Living in the U.S.

Banking

One of the first things that you will need to do upon arrival to the United States is open a bank account. There are many banks within walking distance of most UConn campuses.

Types of Accounts

Banks offer checking accounts and savings accounts. You will need to open a checking account to pay for your day to day expenses and bills. The checking account is usually free for students to open, and may or may not require you to keep a minimum dollar balance in the account. If you are a student, ask if they offer a student checking account. Scholars can open standard checking accounts.

Money can be withdrawn from your checking account several ways:

  • By visiting the bank and withdrawing cash from your account
  • By debit card, which is like a credit card that will link to your checking account and can be used to make purchases at stores or withdraw cash from ATMs.
  • Or by writing a check out to the person or business you are paying. If you live off-campus, you may need to write a check to pay your rent. If you need to mail a payment, never send cash, instead use a check. If you need help to write a check, ISSS staff can assist you.

Savings accounts are interest bearing. You might require a Social Security Number (SSN) to open a savings account. Ask your bank.

What to Bring to Open Your Account

  • Identity and immigration documents (passport, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 print out)
  • UConn Student ID card and admission letter (if you have one)
  • Social Security or ITIN number (if you have one)
  • Money to deposit

Students from some countries may have to wait a few days before your bank account can be finalized. Do not panic if this happens to you, but be sure that you have a way to access money in the meantime. After your bank account is set up, you should talk with your bank about the best way to transfer money from your home country, to the United States.

Direct Deposit

Students with Employment and Graduate Assistants: You will be asked to set up a Direct Deposit account with UConn payroll that will allow your paycheck to be electronically distributed to your bank account for withdrawal.

Living on Campus

All first year undergraduates attending Bachelor’s programs at the UConn Storrs campus are required to live on campus. The Office of Residential Life is a resource for all international students about living on campus. On campus housing is also available to non-degree, exchange and graduate students (though graduate student housing may be limited). UConn Stamford also offers on-campus housing in the city, close to campus.

For many students, living on-campus is the first time they will live in close quarters with another person. The relationship you form with your roommate can be very rewarding, but also very challenging. Learn more tips about living with your roommate and social relationships through our U.S. Culture and Environment resources.

It is important to have realistic expectations about living on campus! The UConn Office of Residential Life website features videos with current UConn students showing you what it is like to live in their dorm or on-campus apartment. There are many different types of residential living arrangements available (traditional housing, suites, apartments), but they vary in cost, and some living arrangements may not be available to first year students. Traditional housing consists of a shared or single room in a hall, where residents share bathrooms and other common areas. In a suite, a bathroom may be shared among only a few bedrooms. Graduate student on campus housing is limited to Northwood Apartments. After you learn your housing assignment, you can visit the Office of Residential Life webpage to view a virtual tour of your residence.

Students who live on campus are only able to apply for a parking permit after they have earned 54 or more credits. This means first year students generally cannot keep a car on campus. Please plan for this, and do not purchase a car until you meet the parking eligibility requirements.

When you are completing your housing application, it is important to be aware of some of the terminology. Some halls are mixed gender (co-ed) and some halls or floors may be specific to one gender, or gender inclusive (which refers to a floor or community that allows for students of any gender to live together regardless of assigned sex). When your application or housing contract refers to guests, that may also include romantic partners. Housing assignments are made based on an assessment of the lifestyle preferences of applicants, so be sure to answer the application questions honestly. 

UConn also offers students the chance to live in Learning Communities, where residents share a common academic or personal interest. Learning communities are a great way to meet other students from the United States, because you already share a common interest through your learning community. If you apply for or are assigned to live in a Learning Community, it is important that you participate in the activities and academic components of that community. Residents must be engaged with the community to be successful.

Do you have questions? Visit the Office of New Student Storrs FAQ page answers to frequently asked questions about living on campus and the housing application process.

Shopping

In the U.S., different types of stores cater to different products and price points. Online shopping is increasingly common for purchasing clothing, books, personal care, and even groceries.

UConn Bookstores: In addition to books and textbooks, the UConn Bookstore at the Storrs campus sells many of the items that you would need to settle in to life at UConn, such as bedding, electronics and other room supplies. You can order online and pick up in store (Storrs campus).  

Pharmacies: Personal care items as well as medicines can be purchased from pharmacy stores such as CVS and Walgreens. These items can also be purchased from larger grocery stores and department stores.

Second hand stores: Second-hand stores are a great place to find inexpensive, used clothing, furniture, books and appliances. These are sometimes called “thrift stores”. Larger second hand store franchises include the Salvation Army, Goodwill and Savers stores. There are also smaller second hand stores and consignment stores around all UConn campuses. In the spring and summer months, many homes host yard sales or tag sales on the weekend, where they sell their unwanted items for low costs.

Department stores: Students can visit large department stores for most household items, clothing, food and other supplies. Large area stores include Walmart and Target. Storrs campus students can take the WRTD bus (one transfer) to the Walmart in Windham.   

Malls: Shopping malls in the U.S. can be small or large. Most UConn campuses have a shopping mall accessible by public transportation from their town or campus. Storrs and downtown Hartford students can take the 913 CT Transit bus to the Buckland Hills Shopping Mall in Manchester. Storrs students can also take the WRTD bus to the local Eastbrook Mall.

Furniture Rental: In addition to online, second hand, department and specialty store options, students may choose to rent furniture through a furniture rental service.

Specialty stores/small businesses: Most towns offer many small businesses and specialty shops offering a variety of goods. We encourage students to explore what is offered in their neighborhood!

Communications and Mail

Cell Phones: There are numerous cell phone service providers in the area. Phones can either be purchased on a contractual basis (most common) but for short-term stays, you may want to purchase a pay as you go service. Most cell phone providers can help you with both plans.

International students and scholars who do not have a Social Security Number and wish to purchase a contract phone service may need to pay a high security deposit. This is because the cell phone contract provider cannot check your financial history without the SSN, so they are taking a risk by giving you a cell phone contract.

Mail: Most mail is sent and delivered through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). If you live off-campus, mail is delivered daily, except for Sundays and legal holidays. At Storrs campus, mail is delivered Monday - Friday. See Student Mail Services for further information about on-campus mail.  

Packages: Packages can be sent through U.S. Postal Service, or also through private providers such as UPS, Fed Ex and DHL. Off campus packages are typically delivered to your door, or if you live in an apartment complex there may be a mail room where you pick up packages. On campus packages are delivered to dorms through the Student Mail Services.

Cultural Adjustment

The process of adjusting to a new culture can be so difficult, that it is sometimes described as culture shock. Culture shock describes the negative feelings you may experience as a result of living in a new culture. Experiencing culture shock is a normal part of cultural adjustment, and most students eventually move past the negative experience of culture shock, and become more comfortable in your new cultural environment.

Cultural adjustment is often described in several phases that represent an emotional U-curve.  When you go back to your home country culture, you may experience the same phases of cultural adjustment, represented by an emotional W-curve.

Honeymoon Phase - Everything is new and exciting. You are meeting new people. You are noticing differences in your new culture, but these differences are viewed as positive.

Crisis - As you spend more time in your new environment, you may find your experience in the new culture does not meet your expectations of how life would be.  You may feel anxiety operating in your new environment. You may feel negative toward aspects of your new culture, of find yourself complaining about the new culture. This culture shock can manifest itself as homesickness, loneliness, physical illness, withdrawal from social activities, frustration over little things, self-doubt or a sense of failure. This onset of negative feelings can occur suddenly, or can be gradual over time. It can occur soon after you arrive, or later, after you have settled in. it can be triggered by certain stressful events, such as a bad test grade or a relationship break-up.

Recovery - Gradually things get easier and you become more comfortable as you become more skilled at operating in your new culture. Everyone has different ways to cope, but as you get “better” at living in your new environment, you may find yourself being more flexible to change and open to new ideas. Your negative symptoms of culture shock gradually go away.

When to Seek Help 

Although it is normal to feel symptoms of culture shock, and ultimately we grow from the experience, it is important to recognize when you may need support to help you manage your symptoms, or to recognize when your symptoms may be connected to other mental health issues. UConn counseling staff at Counseling and Mental Health Services (Storrs campus) can meet with you to discuss the symptoms you are feeling. Counseling services are also offered at the Stamford and Hartford campuses. If your campus does not offer counseling services, you can also seek out the assistance of local therapy and counseling services. You should seek counseling support if you:

  • Don’t feel like yourself anymore
  • Cannot go to class
  • Cannot take care of yourself
  • Feel like you may hurt yourself or someone else

Other things that can help minimize feelings of homesickness and culture shock:

  • Be active, get exercise. Talking walks and athletic activities can be beneficial.
  • Treat yourself well.
  • Stay in contact with family and friends at home, but try not to isolate yourself from your new culture.
  • Realize that what you are experiencing is normal.
  • Join student activities and clubs. Get involved in activities where students work together around a common goal (volunteering, service learning trips, study abroad).
  • Improve your English - take a UCAELI evening class, get a conversation partner.
  • Keep an open mind; it is natural to have preconceived ideas and beliefs that come into question when you are in a new country.
  • Find a local person with whom you can discuss your frustrations and encounters.
  • Learn as much as you can about your host culture.

In Case of Emergency

In the event of a fire, medical or safety emergency, always call 911. This number connects to all emergency response services.

Financial, Legal and Scam Resources

Dining and Food

In the United States, it is typical to eat a small breakfast, a medium sized lunch, and a large dinner. Breakfast food may include coffee/tea, breads (cold cereal, oatmeal, toast), fruit, yogurt or even eggs and meat. Common lunch foods include sandwiches, cold salads, potato chips, or fruit. Dinner usually includes a hot meal, and is typically eaten around 6 pm. Some very typical American foods include peanut butter, pancakes, hamburgers on buns, macaroni and cheese, and apple pie.

On Campus Meals: All Storrs campus students who live on-campus are also enrolled in a meal plan to eat in the UConn dining halls. UConn Dining Services offers several different meal plans at different costs, and many of the dining halls specialize in certain foods. If you live off campus, you may also purchase a meal plan to eat in the dining halls. UConn also offers several dining options on campus outside of the dining hall/meal plan system.

Buying Groceries: Most groceries are sold at large chain stores such as Price Chopper, Big Y, Stop n’ Shop, Shop Rite or even department stores such as Walmart and Target. Smaller grocery chains such as Aldi and Trader Joes are also increasingly popular, low cost options for groceries. There is a Price Chopper located close to the UConn Storrs campus. Students who live in downtown Hartford may find that they need to leave the city center to find a grocery store.

Reading Food Labels: In addition to nutrition information, food labels may also be able to tell you whether the food you are purchasing is Kosher, Halal, vegetarian or vegan, certified organic, or made with genetically modified organisms (GMO).

International Grocery Stores: International grocery stores are available, but you may need a car to access them, especially in more rural parts of the state. Google the type of store you are looking for to find local area listings. Some of the larger or well established stores include:

Eastern Connecticut: Little Asia (Storrs), Patel Foods (Manchester)

Hartford Region: Tangiers International Market (Hartford), A Dong Supermarket (West Hartford)

Restaurants: Most towns in Connecticut offer many varied options for restaurant dining, including international options. You may find that some international restaurants offer an American variation on the foreign cuisine, while others may be more authentic. Internet searches will help you to find options in your area.

Living Off Campus

Students who will live off campus need to understanding the responsibilities for renting a room or apartment themselves, and understand the terms of their rental contract clearly. It can be very difficult or impossible to get out of a rental agreement that you have signed. The UConn Off-Campus Student Services office can help you understand these requirements. Their website and Off Campus Housing Guide includes many resources to help students and scholars understand their rights and responsibilities, trash and recycling, budgeting, furniture, moving in and out of properties and more. They also have an International Student Assistance webpage. 

Students who live in off-campus housing should be familiar with the expectations of your rental community (if your rental is part of a greater apartment complex). If you cook frequently with a lot of oils, please take care to protect the ceiling or area above your stove from oil stains. Plumbing and pipes in the U.S. are quite sensitive, and you should never flush food down the toilet, or anything other than waste/toilet paper.

Searching for an apartment? We recommend that all incoming students and scholars who will live off-campus search the rental listings on the Off Campus Housing webpage. They provide listings close to all campuses. UConn students, staff and faculty may access the housing directory. If you do not yet have a UConn Net ID, you can request a Guest ID to search the listings. It is very important that you find housing in safe walking or bus distance to the UConn Storrs campus - this can be a challenge because some apartment complexes that appear to be close to campus, may be located on roads that are not safe for walking. 

Finally, international students and scholars should not apply for or accept housing offered under the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). This is a public benefits program intended for low-income residents.  Accepting public benefits could impact your eligibility for future immigration benefits.

Town Services: Students and scholars who live off campus should become familiar with their town website to learn more about rules and services for town residents.

Town of Mansfield (includes Storrs)

Town of Windham (includes Willimantic)

Town of Vernon

Town of Manchester

City of Hartford

Town of West Hartford

City of Stamford

Town of Groton

City of Waterbury

Places of Worship

Child and Family Resources

Schooling and Child Care

Public schools enroll children free of cost from Kindergarten (around age 5) through 12th grade (around age 17-18). Students graduate with a high school diploma after successfully completing 12th grade. The public school calendar runs from August to June, with a break in December and often a break in April.
If you are moving to Connecticut with children, you should refer to the webpage for your town to find public school information. Most schools require you to complete some type of registration form (sometimes this is online), and you should come prepared with the following documents for each child:

-Original birth certificate
-Your (parent) photo identification
-Two documents showing proof of address (for example, a rental lease, a utility bill)
-An up to date immunization record for your child
-An recent physical examination form (CT Health Assessment Record)

The school enrollment process can feel overwhelming, even to U.S. parents enrolling their children! Luckily school staff are very helpful and can guide you through the process.

Some schools have support in place for students who have no or limited English skills. Check the individual school district for further information about ESL support.

Depending on your child’s age and the distance to the school, your district may offer free school bus transportation for your child. Some buses pick up in front of the house, and others may pick up from a common location for children in the neighborhood.

If your children are not school-age and you will enroll them in child care, there are many early childhood programs called daycare or preschool. Some programs are run through private homes with fewer children, and other programs are run through established schools. Costs for childcare are typically very high - hundreds of dollars per week, and there may be long wait times to enroll your child. The younger your child, the higher the costs. Connecticut 2-1-1 Childcare lists licensed childcare providers and parent resources. UConn Child Development Labs provides childcare on the Storrs campus. Graduate Assistants can apply for childcare reimbursements through the Graduate Employee Union (GEU - UAW).

Child Care Laws

If you have children, it is important to understand the Connecticut laws related to transportation and supervision.

Child Passenger Safety Laws
Infants must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are both two years old AND 30 pounds. Toddlers must ride in a car seat with a five-point harness until they are five years old AND 40 pounds. Children must ride in a booster seat until they are eight years old AND 60 pounds, and they must use both a lap belt and shoulder belt.

All children (including teens) must wear a seat belt when they ride in a vehicle (exception: Buses don’t have seatbelts). It is recommended that children ride in the back seat until they are 13 years old. More information can be found on the Safe Kids Connecticut website.

Supervision
The State of Connecticut recommends that children not be left home alone until they are at least 12 years old, and not care for younger siblings until they are at least 15. These are not law, but expert recommendations. The State of Connecticut advises that parents consider other maturity factors as well. See more on the Connecticut State Department of Children and Families.

Participating in Holidays and Traditions

Coming soon.

Resources

Baby Clothes

ISSS has gently used baby clothes donated by the UConn community available for students and scholars who need them. Contact international@uconn.edu if you an international student or scholar expecting a baby, or with small children, and you would like to come take some clothing.

Winter Weather

Connecticut has a four season climate, experiencing hot summers, mild spring and fall weather, and very cold winters. Students who have not yet lived in a cold climate, and students who live off-campus or who drive cars, may experience particular challenges related to the weather.

What to Expect 

November & December - Darkness! The sun sets in the afternoon.

January & February - Cold! Lots of snow and ice, frigid temperatures

March & April - Wet - Cold and slushy. Occasional snow storms.

Winter Vocabulary 

Freezing rain = rain that freezes when it hits the ground.

Sleet = rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground.

Wind chill = temperature it feels like outside.

Blizzard = 35 mph winds, lots of blowing snow.

Frost/freeze warning = Below freezing temperatures expected (32 degrees or less)

Clothing: Dress in Warm Layers!

  • Buildings are often heated to different temperatures.
  • Invest in a good heavy coat, hat, gloves, scarf and waterproof boots.
  • Tips to stay extra warm: Wear extra socks, wool socks. Layer with fleece jackets and gloves. Put feet in plastic bag, then put on shoes, if you do not have waterproof boots.
  • Where to buy winter clothes? Take the 913 Bus from Storrs to the Buckland Hills Mall, or the WRTD bus to Eastbrook Mall.

Living Off Campus?

  • Buy a shovel.
  • Check your rental agreement and town rules to see if you are responsible for shoveling your driveway or the sidewalk in front of your house.
  • If you have electric heat, be conservative with your heating! Electric heat is very expensive.
  • Snowstorm coming? Buy groceries, get gas for the car. Charge battery operated devices. In deep cold, let water drip from faucet to prevent freezing pipes.
  • Prepare for loss of power. Never use a generator, grill, or camp stove indoors.

UConn Weather Closures

  • When school closes, you will get an email or text message.
  • Sign up for UConn Alert for first notification.
  • Public safety, dorms, dining hall services and facilities stay open during weather closures.
  • ISSS is closed when the University is closed for weather.
  • If school is open but you do not feel safe coming in, stay home. Contact your professor if you are unable to come in due to weather.

Driving in Winter

Prepare your car!

  • Winterize your vehicle.
  • Clear the snow off your car before driving - it’s the law!
  • Warm up your car before driving.
  • Keep cat litter in the trunk in case your car gets stuck on ice.
  • Snow can be bright! Have sunglasses handy.

BE CAREFUL!!!

  • Drive slow, keep distance, lights on.
  • Bridges freeze first -be careful.
  • Downshift to help brake if driving a manual.
  • Watch for black ice.
  • Snowbanks prevent you from seeing other cars.

Learning to LOVE Winter

Create a cozy environment!

  • Hang holiday lights
  • Bake cookies
  • Learn to knit
  • Host dinners
  • Cozy activities like watching movies or going to the theaters

Get Outdoors

Travel Locally

  • Check out winter activities like ice skating in Hartford, New York, Boston or Quebec. Remember if leaving the country to make sure you have your travel signature and visa for return!

Take a class!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can impact students during winter. Symptoms include: irritability, tiredness or low energy, problems getting along with people, hypersensitivity to rejection, heavy feeling in arms or legs, oversleeping, appetite changes (craving breads), weight gain or weight loss.


How to help: Light therapy, counseling, making your environment sunnier and brighter (open curtains, sit close to windows, get outside, exercise, house plants) and mind-body therapies (yoga, meditation, acupuncture).

Student Health and Wellness - Mental Health and the Health Promotion may have resources to help if you suffer from SAD.

U.S. Cultural Etiquette

If you have never lived in the U.S., your knowledge of U.S. culture may be shaped by television, music, movies and news. You may soon realize that your expectations are different from the reality of U.S. culture, and that some aspects of U.S. culture are nothing more than stereotypes. There are some aspects of U.S. culture that can be helpful for you to know to help you navigate business, school and social relationships. At the same time, U.S. culture, like all cultures, is quite diverse and you may encounter behaviors and norms that are also different than what is listed here.

Time: A popular U.S. saying is “Time is money”. This illustrates how many feel about time – it is valued, not to be wasted. This means many people will expect you to be on time to class and other scheduled appointments. However, if you are going to a social occasion or open event that takes place over a span of time, it is usually acceptable to arrive at any point during the occasion. Also, if visiting friends, it can be acceptable to be a few minutes late, but if you will be more than just a couple of minutes late, you should notify your friend (and don’t be late if you are meeting to attend something that follows a particular schedule, like a movie).

Personal space: Americans stand in relatively far proximity (arms’ length) from one another when engaging.

Eye contact: Eye contact is considered respectful and can occur throughout a conversation.

Greeting: Individuals who know each other may hug or shake hands/touch shoulder when meeting.  

Following procedures: Although the United States has many freedoms, there are also many rules followed in the U.S. In most cases, you need to follow the standard process for doing business at UConn and with other businesses, and exceptions are usually not made for special circumstances or based on a personal relationship. This may seem very bureaucratic, but is rooted in the U.S. belief in egalitarianism or fairness, so that all (in theory) can have equal opportunity to something by following the designated process.  

 

Individualism: The United States is very individual‐oriented, instead of group oriented. Individual freedoms and rights are valued, and “standing out” can be seen as a good thing. People may put their own needs before the needs of the group. Individual privacy and space is valued.

 

Personal Appearance: Americans are very self-conscious of their own hygiene. Daily showers and grooming are important in their daily routine to avoid body odors. Strong perfumes are usually not recommended, as some people can be allergic or sensitive to the smells. 

 

Friendliness: Americans can be very friendly to strangers, but this friendliness may come off as superficial, or not genuine, if you are not accustomed to this. For Americans, this friendliness is a polite gesture, but it may take longer for friendships to develop.  Once a friendship develops with an American, the nature of that friendship, in terms of responsibility to each other, may be different from what you expect. While friends support each other, often a person’s individual needs or space may still take priority.  

 

Diversity: The United States is a multicultural country and you must treat all with tolerance and respect, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, culture or ethnicity. It is important that while you are in the U.S. that you try to understand the environment you are living in, including the very complex history of race and cultural diversity. For some international students, coming to the U.S. may be the first time you are perceived as a minority, or through a cultural lens different than your own, in regards to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or identity.

Language Support Services

English Language Resources - Storrs

University of Connecticut American English Language Institute (UCAELI)

UCAELI offers full time ESL courses on the Storrs campus full time during summer and academic terms, as well as evening classes for current students during the academic year.

Vernon Regional Adult Basic Education (VRABE)

Free ESL classes for residents of certain towns offered at Mansfield Public Library and E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield. TOEFL prep courses offered in summer. Courses offered in other towns as well.

Cross-Cultural Connections (CCC)

Practice your English with a conversation partner! Join this program coordinated by UConn Community Outreach. Sign up early! Contact: uconn.co.ccconnections@gmail.com.

UConn Writing Center

Free tutoring by appointment and walk-in, as well as seminars in academic writing for graduate students. The Writing Center does not provide line editing, but will help you to generate ideas and organize your content, and may be able to provide resources to help you practice/improve your grammar.

English Language Resources – Other Campuses

UConn Writing Center

Avery Point

Hartford

Stamford

Waterbury

 Hartford Public Library

ESL classes and English self-study resources

Translation Services

International students and scholars may occasionally require document language translation to submit support documents in English for official services like Driver’s License applications or USCIS government benefit applications.

The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) maintains a list of approved translation services in Connecticut. Find the list here.

There may be other translation providers in Connecticut, but if you require document translation for DMV application purposes, you must use one of these translators.