in its place. Consult the university / college catalogue for details (and the dates) of this procedure or ask your academic adviser about this since this usually entails some forms to 19

be completed by a specific deadline.


When US students register for their classes, they generally have the option to take up to a third of the classes outside of their major as ‘Pass / Not Pass’. This means that students attend the class and complete all assessments but that the letter grade they achieve for it will not count towards their overall grade point average. Instead of a letter grade from A – F, students receive either a P (pass) or an N/P (not pass). In a way, this is similar to the first year of many UK degrees when the first year only counts as a qualifying year to go onto the rest of the degree but the actual marks received do not count towards the final degree classification. It is important to point out however that you are not permitted to take any classes as P/NP during your year abroad in the USA even though American students will be allowed this option. Each class you take must be assessed for its full letter grade.


If a class you would like to enrol in is already full, it may be possible to ‘crash’ the class. This means that with the permission of the professor, you attend the class as though you were fully registered for it and then either wait for someone to drop out of the class (and therefore create a space for you), or that you prove how dedicated you are so that your professor decides to add you to the class anyway. This seems like quite an unusual process to UK students, but is fairly normal for US students who are keen to enrol in over-subscribed classes. Students should bear in mind that crashing a class is not always successful (sometimes there just isn’t space for example) but in many cases it results in students being given special permission to attend the class. The key here is the three Ps: be polite, patient and persistent!


The writing style in the USA will be different to the style you have been accustomed to in the UK. The US writing style usually takes a much more personal approach where students are expected to express their own opinions at length, so there is much more use of the first person narrative. Students also often create their own essay titles or change the titles given to them by professors to show which slant response they will be offering in their essay. In order to ensure you write in the style requested by your professors, check with your instructors at the beginning of the term or semester as to what they 20

expect of you. This clarification will help you as you research and write your papers. In addition to checking with your professors, consult your syllabi and departments for advice, rules and regulations. Some websites may also provide you with some useful information, see: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: Chicago Manual of Style: Citing Internet sources: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA):


Just as in the UK, academic honesty is taken very seriously in the USA. The use of another person’s views, words, graphics or ideas, when not attributed to their original source, is classified as plagiarism. Consequences of being found guilty of plagiarism will vary from department to department or university to university, but will usually result in a student being given a formal warning and failing a class. Some universities also use software detection tools to scan an essay for plagiarism and repeated plagiarism may result in your academic programme being terminated. If you are in doubt about how to cite references, consult the web links on the previous page and always check with your professors in advance to avoid any problems.


When you register at your host university, you should be given full access to the resources available at your university library. Libraries in the USA tend to be very well stocked with many books available digitally too, so you should find that most of the books you need will be available at your university library. Your library will also carry an extensive range of American newspapers and journals so make good use of these. The Sunday editions of the major city newspapers (for example The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times) also carry separate travel sections which can be very useful. Should you want to, you may also find copies of English newspapers there too, such as The Times. Photocopying is usually available in university libraries (and in other locations such as campus shops) and photocopying stores are much more abundant than in the UK, as well as being very cheap. Some campuses even provide free photocopying or printing.


There should be a bookshop at your host university that will carry all the specified books for your course(s). These will be grouped together and are usually identified by the class number and the instructor's name. Since books are expensive in the USA, you may want to look out for second-hand copies, and, where possible, search out other bookshops in the area. There is usually a much larger second-hand market in operation and students will sell their books on a much larger scale than in the UK. However, in many cases the second-hand discount is relatively small. Since the reading of specified pages of certain key text books is likely to be a regular feature of day-to-day work, you may want to look into ways of minimising book costs, perhaps by sharing books purchased with other (international) students on campus. You will probably not be able to rely on the University / College library for key text books although it will have ample secondary reading material. Ask the University / College bookshop about its policy on book returns etc – they may be able to help you sell your book after you have finished with it.

The currency in America is the US dollar ($). Dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills (larger bills are also available but are much less common). Unlike in the UK, US dollar bills are mostly the same size and colour whatever their denomination so it is important to check which bills you are giving or receiving during transactions. The only exception is the new $20 bill which is now available in a peach and blue colour (as opposed to regular green and white). Each dollar (or ‘buck’ for slang) is divided into 100 cents. Coins are available in denominations of 1 cent (usually called a ‘penny’), 5 cents (a ‘nickel’), 10 cents (a ‘dime’) and 25 cents (a ‘quarter’). Fifty-cent and dollar coins are also available but are not as common. It is useful to always keep a few quarters on you since these are used for buses, phones and vending machines etc.



You will no doubt be very excited by the prospect of spending a year in the USA - there are so many things to do and see! However, even with all this excitement, it is important to remember that one of the keys to a stress-free experience abroad is to know your budget and to keep to it. Make a list of all of the money you will have coming in (student loans, money from parents for 22

example) and what you expect in your outgoings. It is important not just to think about term-time expenses, but what costs you will incur during the holidays when you may have to move out of your Hall of Residence or may want to travel. The good news for UK students is that the currency exchange is currently in your favour so you receive more dollars for your sterling. However, currency valuations can change quickly so don’t base your budgeting solely on a favourable exchange rate.


Just as in the UK, it is advisable not to carry large amounts of cash with you. When planning your arrival in the USA, it may be a good idea to take some US Dollar travellers cheques with you to cover your first couple of weeks’ expenses before you have opened a bank account. American Express US dollar traveller’s cheques are recommended since they can be used as easily as cash to pay for goods and services throughout the USA. Acceptors almost always ask for a driver’s licence or passport so ensure you have appropriate ID with you if you plan to use your traveller’s cheques. When ordering your traveller’s cheques, be careful to ensure that your UK Bank is aware that you are a student since some banks will waive charges for students. Most students find it more useful to open an account in the United States for the duration of their stay than to solely rely on UK credit cards and bank accounts. As soon as you know which university you will be going to, check on their website to find out which banks are on, or close to, the campus or where you will be living. Some US Banks have branches in London so you might even be able to open your account before you leave the UK. Remember that if you plan to travel within the country, the US banking system is very different from our own. Banks formerly operated strictly on a state by state basis, not nationally like banks in the UK. However, many banks have taken advantage of the changed law and are becoming regional by doing business in several states. This may make a difference to you if you travel, so you may want to ask about a bank’s reach across the USA before doing business with it. Let your UK bank know where you are going and which bank has been recommended to you – it can tell you if it has a connection with the bank in the US and provide you with a letter of introduction if required (there may be a charge). It will also discuss the best ways of getting to your loan or support monies whilst you are away and advise on the possible use of your UK Bank account ATM card in machines in the United States. Whilst more American ATMs accept British cards, you cannot rely on this. You should remember that many banks charge a fee on every cash withdrawal and that you may even be double charged if you use a UK card (once by the US bank, and once by your UK bank). For this reason, most students transfer money from the UK to their 23

US bank accounts and then use a US bank card to withdraw money for day to day items. Please note that you should not write cheques on your UK Bank account in the US. Bank to bank transfers are the quickest and safest method of getting money to you. Make sure you have a few blank authorities from your bank ready for when you need them and remember to allow plenty of time to arrange the transfer. (Costs vary – plan only to do, say, once a term.) It may be useful to arrange with your UK bank to leave a pre-printed paying-in book with your parents or guardians so they can pay in grant cheques or holiday pay cheques etc while you are away. Recent changes to the UK clearing system may make it more difficult for them to pay in any money to your account without one. Lastly, there are very strict rules regarding overdrafts in the USA, and you should be very careful not to overdraw your US bank account without prior agreement. In the USA, it is a criminal offence to bounce a cheque or to spend funds which are not already cleared in your account.


As you will find, the United States is the land of the credit card so having a credit card comes in very handy. You are unlikely to be able to obtain a credit card in the USA in view of your lack of credit history there, but cards issued in the UK are widely accepted in the USA. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted and some banks offer a combined card account which gives the benefit of two separate cards but just one pre-set limit to use as you wish between the cards, with one combined monthly statement. If you don’t already have a card, shop around for the best deal as cards can be subject to annual charges and interest can vary as well. If you do wish to obtain a credit card, it is advisable to apply well in advance as the credit card companies become very busy over the summer months.


To make it easier for you to keep track of your UK bank accounts while you are in the USA, it is a good idea to set up internet banking before you leave the UK. This might also be a good idea if you are using a UK-based credit card while you are in the USA and want to pay off your monthly credit card bill from an existing UK current account. Setting up internet banking is a quick and easy process. If you are in any doubt about how to do this, check your bank’s website or talk to your local branch for further information.


Your host university should provide you with information about approximate living costs so that 24

you are able to adequately budget for your year abroad. Don’t forget that part of your visa application entails providing documentary evidence that you have adequate funds to support yourself while you are in the USA. While the living costs will vary from university to university (please check with the International Office if you are unsure what the costs are for your university), the average amount currently required for a year in America is $15,000.


During your year abroad, you will not be charged tuition fees by your host university or college, as per the terms of our agreement with the partner institution. You will however be required to pay tuition fees to the University of Kent while you are on your year abroad. For the period of your exchange year, you will be charged a reduced rate of tuition fees by the University of Kent; this is normally 50% of the top up fees. For 2007 / 08 this is expected to be around £750. For confirmation, please contact the Student Finance Office.


Most American universities / colleges commence their academic session in late August or early September, and accounts for accommodation, etc, are required to be paid at the time of registration. Thus, the co-operation of your LEA is essential if the first instalment of your student loan is to be paid before you leave for the United States. You should call into your LEA Office during the Easter vacation or as soon as possible thereafter. Most LEAs will co-operate, but require the early completion and return to them of their financial assessment forms. These forms can now be completed and submitted electronically. Remember to tell your LEA of your term or semester dates to ensure that they have the correct dates for your academic year in the USA. The Student Loans Company (SLC) will arrange to pay the first instalment of your loan via BACS about 25 days before the day on which the course starts. Note that the SLC will also pay subsequent instalments of your loan by BACS. You should contact them to ascertain when these instalments will become payable and to resolve any problems that the timing of those payments might cause for you. Note: The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) have informed us that the maximum loan available to you in the USA for the academic year 2007 / 08 will be £5,375. Included in your support for living costs is a travel grant. If you are entitled to full support for your living costs in 2007 / 08, then the first £290 will be deducted from the cost of your air fare (at the most economical rate). The LEA will then consider a refund of the remaining amount.


The Government provides funds to universities to enable them to assist home undergraduate and postgraduate students who are in financial difficulty – these are known as the Access to Learning Funds. Undergraduate students who have taken out the full means-tested entitlement of their student loan and have received the first instalment but find themselves in financial difficulty can apply to the Access to Learning Fund for a grant. Students can apply for a full year assessment (paid termly) and / or a non-standard award for exceptional costs and emergency situations. Guidance Notes and Information explaining the application procedures at Kent and the criteria used in considering applications can be obtained from the Finance Office's website ( Application Forms for each new academic year should be available from the beginning of September. Please ensure that your application and all supporting paperwork are sent directly to the Student Loans & Access to Learning Fund Office, G43 Registry, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NZ.

Your physical and mental well-being is of the utmost importance, as well as being a basic prerequisite of a successful and happy period abroad. We advise students to be aware however, that existing physical or psychological illnesses can become serious under the stresses of life while studying abroad so it is important to carefully evaluate your health before going abroad and to consult a mental health professional, if necessary. This does not mean that students with any physical or mental conditions cannot or should not study abroad, but it does mean that it is important to plan ahead to ensure that adequate support is in place should you need it.


The good news for you is that sports facilities at US universities are extensive and much more varied than in the UK. There will almost certainly be a swimming pool on campus and the gymnasia are usually modern and extremely well-equipped. A single fee for the use of sports facilities is commonplace and is often a sound investment. Many students at US universities will frequently use their gyms and many students join sports clubs and teams. Sports are taken more seriously at American universities, with some universities even having their own stadiums!


The US may sometimes require that visa holders arriving in the USA should provide documentary proof of any vaccinations they have received. Smallpox vaccination is currently not required for UK residents entering the US unless they have been in a smallpox-reporting country within 14 days of arrival in the US or in the unlikely event that they have been exposed to smallpox during their journey. Although no other immunisations are required on entry to the US for UK residents under normal conditions, local state regulations may well require you to provide written evidence of certain vaccinations. You should check the requirements of your host university before leaving and obtain the required documentation from your doctor before leaving the UK. Some universities require confirmation that you have received all relevant vaccinations before allowing you to register. Take additional photocopies of the original documents with you since you may be required to give your documents to the US authorities. Unless you can provide the relevant documentation you will have to have (and pay for) duplicate vaccinations before registration to be accepted into your classes. Keep an eye on the US Embassy website over the summer to check whether this vaccination advice changes.


Your host university should have some form of medical provision on campus in case you urgently need to see a doctor. You will be informed of all of the relevant facilities during your host university orientation. If you are in any doubt about what is available on-campus (including what is available in emergencies), please contact your International Student Adviser.


It is important to have adequate insurance coverage during your year abroad. While obtaining baggage and personal insurance may seem obvious for anyone undertaking a transatlantic journey, you should also obtain medical / health insurance since there is no widespread equivalent of the NHS in the USA. Baggage and personal insurance: this cover is not refundable by your Local Education Authority, and you should make separate arrangements for this that should be paid for from your student loan or personal funds. It is a good idea to think about the valuables you will be taking with you (laptop, camera, mobile phone for example) and also consider how much travel you will be doing in the USA while you are there. Medical insurance: this cover will usually be reimbursed by your LEA on production of a 27

receipt for the premium (check with your LEA in advance if this is the case). It is compulsory to take out medical insurance when you are an exchange student in the USA (it covers on-campus treatment and hospitalisation, if necessary, as well as such treatment if required off-campus, for example when you are travelling). Most universities / colleges require you to take out their campus medical plan and these are not cheap (often in the region of $500 - $2,000 per year). Your host university will provide a receipt that should be forwarded to your LEA in order for you to claim a refund if possible. In certain cases it may be possible to take out medical insurance in the UK before you leave in lieu of the host university insurance but check with the International Office before leaving if this is permitted by your particular host university.


Dental care is not usually covered by university health insurance plans and dental treatment in the US can be expensive. Check any insurance policy you have and enquire separately at the university / college on your arrival if there is any on-campus provision. You are advised to have a full check-up in the UK before you leave, so that any necessary treatment is obtained under the NHS prior to departure - this could save you money and worry at a later date!


If you are on any medication (including the contraceptive pill), you should consult your doctor in plenty of time before you leave for the USA. This is a good opportunity for you to discuss your healthcare with your doctor before leaving the UK, and you should also use that opportunity to check if you can take an academic year’s supply of the medication you will need while you are abroad. Medication is more expensive in the USA, so purchasing your medication in the UK will again save you money at a later date.


It is advisable for students to declare any illnesses, disabilities or allergies they have in advance of arriving at their host university so that reasonable adjustments can be made to accommodate you. In terms of illnesses, this may also include psychological illnesses such as mental health issues and disabilities may include conditions such as dyslexia. Please be assured that your personal information will be treated in the strictest confidence and shared only with the staff who need to be aware of such information. It is in your own interest to make your university aware of this 28

information so that they have this information on file for emergencies or to try to provide you with all of the support you need. If you would like to clarify anything about this, please contact the International Office in the first instance.


While your year abroad should be a time of excitement and personal fulfilment, it can also be a time of stress when some students may struggle to cope with some of the cultural differences between the UK and the USA. For this reason, existing mental illnesses, including those which seem to be under control in the UK, can become exasperated during the period of study abroad so it is important to anticipate any problems in order to try to prevent them from occurring or to minimise their impact on your daily life. As noted above, it is advisable to declare such conditions to your host university so that they are aware of any further help you might need. In addition to making this declaration, it is also a good idea to see your doctor or counsellor before you leave the UK to plan how you might cope with your year in the USA. If you do require counselling in the USA, all our partner universities have substantial counselling provision so please do not hesitate to take advantage of this at the earliest opportunity. The University of Kent (including the International Office and your home department) is also available for assistance so feel free to contact us (see the Contacts section) if you require assistance or if you feel that you need to talk to someone from the UK.

Students on F-1 or J-1 visas are eligible to work part-time in the USA but you should not rely on working in the US in order to support yourself financially - you must have sufficient funds to support yourself without working in the US. Since you will have many more academic contact hours in the US (typically 20 hours of classes per week) you may find that you don’t have the time to work anyway. If however you do want to work, please note that students on F-1 visas are only eligible to work on campus and cannot work off campus. J-1 visa holders have the option to work on or off campus.


While it is not mandatory to obtain a social security number (SSN) during your stay in the USA, it can be quite useful to have one while you are there. The exception to this would be if you plan to work or drive in the USA – in both instances you would need to obtain an SSN. The Social 29

Security Administration (SSA), a department of the US Government, is the body responsible for issuing SSNs. Contact your International Student Adviser for information about how to apply to your nearest SSA office for your SSN. Please note that an SSN cannot be issued for non-work purposes (for example, for opening a bank account or renting an apartment). The reason that it is important to check in advance with your International Student Adviser is because when a non-US citizen requests a Social Security number, the SSA must verify the applicant’s immigration documentation and they do this with the host university and with the Department of Homeland Security. Be prepared for a wait though: the SSA verifies this information through an on-line process where possible but if you have just arrived in the US your data are not available in electronic form, manual verification will be necessary and the subsequent issuing of the SSN might be delayed by several weeks or months.

There are several national (bank) holidays in the USA. Some are the same as in the UK but some are different. Since the US does not have an official national religion, schools and universities name their holidays after the seasons (winter and spring break for example, rather than Christmas or Easter holidays). For this reason, the winter (Christmas) break may be much shorter than you would be used to in the UK. For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a much bigger affair and marks the beginning of the festive period. Be prepared for the holidays - and enjoy them! The most general are: January 1 January February, third Monday March / April May, last Monday July 4 September, first Monday October, second Monday November 11 November, penultimate Thursday December 25 30 New Year's Day Martin Luther King Jr Day Presidents’ Day Good Friday and Easter Monday Memorial Day (except Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina) Independence Day Labor Day Columbus Day (except South Carolina and some other states) Veterans’ Day Thanksgiving Christmas Day

Check the University Schedule for specific details - especially of when the University / College is closed and teaching is suspended. Some universities may be open on certain national holidays (Presidents’ Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day) and closed on some non-national holidays (some Jewish Holidays, Spring Break, Easter and the Day after Thanksgiving for example).


Due to the vast size of the USA which is over 3,000 miles wide, there are several time zones in place across the country. The country (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) is divided into four time zones: Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern. Each zone is one hour apart. When it is 20:00 in Los Angeles, it is 21:00 in Denver, 22:00 in Chicago and 23:00 in New York. If you are unsure which time zone a city is in, you will find the time zones listed in your local telephone directory.

Most students nowadays have their own mobile (‘cell’) phones. It is fairly easy to purchase a phone from stores in shopping malls etc, and some deals may even be available on campus. If you already have a mobile phone, it may be possible just to purchase a US SIM card and then sign up for an American call plan once you arrive. Before purchasing a phone or call plan though, check, as you would in the UK, what would be the best deal for you depending on whether you will be using that phone mainly for local, national or international calls. Note: Cell phone numbers in the USA are given local area codes rather than specific mobile codes (for example, it would be the equivalent of mobile phones in Canterbury beginning with the code 01227 rather than a 07*** number which identifies all mobile phones in the UK). Pay phones are also available in Halls of Residences and on campus. If calling from a public phone, it may be advisable to purchase calling cards for international calls to reduce costs. Calling cards are similar to Pay-As-You-Go options where you purchase a certain number of call minutes in advance and then top up once you run out of credit. To make a phone call from a public pay phone, you will need to use US coins (nickels, dimes or quarters). Tokens are not accepted but it is now possible to use pre-paid calling cards and these can be bought in many locations: grocery stores, the post office, convenience stores, etc. Calls made with pre-paid calling cards, toll-free calls, collect calls, or calls charged to a credit card do not require any coins. Local Calls 31


Listen for a dial tone and deposit coins (amount shown on coin box), then dial the 7 digit telephone number. Long Distance Calls Listen for a dial tone and then dial the area code and telephone number. At the appropriate time the operator will tell you how much money to deposit for that call. Insert the requested coins and then redial the 3-digit area code and the 7-digit telephone number. International Calls Listen for a dial tone and then the international access code 011. Next dial the country code (44 in the case of the UK), then the city code and the local number omitting the first 0. If you wanted to call the International Office at the University of Kent for example, you would dial 011-44-1227827994. When you have finished dialling the complete number the operator will tell you how much money to deposit. Most pay phones have instructions on them (in English and Spanish). If you have problems or questions, you can simply dial 0 and speak to an operator. Making calls if you have no cash or cards In an emergency, it is possible to make reverse charge calls both locally and internationally. If you are in the US and need to make a reverse charge call, dial 0 for the operator, and then ask to make a collect call. The same principle as reverse charge calls in the UK will apply in that you will be able to make the call if the other person agrees to bear the cost of the phone call. Last caller If you want to check who last called you, the equivalent system of 1471 in the UK is known as ‘Star 69’ in the US. This means you would dial the star button (*) followed by 69 to retrieve the number of the last caller – this service is available on landline telephones.


The voltage in the USA is 110 volts AC. Check any appliances you might take (for example, travelling irons, hairdryers or straighteners) to see if they have an alternative voltage – sometimes these appliances have an internal switch so that they can be used in 110 volt countries. All plugs in the USA are two-pronged so an international plug or adaptor might be of use - ask at electrical stores before you go.


While you are in the USA, you are subject to the laws of that country. Some laws in the United States may be quite different from laws in the 32

UK, and laws within the USA will also differ from state to state too. Speed limits are more strictly and widely enforced so please do not take any chances. If you are arrested, the law states that the police must read you your rights and must allow you to make at least one telephone call. You also have the right to consult a lawyer before making any statement to the police. If you find yourself in trouble with the police, or with any other kind of legal problem, contact the International Student Adviser at your host university in the first instance – they will often be best placed to initially advise you and can also contact your family and / or the University of Kent if you request it. You might also need to inform the British Consulate (see Contacts) - they can also advise you on your legal rights. It should go without saying, but try to avoid getting into any trouble with the police if you can. Your International Student Adviser should be able to provide you with information about laws which are particularly stringent within your host state. It is also worth familiarising yourself with laws relating to legal drinking ages, driving laws and the age of consent so that you can be sensitive to, and comply with, local laws.


As in the UK, the anti-smoking movement is making considerable advances in the USA. In California and New York in particular, smoking is illegal in restaurants and bars; elsewhere in the US, most restaurants have distinct non-smoking sections. Throughout the USA, smoking is illegal on public transport and on flights. You are likely to find that campus buildings are mostly smoke-free areas although this does not stop determined smokers from finding appropriate areas for a quick cigarette!


While we appreciate that you have probably been legally able to drink alcohol in the UK for several years, unless you are 21 or over during your year abroad, it is unlikely that you will be able to drink while you are in the USA. American universities often do not serve alcohol in university bars or clubs for this reason. However, this does not mean that you can’t have a good time. American 33

universities are particularly good at planning and organising events which are not alcohol-related (for example, sports tournaments and clubs, interest groups and so on) so you should have plenty to keep you busy in your free time that does not revolve around alcohol! If you are 21 or over and plan to buy alcohol in the USA, ensure you have your ID card with you. Policy in the US is to ask for ID from anyone who looks under the age of 30, so don’t take it personally if you are asked for ID! Opening hours are, in general, longer than in Britain. In some states 'liquor' stores are also operated by the state. Drinking laws do differ from state to state and, sometimes, from county to county. Enquire locally on your arrival and note the variations when travelling. Some states are still technically 'dry' which means that alcohol is not officially on sale in that state at all.

The gay scene in America is extensive, although it is more apparent in major cities like San Francisco and New York. In these cities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens enjoy a visibility that is almost unparalleled around the world. Almost every major US city will have recognised gay-friendly districts too, although away from cosmopolitan areas towards more traditional towns and cities, there can still be some tensions. Every university should have an internal LGBT student support group for students and there are also external support or information networks such as: The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association The Advocate (bi-monthly magazine) Damron group


Publications such as the Men’s Travel Guide (listing resources for gay men), the Women’s Traveler (which provides similar listings for lesbians) and the Damron City Guide (which details gay-friendly accommodation and entertainment in major cities) should be available from all good bookstores.

There are lots of places to visit within the USA so the difficulty for you will be short-listing which 34

to visit during your time there! Do bear in mind the size of the country when planning your travels though – distances which look short on a map can equate to hours of travelling!


Tourist information is readily available at state tourist offices. Below is a selection of state tourist offices which might be of use to you. A list of worldwide tourist directory offices is also available at California Office of Visitor Services, Department of Commerce, 1121 L Street, Suite 103, Sacramento, CA 95814 (916-322-1396)

District of Columbia Washington Convention and Visitors Association, 1575 Eye St. NW, Suite 250, Washington, DC 20005 (202-857-5500) Florida Indiana Kansas Maryland Massachusetts New York Pennsylvania South Carolina Division of Tourism, Collins Building, 107 West Gaines Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301 Tourism Development Division, One North Capitol, Suite 700, Indianapolis, IN 46204-2248 (317-633-5423) Kansas Travel and Tourism, 400 SW Harrison Street, Topeka, Kansas 66603-3957 (913-296-2009) Office of Tourist Development, 45 Calvert Street, Annapolis, MD 21401 Division of Tourism, Department of Commerce and Development, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02202 (617-727-3201) Division of Tourism, State Department of Commerce, 230 Park Avenue, New York, NY 0169 (518-474-4116, or toll-free 800-342-3683 in state) Department of Commerce, Bureau of Travel Development, Room 206, South Office Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120 (717-787-5453) Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, 1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 13, Columbia, SC 29201 35


Division of Tourism, 123 West Washington Avenue, Room 950, Madison, Wisconsin 53702


Most Americans prefer to use their own cars to travel short distances or to fly for longer distances, but UK students tend to also be happy to take the coach or train when travelling around the US for short or medium distances. Public transport (coaches and trains) in the US can be slow, but they are usually comfortable, reasonably priced and provide a pleasant way to see more of the country. Coach services in the US are operated by Greyhound (see and US passenger trains are operated by Amtrak (see Both offer good student discounts so be sure to look into the options available.


If you already possess a British driving licence and wish to drive while you are in the US, you should supplement this with an International Driving Licence which is valid for one year. Ask the AA for details (you do not have to be a member). Note that it is usually not possible to rent a car unless you have passed your driving license for more than one year. Some states require you to take a driving test or even a written test of the highway code in order to obtain your new driving license so enquire on your arrival to establish the policy in your area. Remember that most American cars are still automatic. If you do intend to drive, purchase a copy of the American Highway Code (published on a state basis). State speed limits vary but virtually all roads are posted for speed and major roads are policed with cars and / or cameras.


Hitch-hiking is strongly discouraged for reasons of personal safety. If it really is unavoidable to avoid hitch-hiking, ensure that you do it in groups (of 3 or 4 for example) so that you are not travelling alone with strangers. However, our advice is simply not to hitch-hike – plan your journeys in advance so that you do not have to resort to this option.


Whether you stay in hotels or motels will usually depend upon your financial circumstances. Before reaching your destination, contact the local state tourist board and ask for possible hotels or motels in your price range. Large chains usually offer special deals too and your host university may be able to provide you with further information about this. Hotels are generally based in city centres and provide a more extensive range of amenities such as restaurants and leisure facilities (for example, the Ramada or Sheraton chains). Motels tend to be based near main roads and highways, and do not offer the same range of amenities as hotels (for example Budget, Days Inn or Motel 6 which are more like the Ibis chain). It may be possible to accommodate more than two people in a room for a relatively small increase in price so enquire about this possibility if you are budget conscious and are travelling in a group. Rooms tend to be larger than in the UK and double rooms often contain two double beds. As with most expenses in the US, you will be charged for the room and then other taxes will be charged on top.


Youth hostels are a cheap alternative for accommodation. Standards at many US youth hostels are high, and it is worth looking at hostel websites when choosing your accommodation. American Youth Hostels (AYH): This is a non-profit organization dedicated to making travel possible for those on a budget through its low-cost, self-service network of hostels, and by offering a wide range of travel programmes. It is possible to use AYH as a walk-in service, but advance reservations are recommended during peak periods. Many hostels accept phone reservations, using a credit card to guarantee the first night's fee. Call the hostel directly during open hours and have your credit card number and expiration date to hand. At busier hostels you'll need to reserve at least 48 hours in advance. For hostel phone numbers check the US hostel directory. For further information see or email YMCA Facilites: The Y's Way International is a central reservations office for YMCA Guest Rooms in Manhattan and other participating YMCAs or budget facilities in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The Y's Way provides individual and group reservations for accommodations, discount rates based on advanced payment and ‘do it yourself’ city packages for YMCA Guest Rooms in Manhattan, which include accommodations, breakfast and tour tickets. For further information see 37

Many students studying in the USA also enjoy visiting the USA’s neighbours, such as Canada and Mexico. While this can be fun, you are reminded that taking even a short trip to these countries counts as you officially leaving the USA. In these circumstances, you must first arrange to have your Certificate of Eligibility signed by the DSO on your host campus so that you are given permission to re-enter the USA. If you do not do this, you may be prohibited from getting back into the USA.


As above, if you choose to return to the UK (or to travel to any country outside of the USA during your year abroad), you must still ensure that your Certificate of Eligibility has been signed by the Designated Signatory Officer on your host campus first, to grant you permission to reenter the USA. This is extremely important.

While we know that you will be very busy during your year abroad, it is very important to keep in touch with the University of Kent while you are away. In particular, you must remember the following: Please email Hazel Lander ( as soon as you arrive in the USA, to provide her with your new phone number, address and contact information, together with a confirmation of the classes you will be taking during your first quarter or semester. You must do this within a week of arriving in the USA. Failure to return the above information will be in breach of General Regulation 3 (ii) and is treated very seriously.

We require this information to ensure that you are simultaneously registered at the University of 38

Kent while you are away (which will have an impact on your student loans and your academic standing), and also to be able to contact you in case of emergencies.


If you wish to exercise your right to vote while you are overseas, you should contact your local council before you leave the UK to request a postal ballot for any upcoming elections or referenda. This is a simple and straight forward process which should not take long to organise. You are advised to do this prior to departure though as there may be deadlines to register to vote which come up while you are abroad so it is easier to do it in the summer before you leave the UK.

Just as you have to undertake preparations for your outbound journey, there is also some planning you need to undertake as you prepare to return home. You may receive additional letters and memos concerning your year in the United States so please check your Kent email addresses frequently as some of our correspondence with you will be reminding you about various upcoming important deadlines.


Before you leave your host university, ensure that you have cleared all outstanding debts. Even if you don’t think you owe any outstanding money to your university, complete a quick check before you leave in case you have incurred any debts of which you might not be aware. The most obvious items to check would be your library (any borrowing fines for example), your accommodation (any outstanding rent or accommodation services) and your insurance (for your healthcare). If your host university believes that you owe any funds to them, they will not release your transcript to us until your account has been settled and there is nothing that we can do to intervene on this since it is would be a private matter between you and your host university. Completing the quick check should also give you peace of mind that your transcript will be sent to us in a timely manner.


It is vital that you frequently check your Kent email addresses while you are on your year abroad since we will be sending you important information throughout the year. One such example is that you will be required to select your modules for 2007-08 just after Christmas (which is the same deadline as students back in the UK) and students who fail to meet this deadline will inevitably have much less choice in the availability of modules. This also means that you should 39

also take with you your Kent course / module booklet since you will need to make or confirm final year choices at Kent while you are in the USA and will need to refer to this document later.


The University of Kent intends to offer students on a study year abroad a room on campus for when they resume studies at Kent. To apply for a place in university accommodation, please consult the hospitality website at You should be sent an email in December which reminds you about this opportunity, and you will be advised of the application procedure. You should apply on-line between 1 February 2008 and 30 April 2008. Please note that a £150 advance payment will be required to confirm your booking.

Rough Guide to the USA Let’s Go USA (Harrap) Penguin USA Guide to the USA (Fodor) Lonely Planet USA Michelin publish some individual guides to particular areas (for example, to New York or New England). There are also other series of guides published in the United States (Mobil, for example) as well as very good maps. Once you are in the USA you can obtain information from City or State Tourist Offices, Foreign Student Offices and, if you are travelling, tourist offices placed on (or near) State lines along inter-state highways. These can also be very useful in telling you about cheap accommodation or any special offers available in the State. In the South (in Mississippi or Louisiana for example) they will also give you a free drink! 40 There are many useful guides to the USA. Some good standard works include:

How do I apply for a student loan? If you wish to apply for a student loan for the first time, it is best to apply before the end of June for the next academic year. In the first instance, you must apply to their Local Education Authority (LEA) who will assess your eligibility. Applications must be made within nine months of the first day of your course for funding in the academic year. Are there any emergency short-term loans? There are often emergency loans available for students who have been assessed by their LEA as eligible for a student loan, but whose first instalment has been delayed. The Procedure Notes and Application Form can be obtained from the Finance Office's website (see Students should send completed application forms and supporting documentation from the LEA, directly to the Student Loans & Access Hardship Office ( What tuition fees will I need to pay? Under the exchange agreement you are not liable for tuition fees at your US university since we have arrangements with all our US exchange partners that they should not present fee accounts to Kent students on exchange in the USA. Kent will collect your tuition fees from your Local Education Authority (unless you are self-financed, in which case you will be invoiced direct). Tuition fees for the year abroad are usually around 50% of the normal home tuition fees – for further details please contact our Finance office. Do you have any advice about travelling within the USA? You will probably want to visit as many cities as possible during your year abroad and certainly to visit the cities near your campus. However, you should take some basic precautions. All cities will have areas which, as a tourist you should avoid, and there will be areas which can be dangerous at night if you simply wander into them. Ask American friends about the areas you intend to visit, buy a map and get a sense of the city before you arrive. If you intend to arrive by bus, find out where the bus station is and check possible times of arrival. If you have contacts in a city, this is all the better. Don't carry too much cash around, and keep an eye on documents. These are precautions you would take in any strange city. Be, as it were, ‘streetwise’ and look as if you know what you are doing. 41

What is the best way to travel within the USA? This will depend on your circumstances. You may want to get some sense of space, and of the variety of landscapes and cultures, and you may also need to consider your budget. Amtrak (trains) and many airlines offer special travel packages for foreign nationals similar to Eurorail Passes. These must be purchased outside the United States, usually through a Travel Agent. Further information is available from STA Travel. Even after you are in the USA, there will be many reductions on Amtrak trains, Greyhound buses and on airlines for students, so ensure you identify yourself as such to obtain the maximum discount available! If you drive, enquire about the possibility of 'drive-aways' - cars which you transport from one city to another for their owners - you receive a free ride for providing this service (see for further information) so this can be a useful and cost efficient way to get from A to B. Most universities also have a ‘Ride Board’ in their student centre where students wanting and offering rides to various destinations leave messages on the Ride Board and can find others to go with them or take them along. Students often split the cost of the petrol and may also take turns driving. German students are famous for buying a car in the East, either at the beginning or the end of their studies and driving to the West at some point for travel and then selling the car before they leave. On arrival, will there be many expenses? This will vary, depending on your university / college and the area in which you will stay. However, you should be prepared for some initial expenses, and, therefore, as already mentioned, you would be advised to take enough money to take into account general living expenses plus a number of possible charges at the point of registration. Please refer to the document already circulated to you listing likely costs for each exchange university. Before registration, or moving into any campus accommodation, there might be intermediate accommodation and food expenses. You might also wish to buy the books for your courses. Remember, however, the second-hand market and the book return policy.

Hazel Lander 42

International Office Room 155, The Registry University of Kent Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NZ US Embassy, London Consular Section Grosvenor Square London British Embassy 3100 Massachusetts Avenue Washington DC 20008

Tel: +44-1227-827994 Fax: +44-1227-823247 Email:

Tel: 09055-444-546

Tel: 202-588-7800

For details of the 9 additional British Consulates or British Consulates-General in the USA, please see These offices are located throughout the USA. Emergency Services in the USA For fire, police or ambulance Tel: 911 (toll free number) STA Travel 27 St Peters Street Canterbury CT1 2BQ Dr. Karen Jones Director of American Studies Room R E2.N1 Tel: 01227 823406 Dr. David Stirrup Director of Year Abroad Programmes School of English Room RX NC40 Rutherford College Extension 43

Tel: 0871-468-0610 Fax: 01227-453-411 Email:

01227 823440 Paul Davies Year Abroad Co-ordinator School of Drama, Film and Visual Arts Room E W3 S4 Eliot College 01227 827142

Prof Julia Twigg Professor of Social Policy and Sociology School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research Room CW NE 214 Cornwallis North East 01227 827539 Dr. Mark J. Burchell Year Abroad Co-ordinator School of Physical Sciences Room Ingr 119, Ingram Building 01227 823248 Dr Niaz Ahmed Wassan Year Abroad Co-ordinator Lecturer in Management Science Room KBS Annex 4 Kent Business School 01227 823921 44

Finally, some advice from one of the Kent students who was in the USA on a year abroad: "Students on the year abroad should forget about England and about Kent and fully immerse themselves in American life, and they should contribute, draw from and appreciate the experience to the full, right from the beginning, because come May, they're not going to want to leave". We hope you will have a pleasant journey and an enjoyable time in the USA. If Fiona Conlan (Senior International Officer) or Hazel Lander (Welfare and Exchanges Coordinator) are in the vicinity of your campus during the academic year they will arrange to meet you to find out how you are doing. We wish you the best of luck with your year abroad!

See you next year!