Carry proper documents to re-enter the United States.
Practical Training (F-1) or Academic Training (J-1)
Practical training and academic training are opportunities for
students to gain actual work experience in their field of study. See
your advisor in the International Students Office to learn more about
these opportunities both during and after the academic program.
Permission to Work
F-1 students may work on-campus and can apply to the INS to work
off-campus due to economic need. F-2 visa holders are not permitted to
work under any circumstances. J-1 students must obtain permission to
work on-campus or off-campus from their program sponsor. The program
sponsor is identified in #2 of the IAP-66. J-2 visa holders must
receive INS permission to work. F-1 and J-1 students cannot work more
than 20 hours per week while school is in session.
Transfer of Schools
F-1 students must notify the INS if they transfer schools or change
educational levels. The new school is responsible for assisting with
the transfer process. Those transferring to must give to the
International Students Office the Form I-20 issued and a letter
from the previous institution stating that they have been enrolled
full-time prior to coming to the University. Students with J-1 status
must obtain approval from the program sponsor to transfer schools.
International students, scholars, and their families ARE NOT ELIGIBLE
for any type of public assistance. Some examples of public assistance
are low-income/subsidized housing, food-stamps, Medicare/Medicaid,
W.I.C. program, subsidized utilities, etc. If you or any member of
your family accepts public assistance of any kind, you could be
jeopardizing you F-1 or J-1 status. Public assistance is intended for
U.S. citizens and some categories of immigrants with low or no income.
If you accept public assistance, you may be denied renewal of your
non-immigrant visa and/or be required to pay back any assistance you
received before your application for a new visa will be considered.
Bring questions on this issue to an Advisor at the International
Students Office and DO NOT rely upon advice from friends.
A Few Words of Advice
Requests for the International Students Office to prepare Form I-20
and Form IAP-66 must be made at least 5 working days in advance of
when they are needed. Therefore, plan accordingly! This condition may
change from campus to campus.
Bring your passport and all relevant immigration documents (I-20ID,
IAP-66, I-94) and financial documents when you come to the
International Students Office with immigration questions.
Always see your International Students Office advisor regarding any
question you may have concerning your immigration status. Do NOT
contact the INS directly unless instructed to do so by the Office of
International Programs .
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Money and Banking
Americans don’t usually carry a lot of cash. They prefer to pay by
check, even for small purchases, or by credit card. To function
efficiently in the U. S. economy, you will need to open a checking
account at a local bank. This section introduces you to a few of the
basic banking options available to you. When selecting a bank, you
should compare services and choose a bank whose offices are
conveniently located before making your decision. Most banks will ask
you for two pieces of identification, such as your passport and
Massachusetts State ID, when you open an account.
Types of Accounts
Banks offer different types of checking accounts designed to fit
individual needs. The cost of having a checking account varies from
bank to bank. Some banks charge per transaction, some have a basic
monthly fee, and others offer free services if you maintain a certain
minimum balance in your account at all times. Your cancelled checks
and a list of all the account activity of the preceding month will be
sent to you in a monthly statement. Be careful to keep an accurate
record of every check you write in order to avoid having checks
returned and incurring additional charges. “Bouncing” a
check (writing a check for more money than you actually have in the
account) can cause a major expense and a great deal of trouble.
Through some banks, you can apply for a line of credit attached to
your checking account that provides overdraft protection.
A savings account enables you to save money and accumulate interest on
your savings. Interest is paid either monthly or quarterly. Although
you can withdraw money from your saving account, this service is
limited. Ask your bank for the number of monthly withdrawals permitted
without penalty. The difference between a savings and a checking
account is that you receive higher interest in a saving account, and
fewer transactions take place since the purpose is to “save your
Interest Checking Accounts
Interest checking accounts provide the services of both a checking and
a savings account. This means that you can write checks and also
collect interest on the money in your account.
To cash a check after endorsing it (signing your name on the back),
you will most often be asked for 2 pieces of personal identification.
The primary piece of ID must be a driver’s license or a State of
Massachusetts ID card. The second piece of ID is usually a major
credit card. Some stores will cash a check for you if you shop there
regularly and have a proper ID. Supermarkets may allow you to pay by
check, with authorization from their credit department. After a credit
check, the supermarket will issue you a check cashing card.
Many banks issue cards that make deposit and withdrawal services
available 24 hours a day by use of an automated teller machine (ATM).
These machines, which are frequently located outside the bank, are
very convenient. You can avoid waiting in line at the bank and have
access to cash after the bank closes or in an emergency. Banks that
are members of a national ATM network allow you to access your funds
with your bank card at selected ATMs throughout the country. However,
there is often a service charge of approximately $1 when you do not
use your bank’s machine.
A note of caution
When withdrawing cash from an ATM after dark, be aware of your
surroundings to prevent an assault. Protect your bank card and your
secret access code as you do your cash and credit cards. Also, the
machines do not always work. Don’t panic! Call your bank if you have a
problem with an ATM.
Credit cards are convenient, especially if you unexpectedly have major
expenses. You can also pay medical fees, airplane tickets and car
repairs with any major credit card. But you must remember that credit
cards are seductive. Before you know it you may be in debt. Most banks
charge an annual fee of $20 to $40. If you are unable to pay your full
balance, you will be charged high interest rates (usually 18%) on the
remaining balance and any additional charges you make. Make sure you
stay within your budget when making credit card purchases.
If you deposit a check drawn on a foreign bank in your U. S. checking
account, it may have to go through a collection process. This means
that the money is not available to you until the U. S. bank has
collected it from the foreign bank. It may take several weeks before
the money is credited to your account. You may want to consider having
moneys wired to your account. This process takes less time and is very
In countries with restrictions on foreign exchange, you may need to
provide your sponsor or your family with a letter of certification of
enrollment in order to receive money from your home country.
The application forms for letters of certification are available from
the International Student Office. Please allow 5 working days for
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Health Care and Medical Insurance
In the United States, each individual, not the state, is responsible
for paying the costs of his or her own medical care. Except for
certain low income U. S. citizens and permanent residents, no
government assistance is available. The cost of medical care is the
fastest rising expense in the U. S. today. Since most Americans cannot
afford the high cost of medical care, they rely on insurance in
medical emergencies. For an international student or scholar, one
serious illness, injury, or catastrophic medical emergency can mean
financial ruin and the end of his or her academic career. Medical
insurance is an absolute necessity in the United States. Therefore,
many campuses requires all international students and scholars
to have health insurance. This requirement is waived only if you are
covered by another health insurance plan that offers comparable or
better coverage. You may sign on for the India Network Group Health
Plan for Parents (see the web page at http://health.indnet.org).
Whatever health insurance you elect, make sure you understand the
company’s policy regarding how they make payments. Call your insurance
representative to ask about your insurance coverage and claim filing
Low Cost International Medical Insurance
For low cost medical insurance, contact India Network Foundation,
a non-profit in the USA that sponsors low cost insurance plan for
International students, Scholars, and their dependents and is valid wordwide.
Visiting Scholars and their Families
Visiting scholars and their families are not eligible for
“Student Health Insurance”. If you are a visiting scholar
whose salary is paid by the University, you may be eligible for
limited health insurance coverage through the faculty/staff group
insurance plan. Visiting scholars who are employed by the University
are sometimes eligible to purchase one of the faculty/staff health
When making an appointment to see any physician, you may ask what the
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costs will be. Physician’s fees vary and it is important for you to
know ahead of time how much money to budget for the physician’s visit.
Health insurance rarely covers 100% of your medical expenses and some
physicians insist on payment at the time of your visit. Check with
your international student advisor pertaining to dental coverage.
Customs and Culture
When moving to a new community, particularly in a different culture,
it is common to experience what is known as “Culture Shock.”
Culture shock may be defined as the feelings you experience when you
are taken out of a familiar environment and thrown into a completely
new and different one. It is quite normal for a visitor, anywhere, to
feel depressed and isolated once the initial excitement of arrival has
worn off. You may feel frustrated and confused with foreign ways and
idioms. But hopefully, understanding why Americans behave the way they
do may help you understand your own feelings. Some helpful ways to
cope with culture shock are:
- Get plenty of rest to deal with the stress and jet lag that you
- Take time to think and/or talk through your own feelings.
- Make an effort to be optimistic, but not to the point of
avoiding negatives that should be expressed.
- Make your new home environment as comfortable as possible.
- Make friends as quickly as possible. If there are others of your
nationality on campus, get acquainted. It will give you a support
- Keep a diary or journal. This is a helpful way to vent some of
the frustrations you might be too embarrassed to speak about. It
may also be an interesting record of the changes that occur over
- Try not to compare your surroundings to your home area. Things
- Enjoy and explore those differences.
- Keep an open mind and a sense of humor.
These suggestions should help you feel more comfortable in your new
surroundings. The rest of this section will let you know what to
expect in some areas of American culture.
In the U.S., “Hi, how are you?”, “Hello, how are
you?”, or when introduced for the first time, “I’m pleased
to meet you,” are the most common forms of greeting. “So
long”, “See you soon”, “See you later”,
“We should get together sometime”, are also common
expressions used for saying, “Good-bye”. An expression such
as, “Hello, how are you?” does not require a lengthy answer
beyond, “Fine, thank you.” Likewise, “See you
soon” or “Later” do not imply any definite promise
about getting in contact with you in the next few hours or days. They
are simply forms of saying “Good-bye.”
The American dream is equality for all. Unfortunately this dream has
not yet been completely achieved. Americans expect that all people
respect an individual regardless of occupation, handicap, sex, race,
religion, or sexual orientation. All individuals you meet will expect
the same consideration and courtesy.
Both men and women in the United States have an active part in
community life. Many women have full-time careers outside the home and
in many cases both parents take care of small children and share with
home chores. Women who hold positions in the work world expect the
same professional respect as do their male counterparts.
Names and Titles
First names are used in the U.S. more frequently than elsewhere.
People may call each other by their first names immediately after they
have met if they are about the same age and status. The Americans’
ready use of first names may make it appear to you that they are
oblivious to differences in age and status. They are not. There are
subtle differences in vocabulary and manner, depending on the
relationship between the people involved. For example, an American is
less likely to use slang when speaking to a person who is older, whose
social standing is higher, or whom she/he does not know very well.
If you meet a person who has a title such as “Doctor,”
“Ambassador” or “Dean,” use that title and the
last (family) name. Any faculty member can be addressed as
“Professor” whether she/he holds the rank of assistant
professor, associate professor, or full professor. Again, people might
ask you to address them by their first names, and you should abide by
Americans do not use a title followed by a first name. For example,
you would not address Elizabeth Taylor as Miss Elizabeth but as Miss
Taylor, or, if she asked you to, as Elizabeth. Occasionally, married
women use their maiden name (family name at birth) instead of their
husband’s name. Or they may use both their maiden name and their
husband’s family name. For example, Jane Smith may be married to Sam
Jones. However, her name may now be Jane Smith, Jane Jones, Jane
Jones-Smith, or Jane Smith-Jones. The chosen form is consistently
The use of “nicknames” is fairly common among Americans. A
nickname is not the person’s real name, but a name assigned to him/her
because of certain physical characteristics, behavior patterns, or
some other factor. International students often get nicknames if their
own names seem long and unpronounceable to Americans. For example, a
student whose name is Nakagawa might come to be known as Naka. Being
called by a nickname is not usually uncomplimentary. On the contrary,
it may indicate that you are viewed with respect and even affection.
If you are in doubt about what to call a person, ask him/her,
“What shall I call you?” Americans will sometimes be
confused about what to call you. If you see that a person does not
know what to call you, tell him or say, “You may call me
Americans put a great deal of emphasis on personal cleanliness. The
standards of personal cleanliness that an individual maintains
determine, to a large degree, the extent to which she/he is accepted
into society. Most Americans are very sensitive to the smells and
odors of the human body — sometimes their own, but especially
someone else’s. For this reason, most Americans bathe once a day and
sometimes more during hot weather or after strenuous exercise. They
use deodorant or an antiperspirant, and they wash their clothes
frequently. Americans are also very concerned about having clean hair
and fresh breath.
A decreasing number of Americans smoke. Because many Americans dislike
being exposed to the cigarette smoke of others, you should not assume
that it acceptable to smoke indoors. This is especially true of
American homes. You should always ask if it is okay that you smoke
before you begin whenever you are indoors in the presence of others.
Many public buildings, including restaurants, are designated as
“smoke free” environment. This applies to buildings on
campus. Therefore you should look for signs which indicate that it is
designated smoking area before you begin smoking.
Because gestures and unspoken signals have become so automatic, we
often forget how they may mean different things in different cultures.
To avoid misunderstandings, be sure to keep in mind that the unspoken
gesture you exchange with people from other cultures may not say what
you think it does. If words and gestures seem to disagree, it might be
safer to believe the words.
Shaking hands is common in business and in more formal social
gatherings (banquets, and special parties) among both men and women.
In more casual social encounters, however, men tend to shake hands
with each other more often than women shake hands with women. (In a
situation where the other person is quite distinguished or is several
years older, she/he usually initiates the handshake.) Handshakes are
usually accompanied with “How do you do” or “Nice to
meet you” or “Nice to see you again.” Usually (except
in business) people do not shake hands in subsequent meetings.
Aside from hand-shaking, even same-sex physical contact is generally
infrequent in American culture. Under certain circumstances physical
contact is appropriate. The best way to learn about customs regarding
physical contact is to observe Americans as they interact with others.
While talking with someone, how close you stand to the other person is
determined by the degree of familiarity in your relationship. Most
Americans like to keep a little private distance between each other
when walking side by side, while standing in elevators or anywhere
else. But when some contact is unavoidable, a person will say,
“Excuse me,” thereby indicating she/he is sorry for having
violated someone else’s personal space. And while Americans generally
like to make eye contact in conversing with one another, they do stand
two to three feet apart while doing so. A closer distance will make
them feel crowded and uncomfortable unless they are very familiar with
the person. For example, it is acceptable to stand close to a friend
while talking, but it would not be appropriate to stand very close to
a professor or school official.
Generally, you will find that the atmosphere in a U.S. university is
more relaxed than it is in other countries. However, while Americans
tend to be informal, they do place great emphasis on their personal
privacy. Because a professor, or a university official, is accessible
and friendly with students this does not necessarily mean you can call
on him/her at the office or at home without first making an
Friendship and Dating
Americans are generally considered open and warm people who make new
acquaintances easily. Because they are very mobile and place great
emphasis on the qualities of individuality, independence, and personal
privacy, Americans often have many casual and informal relationships
and few lasting friendships. However, in spite of this, many Americans
are quite capable and more than willing to take the extra step needed
to establish an enduring friendship.
American women have more personal freedom than women from some other
countries and are not usually shy with Americans or foreigners. It is
not unusual for unmarried women in the U.S. to live by themselves,
share living quarters with other unmarried women, or go to public
places without a male companion.
The rules for dating Americans are flexible. Generally the initiative
comes from the man, but this is not always the case. If you want to
get to know someone, it is often wise to ask the person to join you
for coffee or a soda or to get together to study. Such short events
may prove to be the beginning of a strong and durable friendship. On
weekends, a man may ask a woman for an evening date, invite her to
dinner, a concert, or a movie. It is no longer automatically assumed
that the man will pay for expenses on the date. It is especially
common on a university campus for the two people to share the
Remember that two or three dates by no means indicates that a lasting
relationship is developing.
While , we hope that you will meet and spend time with American
families. These hints will make you a little more comfortable when you
are invited out.
Your prospective hosts will either phone you, speak to you in person,
or send you a written invitation. The invitation is usually for you
only unless your hosts specifically invite your family or friends.
Bringing a guest of your own without asking your hosts’ permission
ahead of time is considered impolite.
The written invitation will include the date, time, place, and
description of the occasion. You should always answer a written
invitation, especially if it says R.S.V.P. (repondez, s’il vous
plait). You may respond by telephone or by letter. This helps the
hosts with their preparations if you do so promptly.
Never accept an invitation unless you plan to go. If you are going to
refuse an invitation, it is enough to say “Thank you for the
invitation, but I will not be able to come.” If an unavoidable
problem makes it necessary for you to change plans, be certain to tell
the host as soon as possible before the time when you are expected.
When accepting an invitation make certain that you ask for directions
to the event.
When accepting an invitation for a meal, be sure to explain to your
host if there is any food you do not eat. This courtesy will help the
host plan food and drink for everyone to enjoy together. If you must
refuse something after it is prepared, refuse politely. Never hesitate
to ask for any food on the dinner table (“Would you please pass
me the vegetables?”) since a request for more food is considered
a compliment to the hostess.
Tap water is safe to drink and usually used by Americans as their
normal drinking water. At Holiday and elaborate meals you may be given
ice water in addition to another beverage. Americans generally do not
drink alcoholic beverages with their meals. However, wines are
frequently served at meals when guests are present. If you are offered
an alcoholic beverage it is acceptable either to drink them in
moderation or to decline. In most of the U.S. it is illegal for anyone
under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. Those who are under 21 and drink
alcoholic beverages, even at parties in private homes, risk being
Being on time is very important in American society. Schools and
classes, plays, concerts, public meetings, weddings, and formal
dinners begin as scheduled. It is considered impolite to be even a few
minutes late. Family dinners are a little more flexible and informal,
but you should still be on time. You may attend a cocktail party or
reception at any time between the stated hours.
Dining with a friend or family can either be formal or informal.
Formality is an honor, but the informality gives you a chance to get
to know your hosts and for them to get to know you. You should ask the
host what to wear if the invitation does not give you an idea. Your
national dress is always appropriate.
It is not necessary to bring a gift for any member of the family or
even for the host or hostess, unless it is a special occasion (such as
his/her birthday or an important holiday like Christmas). Although
Americans do not usually expect gifts from their guests, it is often a
courtesy to do so. If you have visited several times, you may wish to
bring a small token of appreciation for the hosts. Always bring a
small gift when you are invited as house guest for an extended visit.
While edible gifts are usually appropriate, because of food allergies,
medical problems, religious reasons, or personal preferences; gifts
other than food or drink may by more appreciated by your host.
As a rule, gifts are given to relatives and close friends. They are
sometimes given to people with whom one has a casual but friendly
relationship, such as a host or hostess, but it is not necessary or
even common for gifts to be given to such people. Gifts are not
usually given to teachers or others who hold official positions. The
offering of gifts in these situations is sometimes interpreted as a
possibly improper effort to gain favorable treatment from that person.
Christmas (December 25) is a gift-giving day, and it is when most
Americans give gifts. Gifts are also given on occasions which are
special to the recipient — birthdays, graduation from high school or
college, weddings, and childbirths. Gifts are sometimes given when
someone has a new house or is moving away.
Generally, an effort is made to select a gift which the giver knows or
supposes is one the recipient needs, wants, or would enjoy. The amount
spent on the gift is something the giver can afford. Generally, it is
not expected that people on limited incomes will spend a large amount
of money on a gift. Expensive gifts are to be expected only when the
people involved have a very close relationship with each other.
If a gift is opened in the presence of the giver (as is often done), a
verbal expression of thanks is appropriate. If a gift is opened in the
absence of a giver, a thank-you note should be sent. The note should
make specific mention of the particular gift that has been sent.
Service charges, or “tips” (meaning “to insure proper
service”) are most often not added to the bill in American
hotels, restaurants, and barber shops/beauty parlors, but are often
expected and needed by the employees. In restaurants tip the
waiter/waitress about 15% of the check. In a hotel, the bellboy who
takes you to your room receives at least $1.00 for his service. The
person who cuts your hair may or may not accept tips, however, an
average tip would be $1.00. The amount of a tip depends on you and if
you feel that you have received good service.
Accomplishment and progress are measured by the way time is spent. For
this reason, punctuality is considered essential in conducting every
day activities. One is expected to arrive at the stated time for an
appointment with a professor, doctor, or other professional. On social
occasions, however, such as parties, dinners and the like, more
flexibility is tolerated.
Families: Generally it is considered polite to phone someone after 9
am and before 9 pm and either before or after the dinner hour (5:30 pm
– 7:30 pm). If you plan to visit an American home, a phone call prior
to going would be appreciated by the people you are visiting.
Business Hours: Most businesses and stores are open Monday through
Friday, with many stores and restaurants open on Saturdays and
Sundays. Very few stores are open after 9 pm except for supermarkets,
drug stores, and convenience stores.
Appointments: It is always wise to call professional offices to make
appointments to ensure being able to see someone. Again, promptness is
expected in business and professional appointments.