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The International Student’s Guide to Moving to the United States: Securing the Essentials

Friday | May 19, 2023 | by Nova Credit

A young Asian woman wearing a bright orange shirt is using a laptop and smiling.

Now that you have learned how to secure your visa and funding for school and establish U.S. credit history, let’s discuss acquiring the essentials you will need for your life in the United States, including a mobile phone, bank account, housing, transportation, and a social network.  

Stay Connected: Phone Plans 

Stay connected with friends and family by selecting a phone plan with a U.S.-based mobile phone company. Using a local SIM card instead of your international SIM card will likely provide you with faster data speeds and save you money. 

When choosing a mobile phone plan, consider what the plan offers, such as its network coverage, data speeds and limits, and contract pricing and flexibility. For more tips on selecting the right phone plan, read this blog post 

Some international students use Google Voice as a temporary phone option. This service creates a phone number linked to your Google account. When you are ready, you can move this number to a phone plan with a major provider like Verizon or T-Mobile.  

Some phone plans will allow you to pay for new smartphones and other devices through zero-interest monthly installments. 

Managing Your Money: Bank Account 

You can open a checking or savings account with a bank even before you have a Social Security number. If you already have a U.S. credit card, you can often open an account with the same bank that issued the credit card. Opening a new bank account can also help you build a relationship with a financial institution and become eligible for credit products which may help you establish credit. 

Saving and spending money responsibly will help you to establish a stable financial foundation. Take advantage of popular financial apps to manage your budget. Splitwise helps you track expenses and split bills with friends. The apps Venmo and PayPal are also widely used for easily and securely sending money to friends or businesses. 

Finding a Place to Live: Housing 

As an international student, you should live on or near campus, especially when you first arrive. Living near your university or college will help ease the transition to your new life in the U.S., because you will be physically near the supports and resources your school has to offer. You will also benefit from being close to your class buildings, student center, and other essential services.  

Living on or near campus will also allow you to more easily engage in campus activities, meet other students, and have memorable experiences—which might be some of the reasons you were interested in attending a university in the U.S. 

If you are looking for a place to live off campus, start your search on useful rental websites like Apartments.com and Zillow.com. You can also check the classified ads on Craigslist and posts in Facebook groups for your city or university. Renting an apartment in the U.S. often requires a U.S. credit check. However, there are various ways around this requirement. 

Important: Beware of scams when searching classified ads or on social networks for housing. 

Getting Around: Transportation  

You will need to know how to get around the city or town you are living in. Search online for your city’s public transportation system to find out about fares, schedules, and passes. CityMapper is a useful app for navigating public transportation options in your area. 

Tip: Many city public transportation systems will offer student discounts on fares or passes. Make sure to ask about and take advantage of these offers.  

Beyond public transportation, you can download and use ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. If you want to rent a car by the hour for errands or a weekend trip, look into widely used services like ZipCar and Turo 

You may want to research if your town or city offers a bike-sharing program. Bike-sharing is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly method of getting around campus and beyond.  

Making Friends: Find Your Community 

Relationships and community will be central to your experience as an international student in the U.S. There are many ways to establish a network and make friends.  

Start by exploring student organizations at your university or college. Many campuses have student centers and activity fairs that can connect you with student clubs and organizations based on your academic, professional, or cultural interests and identities. You will often find everything from the Quidditch Club to the Indian Student Association! 

Beyond your campus, visit websites like Meetup and Eventbrite to find interesting events in your city. If you’re feeling homesick and want to connect with others from your home country, both platforms often list cultural and community events. 

Final thoughts 

The U.S. Arrival Map by Nova Credit is a comprehensive directory and list of the essentials you will need when moving to the U.S., including products, services, communities, and organizations. International students moving to the U.S. will be sure to find it useful. 

Now that we have covered funding and visas, credit history, and securing the essentials, you are well on your way to settling in and beginning your new life as an international student in the U.S. 

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES). WES does not offer legal, financial, or immigration advice, and recommends that you conduct your own research and consult with an appropriate professional before making any final decisions.   

Related reading: 

How To Apply To A U.S. University as an International Student
F-1 Visa Updates: Benefits for International Students in the U.S.

Nova Credit is on a mission to accelerate financial inclusion and help underserved communities gain access to mainstream credit. The consumer-permissioned credit bureau helps U.S. newcomers to use their international credit history to apply for credit cards, auto loans, rental properties, and more with the Credit Passport™.

Founded by immigrants, Nova Credit has offices in San Francisco and New York City, and is backed by leading investors including Kleiner Perkins, General Catalyst, and Index Ventures, as well as executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Citi. Learn more at www.novacredit.com