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International Students FAQ

Preparation for Arrival

Arrival and Orientation

Other Issues and Concerns

Preparation for Arrival

When will I receive my Vassar email address and password?

Your Vassar email address and password, along with required matriculation forms, will be sent to you in mid-May by the Office of Admissions. =You will need these login credentials to fill out your housing and V-card applications as well as various other forms.

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Is there an office dedicated to the needs of the international students?

Yes! Vassar’s Office of International Services (OIS) provides year-round assistance to all international students and scholars, including help with the visa/immigration process, workshops on summer and post-completion employment, and programming designed to help students adjust to life in the United States. OIS also schedules all sorts of fun events throughout the year to get international students involved in the community and to encourage international students from all years to communicate and share their experiences. We will do our best to make you feel at home at Vassar, and we promote cultural events and support the practice of international traditions.

Beyond the staff of the office, several wonderful student interns – who are international students themselves – are available (now and during the academic year) to answer any questions you may have.

Andrew Meade, Director of International Services: AnMeade@Vassar.edu
Robyn Cox, OIS Post Bac Fellow: shcox@vassar.edu
The OIS interns: InternationalServices@Vassar.edu

Vassar College Box 594
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
Phone: 1-845-437-5831
Fax: 1-845-437-7298

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Is there a way to communicate with current international students at Vassar?

Yes! You can join the VISA (Vassar International Students Association) Facebook group or email us. During the summer, VISA will send a Facebook group invitation to the email on file with the Office of Admission, so please make sure you check it! Also, it is highly advisable to start checking your Vassar email before you come to campus, since a lot of important information is emailed to this address. (You will receive login instructions early in the summer.) The individual student groups will also be contacting new incoming students from their respective regions.

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Should I have a departure checklist?

Yes! We know you’ve got a lot to keep track of. Download and print out this departure checklist so that you don’t forget anything!

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What can I bring to outfit my room?

Your room will come equipped with basic furniture: bed frame and mattress, desk and chair, and a chest of drawers. You will need to outfit your room with your own personal items. The Residential Life Office maintains a helpful list of what to bring. At a minimum, plan on packing or purchasing upon arrival the following essentials (there will be several opportunities during arrival weekend to purchase these items):

  • Sheets, blanket, and pillow.
  • Clothes for both warm and cold temperatures. Vassar students typically dress casually.
  • Cosmetics and personal care items: most of the things you need can be purchased in the U.S., but be sure to have everything you’ll need for the first few days.
  • Electric appliances (hair dryers, electric razors, desk lamps, stereo, etc.) may need an adapter to work in the U.S. (The electrical current in the U.S. is 110-115 volts, 60 cycles AC. Many small electrical appliances will operate on the lower voltage, so all you may need is an adapter to connect it to U.S. outlets.) However, it may be more practical to buy them in the U.S., as the adapters may be expensive and you may have limited space in your luggage.
  • Books and Music – if English is not your first language, consider bringing some books in your native language. It will be difficult to find them here, and you’ll miss the language. Also, music from home is a necessity.
  • Photos and items to remind you of home will help make your room a comfortable personal space.
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Can I ship my belongings?

During the summer you will receive your Vassar College post office box number. If you plan to ship any of your personal belongings to Vassar in the weeks prior to your arrival, use the following address:

Your Name
Vassar College Box Number ___
124 Raymond Ave
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604

If the parcel is sent via the regular mail service, it will be held at the campus post office. We suggest you write “HOLD” on the parcel.
If you use a courier service (DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc.), your package will be held at the Receiving department for you to pick up on arrival.

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What do I need to do if I am applying for an F-1 Visa (four-year students)?

Once we have received your signed Candidate’s Reply Card, enrollment deposit, and I-20 Request Form, Vassar will forward your I-20 Request Form Form. We are committed to mailing out your I-20 by the end of May, provided we have received your I-20 Request Form and any supporting documentation.

In addition to your I-20 Form, you will need to pay a $200 SEVIS fee. This fee is required by the US with all new visa applications. Vassar will pay this fee up front as a convenience so that we may supply you with the payment voucher at the same time as your I-20. You will need both your I-20 and this voucher to apply for a visa. The SEVIS fee will be added to your Tuition Bill. If you are receiving need-based financial aid, Vassar will cover this fee.

To enter the U.S. as a non-immigrant student, students applying for an F-1 student visa must have the “Certificate of Eligibility,” or Form I-20. Once you receive the form, you will take the I-20, the SEVIS fee voucher, your passport and supporting documentation to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request the F-1 visa. Students will generally receive their I-20s and fee vouchers from Vassar by early June, so you will not want to schedule a visa interview at the embassy prior to that time. Note: Canadian students are not required to schedule a visa interview.

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What do I need to do if I am applying for a J-1 Visa (exchange students)?

To enter the U.S. as a non-immigrant student, students applying for a J-1 student visa must have the “Certificate of Eligibility” for J-1 students, Form DS2019. Exchange students will be mailed Form DS2019 and a payment voucher for the $180 SEVIS fee, which Vassar is pleased to pay on your behalf.

You will take the DS2019, the SEVIS fee voucher, your passport and supporting documentation to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request the J-1 visa. Students will usually receive their DS2019s and fee vouchers from Vassar by early June, so you will not want to schedule a visa interview at the embassy prior to that time.

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Where can I find out more about the visa application and interview process?

For more advice on the visa application and interview process, consult the education USA website.

10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

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What is SEVIS?

As of January 30, 2003, Vassar and all other U.S. colleges and universities were required to enter all F-1 and J-1 students into the SEVIS database. SEVIS, or Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is an internet-based system that requires schools and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to exchange data on the immigration and academic status of international students and their dependents. Every F and J visa holder has information entered into SEVIS to track their arrival, enrollment and departure. Information pertaining to F-1 or J-1 students or dependents is available to U.S. embassies and consulates as well as to the USCIS. Upon your arrival to Vassar, you will receive more information regarding SEVIS and the procedures you will need to follow.

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Do I need to fill out any forms on the plane?

Your status as a citizen or non-citizen determines which forms you will have to fill out on the plane. If you are coming into the country as an American citizen, permanent resident or green card holder, you may not be required to complete any forms.

If you are a non-citizen, you will need to fill out the I-94 form (the white one). You will be able to access this form after leaving the airport.

You will need to know your Vassar address to complete these immigration forms.

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What happens when I go through immigration?

It is very important that you have ALL the required documents when going through Immigration, especially the ones that certify you are an international student (I-20 or DS2019, and your SEVIS receipt). Please remember not to pack these forms in your luggage, but rather to take them with you to your seat on the plane.

Upon arrival, you will have a short interview with a customs officer, who will check your documents, take your fingerprints and a photo of you, and ask you several questions regarding your reason for coming to the U.S., Vassar and maybe even the major you will be studying. Do not be afraid to say you have not yet decided your field of study. This is the normal and standard procedure, so do not be concerned or worried about the depth of the questions you will be asked.

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Arrival and Orientation

What is International Student Orientation? When should I arrive?

All international students should plan to arrive at Vassar on Thursday, August 17, 2017. Our three-day International Student Orientation will begin on Friday, August 18, and general New Student Orientation starts up on Monday, August 21. We strongly encourage all international and overseas students to attend International Student Orientation, as we believe it will greatly facilitate your initial adjustment to Vassar and provide an opportunity to build long-lasting relationships. We welcome parents and other family members and we have special activities prepared for them, including a private Q&A session with administrators and students where we can address their concerns.

You will be able to move into your own room on Thursday, August 17. (See the section on “Arrival Information” for information on transportation to the Vassar campus.) In addition, during the Orientation week you will have the opportunity to meet the Office of International Services interns and other international upperclassmen.

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Will there be an opportunity to shop for essential items during orientation?

Yes! There are several options. You will have the opportunity through Residence Hall Linens, to purchase bedding materials and other items in advance of your trip. In addition, we will provide shuttles to a nearby shopping center during the weekend of your arrival. Do not feel the need to bring everything for your room from home, as we will make sure you have the time and the opportunity to go shopping here. Buses run daily during the academic year to locations such as the local mall. More info.

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What is the International Host Program?

Members of the Vassar faculty and staff and members of the local community volunteer to be “hosts” for new internationals. The program opens with a special reception a few days into the term, to which hosts and students are invited. The program is very informal and unstructured from that point on. It is not a homestay program, thought it is not uncommon to be invited for a home-cooked meal with the family of the host. More information about this program, including the opportunity to sign up, will be forthcoming this summer.

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Booking return flights: Is it possible for international students to stay on campus during breaks?

Yes, all students can apply for summer/intersession housing and stay on campus for the longer breaks. For more information, see Summer Housing on the Residential Life website.

Intersession housing is usually given in the dorms that have kitchens in them as the All Campus Dining Center is not open during breaks. The Retreat is usually open until 3pm on weekdays of breaks, but students might find it more convenient to cook for themselves at their own leisure. There is a small fee charged to your account for the intersession housing.

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Do you have any advice for the long flight?

Many of you will be traveling great distances, some of you for the first time! Here are suggestions for the flight:

  • Set your watch for Poughkeepsie, NY, time as soon as you board, to allow you to start mentally preparing for your new time zone.
  • Dress for maximum comfort and remember that the air conditioning on airplanes can make the air cooler than you might expect. A sweatshirt or the like is recommended for this reason, and it is a good idea to dress in layers that you can easily add or take away.
  • Accessories like earplugs, an eye-mask, an inflatable pillow, and herbal tea can help you rest, especially on longer flights.
  • Aircraft cabins are notoriously dry, so plan on drinking lots of water and juice. It is wise to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other dehydrating liquids. Dehydration is a real concern, especially on longer flights, and is typically characterized by headaches and nausea. You will need to drink a lot more water than usual in order to stay hydrated.
  • It can also be helpful to load up on snacks in case the time between meals is longer than you’d like.
  • Finally, you may want to nap on the ride to Vassar or when you first arrive at the school. Remember that it is best to eat and sleep at “normal” times in order to get over jetlag as soon as possible.
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Does Vassar offer a shuttle service?

Yes. The Office of International Services operates free shuttle vans for international students from JFK Airport. See the section on “Arrival Information” for details about the shuttle and directions to Vassar from other New York metro airports.

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Are there directions available to Vassar from the three major New York airports?

Students who elect to use public transportation should follow the directions in the "Arrival Information" section. Be prepared to spend up to two hours from your flight arrival time in New York waiting to be cleared through U.S. Immigration and Customs.
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Telephones: phoning home and cell phones

One of the first things many of you will want to do after you have arrived is to call home to let your family know you are safely here. The best way to make an international call, unless you have a cell phone that works in the U.S., is to use a telephone card.

Instructions are generally printed on the back of the telephone card. You will typically dial a toll-free number, (the initial call is free of charge from any pay phone). You will be asked to enter the PIN number on the back of the card, and then you will be asked to dial the number.

  • To make a call in the United States, dial 1+area code+number. (For example, the number you will call to let us at Vassar know you have arrived is 1-845-235-9967).
  • To make a call to a place outside the United States, dial 011+country code+area code+number. It’s obviously a good idea to write down these complete numbers before you leave home.
  • There are also online phone cards you can use to call home. To purchase one, go to EnjoyPrepaid.com.

There will be some computers available with Skype installed, so that you can contact home shortly after arrival on campus. You may choose to create a Skype account before arrival.

If you wish to purchase a cell phone for long-term use, there are several options available. You can buy a pre-paid phone from one of the major retailers in Poughkeepsie for around $15 and then continue charging your account. If you want to become part of a plan, then you should be prepared to pay a fee of around $400 to the company as a guarantee, in lieu of either a Social Security Number and/or credit history in the U.S. Usually this sum is refunded at the end of a one-year contract. Some international students get organized and purchase a family plan together. Do not worry if this sounds confusing. We will cover cell phones during International Student Orientation!

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How should I handle money and banking?

You should plan to have at least $200 in foreign currency which can be exchanged immediately at any of the airports in the New York area or at most large banks. This money will cover initial expenses such as taxi or bus fares, meals, etc. Be sure that you do not carry large sums of cash with you!

You will want to open a bank account shortly after arrival. When opening a bank account, keep in mind that foreign checks may require 4 to 6 weeks before funds become available. Traveler’s checks are the best way to make initial deposits. Two pieces of identification are generally required to open an account: usually your passport or driver’s license, and your Vassar ID card (which you will receive at orientation). You may want to make arrangements to transfer funds to a bank in Poughkeepsie prior to your departure. You may wire money from your bank at home directly to a bank in the U.S. Transfers take up to 48 hours, and the fees vary from $10 to $30.

The Bank of American has a branch within walking distance of the Vassar campus.  At Bank of America there is no fee for the first 6 months (5 years if parents have an account), then a $3.95 monthly fee unless you set up direct deposit. Bank of America requires a minimum of $25 to open an account, but requires no minimum balance thereafter. 

Bank of America is located at 11 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603. The local branch phone number is 1-845-452-2041.

During check-in, a representative from the bank will be able to assist you in opening an account right on the spot!

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Is there an International Student Organization?

Yes. There is a student-run organization for all international students called VISA, and numerous student-run organizations for particular groups of students, such as the African Students Union (ASU), Asian Students’ Alliance (ASA), Caribbean Students Association (CSA), Poder Latino, the Chinese Student Community (CSC), the South Asian Students Alliance (SASA), and the Southeast Asian Student Alliance (SEASA). There are also several other organizations with an international focus, such as the Vassar Haiti Project, LINK (Liberty in North Korea), ProHealth, and UNICEF. For more information, visit vsa.vassar.edu.

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Other Issues and Concerns

Are there cultural differences to expect?

Depending on the culture you are coming from, you can expect many differences in the U.S. and at Vassar. International Orientation will help familiarize you with some of those differences.

The Vassar campus is very informal in terms of dress and relationships. The social environment at Vassar is an open one. You will encounter students espousing many different viewpoints on religion, politics, personal conduct, and interpersonal relations. While students are certainly not expected to agree with everyone else’s point of view, you will need to be prepared for an environment that is very tolerant of diversity. Respecting such differences is a foundation for the Vassar community. Another difference you can expect is the severe restrictions on smoking in buildings and public spaces in the U.S.

Academically, you will also encounter a good deal of informality in relationships between students and faculty. It is common for faculty to be on a first-name basis with their students and for friendships to develop outside of the classroom. Moreover, the classes at Vassar will each involve a heavy discussion component, and a willingness to participate in class is essential.

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How many international students are at Vassar?

International students at Vassar include non-citizens and U.S. citizens alike who have lived in or are from different nations. About 10% of Vassar students hold non-U.S. citizenship. The largest representation of our international students come from: Canada, China/Hong Kong, Georgia, Greece, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

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How do I get a campus job and a Social Security Number?

Regulations are strict with respect to working for students on a visa. Vassar policy allows for part-time, on-campus employment of 8 - 10 hours a week during the academic year. Prior to working on campus, you will need to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). The Office of International Services will arrange an opportunity to obtain your SSN about two or three weeks after you arrive on campus. Since there may be a delay in the issuing of the SSN, the Financial Aid Office will issue you a voucher that can be redeemed for cash to cover your initial weeks’ earnings. (Don’t worry: this is one of the topics we will cover during the orientation.)

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What about immunization requirements/health insurance?

New York State law requires all Vassar students to present documentation of measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) vaccination or evidence of immunity by titre (a blood report demonstrating sufficient antibody concentration). If you have not submitted a completed Health Form with physical examination before the semester begins, it is likely that you will not be able to register for classes. (This form was mailed to you and is also available to download from this website.) If you do not have all required immunizations before you arrive, you will be required to obtain them in the U.S. at your own expense, before registration. Certain immunizations are available at the Vassar College Health Service at a reasonable cost. All students are required to have adequate health insurance, and Vassar has a special group plan for students at a low cost. The insurance plan covers most medical needs, but does not cover basic eye care, dental care expenses, or immunizations. Vassar College Health Service is available to answer any of your specific questions at: telephone # 1-845-437-5801; fax # 1-845-437-7135; email: health@vassar.edu. View the Health Service FAQs here.

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How well known is Vassar?

Vassar is consistently ranked among the top one percent of colleges and universities in the United States and has been a frontrunner in higher education for over a century and a half. Numerous external ratings have confirmed Vassar’s status as one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States. For example, the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings list Vassar as one of the top 10 colleges in the United States; the Wall Street Journal named Vassar “one of the new Ivies”; and the Princeton Review rankings recently called Vassar’s students the happiest in the country and our campus one of the two most beautiful.

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Will Vassar award credit for my advanced program of study?

Students who earn scores of 5, 6, or 7 on Higher-Level International Baccalaureate exams are awarded credit. In the same manner, Vassar grants credit for high scores on certain foreign advanced programs of study such as the GCE/Cambridge A-levels, CAPE exams, the German Abitur, the French Baccalaureate, etc. Vassar also accepts AP credits for scores of 4 or 5 on the AP exams.

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How is the weather?

Poughkeepsie weather is much like the temperate climate of New York City. Average temperature in the winter months is about 30°F (-1°C), and about 75°F (24°C) during the summer months. The most common lows in winter are around 20°F (-7°C), while the highest temperatures in the summer are around 90°F (32°C). We are not located in a “snow-belt” however, snowfall is expected during the winter. We do experience all four seasons, so you need to be prepared for both warm and cold temperatures.
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Do you have any unanswered questions?

Ask away! We are at your service through the spring and over the summer:

Andrew Meade, PHD
Director of International Services
AnMeade@Vassar.edu

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