University of Southern California

Arriving and Living in Los Angeles for International Students

This section provides information on preparing for your departure and what to expect once you are here.

Banking
Climate
Clothing
Driver's License
Elementary School Information
Essential Steps on Arrival
Housing
Insurance
Interim Funds
Interim Mailing Address
Social Security Number
Transportation
Transportation from LAX
Visa Requirements for Foreign Students

Banking

You may join the USC Credit Union for your banking needs. Please contact them at 213-821-7100, or at www.usccreditunion.org. Two banks have branches within walking distance of the University. These include Bank of America 323-730-9140, and Founders National Bank 213-746-5727. Bank of America is located on Jefferson between Hoover and McClintock, and Founders National Bank is located on the corner of Hoover and Jefferson. In addition, Wells Fargo provides banking support to international students. To go directly to their website to find out about opening an account, please click here. For information on Wells Fargo services for international students, please click here. Automatic teller machines (ATM's) are located on campus in the Student Union Building and on the west end of the finance building. Most students, faculty and staff handle their banking at the ATM's on campus.

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Climate

Los Angeles has mild climate. Winters usually average 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and about 20 degrees cooler at night. Temperatures, however, can change quickly and unpredictably. The end of winter and beginning of spring are typically rainy. Late spring is mild, often overcast and rainy. Summers are usually dry and hot, reaching 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the day time and dropping to the low 60's at night.

Clothing

Clothing attire tends to be informal in Southern California. Comfortable, light cotton and knit clothing is suitable for most seasons except winter when a sweater or light coat is often needed. Lightweight suits are suitable for most of the year. Coats and ties are sometimes required for men in the better restaurants and nightspots. The IBEAR program does not expect participants to be formally dressed in business attire during the day-to-day activities. However, during business trips, management seminars and project presentations, the participants are expected to be in business attire.

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Driver's License

A California State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office is located near the campus at 3615 S. Hope Street (on Exposition Blvd. west of the Harbor Freeway). The telephone number is 800-777-0133 for both general information and appointments. First time applicants must present evidence of date of birth, such as a birth certificate or passport. Please also bring your I-20 form. The DMV requires both a written test and a road test before a driver's license is issued. The written test examines your knowledge of driving rules and regulations in California, while the road test portion tests actual driving skills, including road signs. If you pass both tests, you will complete a form with personal information (name, address, etc.), and take a vision test. Your photo will be taken and the license will be mailed to you within 4 - 6 weeks.

It is very convenient to have a driver's license. In California, most business transactions require showing your driver's license as a form of identification. It can sometimes be very difficult to cash a check or use a personal check if you do not have a driver's license. For those who do not wish to get a driver's license, we suggest you obtain a California I.D. card, also available from the DMV. For information about driving rules and regulations, see the California Driver's Handbook.

If you are an international student, be sure to bring an international driver's license with you, so that you can drive a car immediately upon arrival. It will take 4 - 6 weeks to get a California Driver's License. Most banks or stores will not accept an international driver's license as an identification card. For participants who already have a U.S. driver's license and/or a car, please visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) web page to answer your questions about obtaining a California drivers license and registering your car.

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Elementary School Information

It is important for you to decide if your child/children will attend public school or private schools. Public schools are operated by the U.S. government, private schools are operated by an organization. If you decide to send your child/children to public school, they will attend elementary, intermediate and high school depending on where you live. Most public schools have a web page where you can obtain information. Click here to find some of the school districts in the Los Angeles Area.

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Essential Steps on Arrival

IBEAR recommends that foreign participants do the following, in this order, as soon as they arrive:

Get temporary housing.

Make an appointment with the DMV to get a California I.D. card or a California Driver's License.

Get a bank account.

Find long-term housing

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Housing

For general housing information, please click here.

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Insurance

Health and Accident Insurance
You must have health and accident insurance for the duration of your enrollment at USC. USC requires that all students have health insurance and will add a health insurance premium to every student account in the fall. The yearly premium will cover students for 12 months and will appear only on the fall semester bill for students taking six or more units. Students will be able to waive the fee if they show proof of outside insurance that is compatible to USC's policy. For more information about the mandatory health insurance, please visit: http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/Health_Center/. Please be advised that ALL USC students must have health insurance.

Helpful Links:
http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/Health_Center/insurance/
www.worldwidemedical.com
www.imglobal.com
www.commercialtravelers.com

Auto Insurance:

Do not drive in California without auto insurance. It is best to shop around for a reasonable insurance company as there is usually a wide variation in price. Some IBEAR participants are able to extend their domestic insurance coverage to the U.S. and you are advised to explore this possibility. Advice on auto insurance will be available at the Transition Program Opening Session.

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Interim Funds

In addition to your tuition and fee expenses, we recommend that you bring a minimum of $5,000 USD in traveler's checks with you for immediate expenses until your bank draft clears, which may take 10 - 15 business days. International students, do not carry large sums of cash as you travel to the United States. Domestic students, do not carry large sums of cash as you travel across the country. If you choose to stay with your current bank, assuming that it is nation-wide, please change your previous address to your LA address as soon as possible.

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Interim Mailing Address

Until you have a permanent address in Los Angeles, you may use the IBEAR address as an interim mailing address to have packages, parcels or mail forwarded to you.

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Social Security Number

United States social security regulations have changed in beginning in October of 2004. Please visit the following website for more information:

http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/OIS/NewStud/ssn.html

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Transportation

Most IBEAR participants feel that buying a car is essential to living in Los Angeles. A few are dependent on a bicycle or motorcycle and some who live nearby prefer to walk. An increasing number are also using public transportation. Cars purchased by our students are usually bought from former IBEAR participants, an independent car dealer, or an acquaintance. The majority do not incur heavy maintenance costs. Consumer guides suggest that if you are considering purchasing a used car that you should test drive the car and take it to a mechanic to have the car inspected for any problems that the seller may not have known of or disclosed to you. Typically, the owner will want to go with you while you test drive the car and take it to a mechanic. The Kelly Blue Book of Used Car Buying and The Consumer Reports Buying Guide are two books that are important resources for those interested in buying a car. Classified advertisements typically found in local and community newspapers can also be useful resources when you are trying to purchase a used car or other household goods and furniture. Photo Buys, L.A. Times , and The Recycler are the most popular periodicals, all of which can be purchased at local grocery stores.

For more information on university operated transportation and schedules please visit their website at: http://transnet.usc.edu/.

Application forms for discounts on MTA (public transit) monthly passes can be obtained from the Topping Student Center. Fill out the form and bring it with a personal I.D. photo and student fee receipts that verify full-time student status, to the nearest MTA Customer Service Center.

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Transportation from LAX

We suggest that you take one of the many shuttle vans from LAX to your destination. You can arrange shuttle service through the airport employee standing at the shuttle service sign just outside the airport terminal. These are registered and reliable means of transportation. Super Shuttle, Prime Time (310-342-7200) and LA Express are the three largest door-to-door shuttle services. Your van will bring you from the airport directly to any location you wish. You can also use a taxi but the costmay be more than double for the price of a shuttle. Please board van shuttle or taxi at officially designated places only. Do not accept "cab ride" offers from drivers outside the terminal doors.

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Visa Requirements for Foreign Students

As a foreign student, your stay in the United States will require compliance with U.S. Government rules and regulations. Foremost among these is the need for you to be in possession of:

A valid passport

A form I-20 (ID copy) issued by USC for F-1 students or

Form DS-2019 (previously known as form IAP-66) for J-1 students, and

A form I-94 arrival/departure record issued when you enter the United States.

If you are outside the United States, you must take the I-20 form with your passport, financial statement of personal or family support, current photo, and letter of admission from the Dean of Graduate Studies to the U.S. consulate/embassy nearest your home to obtain a visa. You are advised NOT to enter the United States on a visitor (B-2) visa unless "Prospective Student" has been stamped in your passport. The Immigration and Naturalization Service will deny a request for change of status, and you will be forced to leave the United States at your own expense, return to your home country and secure a proper visa prior to enrolling at USC. If your family is traveling separately, an F-2/J-2 visa may be obtained for your spouse and children from USC Office of International Services 213-740-2666, should you wish them to stay with you in the U.S. You need to submit proof of financial support with the F-2/J-2 request form. If you have any questions regarding visa requirements, please contact the Office of International Services for further information.

If you travel abroad while studying in the IBEAR Program, you are to present the proper form (I-20 ID copy or DS-2019) to the Office of International Students and Scholars for endorsement before departing the U.S. The endorsement is valid for six months and for multiple entries.

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