Arrival in Philadelphia
The first time you enter the U.S. on an F-1 visa, the school name on your visa and I-20 must match. This will be the school you must attend. This is why it is imperative that you take the I-20 issued by Saint Joseph’s to your visa appointment if SJU is the place you want to study. When you arrive at a port of entry in the United States, you will be required to present your I-20, passport and financial documents. The officer will process the I-20, stamp it and return it to you. You will also be issued an I-94 Arrival/Departure record. It is a very important document that should be stapled into your passport. It indicates your immigration status in the United States.
We encourage Graduate and University College students to arrange your travel schedule so that you can arrive at least one week before orientation or the Computer Science placement exam. This will give you time to find suitable housing and become acquainted with the campus, local neighborhoods and the city. Undergraduate students cannot move into the university dorms until the day before orientation, so you should try to arrive only a day or so before. If you need to stay at a hotel until you find a place to live or can move into the dorms, the closest hotels to campus are the Holiday Inn – City Avenue or the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue. They are not inexpensive but you can ask if they provide a discount for SJU students. Graduate students can contact Global Hawks and a mentor will arrange to meet you at Philadelphia International Airport when you arrive and escort you to campus. You will be required to pay for the taxi ride – it costs about $30 from the airport to Saint Joseph’s. Usually your mentor will help find you a place to stay temporarily while you search for a permanent apartment.
Checking in On-Campus
Come to the Center for International Programs with your passport, I-94 card, and I-20 soon after arriving in Philadelphia (Campus Map). We will welcome you to the university, make copies of your documents and try to answer any questions you have.
You will want to make sure that you are registered for classes. Undergraduate Day students receive their schedules towards the end of the summer; you will not have to pick your courses, they will be assigned for you. Graduate and PLS students need to meet with an advisor in their program to choose the most appropriate classes for your first semester. Students in the MS Computer Science program have a placement exam the Tuesday before classes begin. After the exam you will meet with the program director to select your courses.
Once you are registered you can get your SJU ID card from the Security Office in Barbelin Hall. You can also go to the Bookstore and purchase the text books required for your classes and other school supplies. If you haven't already, you can log in to the MySJU network to make sure that your user ID and password work. Get your account letter either from CIP or from Information Technology.
Many students hope to work on-campus while they are studying. F-1 and J-1 students are allowed to work on-campus and the time you are here before classes start is a good opportunity to look for a job. Unfortunately there is not one central location where on-campus jobs are posted. You will have to visit individual offices to see if they have any positions available. Keep in mind that you need to find student worker positions and that you do not qualify for the work-study jobs that tend to be more plentiful. While there are many offices that may hire a small number of students, the major student employers at SJU are:
Aramark Dining Services
Campion Student Center
Center for Food Marketing
Once you find a job, you will need to get a Social Security Number so that you can be paid.
Culture Shock and Adjustment
Whenever you go to a new place, whether a new school or a new country, it takes some time to adjust to your new environment. Frequently international students feel excited at first, but then become sad or angry. You may miss the places familiar to you and the people you knew there. It takes time to make new friends and to adjust. This feeling of being out of place and homesick is called "culture shock."
Culture shock is a phenomenon that strikes each person in a different way depending on cultural awareness, flexibility and personal characteristics. There are six basic stages of culture shock, the first starting before the actual traveling has begun with the preparation for the trip, saying good-bye to friends and personal expectations of the host culture. Below is a list of the individual stages of culture shock:
- Honeymoon: Everything is new and exciting.
- Culture shock: The excitement is gone. Differences begin to emerge; questions arise as to how to relate to the host culture.
- Surface adjustment: Things are starting to make sense. You can communicate basic ideas. You are making some friends and are feeling comfortable.
- Unresolved problems: Unresolved problems with friends/family may surface. You may wonder why you ever decided to come here. HOMESICKNESS!!
- Feeling at home: Accept new culture as just another way of living. Accept and understand differences although you may not always "approve".
- Departure concerns: Sense personal change. You have mixed feelings about returning home.
These phases can cause a roller coaster like up and down cycles which will most likely affect your mood. Keep in mind that culture shock is not something that goes away after the first year of study: it is a continuous cycle that repeats itself again and again. Remembering this is the key to being able to "diagnose" yourself with culture shock and being able to work towards curing it.
Once you understand why you feel the way you do when faced with all of the changes associated with studying in a foreign country, how do you start to adjust to the different type of lifestyle you encounter here in the United States? Adjustment is a slow process, and it takes much patience both with yourself and with your host population.
The most important piece of advice we can give you in regard to adjustment is to not interpret or process things you see and experience in the United States the same way you would in your home country. Each culture has different cultural attitudes and ways of communication and thus what happens in one culture cannot be transferred to another set of cultural norms. The key to understanding and adjusting to a new culture is objective observation and asking the following questions: 1) How is that done in this country?; 2) What does that mean in this country?
In many cases, the answers to both of these questions will be different in the United States than they would be in your own country. Adjusting to the American way of doing things while you are here does not mean that you must agree with the philosophy behind it or even that you have to agree that it is the best way to do things. The most important issue is for you to recognize the way things are done here so you will be able to participate in American society and have a smoother adjustment.
Please keep in mind that adjustment is a long process that requires time, effort and patience. You cannot learn everything in one week or even one month, so do not place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Take it one day at a time, and try to make everything a learning experience - especially your mistakes! A sense of humor and the ability to laugh at misunderstandings is a very good defense against culture shock.