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Berkeley is home to more than 6,000 international students — and more than one-third are pursuing a Master’s or doctoral degree. Many of you incoming international graduate students may already be preparing for your journey ahead — likely an anxious process as you part from your family, friends, and everything that is familiar.

Recognizing your concerns, we have compiled a list of resources in conjunction with Berkeley International Office (BIO) specifically for you, and solicited advice from current students to make your transition as smooth as possible.

Pre-Arrival

From applying for your visa to deciding what to pack in your suitcase, the pre-arrival period is filled with excitement and uncertainties. Berkeley International Office gives advising, advocacy and immigration services to international students and offers advice on applying for U.S. visas and learning what travel documents are needed. BIO also offers a number of webinars on topics such as graduate academic success, money matters, and housing.

As for packing, see BIO’s a list of what to pack when moving to the U.S.suitcase

Arrival

After hours of flying, you have finally arrived and are about to embark on one of the most enriching chapters of your life. Be sure to plan in advance to find out information about local transportation such as a shuttle, taxi, BART and/or bus to get from the airport to campus. You might also want to download a ride sharing app such as Lyft, or Uber on your mobile device to request a ride.

Complete your online arrival confirmation so that Berkeley International Office can validate your immigration record. This is a requirement for you to properly maintain your F-1 or J-1 status.

If you haven’t found housing before arrival, BIO offers a list of resources that can help you find a place to stay. The office also assists international students in finding housing through a Cal Student Roommate Search Tool. Students complete the spreadsheet and contact others on the document to find roommates.

Post-Arrival

At this stage, you will have a lot of things to manage: registering for classes, meeting your advisors, getting acquainted with your new neighborhood. During this process, it’s completely normal to feel culture shock. Here is some advice on how to make the cultural adjustment. It may help if you join one of the student organizations on campus and meet some of your colleagues.

A great way not only to learn valuable information but also to make friends is to attend the Berkeley International Office Graduate Student Orientation on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, and the New Graduate Student Orientation (NGSO) on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. 

Don’t forget to check out the Graduate Division’s website for information on fellowships and grants if you are still searching for funding for your education. The Graduate Division provides other sources for qualifying international students, such as academic travel reimbursements and grants for summer research.

If you don’t have a full fellowship package, consider obtaining a position as a GSI, GSR, or Reader. Enroll in the Graduate Student Instructor conference; you will be required to take an extra day of conference solely designed for international students. The conference is at the beginning of the fall semester. You can also meet many other students with whom you may build friendships in the years to come at Berkeley.


If you are a prospective international graduate student and need advice prior to making the move to the U.S., visit the Berkeley International Office website.

— Written by Leo Zou, Updated in 2018 by Andy Sohn


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About Leo Zou

Leo is a bilingual journalist who studied at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining the program, he had worked for three years in Beijing as a staff reporter with China's national newspaper, covering a wide range of topics from social unrest to business development.