Orientation Information

Dear Student:

Spring Semester begins shortly, and we are eagerly awaiting your arrival in Valdosta.  We are excited that you have chosen to study at Valdosta State University, and we are working to make your arrival in Valdosta and your orientation to the school as comfortable as possible.  Please read this correspondence carefully, since it contains important information regarding your arrival.

  • Classes begin on Monday, January 12, 2015
  • Degree-seeking students have two Mandatory New Student Orientation sessions: TBA, January 2015
  • Exchange Students (from partner institutions and from ISEP) have their Mandatory Student Orientation on TBA at the Center for International Programs. Please contact Ms. Irina McClellan to verify your orientation schedule. Classes will still begin on Monday, January 12, 2015.
  • You need to arrive in Valdosta no later than Monday, Monday, January 05, 2015.
  • An electronic copy of the International Student Handbook is available here. Please note that this is separate from the Student Handbook that you will receive from the VSU Orientation on TBA. 

List of Topics

ARRIVAL:

  • You should fly into Atlanta, Georgia (235 miles north of Valdosta) and catch a connecting flight to the Valdosta airport.  Atlanta is the only city that offers connecting flight service to Valdosta.  Other nearby cities with airports include Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Orlando, all located in the state of Florida.
    •  If you are flying into any of these cities, you will need to arrange ground transportation from that airport to Valdosta.  Ground transportation options include renting a car and driving yourself or traveling by Greyhound bus service (www.greyhound.com). For your first trip to Valdosta, it is best to pay the extra fee and fly directly to Valdosta.
  •   If you must fly into another city, we suggest that you plan to travel to Valdosta by bus.  Your local travel agent should be able to give you information about flights and buses.
  •  As soon as you have made your travel arrangements, you must fill out the “ARRIVAL NOTIFICATION FORM” so that we will know when you are arriving.  PLEASE COMPLETE THIS FORM BY E-MAIL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND ABSOLUTELY NO LATER THAN December 22, 2014. If you have decided not to attend VSU, please notify our office so that we will not continue to expect your arrival.
  • Once you arrive in Valdosta, you can take a taxi from the airport or the bus terminal to your residence hall (dormitory).
    •   If you would like for a representative from the Center for International Programs to meet you at the airport or bus station, you must request this service on the ARRIVAL NOTIFICATION FORM.  We will be happy to meet you if you arrive Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, but we must know when you plan to arrive.  It is not possible for a representative of the University to meet students in other cities.

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ORIENTATION:

For New Undergraduate Students Only:

  • Spring Orientation will be a separated into two sessions. 
  • You must be ready to begin the orientation session on TBA.  The orientation session is MANDATORY, so you must complete your travel and be in Valdosta by Monday evening, January 5th. If you need to arrive before January 5th, you will need to make arrangements to stay in a local hotel.  We can provide the names of local hotels for you if necessary.
  • On TBA there will be another MANDATORY Orientation Session for all new Undergraduate students in TBA . You will then meet your academic advisor and register for classes. There is a $20.00 orientation fee that you will need to pay either online with a credit or debit card (CLICK HERE TO PAY), or with cash only during the VSU orientation. Registration will be done in advance, and you will be automatically added to both Orientation Sessions.
  • Also, as soon as possible, you will need to check-in with us at the Center for International Programs. Please bring your passport, visa, I-94 card (or a print-out, see the CBP website) and I-20, and a completed SEVIS Data Intake Form (if possible). At the same time we can meet with you to go over the immigration rules, and things you should keep in mind as a new international student.
  • Classes begin on Monday, January 12th.

For New Graduate Students Only:

  • You must be ready to begin the orientation session on TBA.  The orientation session is MANDATORY, so you must complete your travel and be in Valdosta by Tuesday evening, January 5th. If you need to arrive before January 5th, you will need to make arrangements to stay in a local hotel.  We can provide the names of local hotels for you if necessary. Please bring your passport, visa, I-94 card/print-out and I-20, and a completed SEVIS Data Intake Form (if possible). 
  • You should have completed your online Orientation Session for your program. Also, as soon as possible, you will need to check-in with us at the Center for International Programs. 
  • Classes begin on Monday, January 12th.

If you have been formally accepted by VSU, you should have received an on-campus housing application and contract.  If you have not already made housing reservations, you can see if there is still space in the residence halls or plan to find an apartment in Valdosta. 

**Note: Exact times and orientation week schedule will be updated.

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THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

Please keep the following in mind as you prepare to arrive in Valdosta:

1. FOOD SERVICES:  Meals will be available through VSU Food Services beginning on Tuesday, August 14th.  You will be responsible for paying for your own food until that time, and we will assist you in locating nearby restaurants.  The Center for International Programs and local community groups will provide some meals.

2.  BRINGING MONEY TO THE US:  Fees for Fall Semester MUST BE PAID by January 16 at 2:30 pm.  There are absolutely NO EXCEPTIONS to this deadline.  For your first semester of study at VSU, you should bring the following amounts of money for the following expenses:

UNDERGRADUATE 2014-2015

Tuition and Fees*   

$10,029.00

Residence and Meal Plan   

$  3,932.00

Books (estimated) 

$    600.00

Medical Insurance   (January-July)

$ 1,043.00

Living Expenses (clothes, etc.)

$ 1,500.00

Orientation Fee (if you have not paid yet)  

 $       20.00

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TOTAL   

$  17,124.00

 

GRADUATE 2014-2015

Tuition and Fees*   

$     11,226.00

Residence and Meal Plan   

$        3,932.00

Books (estimated) 

$           600.00

Medical Insurance   (January-July) 

$         1,043.00

Living Expenses (clothes, etc.)

$       1,500.00

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TOTAL   

$       18,301.00

 

*In-state tuition is approximately $ 3,581.00 for undergraduates, and $ 3,856.00 for graduates. If you will be receiving a graduate assistantship, please see the following handout for your fee schedule.

  • You will pay the tuition, residence fee, meal fee, and insurance fee directly to the University.
  • Your book fees may also be added onto your account to be used at the bookstore as a credit. Alternatively, you may purchase your books at the university bookstore with cash.  University fees can be paid by cash, traveler's checks, certified check, or credit card (MasterCard, Discover, or American Express). To learn more about paying tuition and fees go here.

The living expense amount is an estimate based on what most students spend during one term of study.  You will have the opportunity to open a bank account in Valdosta.  You can have a savings account and a checking account.  You will keep the living expense money in your own bank account and spend it as you need it.

  • To bring your money to the United States, you should use either traveler's checks or a certified check in US dollars($) payable on a U.S. bank.  Traveler's checks are the best way to carry the funds, since they can be converted to cash instantly.  If you bring a certified check, you should expect for the bank to require several days before they can give you cash for the check.  To avoid lengthy delays in the processing of your check, please make sure that the check has a bank routing number at the bottom of the check.  Many students have found it helpful to bring two checks to Valdosta State University, one payable to VSU and one payable to the student for use in opening a bank account. If you bring one large check for more than your university fees, it will take three weeks for the university to refund the difference to you.
  • If you plan to transfer money by wire, please note that this process can require up to two weeks.  If you plan to use a bank draft, which is not a certified check with a routing number, this draft can require up to six weeks to be converted into cash.  Even if the bank draft lists a U.S. bank on the bottom of the check, it will still require this long delay if it is not a certified check with a routing number. If your fees are not paid on time, your classes will be dropped and you will be expected to leave the U.S.
  • Because your university fees are due shortly after your arrival in Valdosta, your money must be in a form that can be converted to cash very quickly.  If you must bring a bank draft instead of traveler's checks, please bring enough cash or traveler's checks to cover your personal expenses for at least one week. For safety considerations, DO NOT CARRY LARGE AMOUNTS OF CASH!  Be sure to record the serial numbers of your traveler's checks in case any are lost or stolen.  We cannot be responsible for lost or stolen money.  Please do not bring foreign currency with you to Valdosta, since it is impossible to exchange any currency in Valdosta.

REMEMBER:  There will be no exceptions to the fee payment deadline.  If you do not have the money to pay your fees by January 16, 2:30 pm , YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO RETURN HOME.  

Many students have found it useful to carry an international credit card while studying abroad.  A card from your home country can be used in a U.S. automated teller machine to withdraw dollars and to purchase goods in dollars, while the bill is returned to your family in your local currency.  You may want to inquire about transaction fees and compare rates before you acquire a card. 

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3.  INSURANCE AND CERTIFICATES:

  • All foreign students must have medical insurance for the duration of their enrollment at VSU.
    •  You will be required to purchase an insurance policy designed specifically for VSU foreign students.  This policy will cost approximately $474.00-1,575 for the Fall semester (August 12-December 6, 2013) depending on your age. You will have to buy an insurance policy in January for the Spring semester ($ 776-1,101.00). The policy will cover all illnesses not treatable by the VSU student health center, hospitalization, emergency medical evacuation, and repatriation of remains.  You will pay this insurance premium when you pay your tuition to the university. Please check this page, for more information on how to determine how much your insurance premium will be.
  • If you have not submitted proof of immunization for measles, mumps, and rubella, you will need to be prepared to give us your completed medical form or receive the vaccinations in Valdosta (cost of vaccinations is $16.00).  You cannot register for classes if you have not submitted the proof of immunization.  Please note that two vaccines for measles are required before the immunization is considered complete.

  • While you will be covered by the mandatory student health insurance program once classes begin, should you choose to enroll in it, it is STRONGLY advised to have a temporary or traveler's insurance policy in the event that anything may occur before the insurance plan coverage begins. Also, there are walk-in clinics (meaning you do not need an appointment to be seen) available in the Valdosta area. It is often more affordable to go to one of these walk-in clinics, than to visit the emergency room should you need to see a doctor. If you have any insurance or health service questions, please contact your international student advisors.

4.  CLOTHING:  Valdosta has a mild climate with long, hot summers and short, mild winters.  The average winter temperature is 50oF / 10oC, while the average summer temperature is 80oF / 27oC.  In the summer, it is also very humid, and it is not uncommon for temperatures to hover around 100oF / 38oC degrees in July and August.  Most students find blue jeans and shorts worn with tee shirts appropriate for attending class.  You will need more formal clothing (suits for men/ dresses for women) only for social functions or religious activities you may choose to attend.  You will need a medium weight coat or sweater for the winter, but it is not necessary to bring heavy woolens.  Valdosta has numerous discount clothing stores.  You may wish to take care of any special clothing needs once you arrive, since clothing is relatively inexpensive in the US.

5.  RESIDENCE HALL ROOMS:  The residence halls do not furnish linens (sheets, pillows, towels) of any kind.  Be prepared to bring these items or purchase them upon your arrival.  You will also need to provide your own toiletries (soap, shampoo, etc.).  The dorm rooms are very sparsely furnished.  They contain two beds, two desks, two chairs, and closets with shelves.  There are no pictures on the walls or carpets on the floors.  Most students enjoy bringing small items from home to decorate the rooms. 

6.  ITEMS FROM HOME:  We suggest that you bring slides or photographs of your home country as well as traditional clothing and small artifacts or souvenirs if possible.  International students often have the opportunity to visit schools and civic groups, participate in community-wide events and items from home are useful for these presentations.  These items are also comforting in times of homesickness!

7. SAFETY:  Please be conscious of your personal safety while traveling.  Do not carry items for other travelers whom you do not know, and do not leave your belongings unattended at any time.  It is best to keep your money and your passport/ travel documents on your person at all times. It is also not recommended to travel with large amounts of cash with you.  A traveler's check is a better option, and you can deposit the check once you are able to open a bank account here in the U.S.

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8. IMMIGRATION: 

  • By now you should have received your form I-20 which you will use to obtain your F-1 student visa from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  All new F-1 whose SEVIS record was created on or after September 1, 2004 must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for a visa, or entering the U.S. (see attached SEVIS – Fee Payment instructions). Students/ Exchange Visitors from Canada or Bermuda do not require F-1 or J-1 visas. You will need to use your I-20 (or DS-2019) issued by Valdosta State University in order to pay the fee on-line at the following website, http://www.FMJfee.com. You should print the payment receipt and bring it to the embassy or consulate along with your I-20 (or DS-2019) and the supporting documents (proof of English proficiency, academic records, and evidence of financial support).   You must have the form I-20 (or DS-2019) and a valid visa in your passport to enter the country.  (Note:  citizens of Canada need ONLY the Form I-20; not a student visa).  You should enter the U.S. as a student with F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant immigration status.  You should not enter as a tourist, even if your country has a visa agreement with the U.S. or you already have a tourist visa.  If you are unsure about the visa process, please contact us at iss@valdosta.edu . 

When you enter the U.S., you will meet with an official from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This is part of the entry process.   The USCIS officer will examine your papers and speak with you about the school you will attend.  The officer will place entry stamps on the I-20, in your passport, and on the I-94 (a small white card you will receive if you are traveling by land).  You must provide a copy of these documents to the Center for International Programs at Valdosta State University upon your arrival.  You should keep all of these documents together, since you will need them throughout your stay in the U.S.  Please be aware that there are customs regulations about what type of goods you can bring into the U.S.  If you have questions about customs, you should contact your travel agent or the U.S. Embassy nearest your home town.

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9. TRANSFER CREDIT:  If you are planning to transfer credits from your home country college or university, please bring course descriptions (in English) of each course you have taken and completed.  You can obtain such descriptions from a recent course catalog from your school or from the syllabus from each course.  Even if the Admissions Office has already given you a transfer evaluation, you should bring the course descriptions, as this will guide your advisor in assigning the maximum allowable credit to you.

I hope this information has been helpful to you.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need additional information. I know that you have many questions about planning your travel and your housing, and we will be happy to assist you in any way that we can.  If you need assistance, please call, e-mail or fax and ask for the international student coordinator/ advisor.

Have a good, safe, trip and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Sincerely,

International Student Services                                                                                                              

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Updated 7/15/2014