The Year Abroad (US)
Choosing a university
The application process
Arriving in the US
Student visas Visa application process Non-UK citizens only US visa application process for UK students Maintaining your visa Booking flights Arranging accommodation and meal plans Luggage and packing
When to arrive Orientation Meeting your international student adviser Registering at your university in the US Obtaining a student ID card
Teaching style Lower and upper division classes Timetables Examinations Grading systems Transcripts Adding or dropping a class ‘Pass’ or ‘not pass’ options Crashing a class Writing style Plagiarism Libraries Books
Sports facilities on campus Health regulations and vaccinations University facilities Insurance Dental care Medication Declaration of illnesses, disabilities or allergies Counselling and mental illness
Life in the US
Travel within the US
Travel outside the US
Life back home
Preparing to return home
Who can work in the US? Social Security numbers
National holidays Time zones Telephones and making calls Voltage and electrical appliances Legal matters Smoking Alcohol Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support and resources
State tourist offices Public transport Driving in the US Hitch-hiking Hotels and motels Youth hostels
Canada and Mexico Returning home for the holidays
Keeping in touch with the University of Kent Registering to vote as an overseas student
Clearing debts Registering for classes at the University of Kent Accommodation at the University of Kent
Currency Budgeting Finances, traveller’s cheques and opening bank accounts Bank cards Internet banking Living costs University of Kent tuition fees Student loans Access To Learning Fund
Sport and healthcare
Working in the US
Travel guides for the US
Inside back cover
The Year Abroad (US) Introduction
Introduction 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 support 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 US. If, after reading it, you still have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the relevant staff (see our Contacts section on p23) who will do their best to answer your questions in a timely manner. We would also welcome suggestions of topics that 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 US 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
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The Year Abroad (US) Choosing a university
Choosing a university 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. The application process Each school at Kent has its own criteria as to how they select students for the year abroad in the US. In general, most departments require students to have averaged a good 2:2 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 US. Following your interview and/or discussion with your school, 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 that 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 US will have to provide academic transcripts (including A level certificates 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 to which you will need to prove you have access will vary from university to university, as 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:
Do: • • • •
Submit original documents Provide recent bank statements Ensure documents show cleared funds 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 scholarship and/or an employer).
Don’t: • Submit photocopies or faxes • Provide statements more than three months old • Submit portfolios showing shares (these vary in value with the stock market so cannot be counted as cash or cleared funds) • Indicate predicted earnings as part of your loan documentation (working over the summer cannot be used to explain where your money will come from).
The Year Abroad (US) Pre-departure information
Pre-departure information Student visas
Visa application process
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 US. Under no circumstances should you travel to the US 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, as you will be suspected of trying to use a ‘backdoor’ route to the US. 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.
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 US. 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 US – once you are in the US, 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 US, so do not leave your I20 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 J1, is determined simply by which university you will be going to – you cannot choose which visa you will be applying for.
Students travelling abroad in the summer prior to attending university in the US 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 US (on BUNAC or Camp America for example) should be warned that if they choose to work in the US 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-bystep 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.
DS-160 Online Visa Form Applicants applying for visas at the Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Belfast are required to complete the online DS-160. They will no longer accept the DS-156. The DS-160 is web-based and once completed, transmits the applicant’s data to the post where s/he will apply for the visa. As the data is collected electronically, it means that we will be able to conduct various forms of pre-processing and prescreening in advance of the application which should reduce processing delays. It also means that applicants who apply for visas on a frequent basis can save their original application and simply submit the updated form.
• Review the Department of State photo specifications http://travel.state.gov/visa/guide/ guide_3888.html before uploading the photograph. If your photo does not comply, it will be rejected • Select the correct location at which you will apply for the visa. If applying at the Embassy, please select London, England; if applying at the Consulate General in Belfast, please select Belfast, N. Ireland • Select the correct visa category under "Purpose of Travel to the United States" in the "Travel Information Section" - the drop down list will appear in answer to the question" Are you the Principal Applicant". If you do not see your visa category, click on “Other” for further information
Visa application steps: 1 Receive an I-20 or DS-2019 from the sponsoring university or programme 2 Get visa photo – ask for US passport size and for both print and digital versions 3 Complete the DS-160 online form (starting from 1 March 2010 this will replace the DS-156, 158 and 154) 1 Note applicants will be asked to upload a digital passport photo 2 Save often while completing form 4 Print DS-160 barcode to bring to interview 5 Schedule an interview by phone at: 090 424 50100 (1.20 pounds per minute) 6 Complete visa interview at US Embassy in London – for now, applicants are required to bring a print passport photo as well. 7 Expect to receive visa and passport within an average of 5 working days. Expedited delivery service can be purchased.
Current visa fees: The DS-160 form may be accessed at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
• Visa application: $131: • SEVIS: $200 for F applicants; $180 for J exchange visitors; $35 for J intern and au pair categories
Before accessing the DS-160, please note the following points: The DS-160 site has been experiencing intermittent connectivity issues. Please save your work frequently. • As you complete the visa application, save a copy on your hard drive, CD or USB and ‘save’ often • If asked the question “Have you attended any educational institutions other than an elementary school”, you should list all educational institutions you have attended since the age of 11 • Provide accurate and complete information in answer to the questions. You will be given an opportunity to review the information before submitting the form. If you submit a DS-160 that is inaccurate or incomplete, your application will be rejected
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 www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_new/visa/index.html 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 www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_ new/visa/niv/add_tcns.html also provide more information.
Continued overleaf 3
The Year Abroad (US) Pre-departure information
Pre-departure information (cont) 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’s 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. You should contact the International Office at the University of Kent if you have not received your I20 or DS-2019 three months before you plan to depart for the US. During your flight to the US, 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 (ie at the airport immigration desk). Keep the I-94 record card with your passport at all times.
Arrival and departure restrictions Students on both J-1 and F-1 visas can enter the US 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 US. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to enter the US without your visa. F-1 visa holders have a socalled ‘period of grace’, which allows them to remain in the US 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 www.usembassy.org.uk Operator Assisted Visa Information & Appointment Booking This service is available at the following times: • Monday – Friday: 8.00 am until 9.00 pm • Saturdays: 09.00 am until 4.00 pm Callers within the United Kingdom Callers from within the United Kingdom should dial 09042-450-100 09042-450-100. Calls to this line are charged at £1.20/min from BT landlines; some mobile and network providers may charge more. In addition, callers from outside the U.K. and some mobile and network providers cannot access this number.
Maintaining your visa
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 that you stay on top of any changes. You need to be aware that:
If appropriate, you may have to obtain a valid travel signature on your DS-2019 visa document in order to travel outside the US during the holidays. You should allow at least one week before your planned departure to obtain the signature. The signature enables you to return to the U.S.
• 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. • 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 I-94 entry card attached) and your I-20 or DS-2019. • You must let your international student adviser know your address in the US, including any subsequent change of address. • You must have your Certificate of Eligibility signed by your host university’s Designated Signatory Officer (DSO) if you leave the country.
A signature is needed even if you are just travelling across the border into Canada or Mexico. In signing the visa document, the adviser is certifying that you are enrolled full-time and are in good standing at the University. You are advised to check with the study abroad Office in your host university to check if this is applicable.
Booking flights There are many airline carriers that 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 www.isiccard.com for further information).
The Year Abroad (US) Pre-departure information
Some of the most well-known airlines that fly direct to the US are: www.britishairways.com British Airways Virgin Atlantic www.virgin-atlantic.com American Airlines www.aa.com www.united.com United Airlines British Midland (BMI) www.flybmi.com www.klm.com KLM In addition to checking flights through high-street travel agents or any of the above links, it may be useful to look at some Internet-based travel companies such as www.lastminute.com, www.expedia.com and www.octopustravel.com. These companies often compare flight prices on multiple airlines for you, so this could save you some legwork!
Arranging accommodation and meal plans 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 oncampus 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 US 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 cafés or restaurants. Food is usually of a good standard, with plenty of choice for vegetarians. The minimum number of meals that 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 US that should be noted. What is often most striking for UK students is that most university accommodation in the US 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 residence and on campuses and it can be quite a bonus to have an American student as a roommate, as they will often have a car and may introduce you to their friends and families or take you on trips in and around the US. In addition to freshman (first year) students, most US halls of residence 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 of residence so it is important to understand their position in the halls. Due to the age of most students living in halls of residence, 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 cosign your lease agreement. Initial move-in costs may also be more than you would expect in the UK as you will be expected to pay the equivalent of the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit before you can 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 your 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 their accommodation deadlines it is likely that there will be other students who are waiting to take your place!
Luggage and packing The amount of luggage you can take with you will be restricted according to the ticket you use to fly to the US. 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 your suitcases and carry-on luggage. 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 it 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 want to take these with you, but they can be also purchased locally at very competitive prices (and are of good quality).
The Year Abroad (US) Arriving in the US
Arriving in the US When to arrive Students on both F-1 and J-1 visas can enter the US up to 30 days before the designated start date on your Certificate of Eligibility, assuming your processed visa has been received back from the US Embassy. In addition to the legal date that your visa permits you to arrive in the US, you will also need to check with your host university as to their recommended arrival date â€“ 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, as it may be difficult to obtain your room key or meet staff after this time.
Orientation 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 US and provide lots of very useful information that will help you to 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 below) in advance to check whether it is possible to obtain any of the information or to attend a â€˜make-upâ€™ orientation for late arrivals.
Meeting your international student adviser After you have arrived in the US, 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 adviser for visa purposes, so make this a priority.
Registering at your university in the US 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 that 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.
Obtaining a student ID card Once you have completed your registration at your host university, you should receive a student ID card, which will include a photograph and your student ID number. Keep your identity card in a safe place as 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 US).
The Year Abroad (US) Academic culture
Academic culture Teaching style
Lower and upper division classes
Studying in the US 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 differences that will have an effect on the way in which you learn.
Students in any particular class may come from a variety of academic backgrounds and may also be a mix of first, second, third or fourth year students. Classes in the US 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 first year of a UK 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 second and third years of a UK degree). However, as 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 Year Abroad Co-ordinator.
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 grade for a course of 3 credit hours, you would make the following calculation:
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 of their degrees (for example, they will choose to apply for a degree in American Studies or a degree in International Relations), often students in the US will not declare their ‘major’ (ie 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 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 US 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 US 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.
A = 4 x 3 credit hours B = 3 x 3 credit hours Subtotal Divided by 6 credit hours
= 12 =9 = 21 = 3.5 GPA
Timetables While you may have fairly limited contact time at university in the UK, this is not the case in the US. 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 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.
Examinations The method of examination will differ from course to course. On average, it is common for students to have to submit some 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 mid-term 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.
Transcripts At the end of your academic year in the US, 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
UK Percentage 76% 67% 59% 52% 44% 36% 30% N/A N/A N/A N/A 0%
* At some universities, a grade point of 4.2 is given to students awarded an A+, but at others it is 4.0.
The Year Abroad (US) Academic culture
Adding or dropping a class
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, as this usually means that you will have to complete some forms by a specific deadline.
The writing style in the US 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.
When you register at your host university, you should be given full access to the resources available at your university library. Libraries in the US 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.
‘Pass’ or ‘not pass’ options When US students register for their classes, they generally have the option to take up to a third of the classes outside 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 US, even though American students will be allowed this option. Each class you take must be assessed for its full letter grade.
Crashing a class 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. In such circumstances, it is a good idea to remember the ‘three Ps’: be polite, patient and persistent!
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 that you write in the style requested by your professors, check with your tutors at the beginning of the term or semester as to what they 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. The following resources may also provide you with some useful information, for example: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers www.mla.org/store The Chicago Manual of Style www.chicagomanualofstyle.org Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association www.apastyle.org Guidelines on citing Internet sources can be found at: www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/citex.html
Plagiarism Just as in the UK, academic honesty is taken very seriously in the US. 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 resources mentioned above and always check with your professors in advance to avoid any problems.
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 in 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.
Books There should be a bookshop at your host university that will stock all the specified books for your course(s). These will be grouped together and can be usually identified by the class number and the tutor’s name. As books are expensive in the US, you may want to look out for secondhand copies and, where possible, search out other bookshops in the area. There is usually a much larger secondhand market in operation than in the UK and students will sell their books on a much larger scale. However, in many cases the secondhand discount is relatively small. As the reading of specified pages of certain key textbooks is likely to be a regular feature of day-today 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 textbooks, although it will have ample secondary reading material. Ask your host 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 Year Abroad (US) Money matters
Money matters Currency 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 UK paper currency, 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 the usual green and white). Each dollar (or ‘buck’ for slang) is divided into 100 cents. Coins are available in denominations of one cent (usually called a ‘penny’), five cents (a ‘nickel’), ten 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, as these are used for buses, phones and vending machines etc.
Budgeting You will no doubt be very excited by the prospect of spending a year in the US – 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 example) and what you expect to pay in 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. However, currency valuations can change quickly so don’t base your budgeting solely on a favourable exchange rate.
Finances, traveller’s cheques and opening bank accounts Just as in the UK, it is advisable not to carry large amounts of cash with you. When planning your arrival in the US, it may be a good idea to take some US dollar traveller’s 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 as they can be used as easily as cash to pay for goods and services throughout the US. 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, as 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 to 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 changes in the 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 US 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. While 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 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.)
Bank cards 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 US in view of your lack of credit history there, but cards issued in the UK are widely accepted in the US. 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.
Internet banking To make it easier for you to keep track of your UK bank accounts while you are in the US, 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 US 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.
Living costs Your host university should provide you with information about approximate living costs so that 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 US. 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.
University of Kent tuition fees 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 a paying-in book. Lastly, there are very strict rules regarding overdrafts in the US, and you should be very careful not to overdraw your US bank account without prior agreement. In the US, it is a criminal offence to bounce a cheque or to spend funds that are not already cleared in your account.
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 tuition fee rate by the University of Kent; this is normally 50% of home tuition fee. For 2010/11, the charge will be £1,645.
The Year Abroad (US) Money matters
Student Loan Companies Most international 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 Student Finance England (SFE)/your Local Authority (LA) is essential if the first instalment of your student loan is to be paid before you leave for the United States. You should call SFE/your LA Office during the Easter vacation. SFE/most LA’s will co-operate, but require the early completion and return to them of their financial assessment forms. Remember to tell your LA/SFE that if you will have semesters rather than terms and ensure that they have the correct dates for your academic year at your host university. 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. The Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS) have told us that the maximum loan available to students studying a year abroad in the academic year 2010/11 will be £5,895. If you have a student loan we will be happy to write to Student Finance England/your Local Authority (LA) to let them know that you will be studying abroad next year. To do this we will need your ART ID/Customer Reference Number and your Local Authority/SFE.
Access to Learning Fund
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 http://www.kent.ac.uk/finance-student/index.html
The Government provides funds to universities to enable them to assist home undergraduate students who are in financial difficulty – these are known as the Access to Learning Funds.
Application Forms for each new academic year should be available from the beginning of September.
Undergraduate students who have taken out their full means-tested entitlement of their maintenance 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.
Start the application process by speaking to one of our Student Advisers at: Kent Union Mandela Building email@example.com 01227 824824
The Year Abroad (US) Sport and healthcare
Sport and healthcare Your physical and mental well-being is of the utmost importance, as well as being a basic pre-requisite 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.
University facilities 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.
Insurance All year abroad students will be covered by the University of Kent’s insurance policy. You need to complete the online travel notification form (which you can access via the weblink below) before leaving the UK. You will be covered for a holiday period of no more than one week in addition to your course-related activities. If you plan to travel more extensively, you will need to take out your own insurance policy. For further details, please see: www.kent.ac.uk/finance-staff/ services/insurance/studentfieldwork
Sports facilities on campus 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 university gymnasia are usually modern and extremely wellequipped. 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. Sport is taken more seriously at American universities, with some universities even having their own stadiums!
Health regulations and vaccinations The US may sometimes require that visa holders arriving in the US should provide documentary proof of any vaccinations that 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, as 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.
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, as there is no widespread equivalent of the NHS in the US.
Baggage and personal insurance This cover is not refundable by your LEA, and you should make separate arrangements for this, which 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 US while you are there.
Medical insurance This cover will usually be reimbursed by your LEA on production of a 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 US (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, which 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 host university.
Dental care 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 oncampus 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!
Medication If you are on any medication (including the contraceptive pill), you should consult your doctor in plenty of time before you leave for the US. 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 US, so purchasing your medication in the UK will again save you money at a later date.
Declaration of illnesses, disabilities or allergies It is advisable for you to declare any illnesses, disabilities or allergies you have before you arrive at your host university so that reasonable adjustments can be made to accommodate you. ‘Illnesses’ in this context 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 information so that they have this information on file for emergencies or 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.
Counselling and mental illness 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 US. For this reason, existing mental illnesses, including those that 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 US. If you do require counselling in the US, 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 on p23) if you require assistance or if you feel that you need to talk to someone from the UK.
The Year Abroad (US) Working in the US
Working in the US Who can work in the US? Students on F-1 or J-1 visas are eligible to work part-time in the US 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. As 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.
Social Security numbers While it is not mandatory to obtain a social security number (SSN) during your stay in the US, 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 US – in both instances you would need to obtain an SSN. The Social 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). You have to check in advance with your international student adviser because when a nonUS citizen requests a Social Security number, the SSA must verify the applicant’s immigration documentation and they do this with the host university and the Department of Homeland Security. Be prepared for a wait though: the SSA verifies this information through an online process where possible but if you have just arrived in the US your data will not be in electronic form, manual verification will be necessary and the subsequent issuing of the SSN might be delayed by several weeks or months.
The Year Abroad (US) Life in the US
Life in the US National holidays There are several national (bank) holidays in the US. Some are the same as in the UK but some are different. As 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
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 your host university’s schedule for specific details – especially for 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 remain closed on some nonnational holidays (some Jewish holidays, Spring Break, Easter and the Day after Thanksgiving for example).
Time zones Due to the vast size of the US, 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.
Telephones and making calls 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 US are given local area codes rather than specific mobile codes (for example, this is the equivalent of mobile phones in Canterbury beginning with the code 01227 rather than the 07*** number that identifies all mobile phones in the UK). Pay phones are also available in halls of residence and on campus. If you are 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 Listen for a dial tone and then deposit your coins (the amount will be shown on the coin box), then dial the seven-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 three-digit area code and the seven-digit telephone number.
The Year Abroad (US) Life in the US
International calls Listen for a dial tone and then dial 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 1227 827994. 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 any 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.
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 that 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.
Smoking As in the UK, the anti-smoking movement is making considerable advances in the US. 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 US, 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!
Alcohol Last caller If you want to check who last called you, the equivalent of the UK’s ‘1471’ facility is known as ‘Star 69’ in the US. This means that you would dial the star button (*) followed by ‘69’ to retrieve the number of your last caller – this service is available on landline telephones.
Voltage and electrical appliances The voltage in the US is 110 volts AC. Check any appliances that you might want to 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 US are two-pronged so an international plug or adaptor might be of use – ask at electrical shops before you go.
Legal matters While you are in the US, you are subject to the laws of that country. Some laws in the United States may be quite different from laws in the UK, and laws within the US 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 the Contacts section on p23). They can also advise you on your legal rights.
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 US. 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 universities are particularly good at planning and organising events that are not alcohol-related (for example, sports tournaments and clubs, interest groups and so on) so you should have plenty of activities to keep you busy in your free time that do not revolve around alcohol!
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support and resources 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 (a bi-monthly magazine) The Damron group
www.iglta.org www.advocate.com www.damron.com
Publications such as the Men’s Travel Guide (a 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.
If you are 21 or over and plan to buy alcohol in the US, ensure that you have your ID card with you. It is US policy 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 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 Year Abroad (US) Travel within the US
Travel within the US There are lots of places to visit within the US so the difficulty for you will be short-listing which sights to visit during your time there! Do bear in mind the size of the country when planning your travels though â€“ distances that look short on a map can equate to hours of travelling! State tourist offices Tourist information is readily available at state tourist offices. Below is a selection of state tourist offices that might be of use to you. A list of worldwide tourist directory offices is also available at www.towd.com
California California Division of Tourism PO Box 1499, Dept TIA Sacramento CA 95812 1499 T: 916 444 4429
District of Columbia Washington, DC Convention and Visitors Association 1212 New York Ave, NW, Suite 600 Washington DC 20005 T: 202 789 7000
Florida Florida Tourism PO Box 1100 Tallahassee FL 32302 1100 T: 850 488 5607
Indiana Tourism and Film Development Division One North Capitol, Suite 700 Indianapolis IN 46204 2288 T: 317 232 8860
Kansas 1000 SW Jackson, Ste 100 Topeka KS 66612 1354 T: 785 296 2009
Maryland 217 East Redwood St, 9th Floor Baltimore MD 21202 T: 410 767 3400
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism 10 Park Plaza, Suite 4510 Boston MA 02116 T: 617 973 8500
Department of Economic Development One Commerce Plaza Albany NY 12245 T: 518 474 4116
Most Americans prefer to use their own cars to travel short distances or to fly for longer ones, but UK students tend to also be happy to take the coach or train when travelling around the US for short or medium journeys. 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.
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Travel & Tourism Office Room 453, Forum Building Harrisburg PA 17120 T: 717 787 5453
South Carolina South Carolina Tourism Division Box 71, Room 902 Columbia SC 29202 T: 803 734 0235
Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Tourism 201 West Washington Ave. PO Box 7976 Madison WI 53707 T: 608 2662161
Coach services in the US are operated by Greyhound (see www.greyhound.com) and US passenger trains are operated by Amtrak (see www.amtrak.com). Both offer good student discounts so be sure to look into the options available.
Driving in the US 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 to do so). Note that it is usually not possible to rent a
The Year Abroad (US) Travel within the US
This is a non-profit organisation 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 www.hiayh.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
YMCA Facilities 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 accommodation, breakfast and tour tickets. For further information see www.ymcanyc.org.
car unless you have passed your driving licence for more than a 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 licence, so enquire on your arrival to establish the policy in your area. Remember that most American cars are automatic. If you do intend to drive, purchase a copy of the American Highway Code (published on a state-bystate 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 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 three or four 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.
Hotels and motels 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 (motel chains include, 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 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)
The Year Abroad (US) Travel outside the US
Travel outside the US Canada and Mexico Many students studying in the US also enjoy visiting the USâ€™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 US. In these circumstances, you must first arrange to have your Certificate of Eligibility signed by the Designated Signatory Officer (DSO) on your host campus so that you are given permission to re-enter the US. If you do not do this, you may be prohibited from getting back into the US.
Returning home for the holidays As above, if you choose to return to the UK (or to travel to any country outside the US during your year abroad), you must still ensure that your Certificate of Eligibility has been signed by the DSO on your host campus before you leave, to grant you permission to re-enter the US. This is extremely important.
The Year Abroad (US) Life back home
Life back home Keeping in touch with the University of Kent 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 (Welfare and Exchanges Officer) at email@example.com as soon as you arrive in the US, 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 US. 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 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.
Your contact details It is very important that we have your contact details for the summer vacation and the Year Abroad, as we send out emails and forms throughout the year. You will also be sent very important information from other offices about final year accommodation, modules and other matters by email or post.
Communication The School and the International Office will contact you in the first instance by email (at your Kent account), and it is important that you let us know if it is difficult for you to access a PC or the Internet at least once a week. There are two approaches to accessing your Kent email: • Use the University’s webmail service, which allows you to access your Kent email address from abroad • Have your email forwarded to another email address. This can only be done on a PC at Kent: contact the Student helpdesk if you need assistance.
Important note: Keep the number of emails stored in your Kent account to a minimum, because going over quota may prevent you from sending, receiving or deleting emails. Delete unwanted emails and check that you have none stored in your deleted items folder.
Registering to vote as an overseas student
If you do have problems with your Kent email address, contact the Student helpdesk for assistance:
You are advised to do this prior to departure though as there may be voting registration deadlines that come up while you are abroad so it is easier to do it in the summer before you leave the UK.
Student helpdesk T: +44 (0)1227 824999 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Or complete the online form at www.kent.ac.uk/itservices/forms/query/query.html
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 straightforward process that should not take long to organise.
Internet services You may find that access to PCs and/or the Internet is widely available at your university in the US
The Year Abroad (US) Preparing to return home
Preparing to return home Just as you have to undertake preparations for your outbound journey, there is also some planning that 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 to remind you about various upcoming important deadlines. Clearing debts 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, as 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.
Registering for classes at the University of Kent It is vital that you frequently check your Kent email addresses while you are on your year abroad, as we will be sending you important information throughout the year. One such example is that you will be required to select your modules for 2011/12 just after Christmas (which is the same deadline as for students back in the UK) and students who fail to meet this deadline will inevitably have much less choice in the availability of modules.
Accommodation at the University of Kent The University can offer rooms in private sector shared housing off-campus. The University has head-leased a number of good quality properties from a reputable local landlord. All of these properties are within easy reach of the campus and the accommodation costs will include all utilities and broadband internet access. The available houses have three, four, five or six bedrooms and are located on the north side of Canterbury near the university. We regret it is not possible to arrange viewings of individual properties in advance of your arrival or to choose the location of your property.
The cost of the accommodation is exactly the same as the Landlord/Agent is offering to other students. No extra fees are being added by the Accommodation office or University for arranging this accommodation. Council Tax exemption will be arranged by the University and the landlord. When you apply you will have the opportunity to advise us of any preferences and friends with whom you may wish to share. At the end of the application process, an advance payment of £300 will be required by 31 March 2011 to secure the accommodation. Please note that all returning students are required to make an advance payment to secure a room (not just year abroad students). You may apply at the link below. http://kenthospitality.kent.ac.uk/myaccommodation/ Important: To complete your application it is also essential to make an advance payment of £300 before Tuesday 31 March 2011. Applications from students with an outstanding debt at the University may be cancelled and any advance payment made may be retained and used towards settlement of any outstanding student account balance.
Room allocations will be made in July/August 2011. At this time an email will be sent to your university email address. You will then be able to view and accept the offer of accommodation online. Although we cannot guarantee to offer specific rooms, we will try to meet preferences wherever possible, including requests to share with friends if you have supplied their full name and student ID number on your application and they have also been offered a room. The Accommodation will be available for you to move in to and occupy from 1 September 2011 until 30 June 2012. The cost of this accommodation for the current year is equivalent to just under £92 per week which includes the cost of all utilities and broadband internet. We expect there will be a small increase for the coming academic year. There is no obligation to take up this offer. If you would prefer to find your own off-campus accommodation, you are welcome to do so. The off-campus housing pages give a lot of useful information at www.kent.ac.uk/hospitality/staffstudent/accommodation/offcampus/index.htm this includes the new interactive housing list.
The Year Abroad (US) Other resources
Other resources Travel guides for the US There are many useful guides to the US. Some good standard works include: The Rough Guide to the USA Letâ€™s Go USA (Harrap) Penguin USA Fodorâ€™s Essential USA 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 US 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!
The Year Abroad (US) FAQs
FAQs 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 your 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. Can I get an emergency short-term loan? 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 www.kent.ac.uk/financial-aid). Students should send completed application forms and supporting documentation from their LEA directly to the Student Loans & Access Hardship Office (email@example.com). What tuition fees will I need to pay? Under the exchange agreement you are not liable for tuition fees at your US university, as we have arrangements with all our US exchange partners that they should not present fee accounts to Kent students on exchange in the US. Kent will collect your tuition fees from your LEA (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 fee. For 2010/11, the tuition fee will be £1,645. Do you have any advice about travelling within the US? 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 that as a tourist you should avoid, and there will be areas that 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 your 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. What is the best way to travel within the US? 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 arrive in the US, 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 ‘driveaways’ – cars that you transport from one city to another for their owners – you receive a free ride for providing this service (see www.roadtripamerica.com/links/international.htm 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 secondhand market and the book return policy.
The Year Abroad (US) Other resources
Contact information University of Kent contacts Hazel Lander Welfare and Exchanges Officer International Office Room 155 The Registry University of Kent Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NZ T: +44 (0)1227 827994 F: +44 (0)1227 823247 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Dr Karen Jones Director of American Studies School of History Room R E2.N1 Rutherford College T: +44 (0)1227 823406 E: email@example.com Dr David Stirrup Director of Year Abroad Programmes School of English Room RX NC40 Rutherford College Extension T: +44 (0)1227 823440 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Dr Mattias Frey Lecturer in Film Studies Jarman Building 2-26 University of Kent Canterbury Kent CT2 7UG T: +44 (0)1227 827132 E: email@example.com Dr Gavin Mountjoy Year Abroad Co-ordinator School of Physical Sciences Room Ingr 119 Ingram Building T: +44 (0)1227 823228 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Dr Niaz Ahmed Wassan Year Abroad Co-ordinator Lecturer in Management Science Room KBS Annex 4 Kent Business School T: +44 (0)1227 823921 E: email@example.com
Dr. Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel Lecturer in Biological Anthropology School of Anthropology and Conservation 168 Marlowe Building University of Kent Canterbury CT2 7NR T: +44 (0)1227 823937 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Embassies US Embassy, London Consular Section Grosvenor Square London T: 09055 444 546 US Consulate-General, Belfast Danesfort House 223 Stranmillis Road Belfast BT9 5GR Northern Ireland T: +44 (0)28 9038 6100 Operator-assisted visa information line T: 09055 444 546 Mon-Fri: 8am-8pm Sat: 10am-4pm British Embassy 3100 Massachusetts Avenue Washington DC 20008 T: 202 588 7800 For details of the nine additional British Consulates or British Consulates-General in the US, please see http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/en These Consulate offices are located throughout the US.
Emergency services in the US For fire, police or ambulance T: 911 (toll-free number)
Travel STA Travel 27 St Peters Street Canterbury CT1 2BQ T: (+44) 0871 468 0610 F: (+44) 01227 453411 E: email@example.com
Dr Angeliki Varakis-Martin Year Abroad Coordinator Drama and Theatre Studies Room Jarman 2-43 Jarman Building University of Kent Canterbury Kent CT2 7UG T: +44 (0)1227 827551 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Year Abroad (US) Notes
Finally Finally, some advice from one of our past Kent US Year Abroad students:
“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 US. If Hazel Lander (Welfare and Exchanges Officer) is in the vicinity of your campus during the academic year, she 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!
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University of Kent The Registry, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NZ T +44 (0)1227 827994 E Internationalemail@example.com