5 things I would have liked to know before studying in San Francisco

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There are 5 things I would have liked to know as an exchange student before going to San Francisco State University (SFSU), that would have made my life easier. These are VISA related things, money related things, phone related things, housing related things and more.

Start preparing early

To start of strong, I recommend to start early with your VISA application. You might think: “What is early?”. Early is 3 months before you leave to go to the United States of America. At first, I thought that I would need to fill in one form and I could collect my VISA a week later. This is not the case. It takes a lot of time and multiple steps to apply for a US VISA. First you need to pay the SEVIS ID (I-901) fee, which costs $220. But in order to pay this fee you will need your DS-2019 immigration document from the host university, which is SFSU in this case. It takes some time before the fee is processed. After that happened, which took about 5 days for me, you can actually start your application. A part of the VISA application process is that you need to fill in a huge form. This probably took me around 3 hours, if not more. There is a lot of specific information you need to provide, such as where you went to school, every job you have and contact information from your superiors at your jobs and what your passport number is. It can be hard to find all this information so be prepared. When you have filled in the form, it can take up to 2 months before you can collect your VISA. It is also possible that you are invited for an interview by the embassy where you need to provide extra information. After you have got the email that your document (which means VISA and passport) is ready to be picked up, you have to drive to the pick up location to collect the document. As you will probably see, it is a long and hard process and they make it very confusing for you. Just remember that this is the most important thing to take care of if you want to go on an exchange to the United States.

Get a creditcard

Secondly, if like me you don’t have a creditcard, it is important to get one as fast as possible. In the Netherlands people use a different kind of card. You can use this card in almost all European countries. For the United States you will need a credit or debit card. I recommend getting Revolut. This is a debitcard that you can use in the entire world. You can easily transfer money from your personal bankaccount to the Revolut card. It is extremely easy to use. Another advantage is that it is free! You can download the Revolut app and use a standard account. You do not have to pay a fee when you buy something or when you exchange money. The only thing that costs money is when you want to add money to your account in the weekend. Then you will pay a service fee. But you can avoid that by adding money to your account on weekdays.

Live on campus if possible

Another thing I would have liked to know is that the village at centennial square is the best on campus housing option if you want to meet a lot of other exchange students. The village is in the centre of campus. Which means that you constantly have a lot of people around you. A lot of exchange students try to get a dorm in the village because of the fact that it is so central. There is a big chance that you will meet new people in the elevator or in the hall. Also, the village has rooms with a livingroom as well, which is nice because it will allow you to connect with your roommates. If you are coming alone to the US and you dont know anyone, then I would recommend trying to get a place here. But you should apply as soon as you can for housing, because there are limited places available and a lot of students try to get housing. Do take in consideration that you will have to purchase a mandatory mealplan, which is quite expensive.

Use MINT Mobile as your mobile provider

Fourthly, if you are from Europe like me, you will probably need another phone subscription. Mint Mobile is a great option to buy an e-sim. An e-sim will allow you to still have your existing phone number and subscription on your phone, but also allow you to make calls in the United States without paying to much. It is very user friendly, affordable and has good reception. They often offer discounts for first time customers, which you should definitely take advantage of. I recommend taking the unlimited data plan, because you will never have to worry about not having service when you need it. It is important to know that if you sign up for a new subscription you must take a new number, instead of linking it to your existing number. I believe that this is the easiest way to get an american phone number, while still keeping your phone number from home.

Additional insurance for studying abroad

Lastly, I would recommend taking additional insurance. If you want to study at San Francisco State University you are required to purchase their health insurance. But their health insurance doesn’t cover everything. So it is important that you take additional insurance. Hospitals and healthcare are extremely expensive in the US. Even if you are in a small accident, it can cost you a lot of money. You don’t want to have to pay thousands of dollars because your insurance doesn’t cover it. So make sure you are insured well.

Every tip I listed is gathered from personal experience, other people might have a preference for another phone subscription or creditcard. This is purely to help you make an informed decision about things that are probably all new to you.

Isa van DuinRedacteur @ YoungPWR

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