5 things you need to do when you land in the US for your studies
Moving to a new country for your studies is an exciting time. Sure you’ll be quite pumped up to get started on your new adventure, meet a lot of new friends and explore the country you’ll call home for the next couple of years. However, figuring out the logistics and setting up your home can feel a bit overwhelming. You need to figure out literally everything from setting up utilities to buying furniture and opening bank accounts. Your school will have resources to guide you through most of it, but here’s a handy checklist to get you prepped-up in no time.
1. Find an apartment
This goes without saying, but if you haven’t found a place to live yet, that should be your number one priority. You should look for places that are close to your university so that you don’t waste too much time commuting. You can find more pointers on how to find a good place in this article on house hunting.
One thing that you should look out for is whether or not the utilities are included in your rent. These can add up to a significant value, especially if your university is in a cold place. For most apartments, you’ll need to set up an account with the utility company in that area. If you’re sharing an apartment, only one of you needs to do this. Setting up the account also means putting up some deposit money. This is usually of the order of a hundred dollars.
2. Get furniture
Some of the apartments near universities come fully furnished. Needless to say, these are priced higher than unfurnished apartments. If the difference isn’t too much, we’d recommend going with the furnished apartments as it saves a lot of hassle for you.
If you do have to buy your own stuff, IKEA is usually the most popular choice among students. They have cheap furniture and have a fixed delivery cost irrespective of the number of items. So you could save on delivery by clubbing your furniture shopping with your batch mates. The downside to IKEA, of course, is that you have to assemble the furniture yourself. If you don’t want to fall into that mess, Amazon could be your saving grace. We’ve linked some of the products that we like at the end of this post.
Did you know that your school’s email id lets you signup for an Amazon Prime Student account. You can sign up for a free 6-month trial and you only pay 50% of the regular price after that.
3. Set up your phone and internet
Next on your list should be to get a sim card and set up your home internet. Because, as we all know, the internet is the most basic of all basic human needs:
For sim cards, AT&T and T-Mobile offer cost-effective “family” plans. You can group up with a couple of your friends and enroll in a family plan which saves a lot of money as compared to getting a single line. With a family plan, you can expect to pay somewhere between $30-$35 per month including taxes and fees.
While most of the sims come with an unlimited data plan, you would still want to get Wi-Fi for your home. Comcast is generally the goto choice for students for home internet. Although some remote cities may not be serviced by Comcast. Irrespective of the provides, you can expect the monthly bill for wifi to be somewhere between $35 – $50. However, remember that this gets split between your roommates so the cost to you would be even lower.
4. Manage your finances
After you’re done with the basic amenities, you’ll need to set up a bank account. Bank accounts are of two types: savings account and checking account. The main difference between the two is that the number of transactions per month is limited (usually around 5-6) for a savings account. There’s no such restriction on the checking account. So, you definitely want to have a checking account. You can also consider getting a savings account, in addition to the checking, if it has some good offers or gives you a better interest.
Some universities have tie-ups with several banks which can get you good offers. Compared to India, the rate of interests for saving accounts is significantly lower in the US. The typical range of interests in banks is 0.01% to 0.1%. Yep, you read that right! However, most banks have some introductory sign-up bonuses. Chase Bank, for example, offers up to $500 in rewards for opening a checking and savings account. Wells Fargo and Bank of America are other big names in banking.
While the bank account will come with a debit card of its own, you should also apply for a credit card. This would help you build a credit history from the very beginning, which is helpful in getting loans or other credit cards in the future. One of the popular cards amongst students is the Discover It Student Card. This is one of the few cards that you can open without having a prior credit history. This card lets you earn 5% cashback reward on popular categories like restaurants, Amazon.com, etc which keeps changing throughout the year. Submit your application using this referral link to earn a $50 statement credit on your new card.
5. Set up your kitchen
Even if you’re not planning to cook a 5-course meal every day (btw if you are… then drop those plans ASAP), you should be prepared to cook basic meals. While eating out every day is an option, it’s not really economical as you may have already guessed. At the very least, get a couple of boxes of cereal and eggs to help you with your daily breakfast. Next, you can get some rice, dal, and basic vegetables like potatoes, onion, and tomatoes. We wouldn’t recommend getting into the chapati-making business since it takes a lot of time and quite an expertise. Instead, Indian stores have frozen roti and a dozen variety of parathas. Other than that you’d need some basic spices if you didn’t already get them.
These things should be more than enough to cook basic meals, which is what your course workload will allow anyway. As and when you become an expert in cooking you can start adding ‘advanced’ stuff like chole and rajma to your kitchen. On the other hand, if you don’t like/know how to cook, you can look for cheap eating options around your college. There are usually a bunch of fast-food chains around colleges, that you can rely upon. Chipotle is one such chain that we’d recommend.
Your student email id can be used at a bunch of places to get access to special offers. These offers range from deals on electronics (including Apple products) to discounted entries to museums and other spots throughout the country. You can find a great number of deals only available to students on studentdeals.com. In addition to that, you can also get discounted rates for music streaming services like Spotify and Youtube.
Finally, as promised, here are a few items of furniture we would recommend for you home. Remember you can signup for a Students Amazon prime account and enjoy free Prime services for 6 months.
Let us know in the comments about your experience of moving to the US.