What to Bring, Send, Buy Here and Leave at Home
Recommendations below are based in part on Charles Lipson's book, Succeeding as an International Student in the United States and Canada. You may wish to look at this book for further suggestions, if you have access to it. Be sure to check the New Student Guide from Residential Life for information on housing and tips on what to bring as well!
As little as possible! Bring only what you need or truly can't replace or buy here. There will be a shopping trip during international student orientation and other opportunities to shop during regular orientation and throughout the semester, so don't bother packing large amounts of toiletries, school supplies, film, or other easily replaced items.
What will you really, really need first few weeks or first month of school? What is absolutely essential for the first few days, in case your luggage is lost? Things in the first category go in your checked luggage. Anything in the second should be carried with you on the plane. Other items can be shipped, purchased online to await your arrival, or purchased here after you arrive (see suggestions for each category below.)
Immigration documents, including your passport/visa, I-20, documents showing financial support, and admission letter from Hamilton.
Cash: You'll want US currency to pay for any travel between your port of arrival and Clinton, probably between $80 and $350. (See How to Get to Clinton, NY and When to Arrive.) Bring $100 more than you think you will need to pay for transportation, in case currency exchanges are closed when you arrive, or plan to bring traveler's checks and cash some at the currency exchange. It's not easy to change foreign currency in Clinton, so don't rely on bringing large amounts of your national currency or using airport exchanges, which may not be open if you arrive late.
Traveler's Checks: Carry most of your money this way, as it's safer than cash. Lipson advises bringing at least $1000-1500 for your first several weeks of expenses, if at all possible. (Linens, reading lamps, waste baskets, and other room decorations are NOT provided, and you'll need about $300-$400 if you plan to purchase those here. Textbooks for the semester may cost as much as an additional $500. Finally, traveler's checks are treated like cash for purposes of opening a bank account here, so bring enough to use for that purpose. Purchasing a cellphone and full phone plan can cost up to $500, although other cell phone options are available.
Cash cards: Major credit cards, debit cards, and ATM cards can be used to charge purchases or get local currency. Check to see if your local cash card is part of a global network, such as Cirrus or Plus. Bring it in case your need to withdraw cash. You may choose to carry fewer traveler's checks if you plan to use a major credit card or cash card to make purchases here or to withdraw US funds.
Card numbers and other vital financial information: Carry a list of your card numbers with you. Do not pack it in your checked luggage!
Record of your required immunizations and any other required health forms.
Medication: If you are on any special medication, make sure that you will have a sufficient supply. You may wish to consult your doctor about generic names of the drugs you must take rather than specific brand names. Your doctor should indicate on your health form (sent to you by the Hamilton Admission Office) medication you must continue taking. Prescriptions written outside New York State will not be accepted in the state, so your doctor should provide a complete description of any medication you take and the reasons for taking it.
Laptop computer: If you choose to bring it with you, carry it. You may wish to purchase one here. Some students also choose to use the computer labs available in different buildings around campus and purchase a computer only later, if at all.
Small electronics: iPod, camera, or any similar items
Clothing for a couple of days—change of shirt, underwear, etc. You may wish to bring small toiletry items too, but be careful of the limit on size and quantity imposed by security restrictions.
Emergency phone numbers, both at home and at Hamilton! You'll receive an email with several emergency contact numbers here at Hamilton for use while you are travelling.
Comfort items, such as a travel pillow, lightweight throw, and small towel will be useful during your journey. You can also use them in your room upon arrival, since it may be a day or two before you can get linens (unless you order them online - see below). You may want to pack them if you have room.
Seasonal clothing, including jeans, a couple pairs of shoes, a pair of sandals, some short and long-sleeved shirts/blouses, some sweaters or sweatshirts, a lightweight jacket or raincoat, an umbrella. You may want some shorts. Pack a bathing suit, since you'll be taking a swim test! You may want to bring one dressier outfit, but in general students here dress casually.
Linens, including one set of towels, two sheets (extra-long twin size to fit mattress 76"-80" long, 33" wide, and 6 1/2" deep--flat sheets are best!), pillowcase, and a blanket, if you have room. Pack or carry a travel pillow if you can. Hamilton does NOT provide linens, and you'll need these right away. They are bulky, though, so we strongly suggest shipping them in advance, or ordering online for delivery to Hamilton.
CDs, computer games, or other favorite items from home
Photos and small mementos of home—your friends will want to see these! Bring one national festive outfit if you can, since you may wish to wear this for special occasions or events sponsored by the International Student Association.
List of home and Hamilton emergency contact numbers
PLEASE NOTE: The Mail Center CANNOT store packages for RETURNING Students over the summer, but new students may ship to their Hamilton address!
Since it is expensive to pay for extra baggage on an airplane, you might want to consider shipping some items. With enough advance planning, you can ship linens and other items you'll need right away. You can definitely ship things you not need immediately when you arrive, such as extra sweaters and clothing, a winter jacket, etc. Shipping by sea is much less expensive than airfreight but the travel time is much longer. Some companies offer such services as: notifying you of the arrival of your packages or trunks in the U.S.; clearing the items through U.S. Customs at New York; arranging for forwarding items on to Clinton; payment of customs duty. A customs broker can prepare all necessary forms, bills of lading, and invoices, and will compute transportation and insurance fees. You should send any shipments to:
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, New York, 13323
The mail center will store your packages until you arrive.
If you have a credit card and internet access, you may wish to prepurchase some things you'll need immediately upon arrival. Hamilton College does not provide linens, so consider purchasing a set of extra-long twin sheets (to fit mattress 76"-80" long, 33" wide, and 6 1/2" deep--flat sheets are best!), a blanket, pillow, and perhaps a set of towels, unless you will bring these with you. Most students order their linens, pillow(s), towels, blankets, etc. from http://www.rhl.org/sponsors/hml and have them shipped directly to the College so you have them waiting for you!
The cost to purchase sheets ranges from $15-$25, depending on quality; a pillow will cost about $10; towels cost about $15 (you will need two); washcloths are about $3. Blankets can cost from $20-$75. Once you make the initial investment of money, you can store these items in with friends or with a nearby storage company during the summer and use them again next year. On-line stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Bed, Bath and Beyond and many others will ship the items to the mail center where they will be held for you. Have your things mailed to you at the address above. AGAIN, due to space limitations in the mail center this option is available to NEW students only.
Clothing: Clothes in the U.S. can be expensive, but there are ways to buy inexpensively too. If you are interested in saving money, ask other students about discount stores and special sales. To give you some idea of prices, you might compare the following prices with what the cost would be in your country:
Other prices you should be aware of:
Electrical appliances: If you bring electrical appliances with you, be aware that you will have to adjust the voltage of your appliances from 220 to 110. Many appliances have a switch built in so that they may be used both overseas and in the U.S. If you need to buy a converter, check to be sure that you get one that can handle the amount of power you will need to use. You'll most likely find it cheaper and easier to purchase these things here.
Cell or mobile phone: Your home cellphone may not be compatible with US technical requirements, and it is likely to be easier and cheaper to get a phone here with international calling options.