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The following students wrote this guide and are more than willing to help you out with

any problems not mentioned in this terribly long g also have the best information for your country-specific questions. Please feel free to contact them! This information is considered to be a May 2012.

Yuewei Jimmy Zhao , Class of 2013: si000057@gmail.com si57@vip.qq.com +1(202)534-9702 or +8618611179437 Jimmy, from China, is one of the most active international students at EMS; he led the draft of this guide. Jimmy is a wealth of good infor very happy to answer your questions. He is a self-taught computer wiz and technology guru. Ef Tokman Class of 2012: ectokman@me.com /+1(205)826-3858

2012 graduate from Turkey (also can help you out if youre from other parts in Europe); although graduated, he is willing to help all futur international students! EASTERN MENNONITE HIGH SCHOOL



Congratulations on being admitted by Eastern Mennonite High School, and greetings on behalf of the school and international students at EMS! VISA APPLICATION The following is a general procedure; it differs from country to country. But because they are all U.S. embassies, the processes are nearly the same. 1. Receive your I-20 Form by mail from EMHS International Admissions Counselor. Be patient while it mails from overseas and keep an eye on the tracking information provided! 2. Get an appointment from your U.S. Embassy or Consulate 3. Get all your documents ready (this might include bank records, admission letter, consent letter for minors, etc. Contact your embassy or consulate for more details. Each one is different) and notarize if necessary 4. Get biometric passport quality pictures taken 5. Complete the online DS-160 Form (https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/) 6. Pay the $200 SEVIS Fee (https://www.fmjfee.com/) 7. Go to your U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the Interview Just be truthful here and hope for the best. They will not be too hard on you, given that youre a high school student, and can afford your tuition at EMS. An interview will be a requirement for first-time applicants. Depending on your country, you might not have to do an interview for renewal. 8. Wait to receive your visa! 9. Should you be denied the issuance of a visa, keep calm and do not re-apply right away. Find out what in your process of applying got you denied. Do not apply again until you find it out. Re-applying will only give you another frustration. GETTING HERE 1. Immigration and customs 2.1 Documents

Make sure you have all your documents and most importantly your I-20 when youre going through the customs at the airport. 2.2 Entering and exiting the U.S.

You will be asked a lot of question at the U.S. Customs Control. Answer these questions truthfully and have all your documentation with you. The I-20 Form is a part of your visa, so have it with you at all times when youre crossing the border. You will not be allowed to enter the country without it. The date on your visa is for when you can ENTER the U.S., not how long you can stay in the U.S. As a F1 student, you will be able to remain in the U.S. for as long as youre studying (the D/S on your stamp stands for duration of status). Unlike other countries there is no passport control when exiting the United States. They will take your I94 Departure Record form instead, which will be stapled to your passport upon your most recent entry. But you will NOT be able to leave without a passport! Should you lose your passport, make sure you obtain a new one before departure.


Your host family may be willing to provide you with some necessary transportation in town, in addition to driving you to and from school everyday. You may ask them for a ride. If you have asked for too many rides, or they happen to not be able to give you a lift, here are some other options. Harrisonburg is a small city, which means it has what a city should have - public transportation; however, if youre from any large city, you will definitely find Harrisonburgs buses inconvenient. The stops are convenient enough, covering (almost) the entirety of the city, with only <5 minutes walk in between; so do not worry if there is a convenient stop near somewhere you intend to go. But all routes operate once every hour, and take a long interval to transfer. This means if you miss this hours bus, you have to wait for another hour, and sit in a still bus for 20 minutes for a transfer. The buses are definitely not anything very efficient, and do not operate on Sundays (with also very limited hours on other days - stopping at 6 p.m.), but they take you to where you want if time is not a problem (expect to spend 1 hour to get from EMHS to the shopping mall!). And hey, as a high school student you ride them for free. Whats so much to complain about? In fact, two international students have been using the buses to get home everyday this year. If the buses dont reach you (you live 10 miles away from town), or you prefer something more up-to-yourself, you may consider owning a vehicle of your own, such as a bicycle or a moped. Notice that a car is out of the question (refer to the Driving section). A bicycle is low-cost and doesnt require any license; it is capable of going to near places (i.e. within ~2 miles). Harrisonburg city is quite hilly, so biking takes much effort and unless youre a professional biker, you probably wont go too far. It is also good to know local traffic rules and laws, and wear a helmet (though not necessary). At least know that bikers are required to give hand signals upon turning or stopping; refer to Virginia drivers manual, take the driver education class, or go online for details. IGNORE THIS SECTION IF YOURE NOT ALLOWED TO OPERATE A MOTOR VEHICLE, BOUNDED BY YOUR SENDING AGENCY. A gas-powered moped (a small motorcycle with a step-through stepboard) is the choice of many college students. It costs less than cars, has high fuel efficiency, and doesnt require a parking permit to park on college campuses. It is also much preferable for high school students. One international student, Jimmy, operates his moped daily, and another one, Yichen, occasionally. According to Virginia codes, a moped with an engine of less or equal to 50cc displacement (along with other specifications, but needless to know) can be operated by a person at least 16 years old; the operator must have some kind of ID with him that tells name, age and address (a passport does not qualify; refer to Driving section). A helmet and face shield is required too. No registration, insurance or license required. If you meet these requirements, you can get a Honda or Yamaha, either new from local dealerships or used from local residents easily. A new one costs from $2500 to $3000, and a used one, in good condition, can save you $1000 or more (for as low as a few hundred $). A 50cc moped can go as fast as 40mph (while some have governed top speed of 25mph), which is more

than adequate for in-town use. Larger mopeds/motorcycles are more expensive, and require registration, insurance and license so they are out of the question. Notice that regular mopeds are vehicles too and need to be titled at local DMV. Driving is a great privilege, and with it comes great responsibilities; operating a moped is driving too. Take it seriously! Consult an owner or a teacher for more information. It is also highly recommended that you take the driver education course. 1.2 GETTING AROUND IN THE U.S.

The most convenient way to get over some distance in the U.S. is by air, while for a shorter distance it would be by car. With no train station or bus stop in the city, the nearest accessible facility is Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (3-letter code SHD) in Weyers Cave, VA. This small regional airport operated by United has daily flights to and only to Washington Dulles Intl (IAD), serving the Metropolitan D.C. area, where you will likely be entering the U.S. at. From there, all means of transportation will be accessible, including national/international flights of all airlines, buses and trains. The Shenandoah Valley airport is about 30 minutes drive from Harrisonburg, and the school would be happy to give you a ride to there for trips for holidays or returning to your home country. Trains, accessible in D.C. or Charlottesville, VA can be another option. They are less expensive than by air. However they are not as easily reachable as airports: the nearest train station is an hours drive away and the school does not provide the transportation regularly. EMS does not provide transportation to/from Washington Dulles.



Some tips for travelling in North America: -Hotels usually require you to be at least 18 years old to check in, and require a valid credit card with your name, or a co-travellers name on it; some require as old as 21. If youre under 18, you will not be able to stay in a hotel unless an adult is travelling with you. Please look for alternative accommodation. -Not everybody can visit Canada without a Canadian visa. Check if you are required to have a visa before you travel (including travelling with the school!) You will be denied entry into Canada, or even boarding the plane. Canadian visas are easy to apply for given that you hold a valid U.S. multi-entry visa (your student visa). Go to the website of the Canadian Embassy, or ask for help with applying. Make sure you have a valid signature on the third page of your I-20 form for frustration-free re-entry into the U.S. Each signature is good for one year from the date. If expired, ask Mrs. Byer for a renewal. -You will not be able to rent a car (due to age limits) in most states from most companies even if you hold a drivers license, with exceptions of New York and Michigan states, where the laws require rental companies to rent to 18year-olds, at a very high premium (about $50 per day). You may not drive another persons rental vehicle either (e.g. have a friend rent it for you), even with the renter in the car. 4. DRIVING

You may be surprised when you find out schoolmates of your age or even younger at EMS are driving themselves to school and everywhere else. In fact, most U.S. high school students start to drive themselves from the earliest legal driving age; in Virginia, this age is 16 years and 3 months old (to obtain a drivers license). It may be very tempting for you to start driving too. However, for international students, driving is not encouraged by EMS for those who lack parents or guardians in Harrisonburg. But international students are welcome to take the schools driver education course for preparation. Generally, EMS doesnt allow its international students to get their permit or license until they are 19 years old. Please talk with Mrs. Byer if you would like an exception to made for you. To obtain a license in Virginia while under 18, you will have to obtain 45 hours of driving experience in the U.S., preferably in Virginia, after obtaining your learners permit. This may likely be impossible for you if you dont have a car,

and a licensed adult driver available. Your host families are not allowed to provide this convenience, as it involves a lot of effort such as insurance, etc and unnecessary risk. You are able to apply for a Virginia license if you hold a license from your home country; you wont have to trade in your original license. Depending on which country you are from, you may be required to take a complete driver education course and pass the tests, or just pass the tests (a vehicle is still required). It is more viable to obtain a Virginia license this way. 4.1 ID IDs are frequently required in the U.S. to verify your name, and for many situations, your age. Much to your surprise, IDs are issued by the states DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). In the U.S., there is no uniform personal identification card, and a drivers license is the most commonly acceptable form of ID. Even non-license IDs are also issued by the DMV, including learners permits and plain ID cards. These forms of IDs are mostly acceptable, especially in their original state, as they carry the holders picture name, age and address on them. It is a good idea to apply for one of these when arriving. They are not only available to U.S. citizens. Other IDs may also be acceptable depending on the situation, such as your passport. To operate a moped, as mentioned above, you have to have a DMV-issued ID. If youre not planning on obtaining a drivers license, or a permit, it is still a good idea that you obtain a nonlicense state ID. You can get away with your passport for most of the time, but a passport doesnt carry your local address on it; moreover, your passport is, by many means, the most important document you need to have during your stay in the U.S., and you definitely dont want anything to happen to it. A U.S. ID is more acceptable in all situations. Know that you dont have to be a U.S. citizen to acquire this ID; you just need to be a Virginian resident, and studying at EMS qualifies you already. When applying, dont forget to print out a bank statement (you need to set up an account and wait for the first month!) and bring along any other required documentation. If youre under 18, let an adult (can be just your host family) sign your application. Mrs. Byer will create a simple school ID for you in September.

CREDIT CARD Bringing from your home country a multi-currency credit card, affiliated to your parents card (if possible), is a good way to save the hassle of currency exchange and the potential loss in the exchange rate. The best part is, you can spend money with your credit card, welcomed almost everywhere, and your parents can pay (if they pay for you) at home, benefiting from the latest exchange rate, and the lack of a processing fee. Your parents can be reassured by setting a limit, so you do not overspend. Recently, the exchange rates between U.S. dollar and a lot of currencies have been declining, and you can always enjoy the latest - which is the lowest rate. Please make sure your card can be billed in U.S. dollar, not converted to your currency, and has one of the major credit card companies logos, preferably VISA and Mastercard. COMMUNICATIONS Cell Phones If youre from anywhere in the world, you will probably be very confused by how U.S. telecom (esp. cell phone services) work. Thats very true, and other international students (actually, I mean we) have spent excessive amount of time figuring it out. Do not expect your old phone will work here in the U.S., although it is not impossible. The most commonly used cell phone technology in the U.S. is CDMA2000, which is not compatible with most carriers around the world (who use WCDMA). If you want to use your own unlocked cell phone (<-- U.S. terminology; basically doesnt exist everywhere else except Europe) here, you must use AT&T or T-Mobile. Other networks, with Verizon and Sprint being the largest, incorporate CDMA2000, and do not use SIM cards; the phone number is written into the phone itself. Dont bother if you use a Nokia 1-series from Europe or Asia, they dont support U.S. GSM bands. Hehehe.

If you have a really fancy phone that youd really really want to keep using, then please have your friend in the U.S. open up a line with AT&T or T-Mobile, and mail you the SIM card. You will not be able to sign yourself up, even if you have a credit card, because of being underage and have no credit record. It is best to look for a friend in the U.S. who owns a family plan himself, so he can add you to their family plan. This can save you tons of money over time, when you realize an average individual plan, with adequate amount of data (calling minutes and text messaging is usually enough, or comes unlimited) is around $80/mo. Make sure your phone supports GSM 850/1900 (MHz) bands. Upon your first arrival in the U.S., when you do not yet have a U.S. phone service, please enable your existing phones international roaming, so you could make contact with your family and your welcomers immediately. Some of our international students even find out that they pay almost an equal amount of money monthly just roaming, as opening up a U.S. service. This doesnt apply to you if you are a heavy user anyway. TO CALL HOME There are several cheap calling card or VoIP services. Skype is definitely a great one. You can easily video chat with your family back home for free. With an affordable additional cost, you can call phone numbers in your home country.

WHATS REALLY NEEDED FOR SCHOOL LAPTOP: please dont buy a desktop or all-in-one; you wont be able to bring it to school. A PENCIL: no fancy stationeries required; just one pencil or pen is good enough. Bring your favorite Korean, Japanese, Chinese or European pens and pencils along - theyre not readily available here. GRAPHING CALCULATOR: while most countries dont use calculators in class, you will be asked to buy it anyway when you start any math courses here...

PACKING LIST - To Buy or Not to Buy (other stuff) Some things are better to buy in the US; some are better to pack with you and bring to the US. This information varies depending on your home country. At EMS, our international students represent a wide variety of countries; it is best to ask an international student from your country who is already studying at EMS for where to buy what. The following chart is for quick reference for students from China and Europe Item Buy in the USA Buy in China & bring to the US Pro: everything is familiar and able to buy software in Chinese Cons: (potentially) poorer quality and higher price Buy in Europe & bring to the US

Computer (laptop) (Please do not bring any pirated software or videos.) cell phone (more info coming!) school supplies

Pros: (potentially) better quality and lower price Con: OS incompatibility with Chinese software

Pros: you can use the keyboard layout youre used to. (DEQWERTZ, FR-AZERTY, BE etc.) Cons: You might need to get a EU to US adapter for your charger.

buy them the USA

(High tech stationery

Just bring your favorite pens and

(paper, pencils, pens, binders, folders) camera small electric appliances Since you will need to use a voltage converter & adapter with small electrical appliances you bring from home, we recommend you buy things like a hairdryer, a curling iron, an iron, etc. here in Virginia. A winter coat; You can buy all types of clothes and shoes here in Virginia although they might be more expensive here.

youll probably never use in the US)

pencils. You wont be able to find most of the stuff you like in the US

Depends on what kind of camera it is You will not need an adapter or converter to use your cell phone charger, laptop cord as long as your plug says.... your favorite clothes You will need an adapter to use your EU appliances in the US. Most basic stuff such as hairdryers will not work with low American voltage, they require high 220-240V European electricity. Check what your plug says. Bring your favorite clothes. Most European brands are available in bigger cities, but not Hburg.


electronics (general) bedding, towels (These will be provided by your host family.) medication Tylenol, aspirin Bring your prescriptions from your home doctor.

Just get it when you come here. Finding an adapter is hard and using it is inconvenient. Dont even bother.

You might want to take over the counter medication with you when you come here. Theyre very expensive in the U.S.

If you have any questions, Jimmy Zhao, a rising EMS senior from Beijing, would be willing to answer them. Jimmy is very trustworthy and knowledgeable about technology.

Note from Mrs. Byer: Thank you so much, Jimmy, for taking the initiative of this guide. I appreciate your dedication and time and your desire to help others.