Study abroad checklist for the USA

Travel December 3, 2019

New York City, the Californian coast, Route 66, Las Vegas and all the cheeseburgers your heart desires… is studying abroad in America calling your name? Before you hit the road for your English-learning adventure, make sure you look at our study abroad checklist for the USA so you don’t forget any major details for such an important trip! USA, here we come…

Before you leave for the USA

First things first – it may be the least romantic part about travel, but you’ve got to do the paperwork. The good news is that where visas are concerned, if you’re from Switzerland or the EU (except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania) you can travel for up to 90 days with just your ESTA visa waiver! Be very careful to avoid scam websites and only use the official .gov site, where the cost is just $14 USD. If you’re Canadian, you can stay for up to 6 months!

The next vital bit of information is to sort out your travel health insurance before you leave. Health care in the USA is notoriously expensive, so you absolutely need a valid policy if you’re spending any time abroad there. You can compare and contrast travel insurance companies online, or contact your language travel agency to ask for a recommendation. 

Finally there’s that crucial question of when to go! If you simply can’t decide, rest assured that any time is a great time to travel to the USA. If you love the warm weather and being outdoors, try travelling in the summertime when you can spend your free time poolside or at the beach, and experience a real American Fourth of July complete with fireworks and barbecues! If you’re looking to spend less on airfare, flying out in early June when some schools are still in session will guarantee you a cheaper ticket.

On the other hand, if you love snuggling up in a cosy jumper and scarf, try planning your language stay in October through December when you can experience Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in America… there’s nothing like it!

What to pack for the USA

Unless you’re studying abroad in Miami, you should expect four very distinct seasons, so make sure you take the weather into account as you’re packing your bags. Below you’ll find the packing list we’ve put together so you won’t forget a thing!

Clothing (general)

  • 4 t-shirts
  • 4 long-sleeved shirts
  • 2-3 jumpers or cardigans for layering (the air con in the USA is always freezing!)
  • 2-3 pairs of jeans/trousers
  • 2 dressier outfits for going out at night
  • 2-3 outfits for the gym/exercise
  • A light, waterproof jacket
  • 1 pair of trainers
  • 1 pair of dress shoes or high heels for going out
  • 7 pairs of socks (at least)
  • 7 pairs of underwear (at least)
  • 4-5 bras for women or undershirts for men

Clothing – extras for autumn, winter or early spring

  • A down jacket or winter coat
  • A wooly hat
  • A scarf
  • Warm gloves

 Clothing – extras for summer

  • 4 tank tops
  • 4 skirts or pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of sandals (flip-flops are big in America)
  • Swimsuit (keep in mind going topless is illegal in the USA!)
  • Sunglasses

Once you arrive to the USA

So you’ve finally made it! Once you’ve reached the USA, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind to make it a smooth transition.

First of all, figure out your transport situation. Big cities like New York will offer public transport in the form of metro, buses and trains, but for the vast majority of the United States, cars are your only option. You can use apps like Uber or Lyft to get around, which is a good option for sharing with friends, or see if your driver’s license is valid in the USA to rent a car. If you’re walking, just make sure that the streets you’re using have a space for pedestrians, as many don’t!

Where money is concerned, you’ll need to remember to calculate sales tax when shopping for food or clothes or dining out at restaurants. The sales tax varies from state to state, but it’s always calculated at the register or after you get your bill, so a dinner entrée that’s priced at $9.99 will end up costing over $10 for sure.

While we’re on the topic of going out to eat, don’t forget to tip! You’ll need to leave a tip for anyone who works in the service industry, and this includes waiters, taxi drivers, hairdressers, etc. The standard is 15%-20% of your total bill (before tax), so just make sure to add this in, or you may get chased out of your new favourite restaurant!

So, now that you’ve gone through our study abroad checklist for the USA, we hope you’re more excited than ever to learn English surrounded by stunning cities, breathtaking national parks and friendly locals. Now get to packing!

Study abroad in the USA!

By Leah Ganse

What do you think?