Departure Checklist for First Time International Students

by Benjamin Skye | August 15, 2011 | Newsletters 0 Comments

Leaving home for the first time is a big challenge - make sure you are off to a good start!

Leaving home for the first time is a big challenge - make sure you are off to a good start!

You have been accepted to a university in the U.S., received approval for your U.S. Student Visa, and booked your flight tickets, now all you have to do for the last three weeks before your departure is kick back, relax and have dozens of farewell parties with all your friends and close relatives. Right?

Wrong! There is still much left to do. Here’s a list of items you might want to look at in case you left anything out:

Flight Itinerary & Airport Safety

  • Make sure that you know exactly when your flight is departing. For international flights, you want to show up at least two hours before you designated departure time so that you can clear customs. If this is your first time leaving the country, be sure you speak to a friend or relative who has experience flying internationally.
  • To be safe, carry at least two copies of your flight itinerary with you so that in case you lose one, you will still have another one to refer to. When you arrive in a new country, make sure the first thing you do is to take note of the local time and adjust your watch accordingly.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions along the way and take care of your belongings. You have a long journey ahead of you so make sure that you are well rested before you get on the plane.

Electronics & Gadgets

  • If you are bringing a computer or any other electronics into the US, be sure that you have the appropriate adapters for the outlets here. You also need to check the voltage to make sure that the devices you are bringing can work with the power outlets here.
  • When traveling, keep you electronics close to you. However, do not get too carried away with your electronic devices while waiting between flights. Always keep an eye on the time so that you do not miss your flight.

Medical Issues

  • If you have any medical issues that require you to take certain medications consistently, be sure to ask your local doctor for an official prescription. ELI 360 recommends that all international students undergo a full medical checkup before leaving their respective home countries.
  • All students attending a university in Texas are required to receive a vaccine for bacterial meningitis before they can be allowed to move into the campus dorm rooms. Please be sure to check with your local physician if this shot can be administered.
  • Bring a copy of your medical records with you while you travel. This can be very helpful while you travel in case of any medical emergencies. Your university nurse will also require you to turn in a copy of your medical history for the school’s records.
  • Students who are near-sighted (myopia) and require glasses/contact lenses should visit their local eye doctor/optometrist to get additional contact lenses, a spare(additional) pair of glasses and your latest eye prescription before leaving your country.

Important Documents

  • Be sure that you have all your important documents with you before you leave (Passport, I-20, Acceptance Letters, Birth Certificate, Identification Cards, Medical Forms, Prescriptions, Flight Itineraries, etc.).
  • Carry your passport and I-20 close to your body at all times. You can purchase a sling bag that you can tie around your body under your shirt at your local traveler’s store. Keep your passport well hidden at all times – losing your passport (and other important documents) can make your trip very complicated.
  • Make sure that you have copies of all your original documents. Keep your documents in a well seal folder. Whatever you do, do not place your original documents in your luggage. Always carry them in your carry-on luggage (preferably, in your bag pack).

Things to Bring & Packing Tips

  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash on you as best as you can. Visit the bank prior to your trip to get traveler’s checks.
  • If you have to carry cash on you, be sure not to put all your cash in one wallet/bag pack/pocket. Separate your cash into small portions and have each portion in a different part of your body/bag. This way, if you get picked by a pickpocket or if you drop some of your money, you won’t be losing all of it.
  • Be sure to weigh your luggage at home before showing up at the airport (unless you are ready to pay the additional charge for overweight luggage). Check with your airline company that you are flying regarding the weight and luggage limit before you begin packing.
  • If you are arriving in the fall (August – September), you can reduce the weight of your luggage by not packing any winter clothing. The weather here in the Southern states usually stays warm through late October or early November. You can purchase winter clothing for relatively cheap prices once you arrive.
  • One useful packing tip that can help you maximize your luggage space is to roll up your clothes. By doing so, you will be able to fit more into your luggage. Roll up any breakable items (glass, ceramics, etc.) into your clothing. You will also want to try and stuff items into any small spaces (i.e. all your socks can be stuffed into your shoes, along with other smaller items).
  • Do not pack anything that you cannot afford to lose (important document originals, money, personal items of value) into the luggage that you check in. In case your luggage is lost, you will not be able to recover these items.
  • If you are bringing any food items with you, be sure that you have it packed tightly. Check with your airline company regarding the types of food you can bring. Processed foods (spices, sauces, etc.) that are sealed are typically acceptable while fresh meat and vegetables are usually not allowed to be brought into the U.S.

***To receive a list of recommended items to bring along, please e-mail ELI 360 at the following address:


  • Be sure to have the name card/contact information of the person who is picking you up. If you are working with an agency (such as ELI 360), make sure you have the right local number to call. All airports will have public phones available, all you have to do is find some change or in some instances, you can use a credit card to pay for the call.
  • Do not hesitate to contact the people who are picking you up in any cases of emergency or accidents at the airport (i.e. loss of luggage/passport, injury, etc.). They can offer you good advice on what to do.
  • In case of any changes in your flight plans (delays or cancellations), be sure to contact the people who are picking you up. It is never good to leave the people picking you up without at information regarding the changes in your plans.

Some last words…

Congratulations once again from ELI 360 as you embark on this journey to your American university of choice! We look forward to seeing you on the other side and we hope you have a safe trip! Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any help or have any questions. All the best!

Benjamin Skye
ELI 360
Communication Coordinator

* You can reach ELI 360 with your question by sending your e-mail to

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