Tips Tricks UMD
THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL DOCUMENT, just NOTES FROM HCIL VISITORS written over the years---
IT MAY NOT BE UPTODATE
NAMES MAY HAVE CHANGED
To obtain the J1 Visa (may be OLD)
Your HCIL sponsor (i.e. the faculty that agree to have you come visit the lab) will put you in contact with an administrator who will help you get your visa. Recently Yerty at UMIACS (the administrative home of HCIL) has been the one to help visitors through that process. She will tell you up-to-date info on what to do but the info below may be useful to have a general picture of the process. Eventually the university will send you a signed form (recently it was a DS-2019 form) that you need to apply for a J-1 Visa at the US embassy where you live.
After you have that form you can proceed, these are the following steps you’ll have to take:
1. Own a valid passport (regardless the date of issue, but has to be valid until the end of the visit).
2. Pay the SEVIS fee of 100$ on the SEVIS Fee website . It is very important that you print the receipt. You need the receipt number to book an appointment at the embassy. And you will need the actual receipt when you’ll be in the embassy. There are two shipping options. One it is for free but it can take up to 20-30 days, the other one costs 30$ and it only takes up to a week. At the American Consulate in Paris the e-receipt works, you don’t need the actual receipt.
3. You have to pay the consular taxes of 80€ (I am not sure if this applies to other countries other than Italy, you’ll have to check on the website of your country’s American Embassy). In France, you have to do a money order of 85€ at the post office. You will need the receipt of that for the Consulate.
4. Fill the DS-156 form (print it: you need the number written near the bar code). The bar code will not come out as clear as a normal bar code but that’s the way it is supposed to be.
5. Fill the DS-157 (only if you are a male) and the DS-158 forms.
6. Book an appointment to the embassy. You need to bring all the above items plus at least two small photos of yourself and a A4-sized envelope (if they can’t print the VISA that same day, they’ll mail the passport back to you) and the necessary stamps. In France, you have to bring two photos of yourself at a special format and you have to bring a Fedex envelope too (to ship the passport back).
Be sure to answer every question: the Americans are very concerned about that, even if the answer is “no” or “none”: write it.
To find a place to stay
The University of Maryland is in the suburbs (or as a visitor said “in the middle of the nowhere by European standards". If you are used to living in a city you’ll find yourself far from everything. The house that you’ll live in is probably going to be in the suburbs and since you won’t have a car (unless you buy one) try to keep in mind the following things:
• Try to search for a room that is already furnished: not every one of them is; or be ready to shop for cheap/used furniture (but you need a car for that).
• You’ll need to go to campus everyday, so if you plan to go there via bus, my advice is to find a house on the Campus bus routes (http://www.transportation.umd.edu). HCIL is next to the Stamp Union so you can take any place that’s near a shuttle stop. Just watch out for the schedule: some routes only have buses every hour! and may not work during the summer or january breaks.
• If you are used to cooking on your own, be sure to ask if they have all the pots and kitchenware needed (depending on the house and your future roommates, most of them don’t cook and use frozen food) and out of the ordinary pots (like pots used to boil pasta for an Italian) are very expensive.
• Also be sure to check if there is a grocery store near your house because you won’t know how friendly your roommates will be with you, and you can’t rely on them to bring you there with their cars all the times. And since the terrain can be very hilly, even a bike may be hard for the less athletics, especially if you will be carrying a heavy load.
The campus has a listing of housing options: http://www.och.umd.edu/
Or there http://washingtondc.craigslist.org is good. If you also search for "roommates" on google you can find several websites that offer a service used to find you rooms in houses near American universities. They are like dating services, so watch out! Some of the ads could be offering "more" than just a room!
Arriving (prices are likely to be wrong now but give a general idea of prices)
I arrived at the Washington Dulles International Airport (there are three, so be sure to know which one you’ll be arriving at. It should be written on your ticket (Dulles International code is IAD). I took a cab to go to the University and I had to pay around 80$ (OLD). Most international flights from Europe will arrive around 4pm and that’s the time most persons will start to go home so you’ll probably find traffic on your way there. Keep in mind to tip the driver in the end: 15/20% of the price they will tell you will be fine or they won’t even get out of the car to open the trunk to get your luggage, as I learned the hard way! I only left tip so to get to the nearest round number as we do in Italy, but here you have to compute it! You could also take the bus and get to the UMD by metro, but depending on how huge your belongings are, it may be or may be not a wise decision. And keep in mind that the College Park metro station is not inside the campus but is like 15 minutes on foot, and if you’re not carrying a map you are likely to become lost. Contrary to people’s opinions, if you ask for directions, you’ll learn that often no one knows where anything is... Arriving from the Dulles you can take a bus if you don’t want to pay a cab. It’s the 5A (Dulles Express) that goes directly to the metro station L’Enfant Plaza (it’s on the orange, blue, yellow and green line, in the center of DC). It is only a few dollars (may be $5 or 6, but only takes cash and you have to have the exact change) and it takes about one hour to get there. The metro map can be found at http://wmata.com/metrorail/systemmap.cfm . To get to campus take the green line direction Greenbelt and get off at College Park Station. There is a shuttle bus (number 104) that goes directly to Stamp Union. There’s a camous bus about every 10-15 minutes. To get the shuttle schedules go to http://www.transportation.umd.edu/routes/commuter.html
If you arrive from Baltimore Airport (code BWI), you can take the B30 bus (about 6$ cash only), which takes you to Greenbelt Metro Station (it’s about 45/60min depending on the traffic). WARNING: the B30 service is being reduced is 2017 - check carefully). From there, you can either take the Metro for one station to College Park (and then the campus shuttle bus) or the C2 bus (1.25$) going Westbound (Wheaton) or take a taxi (it’s probably about 10$ to the campus).
When arriving on campus
After you arrive in the US, you’ll need to talk with your contact on how to obtain an UMD ID card. Best is to go visit yerty right away to say thank you and get her advice on how to get all your stuff in order. They’ll probably give you a letter that you have to bring at the Mitchell building (BUT I THINK THEY MOVED!) (you need to go there the first Friday that you are in the US) so that they may print you one. You may also need to bring them a copy of your health insurance (you need to buy one that covers at least 50.000$ in medical expenses and that can repatriate you in case of illness or death). If English is not your country’s language, you’ll have to bring a translation of the health insurance form to show them. If you are one of the lucky few that is getting paid by the university of Maryland, you will need to have a Social Security Number. Talk to a person at the IES about how to do that (3rd floor, Mitchell Building)
Once you have your ID card, you can use it to get in the campus buses, get access to the building and the lab etc. You can also pay in shops on campus (such as the University Book Center and all the fast foods). In order to do that you have to have a directory ID and log on to https://www.sis.umd.edu/servlets/commonLogin. Remember, by using that card you get a discount since you don’t have to pay the taxes (about 10%).
Good things to bring that may be helpful
- A lock for your notebook: better safe than sorry - If you own a mobile be sure that it will work in the US too: the old “dual band” models do not, you need either a tri or quad band mobile. You can also buy a prepaid cellphone for 25$ (phone+credit) from VirginMobile?. - If you want to be able to connect to the internet, be sure that you have a wi-fi card (and that it supports both B and G standards), because it will be way easier that way. Wired connections are hard to come by - Power adapters. You just need the socket adaptor: most of your electronic devices (notebook, camera, mobile, etc.) will work (except hairdryers for example). Keep in mind that in America they use 110v sockets, while in Europe it is 220v. So your electronic devices will take double the time to charge their batteries - At least one credit card: Americans tend to use them even to make small purchases. But watch out if your credit card is not American: your bank will charge you some money plus they will apply a very disadvantageous changing rate. - Remember to bring some cash because you won’t know where the ATMs are and you will probably need to pay a deposit for your room.
International Coffee Hour
Starting from February 13th, 2008 Wednesday
Misc and/or stuff to classify
Getting a Graduate Student ID : http://www.union.umd.edu/GSL/ID/
Today @ Maryland http://www.umd.edu/fyi/calendar/list.php
Theater and Box Office http://www.union.umd.edu/hoff/