For an international student coming to the United States, there is a multitude of requirements and preparations that need careful attention. The following section of our website will help answer your most common questions and concerns when selecting East Central University (ECU) and Ada, Oklahoma as your new home away from home! ECU’s Office of International Student Programs and Services (ISPS) provides support to over 200 international students at ECU, and we look forward to you being the next student to join our growing international community.
- Arrival and Transit
- General Preparation
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Financial Matters
- Healthcare Insurance and Immunizations
Immigration regulations allow you to enter the US no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on your F-1 or J-1 immigration document, the I-20 or DS-2019. Academic program start dates are established by the University and cannot be changed, so students and scholars are advised to plan their travel accordingly. See ECU’s Enrollment Dates and Deadlines webpage.
Students currently in the US:
Students and scholars already in the US in F or J status are not bound to the 30-day rule. However, an F-1 student transferring to ECU from another school in the US must report to ISPS within 15 days of the program start date listed on ECU's I-20. Individuals in all other immigration categories should contact ISPS about how early they can arrive.
Students should plan to arrive in Ada in time to settle in and attend orientation sessions held prior to the beginning of classes. Pre-arrival notification e-mails will be sent to all admitted students 1-2 months prior to the start of the semester advising of the appropriate arrival dates, orientation sessions, etc.
- Students and scholars who plan to live on-campus should arrive no more than one week prior to the start of the semester.
- Students and scholars who plan to live off-campus should arrive a couple of weeks before the semester begins in order to allow enough time to locate suitable and affordable housing accommodations.
Checking in with ISPS
All new international students and scholars must check in with the Office of International Student Programs and Services (ISPS) upon arrival in Ada. We are located in the Administration Building, room 152. See ECU’s Campus Map for location assistance.
Canceling or Changing Your Plans
If your plans change and you cannot come to ECU, or if you have to defer your arrival to a different date, please contact ISPS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moving Overseas Survival Rule #1
Pack as lightly as possible. You can always have your family mail you a box or pick up what you need during a visit home. Anything you forget to bring can be purchased. There are many places to go shopping near campus. ECU provides a free shuttle service to students during select times and there are many affordable options for Ada public transportation as well.
www.onebag.com is a website where you will find packing lists, advice and important links, including a link to the US Transportation Security Administration website where you can find out which items are prohibited for air travel.
Cut off all old luggage tags from your suitcases. Put your ECU address, or the ISPS address and contact information on a tag outside of your bag, and on a card that will go somewhere inside your bag as well. Once you have finished packing, zip up securely, but do not lock any of the compartments on your bags, so that they may be opened if chosen for security inspection. Locks will be broken if additional inspection is required.
The weather in Ada can range from very hot and humid in the summer to quite cold and freeze in the winter. You need to plan for all four seasons – fall, winter, spring & summer. For the summer you will need light casual clothes. To plan for the changing weather from fall through spring, you will probably want to have at least one heavy coat or jacket and a light jacket or sweater to start with.
We strongly recommend that you bring some traditional attire from your country for cultural events and/or special occasions!
You will need an assortment of footwear - sandals for summer to thicker shoes for winter. You'll probably want to bring comfortable sneakers or flat shoes for walking around campus and Ada.
Mementos from Home
Bring photographs of family and friends. Some familiar objects to make you feel more at home might seem like a silly thing when you are packing, but they can make you feel a lot better when you are feeling blue and missing home. Consider bringing some small significant items to place next to your bed or hang on the wall. In addition, you may want to consider bringing small souvenirs from your home country to share or give away as gifts.
Plan on buying most of your household items (small electrical appliances, bed sheets, and towels, cooking and eating supplies) once you have arrived. Every year faculty, staff, and current students donate household items toward “International Welcome Baskets” for our international students – these baskets mainly consist of a pillow, sheet set, and a towel. The baskets go very quickly and are given out on a first come first serve basis. You should not rely on the University providing the aforementioned items. So, if you have space in your suitcase, you may want to bring a set of sheets and towels from home to get started. You can always purchase what you need once you arrive.
Make sure you do not pack anything valuable into the suitcase that you are going to leave the Check Baggage Center in case it gets lost. Carry all your important documents, medications, toiletries etc. in your carry-on luggage, and in case your checked luggage gets lost, you will want to also have a change of clothing with you. Sometimes it can take a couple of days to locate misplaced luggage.
Make certain you have these important documents in your carry-on luggage:
- Valid passport
- Valid US visa stamp (Canadian citizens are exempt)
- Your Immigration Document (I-20 or DS-2019)
- Proof of financial support
- Sufficient funds in US dollars (petty cash) to cover expenses for the first few weeks
- Medical records including a record of immunizations (in English)
- Valid foreign driver’s license and International Driver’s Permit and/or certified English translation. You will not be able to drive in the US without both documents until you are issued an Oklahoma driver’s license.
- Temporary housing arrangements, including a place to stay the night of your arrival. We recommend that students do not sign a lease for any property before seeing it.
- Cellular phone compatible for use in the US. It is wise to pre-purchase a US pre-paid phone that will allow you to contact ECU in case of an emergency or change in travel plans and to contact your family to let them know that you arrived safely.
- Transportation arrangements from the airport to Ada. ECU does not offer transportation service from the airport. Instead, we advise students to use the reliable, affordable, and worry-free shuttle service available at Will Roger’s World Airport in Oklahoma City. We recommend that students do not arrive at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport as the drive time to Ada is about 3 hours long.
Ada City Lodging
New students planning to arrive prior to early housing check-in (check acceptance letter for arrival details) and/or traveling with family must arrange for housing accommodations off campus. Temporary accommodations may be found at one of the places listed below. The below options are the closest to campus; however more options are available can be found online.
Housing for the Academic Year
Freshman year undergraduate students must live in University residence halls during their first year of attendance. That being said, to receive the non-resident tuition waiver students must reside in campus housing until age 21. Undergraduates age 21 or older may reside on-campus or off-campus and will still receive the non-resident tuition waiver. NOTE: Graduate and postgraduate level students are not eligible to reside in campus residence halls, but will still receive the non-resident tuition waiver. Some students choose to live in University residence halls (on-campus); others choose to live in non-University housing located in the neighborhoods that surround the campus (off-campus). There are a variety of factors to consider when making the choice of where to live: proximity to campus, costs, security, personal and family lifestyles, and transportation. Both on-campus and off-campus housing can be difficult to obtain in the few days just before the beginning of the semester, so plan ahead.
ECU’s Housing and Residence Life website has information about on-campus housing options.
On-campus housing is limited and is not always available. On-campus housing choices include single and double rooms. Individuals new to Ada and the University often prefer to spend the first year in University housing. All rooms are furnished, but the occupant will have to provide sheets and towels, drapery, etc. Prices vary according to the type of accommodation and are subject to yearly increases. Note: some buildings close during the University's winter and summer break periods – see Campus Calendar for information on closings.
Applications for on-campus housing should be submitted well in advance of arrival. A potential occupant must sign a housing contract to obtain on-campus housing. Signing this agreement obligates the occupant to housing fees for the full term of the lease unless he/she withdraws from ECU. More information and on-campus housing applications can be obtained from the Office of Housing and Residence Life.
Within the University city area housing varies greatly in price, convenience, location, condition, and type of accommodation. In selecting off-campus housing, one must consider all these factors and be certain that the housing is secure. Prices closer to ECU are typically higher.
Sharing a house or apartment with other students or renting a room in a house are common ways of economizing on housing costs. Single rooms are sometimes furnished. Efficiency, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments include kitchen facilities but most often are not furnished. Tenants often assume responsibility for payment of all utilities (electricity, gas, waste, water). Tenants must be prepared to pay one to three months of rent (security deposit, and first and/or last month's rent) when they sign leases for off-campus housing. By signing a lease agreement, the tenant is obligated to pay rent for the full term of the lease, regardless of his or her academic status at ECU. Off-campus lease agreements typically cover periods of six months to one year.
It is important that students and scholars plan their finances carefully and do not rely on earning a great deal of extra money after arrival in the US. Employment in most non-immigrant visa categories is highly restricted by US government regulations; therefore, new students and scholars should come prepared to meet all of their expenses. Moreover, financial assistance is usually not available to international students after arrival, with the exception of eligible scholarships.
Another factor to consider in one’s financial planning is that federal, state, city, and/or social security taxes will be deducted from most US-source salaries, scholarships, and stipends. With tax deductions typically ranging from 14 to 30 percent of the total income, one’s available income may be significantly less than expected. The amount of tax deducted depends on the individual’s earnings, tax status, and whether he/she is a beneficiary of a tax treaty. All individuals with US-source income are required to report their annual earnings to the Internal Revenue Service by April 15 of the following year. Anyone who has overpaid taxes during the year will receive a tax refund after filing the tax return.
The financial demands on new students and scholars are typically highest at the beginning of the academic year because tuition, health insurance fees, and housing deposits are due at this time. Tuition must be paid in full unless one makes advance arrangements with the Bursar Office. Temporary accommodations, initial household expenses, cell phone, food, and books are other extra expenses to take into account. Thus, it is advisable to come prepared to cover all extra expenses.
Students who have been awarded a non-resident tuition waiver will not receive the adjustments on their bill until roughly one month into each semester. Therefore, students who have been awarded the waiver should make their payments based on the amount that does not include theirs out of state tuition charges.
Currency Restrictions and Transfer of Funds to the US
Some governments restrict the amount of money that can be taken out of the country. Others may restrict funds for students until an enrollment confirmation letter from the admitting US institution has been received. Before leaving home, it is advisable to determine whether any documents are required from the University in order to authorize the transfer of funds. In these cases, ISPS can provide students the necessary documentation upon seeing proof of full-time student status.
One should be aware of their home country's requirements for exchanging money and the value of the home country currency in the US. Travelers must declare currency amounts over $10,000 at US customs upon arrival. US coins are different diameters and represent different proportions of one US dollar: penny (1/100th), nickel (1/20th), dime (1/10th), quarter (1/4), and dollar (1). American paper money is green and all bills are the same size. The following are common bill denominations: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100.
It is recommended that one obtain a small amount of American currency in coins and bills before arriving in the US to cover miscellaneous initial expenses such as cab fare and meals. Most major airports have banks available for currency exchange and automated teller machines (ATM’s) for those who decide to obtain US currency after arrival.
US Banking Services
It is recommended that all new students and scholars open an account at a local bank soon after arriving in Ada. All banks have different charges and fees for services, such as ATM access, checking, and overdraft protection, so it is wise to investigate the terms and conditions of each bank and each account type before choosing. To open an account, one must present two forms of identification, such as a passport and an ECU student identification card. Some banks may require a Social Security number.
Banks that do not require social security numbers (SSN) to open an account:
1) Arvest Bank
- Address: 930 North Country Club Road, Ada OK 74820 Phone: 580-272-2900
- Requirements to open an account: Passport, State ID/ ECU ID, $100 opening deposit
- Address: 831 East Main Street, Ada OK 74820 Phone: 580-332-6306
- Requirements to open an account: Passport, State ID/ ECU ID, one-to-one number, student schedule, $50 opening deposit for checking account
3) Vision Bank
- Address: 101 East Main Street, Ada OK 74820 Phone: 580-332-5132
- Address: 1800 Arlington Street, Ada OK 74820 Phone: 580-332-5132
- Address: 201 South Rennie Avenue, OK 74820 Phone: 580-332-5132
- Requirements to open an account: Passport, State ID/ ECU ID, Address Verification (Mailing Address), $100 opening deposit
ECU provides a free shuttle service throughout the City of Ada during the week, so you will be able to secure a bank account, obtain groceries, toiletries, etc. upon arrival, but it is better to come prepared.
Checking and Savings Accounts
Having a checking account will assure safe and quick deposit of foreign checks and free the account holder from carrying large amounts of cash. Banks provide monthly and/or online records of individual transactions from the checking account, thus allowing easy tracking of one’s finances. Checks are typically used to pay monthly bills like rent, telephone, and electricity or certain retail purchases if accompanied by identification. Cashed checks are often returned to the account holder after they are cleared by the bank, and may serve as proof of payment. Some banks will post scanned copies of the cashed checks in the online account statement. It is a serious matter to write a check without having sufficient funds in the account. In addition to various fees the bank will charge, the individual may suffer serious financial consequences and may be subject to legal action.
Savings or investment accounts are used to hold money that won’t be used immediately. Such accounts bear interest which may be taxable. Some savings or investment accounts have penalties for withdrawing funds before a fixed amount of time elapses but many will allow holders to withdraw or transfer funds to other accounts at any time without penalty.
Automatic Teller Machines (ATM)
Basic banking, such as deposits, transfers, and withdrawals, is available 24 hours a day at computerized banking machines (ATM or MAC machines) at most banks. These machines can be found throughout the city. It is recommended to only use ATM’s located in safe and secure places indoors and to avoid making withdrawals after dark. Some banks charge a fee each for each ATM transaction.
Credit cards are used often in the US but are sometimes difficult to obtain for international students and scholars who have not yet established a good financial credit history in the US. For this reason, some students and scholars choose to apply for credit cards in their home countries rather than in the US.
Major credit cards in the US are Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express, but businesses do not always accept all cards. Credit cards issued by department stores or oil companies are usually easier to obtain and can be used to establish credit.
One should use caution in using credit cards as a means of postponing payment for purchases. Almost all credit cards charge interest, which may range from 12% to 22% per year. If a credit card is lost or stolen, it is important to file a report with the police and notify the company that issued the card immediately.
The cost of healthcare in the US is very high and there is no national health plan. Therefore, ECU is pleased to announce the availability of a student health insurance plan for you and your loved ones!
Healthcare Insurance Requirement
All registered international students are required to enroll in the student ECU health insurance plan or provide proof of comparable coverage. International students will have the insurance premium automatically assessed to their university account. Since many group insurance plans may not cover treatment out-of-area, ECU’s student insurance plan is available to provide coverage appropriate to our international student population at a reasonable price. If you have any questions or wish to discuss this plan in detail, please contact Academic Health Plans at (888)308-7320, visit their website at https://ecok.myahpcare.com/.
Health Insurance for J Visa Exchange Visitors ONLY:
Pursuant to 22 C.F.R. § 62.14 the US Department of State (DOS) federally mandates exchange visitors and their dependents entering the US (US) on a J Visa are required to have insurance in effect which covers the exchange visitor for sickness or accident during the period of time that an exchange visitor participates in the sponsor's exchange visitor program.
J exchange visitors who purchase insurance policies in their home country prior to arrival in the US, or those that are sponsored by an organization who provides health insurance, should make certain that their coverage meets the minimum requirements described below. All exchange visitors with health insurance not covered by the University should bring documents describing their coverage and claims procedures.
Insurance coverage must meet the following:
a) Minimum Insurance Coverage – Insurance shall cover:
1. A deductible of no more than $500 per accident per illness
2. Minimum benefits of $50,000 per accident or illness
3. $7,500 benefit for repatriation of remains in case of death
4. $10,000 coverage for medical evacuation travel expenses
5. Any waiting periods for pre-existing conditions should be reasonable by current industry standards
b) Policy must be backed by full faith and credit of a home country government or must meet minimum rating requirements established by the US government (an A.M Best rating of “A-” or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of “A-I” or above, a Standard and Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of “A-” or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above.
c) Maintenance of Insurance – Willful failure to maintain the required insurance throughout your stay in the US will result in the termination of your exchange program.
Per Oklahoma State law all new students to ECU are required to show that they have been fully immunized against several diseases. Students are required to submit their immunization records by emailing, faxing, or mailing ISPS a copy of their immunization records. More information can be found in the International Application Packet and on ECU’s Office of Health Services webpage.