First and Foremost

There are certain things that have to be done in advance, i.e., as soon as get you your visa – much before the flight.

  • Join VCU Desis Yahoo group.
  • Join Tiranga Indian Nationals at VCU Facebook group (You need to have a Facebook account for this). 
  • Learn driving as it is very useful to commute anywhere if you know driving.  You can get your International Driving Permit or just apply for license when you are in Richmond. DMV office is very near to campus and you can go by GRTC bus.
  • Apply for a bank loan (if necessary)
  • Make your passport valid for 6 months more than your stay indicated in your I-20.


Learn to cook at least basic things like dal, rice, some vegetable curries, chai/coffee etc unless you want to survive on instant noodles ;-). Most of the basic ingredients are available in grocery stores. For others like garam masala, papad etc, you will need to go to local Indian stores.


Go and block the ticket first. You need not pay anything for blocking, it’s free! You can pay later (generally 10 days before departure) after your ticket and schedule is confirmed. Keep these things in mind:

  • Block flights with multiple airlines.
  • Try and book a direct flight to Richmond, even if you have to take a local airline it is more convenient than taking a bus.
  • Buy a single ticket all the way through – add on are very expensive. Avoid change of airline. A direct flight is the best.
  • If change of airline can’t be avoided leave at least 4-6 hrs gap between the scheduled arrival of one flight and the scheduled departure of the connecting flight.
  • Baggage is usually safe with a single airline – change of airline sometimes leads to misplaced luggage. Some airlines don’t take care of baggage transfer – you may have to personally carry it (check this while booking) and cross check every thing you are promised by the Travel agent with the original air lines. Even if you have confirmed ticket in you hand.
  • And remember to ask for student concessions…Generally all the airlines will come up with some discount offer or extra baggage allowance for students…so check all this out before you pay the money.
  • Typical expenses: Rs.50, 000 – Rs.70, 000/-
  • Also find out how much baggage you can carry with you. Generally airlines allow two 50 lbs bags and one cabin baggage.


Find out the necessary immunization info and get everything done. There are some vaccines like Hepatitis B, which require 3 doses spread over 6 months. So start it early. These vaccines are very costly in US and you certainly do not want to start spending money the moment you land here. Get requisite immunization done (especially MMR, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal Meningitis, Polio and Tetanus). Check university health services website for more details.

Health checkups

Get a medical check-up done including X-Ray of Chest and consult your physician if you have any abnormal findings.

Dental check up

  • Fresh check-up, especially if you have a major ailment.

The rationale behind taking dental checkup and treatment while in India is:

  • To avoid possible dental treatment abroad as it is a well-known fact that dentist in U.S charge exorbitantly high.
  • Under inevitable circumstances if you are required to go for dental treatment, you need prior appointment of two to three weeks in U.S.
  • Even Students are required to bear the huge expenditure, as dental care is not covered under health insurance in the U.S.
  • It is ironic that the materials we use in India are the same used by dentists in U.S, but the payment made for the dental care is in dollars while the number being the same in India.

Eye check up

Get your eyesight checked. Get a new prescription for glasses. Buy at least one extra pair of glasses or a pair of contact lens. To get a new pair of glasses in US, you need a prescription from an optometrist here.

Health Insurance:

Health insurance taken outside US is not valid in VCU. You will have to buy a policy here. You may however take a policy of small duration before you get your insurance card here.

Airport Pickup

Unless you already know someone who can come to pick you up, you need to arrange for a pickup from the airport to the place of temporary stay.

  • The best way is to contact GEO by email or phone and ask for airport pickup. Contact person for airport pickup and temporary stay is Ms. Pam Haney(). You have to pay them some amount for both.
  • Send an email only after your flight ticket are booked and you know all the details.
  • Send an email well in advance (2 weeks) and make sure you get an acknowledgement.

Apartment hunt

Start this well in advance as good apartments tend to run out fast. This page explains how to proceeed.

August 27, 2013