Arriving at the airport in the United States
Your arrival at the airport marks the official beginning of your international student journey. You will probably experience a variety of emotions all at the same time; excitement, nervousness, anxiety, anticipation, loneliness, etc. Don’t worry, it’s all normal. It can help to make arrangements for someone to pick you up so that you don’t have to navigate in a new place immediately. Airports are busy bustling places, and trying to read, listen and communicate in English all at once in a strange environment can overwhelm you.
ISI staff and volunteers across the U.S. work hard to welcome international students arriving in their area. Connect with ISI where you plan to arrive or study. You can make arrangements for someone to pick you up as soon as you have your flight information. Your college or university might also offer airport pick-ups for international students, so check the website or contact the Student Services office for more information.
You can also look for Facebook groups at the school where you will study. Make connections with other students arriving from around the country or around the world. It can really help to have some links when you get to a new place.
Most international airports have multiple baggage claim carousels. Follow the signs to the baggage claim area corresponding to your flight. Baggage trolleys can help you manage your suitcases, but they do cost money to rent. Once you have collected all your baggage, you will proceed to the customs area. However, if you do not find one or more of your bags, contact the airline’s lost baggage office and they will help you. For any lost or damaged luggage, be sure to file a report before leaving the airport, and safely secure any receipt they give you.
Even if you will continue on to another city as your final destination, you must clear customs at the first U.S. city where you land. The customs official may ask you some questions about your luggage, and possibly ask to see inside your suitcases. Cooperate with these officials. Their job requires that they look for any contraband items, including but not limited to drugs, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds. Once the customs official has approved your luggage, he/she will stamp your passport and forms and you will be allowed to leave the airport or continue to your connecting flight.
If you have not made housing arrangements before your arrival, you will need to find somewhere to stay while you look for more permanent housing. Once again, ISI staff and volunteers can help with possible options. They have a wonderful network of willing hosts and possibilities, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them for any help you might need. Connect with ISI to locate staff in the area where you will be living.