So I was suggested to make a first blog prior to my departure, perhaps about my expectations for going to the US, what I think it will be like, what I think will be the challenges and so on.
To be honest I’ve no idea how to write a blog like that , so I will instead give you a guide entitled ‘How to get into the USA’.
The steps are basically thus:
1) Do whatever you need to do, be it bribe, cheat or blackmail, to get accepted to study at the university (for me it’s UC Berkeley, but it’s pretty standard across the whole USA).
2) Once you’ve been accepted, now the fun begins. Firstly you need to wait for your DS-2019, or at least until it’s been dispatched. You can’t really make any headway towards visas and stuff until that’s done. You could book your flights if you want them to be cheap – but make sure you book your flights REALLY LATE, because if you book them earlier and your visa isn’t processed by that time, you’re screwed. Don’t schedule your visa interview at this stage because they can be slow with the DS-2019 and it costs to rearrange your visa appointment.
More about flight companies etc. below if you’re interested.
You could also look at accomodation. A lot of this comes down to personal choice about how you want to live, but I would say one thing – don’t think you have to get uni accomodation. You don’t even have to live on campus. There is loads of opportunity on craigslist and other sites (your university will probably have a page recommending sites that have off campus accomodation) to find room-shares with other students, co-ops and other places. Just be smart, don’t send over money unless you’ve seen the lease and I would say skyped with the people you’ll be living with. There are scams out there, so don’t be an idiot, but if you look off campus most likely you’ll find something nicer for cheaper. I know in the case of UCB, on campus was all catered , expensive, and shared rooms unless you paid a fortune. All three of which doesn’t really suit me.
Watch out for scams, but there’s lots of opportunity online.
3) Once you’ve got your DS-2019, IMMEDIATELY SCHEDULE YOUR INTERVIEW FOR THE VISA!
They have really limited times when they can fit you in, so if you’re picky about what day of the week you can go you MUST get this booked early. What embassy you can go to will depend on where you are etc, but for UK people you can either go to London or Belfast, both of which are cool. You may think Belfast would be more because it’s across the sea but London is SUCH an expensive city that to be honest, you may as well have a jape to Ireland. Also belfast will send your passport back using an envelope you provide, but in London you MUST buy their courier service (cost at least 15 quid).
One other thing. You can book your interview online (or at least for London you can). This is really useful because if you call, it’s really expensive. My friend booked for us two and it cost her thirty quid to phone.
4) After your interview is booked you need to move fast. There are two main forms you need to do. Firstly you have to pay something called the SEVIS fee. It’s expensive. Get either a printed reciept, they also send you one. You don’t need to get the hard copy for the interview, so don’t bother paying the extra money for faster delivery. The printout you get at the end is sufficient.
5) Sevis fee done? Cool. Do the DS-160 form. Yes another form, but I promise it’s the last one. Well probably. This is a long form, but get it done and get the printout and you are ready for the interview!
6) You have to bring
Your letter confirming your interview
Your DS-160 confirmation printout
A spare passport photograph (even if the one you uploaded for the DS-160 was approved. SOmetimes they’ll be fussy)
Fingers (they have to take your fingerprints, so don’t get any papercuts)
There may be other stuff.
They’re picky on what you can take into the embassy. No electronics of any kind, no chargers, headphones, no aerosols, nothing sharp etc. If you don’t want to take time and money to put it into storage there, don’t bring any of these items. But water and food is fine, at least in london it was. You’ll be there for a while, so food’s not a bad shout.
Have all the documents above photocopied and scanned electronically – just in case you need them for something while the visa’s being processed. All of them will be taken away from you after the interview, so don’t find yourself stuck while you wait for them to be posted back.
7) Nearly done. Now once you’ve signed up for courses you need to get your ‘learning agreement’ done. You need to fill it in, get it signed by the uni, it gets signed by someone else, then someone else. Its a hassle. Get started on it ASAP. You’ll find it on Mobility
To log in to your Mobility workflow, click here:
8) After your interview the hard part is over. Now all you have to do is make sure you’ve got the right insurance, make sure you have a place to live, and pack. I recommend you ask around, see if any of your friends or family can give you a contact in the US. They can give you advice on cool places to live, what halls look like, and show you around once you get there. People are nice, so use them to your advantage.
Other than that you should be fine. Awesome.
In terms of advice for flight companies – a lot of that’s personal choice. BUt if you’re looking for cheap I would recommend STA travel. They’re really helpful, they searched through loads of dates and tons of airlines to different airports and got me a really cheap deal, cheaper than I could find on my own anyway. You need to decide if you’re going to come back for christmas, because if you’re not your journey back date will most likely be too far in the future for you to book a return (and a return flight is cheaper than a single).
For this STA has a solution although other places might have a similar service. They have a travel card thing, costs about thirty quid, and it means you can change your flight dates up to three times with no admin fees etc. This could save you over a hundred and fifty pounds depending on the details. But yeah, enough about flights.
Hope this was useful.
And now to say something witty to sign off this post: