VCU is fairly decent sized University with a population of approx 29,000 and growing. It has many nationally ranked programs on it’s two campuses: Monroe Park Campus and the Medical Campus. Monroe Park Campus aka Academic campus houses School of Engineering, Business, Arts, Basic sciences etc. While School of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Allied Health are on the Medical campus located in the downtown. You can see these details in VCU Campus Map.
Richmond is pretty hot in summer and cold in winter with occasional snowfall too. Summer temperatures range from 20°C to 31 °C and winter temperatures range from -2°C to 7°C. There is no rainy season like we do in India. It rains almost throughout the year. Average annual precipitation is ~ 110 cm. Check weather.com website for more information.
VCU also runs the RAM RIDE ( A.K.A CAMPUS CONNECTOR) between the Monroe Park Campus and MCV campus. One of the unique features at VCU is the subsidized GRTC (Greater Richmond Transit Company) bus pass offered by the University. You can get the GRTC pass from VCU Parking and Transportation office. GRTC is a public transportation buses that run in Richmond and they take you to major malls, grocery stores, cinema hall etc. VCU has started a new service called RAM SAFE which will take you anywhere in the vicinity of both campuses from 5:00 pm in evening to 8:00 am in morning. You can call or book online the ride and it will pick my you up from any place and drop you off.
Indian students prefer to live in high-rise apartments or houses in the Downtown/ Fan area that is very close to academic campus. Students usually share an apartment. The rent for a double bed apartment ranges from $950 to $1150 depending on location. So on a 4/2-bed apartment occupancy the rent per head is somewhere between $400-550. This usually, but not always include gas, heat, electricity, garbage disposal etc.
Once your Visa is stamped you can send email to this group for your accommodation needs. Usually someone will house you for a week or so and during that period you can look for apartments. During Fall, many new students arrive, some graduate. So there’s lot of permutation and combination going on.
If you have financial aid you are well placed. Otherwise you will have to look for an On-Campus job. You are allowed to work for 20hrs/ week when the school is in session and 40hrs/ week when the school is not in session. Here they pay from $7.25- 14 per hour depending upon the job. Jobs range from working in Dining Hall, Computer labs, Gym, petty lab work, receptionist, hepIT, library etc. Jobs in Dining hall are with hard work, stuff like cleaning and others. Its hard to get a easy going job at your first semester. If you feel indignity in doing hard-work jobs you will never find a job at VCU unless you are fortunate. But students do find On-Campus job that help them to take care of living cost and also the tuition fees to a small extent. To find the on-campus jobs at VCU you can look at this website VCU Jobs and apply online. You can always go and ask personally in global education office, international admission office and VCU police but do not irritate them by doing lot of emails.
Apart from your tuition fees, part of your monthly expenses are: rent (~$400); utility viz. telephone (~$45), internet (~$30), electricity (~$50), groceries (~$100-250), health insurance (~$70). The figures will obviously vary depending upon your food habits and preferences. Some of the utilities like telephone, electricity are shared among room mates so might cost less.
Do non-funded students get financial aid after first semester?
This depends upon which department you join and your degree level i.e. MS or Ph.D. Try to contact students in your department. They are in a better position to answer this question. The general trend was that students usually landed with funding but this was before the economic slow-down. The current situation is bad, if not worse. Remember, speak to the students and faculty members.