What to Expect When Moving into a U.S. Dorm

Moving into DormStudents beginning their studies at a U.S. college or university have a lot on their minds. Whether American or international, incoming students arrive on campus with a dose of nervous anxiety, accented by a host of concerns about roommates, dorm rooms, class schedules, even food!

International students have even more to consider, including getting a visa, acquiring translations of academic transcripts and personal documents, managing foreign money, and shipping their belongings cross-border.

Packing college supplies can be especially difficult for international students.  Unlike your U.S. counterparts, you can’t pack a car-load of stuff and simply drive to school. Since you’ll likely be limited in how much you can pack, stick to the basics – clothes and personal electronics. School supplies, linens, toiletries and the like can all be purchased at reasonable prices when you get to school.

Before you send everything you own (or a little less!), consider the shipping costs, how much luggage you can physically carry, and how much is provided and furnished by the school. Consider shipping clothing such as winter coats which are light but bulky — and will cost less to ship than some of your smaller but heavier items.

Shipping Your Stuff
If you do ship some items, make sure to use a company that will track your packages, and call your school, dormitory or apartment manager to make sure that someone can receive the packages and hold them securely for you.

If you’re flying, remember that many airlines enforce a weight limit for suitcases — going beyond these limits may cause you to incur significant upcharges. These days, airport security examines most luggage thoroughly, so you may find your nice packing job turned upside down. Your best bet is to send things ahead of time, have your folks send your stuff once you get to school, or buy the affordable portions of what you need when you get to your college town.

Moving into the Dorm
Moving day will be one of the most nerve-wracking and exciting days of your life. If you’re moving into a dorm, the good news is there will be plenty of people to help you. Most dormitories have resident assistants and dorm monitors on-hand to guide you to your room.  As well, dorms usually offer wheeled bins or hand trucks so you can move your items easily.

Once you get to your room and put your stuff down, you’ll have to choose a bed and a desk — especially if you are the first roommate to arrive. What side of the room do you like to sleep on? Do you like to be by a window? Closer to the bathroom? Top bunk or bottom? If you’re the first one to arrive, consider waiting a little while before you unpack, just to give your roommate a chance to articulate their preferences.  It’s always a good idea to involve your roommate in your first big decision together.

Getting to Know Your Roommate
Before you arrive on campus your institution will send you the name and phone number of your future roommate. There’s a chance you’ll be placed in a double, a triple, or a quad, so you may have to make a few phone calls. Expect some phone calls as well, especially if your future roommates get their mail before you do. This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and break the ice. It’s also a great idea to discuss who’s bringing what. You may even want to go “halves” on some of the larger-ticket items, like a mini-fridge, television, or microwave. It’s also a good idea to agree up-front on who will take the item(s) home at the end of the year.

The International Student Center
Most schools have an international student services center devoted to helping international students get the information they need. If you have questions, this is probably the first place to look.

Many schools also have an international student “buddy program” that matches incoming students with current students who can answer questions and provide you with the best answers to your pressing questions.

Good luck!

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