This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP reciprocal exchange student. All important aspects of attending the University of California are addressed here, including academic information, participation details, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Reciprocal Exchange Students: University of California-bound UCEAP exchange students are commonly called “reciprocal exchange students” or “reciprocity students.”
UCEAP Systemwide Office: The office that coordinates UCEAP administration systemwide. The UCEAP Reciprocal Exchanges unit coordinates your academic placement and integration into UC campus life.
UC Liaison: A person, usually based in your home university, who helps with your application and pre-departure matters.
UC Study Center: A UC Center, located abroad, that aids communication between your home university and UCEAP.
International Students Office: A UC campus office that provides immigration (visa) and employment advice and support services for international students.
Host UC Department: The department where a student takes the majority of coursework while at UC.
Graduate Division: The department at each UC campus that oversees the practices of each graduate department.
Campus EAP Office: At UC the Campus EAP Office, your Campus EAP Advisor will be your main contact for both campus services and general advising after you arrive at UC.
The University of California (UC)
UC is the major public research university in the state of California, serving undergraduate and graduate students. There are ten campus locations: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco (a graduate medical school). The campuses of the UC system are located throughout California and encompass the state’s cultural and geographic diversity.
The UC system is home to more than 220,000 students. UC campuses rank highly among the top public universities in the U.S. Each campus offers attractive and distinct facilities, specialized schools, and creative and challenging learning opportunities.
The UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP)
UC hosts reciprocal exchange students from more than 130 institutions located in 35 countries. Nearly 1,900 international students participated in UCEAP’s reciprocal exchange in 2012–2013.
UCEAP coordinates your placement at a UC host campus. A Campus EAP Office, along with the International Students Office, assists reciprocal exchange students after they arrive in California.
Your home university’s UC Liaison handles recruitment, student selection, orientation, and academic advising. While preparing to go abroad, students and UC Liaisons work closely with UCEAP.
This guide contains information that will be useful during your UC studies. You are responsible for meeting all UCEAP deadlines and understanding the information you receive. Check your e-mail frequently for important information requiring a specific deadline.
Registrar’s Office: The office responsible for enrolling students in coursework. Staff and students often abbreviate the terms “Registrar” and “registration” to “reg.”
Semesters: The academic year (mid-August to mid-May) at UC Berkeley (UCB) and UC Merced (UCM) consists of two 15-week terms, called semesters. The summer term is not part of the regular academic exchange cycle.
Quarters: At all UC campuses except UCB and UCM, each academic year (late September to mid-June) consists of three 10-week terms, called quarters. The summer term is not part of the regular academic exchange cycle.
Units: Not all courses have the same “unit” (credit) value. A course unit is the measure of time spent in the classroom, discussion sections, and labs. Most classes are worth 3 to 5 units. International students must be enrolled in 12 quarter units (or 13 semester units in most UCB colleges) to comply with immigration regulations.
Course Number: The number assigned to a course by the Registrar’s Office.
Grade Point Average (GPA): The average of a student’s letter grades based on each course’s unit value.
Grading Options: A choice given for most UC courses between a letter grade (A, B, C, D, or F, which are calculated in the GPA) and a pass/no pass or satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading option (not calculated in the GPA).
Permission Code or Advisor Code: The special code number assigned by the course instructor or department that allows students to add a particular impacted or restricted class to their schedule. These codes are also called “approval codes” or “add codes.” These codes cannot be traded or exchanged.
Prerequisite: A course that must be completed before registration for another course. A prerequisite course may also be referred to as a “prereq.”
Student Identification or Permanent Number: An identification number unique to each student on a UC campus.
Password, Passphrase, Personal Identification Number: Not to be confused with the identification number, you will need an additional identifier to access enrollment and your UC account online. A password or code may be assigned to you or you may be invited to create your own. For your security, you should not share passwords and codes with others.
Pace of Studies
The short (10-week) UC quarter makes it difficult to complete the term successfully if you fall behind. Do not wait until the end of the term to begin studying.
Attendance and participation are important factors in determining your grade for a class. Failure to respect requirements may result in your dismissal from the program. Even if your home university will not be assigning credit for all coursework completed while you are an exchange participant, you must respect the rules and requirements for regularly enrolled students at UC.
You must take exams for all courses while on UCEAP.
Course Load & Unit Requirements
Most UC students enroll in 14–17 units per term. Some reciprocal exchange students, particularly those whose first language is not English, may consider limiting their first-term enrollment to the minimum number of units required by their UC college or department. Communicate with your home university advisor to ensure that you also comply with your home university’s enrollment requirements while on UC exchange.
UC students typically take two or three courses in their major department each term because the workload can be intense. Reciprocal exchange students may also enroll in general education courses in other departments. Do not, however, expect to enroll in a full schedule of courses only in your host department. Consider taking some general courses of interest to you.
Identifying Courses at Your Level of Study
Not all courses listed in the UC catalog are offered each term or each year. Select a range of courses that satisfy your home university requirements so that you have flexibility in course enrollment. If you must change your academic plans after you arrive, consult with your home university.
Lower-division courses: Courses numbered 1–99 are introductory and are often taken by UC students in their first two years of study. They are often very popular and may not have class space available.
Upper-division courses: Courses numbered 100–199 are usually taken by UC students in their last two years of study. You must have completed the prerequisites or their equivalent at your home university for the courses you select.
This sample course description from a UC catalog shows the various components: course number, course suffix (or prefix), course title, number of course units, type of course, and course prerequisites.
Courses numbered 200 and above are graduate-level classes. Undergraduate reciprocal exchange students may enroll in graduate courses only if they receive the UC instructor’s permission to enroll. Some departments do not allow undergraduates to enroll in graduate courses.
Undergraduate: Independent studies have numbers in the 190 series.
Graduate: Independent studies have numbers in the 290 and 590 series.
If you must complete a home university thesis or research project while at UC, you may request enrollment in independent studies to earn unit credit for your work. You and the instructor determine the course structure. You must make your own independent studies arrangements, either via e-mail with the instructor or after you arrive on your host UC campus. Most students find it easier to coordinate an independent studies project for their second or third term.
UCEAP cannot guarantee the availability of an independent study. Instructors are not required to enroll you in independent studies. Request this option only if work cannot be covered through regular course enrollment and you intend to approach the project or research seriously.
Non-credit internships and volunteer service opportunities may be available in some fields. If you are interested, research the opportunities and be prepared to make your own arrangements. Your UC department or the Campus Career Office may have information on organizations and companies. Attend an Academic Training workshop or meet with the visa advisor at the International Students Office for more information.
In the UC system the final exam grade alone does not determine the overall grade for the class. Class attendance and class participation are obligatory. Cooperative learning activities and group projects may represent a significant part of your grade. Grading in most UC courses is cumulative and requires that you perform well in all work assigned during the term to receive a high grade.
The following grades are used to report the work of students at UC:
A (excellent), B (good), C (adequate), D (barely passing), F (not passing), P (pass), NP (no pass), S (satisfactory), U (unsatisfactory), I (incomplete), IP (in progress), NG (no grade reported), and W (withdrawal).
*4.2 at some campuses
|The grades A, B, C and D may be modified by plus (+) or minus (-) suffixes.|
|A+ = 4.0*
||A = 4.0
||A- = 3.7
||F = 0|
|B+ = 3.3
||B = 3.0
||B- = 2.7
|C+ = 2.3
||C = 2.0
||C- = 1.7
|D+ = 1.3
||D = 1.0
||D- = 0.7
I, IP, P, NP, S, U, and W are not counted in the GPA, but grades of I , IP, or NG (not recorded) become F grades if not completed by the campus deadline.
UC students work toward achieving grades of B– to A+. Grades of C– to C+, while officially adequate, are not desirable nor acceptable for students planning to pursue graduate-level studies. Grades below C– are not considered acceptable.
Pass/No Pass & Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory
You may have the option of selecting the pass/no pass (P/NP) or satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) notations instead of letter grades. There are also some courses for which P/NP or S/U is the only grading option.
Before you choose the P/NP or S/U option, confirm that your home university will accept this form of grading in place of the standard letter grades. Once the grade option deadline passes, you cannot receive retroactive assignment of letter grades.
The difference between P and NP varies among the campuses. Refer to the chart below before deciding if the P/NP or S/U option, compared to a letter grade, would be best for you.
|UCB, UCD, UCSD
C- and above = P
D+ and below = NP
B- and above = S
C+ and below = U
|UCI, UCLA, UCSB
C and above = P
C- and below = NP
B and above = S
B- and below = U
C and above = S
C- and below = U
B and above = S
B- and below = U
C and above = P
D and below = NP
B and above = S
C and below = U
Incomplete (I) Grades
The instructor may assign an incomplete (I) grade when work is of passing quality but is incomplete for a good reason (such as illness or other serious problems). Once an incomplete is assigned, it remains on the transcript along with the final grade for the course. If the work is not completed by the campus deadline, the grade becomes an F, NP, or U accordingly.
Students attending UC enroll in courses using the online enrollment system. Each campus has different enrollment deadlines and procedures. Read the Pre-Arrival Instructions for your host UC campus for enrollment information. Check your e-mail frequently after your placement for enrollment information.
UCEAP cannot guarantee the availability of courses. Enroll online in as many courses as you can before arriving at UC, you may need to register for some classes after arrival. Many students “shop” for classes during the first two weeks of a term.
Graduate Students: Graduate students often enroll after arrival at UC. Check with your host department for enrollment recommendations.
- Take your home university academic advisor’s contact information with you.
- Keep copies of all papers and syllabi from your UC classes in case your home university has any questions about the content of the work that you completed while on exchange.
- Only your home university can determine credit and grades for courses completed at UC.
You may repeat a course only if you have received a grade of D, F, or U/NP. Some UC campuses will allow course repetition for a grade lower than C. Check your host UC campus Registrar’s policy. If you repeat a course that you took for a letter grade, you must choose the same grading option when you repeat it. Repeating a course more than once requires approval by the college. Both grades will show on your transcript, but only your most recent grade will be included in your GPA.
You can adjust your class schedule during the first weeks of the term by adding or dropping (removing) classes from your enrollment list. Once courses begin, there may be a small charge for each schedule change.
Students often attend classes in which they are not enrolled on the first day of instruction to try to “add” the course if other students who were already enrolled decide to “drop” the course.
During the first two weeks of the term, most UC students adjust their schedules by adding and dropping courses. The enrollment situation is fluid; do not despair if you do not have your final schedule before you depart for UC.
In discussions with host UC campus offices and departments, identify yourself as a UCEAP reciprocal exchange student who will be attending UC for only one year or less. Do not be overly aggressive, as this would be detrimental to your requests, but it is important to ask the professor if class space is available. The first term is the most challenging as students become accustomed to UC enrollment procedures. Students rarely experience enrollment troubles in later terms.
Withdrawal from Courses
If you decide to stop attending a course, follow your host UC campus procedures for dropping that course from your schedule. If you do not officially withdraw from the class, the Registrar will record a grade of F on your UC transcript at the end of the term. If you then apply for a job or graduate school where an official copy of your UC transcript is required, it is best to have a strong academic record from UC.
Note to graduate students:
Graduate students may have much later deadlines for “dropping” courses than undergraduates. If you decide to drop a course later in the term, you must be certain that you meet the full-time unit load requirement of your visa. Check with your UC department advisor to confirm the full-time load minimum before dropping courses.
You are responsible for knowing and following UC academic standards. Ask questions of your instructors if you do not understand what is expected. The consequences of academic dishonesty, whether intentional or unintentional, can be serious. They may include but are not limited to: a warning from the professor, a failing grade on the assignment or in the course, a hearing by officials and your student peers, special coursework or training in ethics, or dismissal from the University.
How to succeed academically:
- Learn to organize and manage your time to prepare for examinations and assignments.
- Cite and document other people’s words, ideas, and other intellectual property.
- Ask the instructor which citation style to use.
- Take good notes and clearly mark them as quotes, summaries, paraphrases, or your own original thoughts to avoid accidentally plagiarizing.
- Make sure you understand what is considered acceptable group work.
- Shield your work to prevent other students from copying.
- Do not allow others to use your computer, user ID, or password. Take advantage of the writing and English program resources your UC campus has to offer.
Academic Advising Services & Resources
College & Department Advisors
Each academic department has an advisor to help students plan enrollment and determine if they meet course prerequisites. Ask your advisor about tutoring or study programs. The Campus EAP Office can help you locate your academic advisor.
UC professors and teaching assistants (TAs) have regularly scheduled times (“office hours”) when they are available to students to address any academic or administrative (enrollment) questions about your courses.
There are more than 100 libraries throughout the UC system. Article databases and other electronic resources can be accessed from any UC campus. The Interlibrary Loan system allows you to borrow materials from UC libraries and other libraries across the country. Library services include borrowing books and textbooks, computer and Internet access, copying, printing, and quiet study areas. Libraries have evening hours and most extend their open hours during final examinations.
Academic Progress Reports
For immigration purposes, you must be registered full time to maintain your student visa status.
If your GPA drops below 2.7 or you are enrolled in insufficient units per term, UCEAP will contact you and your home university.
If your GPA is below 2.0, you may be subject to academic probation or dismissal.
Final UC Transcript
An official UC transcript will be sent to your home university at the end of your academic program. To obtain a personal copy of your transcript, arrange for it to be sent to your permanent address before leaving UC. There is a charge for each official transcript requested while in the U.S. but payment from abroad can be expensive.
If you owe a debt on your student account at your UC campus, UC cannot issue a transcript for your UCEAP studies. You must pay your outstanding balance before your university can receive your official transcript.
Duration & Extension of Your UCEAP Studies
You are encouraged to participate in the program for a minimum of one semester (15 weeks) or two quarters (two 10-week terms).
Though the academic year is divided into quarters or semesters, course scheduling and registration are geared to full-year students. Many courses, particularly in the sciences, are taught in sequential order, with “part A” offered in the fall and “part B” offered in the second term. Not all courses are offered each term or each academic year.
Students attending only one term may be at a disadvantage in registration as they will be registering much later than regular UC students. Registration for courses opens during the previous term. One-term students will not have two or three opportunities to register during the year, and they risk not being able to schedule coursework needed during a single term. Advanced undergraduates who plan enrollment in a graduate course may find it easier to receive the instructor’s consent in their second or third term. Also, students who plan to do an independent study will find it easier to arrange for subsequent terms if they are already at their host campus.
Short-term students may also find that locating housing for just a few months is difficult. (See Housing chapter in this guide.)
Extending Your Studies
After arrival, students who have initially planned to attend UC for less than a full academic year often find that they would like to stay longer. Participation in the full year is the most valuable academic experience you can have. Extension of your UCEAP studies is possible but not automatic. Your request must be approved by your home university (international office and major department), your host UC department and UCEAP. Contact UCEAP and your home university as early as possible with your request.
You are strongly encouraged to request a full year at the time you apply for the exchange, rather than after you arrive. This will save you time and facilitate your academic planning, visa, housing, and travel arrangements.
Your UCEAP studies cannot be extended to include participation at a different host UC campus. For example, if you are placed at UC Los Angeles in the fall, you cannot transfer to UC Santa Barbara for the winter or spring terms.
Before Arrival at your Host Campus
If you find you cannot participate in UCEAP, contact UCEAP and your home university as soon as possible. We will inform your host UC campus of your withdrawal but you will be responsible for canceling any housing arrangements you have made. Withdrawn students lose housing application fees and non-refundable housing deposits. Read your housing contract carefully to ensure that you understand the financial obligations for withdrawn students.
After Arrival at your Host Campus
If you need to leave UC before the end of your exchange period, contact your home university and academic advisor to discuss your decision. Leaving the program may affect your academic standing and scholarship awards at your home university.
The Campus EAP Office will ask you to complete a withdrawal form documenting your decision to leave UC. You must pay any outstanding financial obligations before departure (telephone bills, library or health center charges, etc.).
UCEAP Pre-Arrival Instructions
Utilities: Gas, electricity, cable television, Internet, water, trash, or other services.
Lease or Agreement: A legal contract defining the length of stay, price, and conditions of a rental commitment. Do not sign a lease for more than the amount of time you will stay. You are responsible for paying rent the entire length of the lease.
Sublet: A special arrangement to rent space in an apartment or home. Sublets are attractive because they are often short-term opportunities with furnished rooms. The property manager or landlord must agree in writing that a sublease (sublet) is possible.
Deposit: An additional expense required to pay for any damage you may cause to an apartment (usually no more than one month’s rent). The full deposit is returned to you if there is no damage to the apartment at the end of your stay.
Credit Check: A process in which the landlord verifies your credit history and confirms your bank information. International students who do not have a credit history in the U.S. may be asked to identify a U.S. cosigner (sponsor). If you do not have a U.S. cosigner, it may be necessary to negotiate an agreement with the landlord for extra deposit, higher rent, or other documentation of your financial status.
University-Owned Residence Halls & Apartments
UC cannot guarantee university-owned housing to UCEAP reciprocal exchange students or regularly enrolled UC students. Only first-year students are guaranteed housing. All university-owned housing assignments are subject to available space and you may not be assigned to university-owned housing.
If necessary, you must be willing to arrive before the start of the term to look for housing in the community. Visa regulations allow you to arrive no more than 30 days before the start of the term.
The majority of students in the residence halls are first- or second-year students. Resident assistants enforce dormitory restrictions and oversee the halls. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in most residence halls. More mature students may find that the halls are noisy, disruptive, and lacking privacy. It is likely that you will have to share a room. There are, however, many advantages to having a roommate who is a California resident; he or she might introduce you to the university, or take you on trips or home to meet their family.
Many campuses offer special housing for international students. Check your host university housing website to see if this type is available.
University-owned apartments at many UC campuses may be available on or off campus. They may have kitchens and offer meal plans through the campus.
- You must send deposits and other advance housing fees in U.S. dollars and within the announced deadlines to the appropriate UC housing office. Some campuses may allow you give you to pay these fees by credit card; others may require an international money order in U.S. dollars (payable to the UC Regents).
- Return your housing contract and any required payment by express mail if possible. Express packages may be tracked, documenting the date when your contract is received by UC.
- Contracts usually require a commitment through the end of the academic year ending in June (May for UCB and UCM), except in cases where short-term arrangements have been made in advance or a student withdraws from the university. You cannot break your contract after you arrive to move to an apartment in the community.
- If you withdraw from UCEAP, you will be responsible for canceling any housing arrangements you have made. Withdrawal requires you to forfeit housing application fees and possibly your housing deposit as well. Read the contract carefully to understand your financial obligations.
Campus Housing Closures during Term Breaks
Many campus housing facilities are closed during term breaks, including Christmas. Students must be prepared to travel or make alternate living arrangements during these periods. Read your contract carefully and plan accordingly.
University-owned housing contracts are usually for the entire academic year and campus housing may not be available to short-term students. When applying for housing, ask about your host campus housing policy for short-term students. There may be a cancelation fee for less than full-year participation. Read your housing contract carefully. Landlords may not want to rent to a student attending less than a full year. A sublease arrangement or a room in a house off campus may be your best option.
Community Housing Options
Most students who live off campus in non-university-owned housing share rooms in apartments with other students. Kitchens in rental housing are typically equipped with appliances (stove, cook-top, refrigerator). Rentals near campus may or may not be furnished, but students can furnish their apartments inexpensively (see the Money Matters chapter of this guide). Move-in costs can be high, since you will be expected to pay the equivalent of the first month’s rent, the last month’s rent, and a security deposit before you move in. Utilities, such as gas, electricity, water, and trash may or may not be included in your monthly rent.
Finding your own apartment can be a real challenge. Many exchange students find it more convenient to rent a room in a student apartment. You may be asked to provide references, a Social Security number (SSN) and proof of your finances, and have a U.S. sponsor to cosign your lease agreement.
Your campus’ Community Housing Office can provide information about rental resources and advice about your rights and obligations as a renter. They cannot, however, find housing for you or guarantee that you will find an apartment. (See the UCEAP Pre-Arrival Instructions
for campus-specific links to community housing pages.)
Co-Operative Housing (“Co-Op”) is among the least expensive housing options. Residents are expected to help with house chores and meal preparation. Co-op housing may vary in quality and is as efficiently run and clean as its inhabitants. As co-operative living requires student participation in various house activities, it may not be appropriate for all students. Students may find smaller co-op houses quieter and cleaner, while larger co-ops provide opportunities for meeting more students.
If you have not secured housing before your arrival, plan to arrive three to four weeks before the start of classes to locate housing in the community. Most university-owned housing opens a day or two before the start of the academic term (see the UC Academic Calendar
). If you need temporary accommodations while you are looking for an apartment or until your university-owned housing opens for the term, be sure to budget for this expense. See the UCEAP Pre-Arrival Instructions
for temporary housing options.
Certificate of eligibility (also known as the DS-2019): Issued by the host UC campus. Must be presented with a valid passport to request a U.S. visa.
Visa: Specifies the terms under which you may enter the U.S. Must be obtained from the Embassy or Consulate General of the United States before leaving your home country. The visa is for entry only. Once you are in the United States, you are allowed to stay until the end date of your program as listed on your DS-2019 even if your visa has expired. (See Expired Visas in this guide.)
Visa status: This is assigned to you by a U.S. immigration officer upon entry into the U.S. Each type of status carries with it certain conditions that you must follow to remain in the U.S. legally. Examples of status types are tourist, F-1 student, and J-1 exchange visitor.
Passport: Required to obtain a visa and enter the U.S. When applying for your visa, your passport must have a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
Program start and end dates: These are printed on your certificate of eligibility (DS-2019). These dates do not always correspond to the first and last days of instruction at your host UC campus.
SEVIS: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an electronic system for collecting information about international students.
Note: Contact the UCEAP Systemwide Office if you plan to enter the United States before your UCEAP studies (e.g., to attend summer classes or programs in English as a Second Language or to participate in a work-study program). You may need special visa advising from your host UC campus.
Obtaining the Certificate of Eligibility: DS-2019
Your host UC campus will issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, known as the DS-2019, after your UC acceptance is confirmed and your financial documentation is complete.
You cannot apply for your visa until you receive your certificate of eligibility.
Apply for the J-1 exchange visitor visa. Applicants must contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for application procedures and application fee information. In most countries, applicants are required to make an appointment for a face-to-face interview.
U.S. Citizens & Canadian Citizens
U.S. citizens do not need a DS-2019 to enter the U.S.; a U.S. passport is sufficient. Individuals born in the U.S. are automatically U.S. citizens, and must use their U.S. passport while participating in the exchange program, even if they have dual citizenship.
Canadian citizens who enter the U.S. directly from Canada must have a passport and a DS-2019 to enter the U.S. but do not require a visa except in specific categories. Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for more information about requirements.
Applying for a Visa Outside Your Home Country
If you apply for a visa in a country other than your home country, you may need to plan for a longer visa application processing time. Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate
for more information about requirements.
Visa Application Tips
Visa-Related Fees & Expenses
Non-immigrant Visa Application Fee: Each applicant is required to pay a nonrefundable non-immigrant application fee of U.S. $160. Because fees may change, confirm first with the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Visa Processing Fee:
Depending on your citizenship, there may be an additional visa processing fee. Check with the U.S. embassy or consulate or consult the Department of State
SEVIS Fee: There is a SEVIS fee of $180 in addition to the fee paid to the U.S. embassy or consulate for visa processing. The SEVIS fee must be paid at least three days in advance of the visa interview appointment. You will receive information about how to pay for the SEVIS fee online when you receive your certificate of eligibility.
Other Expenses: Depending on where you live, it may be necessary for you to travel to an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. When planning for the exchange, consider costs for travel the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Maintaining Your Visa Status
Check-in on Arrival at Your Host Campus
Go to the International Students Office of your host UC campus as soon as possible after arrival for check-in and document verification. Take your passport (the I-94 card that you will receive at the port of entry should be attached) and the DS-2019.
The International Students Office will also hold a mandatory orientation to advise you of your benefits and responsibilities.
Report your California address and any changes of address. This information is required by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and will become part of your SEVIS record. The International Students Office will tell you how to report a change of address.
Minimum Unit Enrollment
To maintain your status as a foreign student or exchange visitor, you must be enrolled full time. Full-time enrollment requirements are strictly enforced. If a student loses full-time student status, the student can be required to leave the country. If you need to take a reduced number of courses (less than full-time enrollment) for medical reasons, you must receive advance approval from the host campus visa advisor. Students may enroll in less than full-time status for one term only.
Undergraduate student full-time enrollment is 13 semester units per term at most UC Berkeley colleges and 12 quarter units per term at all other UC campuses.
For graduate students, full-time enrollment is usually 12 units but may vary, depending on the host UC campus, department, or college. Check with your graduate advisor and visa advisor in the International Students Office to confirm your full-time enrollment requirements.
You are not permitted to enter or reenter the United States using an expired visa, even if your DS-2019 is valid. Before leaving the U.S. for tourism (e.g., travel to Canada or Mexico) or a visit to your home country, verify that your visa and other travel documents are valid. See the visa advisor in the International Students Office before making any travel plans.
Do not make travel plans or purchase tickets until you receive your DS-2019 for the visa application and confirm your consular appointment. UC campuses issue the certificate of eligibility in late spring or early summer for fall students and in mid-fall for winter (January) students.
Immigration regulations allow you to arrive in the U.S. a maximum of 30 days prior to the program start date on your DS-2019, so there will be little time for travel before you begin your studies. Schedule personal travel after your UCEAP exchange. J-1 visa holders will have a 30-day grace period beginning on the last day of the term.
If you travel outside of the U.S. during the academic year, you must receive authorization for your return from the International Students Office on your host UC campus. Contact the International Students Office in advance of your planned travel.
Check the campus Schedule of Classes for end-of-term examination dates before you plan holiday travel. UCEAP students are required to take the same exams as regularly enrolled UC students (see UC Academic Calendar
Other Documentary Considerations
Keep Your Documents Safe
While in the U.S., regulations require that you carry your passport and certificate of eligibility with you at all times.
Make a copy of the identification and visa pages of your passport, your DS-2019, and the I-94 card and keep them in a secure place, separate from the originals. If your passport is lost or stolen, contact your embassy or consulate and the local police immediately. An official, certified birth certificate is useful to obtain a replacement if your passport is lost or stolen.
Passports for Family Members
We recommend that at least one adult family member in your home country obtain a valid passport. This will allow him or her to travel to the U.S. to assist you in the event of an emergency.
If you are traveling with dependents, see the section Students with Spouses and Dependent Children for specific immigration-related information.
Power of Attorney
Arrange for a relative or other responsible party to have legal authority to make decisions on your behalf while you are away. In the U.S. this is called “power of attorney.” Investigate the options available in your home country.
Health Services & Health Insurance
Insurance Useful Definitions
Co-insurance Payment: The amount of eligible expenses an insured person must pay after the deductible is met.
Copayment (“Copay”): A dollar amount an insured person must pay for specified charges. The copayment is separate from and not a part of the deductible, co-insurance, or out-of-pocket limit.
Covered Charge: The reasonable and customary charge incurred for a service performed or supply provided under the direction of a doctor for the medically necessary treatment of a sickness or injury.
Deductible: The dollar amount of covered charges an insured person must pay each policy year before the insurance company will pay any benefits.
Doctor: A legally qualified person licensed in the healing arts and practicing within the scope of his or her license and who is not a family member, including, but not limited to: a doctor of medicine, a doctor of osteopath, a dentist, a podiatrist, a chiropractor, an optometrist, or a psychologist.
Effective Date: The date on which the insurance policy takes effect. You will not be insured before this date.
Exclusions: Services for which the expense is not reimbursed by the insurance company.
Medical Evacuation: Coverage for transportation of the insured person back to the home country as recommended by the attending physician for medical reasons.
Premium: The non-refundable cost of insurance.
Reasonable and Customary (“R&C”) or Usual and Customary Charges: The most common, reasonable charge for similar professional services, drugs, procedures, devices, supplies or treatment within the area in which the charge is incurred.
Repatriation of Remains: In the event of death, the cost of preparing and transporting a person’s remains to the home country.
Underwriter: The insurance company.
UC Health Insurance
Medical treatment in the U.S. can be very expensive. You are required to have health insurance and automatically will be enrolled in the host UC campus insurance plan. The cost of insurance is applied to your student billing account. Insurance coverage and costs vary by campus. Visit the UCEAP Reciprocal Exchanges Pre-Arrival Instructions
for direct links to individual UC campus insurance information.
Depending on your medical history, your UC health insurance may not be adequate so you may want to purchase supplemental insurance. In the U.S., it is standard for 80 percent of the cost for certain services to be paid by the insurance company, and 20 percent of the cost to be paid by the patient.
Buy travel insurance to ensure coverage from your departure to your arrival in the U.S. Carefully consider when your UC insurance coverage starts.
Health Insurance Exemption Request (Waiver)
If you wish to be covered under a plan other than UC campus plan, you must request a waiver (exemption) from the requirement within stipulated deadlines. Before applying for a waiver, research your host UC campus requirements to ensure that your insurance from home meets all requirements. A campus-specific waiver request along with proof of enrollment in the alternative insurance plan must be submitted for review to the campus by the posted deadline.
- Waiver is not automatic: Do not assume that a waiver will be approved. Purchase of the UC insurance plan is a UC requirement; calculate its cost into your budget. See Estimated Costs of Attending UC in this guide book.
- Non-U.S. insurance plans: There are specific waiver criteria on each UC campus. Most UC campuses will only consider waivers from recognized U.S. insurance companies that are owned, operated, and headquartered in the U.S. and are not a travel insurance policy. Other campuses may allow non-U.S. plans but require that the plan have a U.S.-based processing office.
- U.S. insurance plans: UCEAP cannot guarantee that waivers will be granted, even for Fulbright-sponsored insurance.
- UC campus waiver information: Visit the Pre-Arrival Instructions for direct links to individual UC campuses.
UC Student Health Centers & Routine Health Care
Each campus has an accredited Student Health Center to care for routine health problems and minor injuries. Basic services are free or offered at low cost.
Before leaving your country, go to the doctor for a pre-travel consultation. Get a dental and vision check-up, as they are not generally included under UC insurance unless you purchase the insurance-plus option or you are involved in an accidental injury. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Information for Travelers to the United States
website for more information.
Note: All student medical care except emergencies must begin with a visit to the Student Health Center. If you choose to be treated at a non-campus medical office, the cost of that visit may not be covered by your campus health insurance.
Some medications commonly prescribed in your home country may not be available or have a different name and dosage in the U.S. and other countries. Find out if your medication is available so you have an adequate supply while at UC. If you must bring medication with you, keep it in the original, labeled container. Bring a copy of your prescription with the names of the active ingredients and a letter from your physician with your diagnosis and required dosage.
Through the Student Health Center, you can obtain information on general health, nutrition and sexual health, including contraception, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and HIV/AIDS. Information and confidential consultations with licensed health practitioners are available to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Contraceptives are readily available at low or no cost.
Psychological Health Concerns
Though studying abroad is personally and intellectually rewarding, it can also be stressful. Existing mild physical or psychological disorders can worsen with stress of life on a UC campus. You and your physician are responsible for determining if studying abroad will affect or trigger any mental health conditions.
Before you leave home, disclose any health concerns so arrangements can be made if your condition requires continued treatment or specific support. Disclosure is confidential and has no impact on your participation.
Where You Can Find Help
Do not wait to seek help if you feel overwhelmed, confused, or alone once you arrive at UC. Each UC campus has licensed counselors who can help you find services and resources. Counseling is a common practice in the United States, and an accepted (normal) option for young adults facing new challenges. All services are confidential; information will not be shared without your permission.
Abuse of Alcohol & Other Drugs
Excessive alcohol use increases the chances of accidents and fatalities, and results in destructive behaviors, such as damaging property, interpersonal conflicts (arguments or fights), and risky or unplanned sexual activity.
The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. Violations of alcohol policies are serious offenses on all UC campuses. Educate yourself about the policies of the University regarding alcohol use on the campus and/or at officially sponsored University events. Also, state laws governing the purchase age and use of alcohol in California and other states where you might travel can be very strict. If you break these laws, you may face severe penalties. Arrests and conviction for alcohol-related issues can impact whether you may remain at your host campus and your ability to return to the U.S.
Never feel pressured to drink more than you want (or engage in other potentially dangerous, illegal, or unhealthy behaviors) for fear of offending someone. Even if someone fills your glass, it does not mean you have to drink it. Drinking “games” are popular and can be very dangerous, resulting in permanent damage or death.
Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions, such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.
How to identify alcohol poisoning:
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused
- Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
- Low body temperature, bluish skin color, paleness
How to help:
- Call 911; this person needs emergency medical attention.
- Turn the person on their side to prevent choking while vomiting.
- Stay with the person. Do not leave them alone or let them “sleep it off”.
Alcohol Myths & Facts:
Myth: I can drink and still be in control.
Fact: Drinking impairs your judgment. You may do something you will later regret (e.g., have unprotected sex, damage property, or be victimized by others).
Myth: I can sober up quickly if I have to.
Fact: On average, it takes approximately one hour to metabolize or process one standard drink of alcohol (1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor, 5 ounces of standard wine, or one 12-ounce/355 ml can of beer). Nothing can speed up this process—not even coffee or a cold shower.
Myth: Beer and wine do not have as much alcohol as hard liquor.
Fact: A 12-ounce bottle of beer in the U.S. has the same amount of alcohol as a standard shot of 80-proof liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink) or 5 ounces of wine. The alcohol content of beer varies by local practice and brewing style.
Alcohol and drugs are toxic to the body’s systems. The misuse and abuse of alcohol and “recreational” drugs may result in serious health and behavioral problems. Combining drugs with each other or with alcohol is especially dangerous.
How to find help
UC provides confidential services to students who are dependent on or are abusing alcohol and other substances. Counselors from Student Health’s Alcohol and other Drugs Program (ADP) and licensed psychologists from Counseling and Psychological Services offer confidential counseling and referrals.
Campus Counseling Resources
UC Offices of Counseling and Psychological Services
(Contact information subject to change)
University Health Services – Tang Center
2222 Bancroft Way
TTY/TDD: (510) 643-1233
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
219 North Hall
Room 203, Student Services 1
UC Los Angeles
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
John Wooden Center West
221 Westwood Plaza
Counseling and Psychological Services
H. Rajender Reddy Health Center
Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation & Wellness Center, 2nd Floor
Veitch Student Center
UC Santa Barbara
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
UC Santa Cruz
Student Health Center
East Wing, 2nd Floor
UC San Diego
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Galbraith Hall 190
Websites That Address Mental Health Topics
Students with Disabilities & Special Needs
A disability may impair cognitive ability, hearing, learning, mental health, physical mobility or strength, systemic functions, and vision, among other things. Students with disabilities and special needs (temporary or permanent) can and do study abroad. An applicant’s disability or special need does not affect campus placement or acceptance. Students with disabilities are covered by disability non-discrimination laws when in the U.S., regardless of citizenship. Early disclosure is important.
Students who may not have been diagnosed with a disability in their home countries, or have learned to downplay their disability due to cultural pressures, may arrive at UC to find that they cannot succeed without disability services. If you have a disability or require services, let UCEAP know by contacting your home university and UC Liaison. If you do not feel comfortable discussing your disability or special need with your home university, contact the UCEAP Systemwide Office directly. We will put you in contact with the UC campus disabled students office as soon as possible. UCEAP cannot refer you without your permission.
Students with disabilities must perform at the level that their academic and professional programs expect of all students. This includes achieving the same academic standards, attending classes, maintaining appropriate behavior, and providing timely notification of individual needs.
Early Disclosure: If you have been diagnosed with a disability, or believe that you may have a disability, consult with the UCEAP Systemwide Office about your disability and possible accommodation needs. If you are not sure you will need accommodations at UC, it is still important to notify UCEAP of your potential needs so that a plan is in place for unexpected problems. Early disclosure will also help you plan for any funding needed.
Plan Ahead: It is not possible to anticipate all concerns, but pre-departure planning can help. UCEAP cannot guarantee that facilities or support services to which you are accustomed will be available.
Be Flexible: Disability services offered by UC may differ from those you are used to.
Documentation: Your host UC campus will require specific disability documentation, including written verification from your home country health care provider. Only students certified as disabled by the UC campus office for students with disabilities are entitled to accommodation in classes.
Begin planning a minimum of six months before departure. If you are traveling with a personal attendant, you will be responsible for the attendant’s passport, visa, documentation, and insurance for traveling and living abroad. Notify the UCEAP Systemwide Office if you plan to travel with an attendant. The attendant must participate in orientations. Consider housing and funding arrangements. If it is necessary to hire an attendant at UC, before departure, find out the steps to follow and determine what funding will support this expense.
UC Offices of Disabled Students’ Services
(Contact information is subject to change.)
Each UC campus has an office that can advise you before arrival and if you encounter difficulties after arrival. All services are confidential.
Disabled Students’ Program
260 Cesar Chavez Student Center, #4250
Voice: (510) 642-0518
TTY: (510) 642-6376
Student Disability Center
160 South Silo
One Shields Ave.
Voice: (530) 752-3184
TTY: (530) 752-6833
Disability Services Center
100 Disabilities Services Center, Bldg. 313
Voice: (949) 824-7494
TDD: (949) 824-6272
5200 N. Lake Road - KL 107
Phone: (209) 228-6996
TDD: (209) 228-TTY0
UC Los Angeles
Office for Students with Disabilities
A255 Murphy Hall
Voice: (310) 825-1501
TTY: (310) 206-6083
Student Special Services
125 Costo Hall
Voice: (951) 827-3861
UC San Diego
Office for Students with Disabilities
University Center 202
TTY: (858) 534-9709
UC Santa Barbara
Disabled Students Program
2120 Student Resource Building, 2nd floor
Voice: (805) 893-2668
UC Santa Cruz
Disability Resource Center
146 Hahn Student Services
Voice: (831) 459-2089
TTY: (831) 459-4806
The official emergency number in the United States is 9-1-1.
For emergencies: Call 9-1-1 to report a fire or crime in progress, or request an ambulance. Be prepared to provide as much information as you can to the operator and do not hang up until you are told to do so.
For non-emergencies, call the local campus police or city police department.
Although each UC campus has security and emergency services, you must take responsibility for your own safety by being alert and by taking necessary precautions.
The following personal security tips may help you stay safe:
- Firmly say “no” to any unwanted invitation. A laugh, smile, or apology may diminish the message.
- Do not share contact information with strangers.
- Do not let anyone into your home that you do not know and trust
- Travel with a friend or in a group.
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Avoid dark, vacant, or deserted areas; use well-lit, well-traveled routes.
- When in need, call the free campus security services. Authorized security officers will accompany you by foot or bike.
The definition of sexual harassment and what acts or comments are viewed as offensive may be different in the U.S. than in your home country. Information about sexual harassment is equally important for women and men. Know your rights and what behaviors are considered unacceptable in the U.S. In many instances, the intentions of the harasser may be regarded as irrelevant in determining whether her/his behaviors constitute sexual harassment; it is the effect of the behavior on the recipient that may define a hostile environment.
Review the policy to understand the different types of sexual harassment. Generally, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual behavior, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects a person’s employment or education; or that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work or educational performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.
Sexual harassment may include incidents between any members of the UC community. It may occur in hierarchical relationships or between peers (individuals at the same level). Both males and females can be sexually harassed, and the perpetrator can be male or female and of the same or opposite gender.
Behaviors that may contribute to a hostile environment include, but are not limited to:
- verbal, non-verbal, and physical sexual behaviors
- coerced sex
- sexual jokes and innuendoes
- remarks about a person’s body
- turning discussions inappropriately to sexual topics
- looking a person up and down or staring in a sexually suggestive manner
- invading someone’s personal space or blocking her/his path
- sexually explicit visuals
- suggestions of sexual intimacy
- repeated requests for dates
- unwanted letters, e-mail, or other computer communications
- unwanted gifts
- touching, hugging, massaging, and other gestures or sounds that the recipient would find offensive
If you experience sexual harassment:
- Trust what you are feeling.
- Do not feel ashamed or humiliated because of the harassment. It is not your fault and you do not have to tolerate it.
- Clearly and firmly tell the harasser that you want the behavior to stop. If you can, tell the harasser how the behavior makes you feel.
- Let the harasser know that you will take further action if the harassment does not stop.
- Keep records. Write down dates, times, places, and witnesses to what happened.
- Keep any notes, e-mail, or written letters you may receive from the harasser. Information that is documented can be used to support a complaint.
- Federal legislation, referred to as “Title IX,” prohibits all forms of sexual harassment.
- Contact the dedicated Sexual Harassment/Title IX Office on your UC host campus for help. Many provide online sexual harassment education materials, including information on applicable laws. All services are confidential.
- If you have experienced sexual harassment but do not feel comfortable reporting the incident on your own, go to your host Campus EAP Office for help and support.
If you are accused of sexual harassment:
- If you are told that your behavior is inappropriate and/or offensive, immediately stop the behavior.
- Examine your own behavior. Could it be interpreted as sexual harassment, even if that is not your intent?
- Ask yourself how you would feel if someone acted this way toward you or someone you respect.
- Learn about your rights and resources.
Inform yourself of your rights and responsibilities and take advantage of educational presentations and programs offered at your host UC.
UCB Office of the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD): ophd.berkeley.edu
UCSB Office of Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment / Title IX Compliance: oeosh.ucsb.edu
UCSD Office of Sexual Harassment and Prevention Policy: ophd.ucsd.edu
The most common crime is theft. You can reduce the risk of becoming a victim by taking a few simple steps:
- Never leave your computer, bag, or backpack unattended.
- Secure your laptop with cable locks, lockdown devices or a storage cabinets).
- Try to keep your laptop and other portable electronics with you.
- Do not leave your laptop in common areas or in plain sight, especially in a vehicle.
- Lock your doors and windows when leaving, even if just for a few minutes.
- Do not loan your keys to anyone.
- Take your key with you when you leave so roommates will not have to leave a door unlocked for you.
- Lock your windows whenever you leave your room. Secure windows by placing a stick in the track or bolts in the frames. Close and lock your windows
- Secure your bicycle wheels and frame to the bicycle rack with a U-lock. Park your bicycle only in areas designated for bicycle parking or it may be confiscated by security. Register your bike with the UC police department.
- Photograph and record the serial numbers of your valuables. See the chapter on Money Matters for information about personal property insurance.
California is subject to fires, earthquakes and mudslides. Be prepared and follow recommended guidelines to be ready before disaster strikes.
- Secure furniture and easily toppled items so that they do not fall over. Do not place heavy or hard objects on high shelves. Do not hang glass framed or heavy objects over your bed.
- Keep emergency equipment, such as medical provisions, water, food, flashlight with batteries, and important documents in one accessible place. Store enough water, food, and personal items (including medication) for at least three days.
- Keep flammable objects away from furnaces, fireplaces, and gas-run appliances.
If an earthquake occurs while you are at home:
- Get under a table, desk or doorway to avoid falling objects.
- Extinguish all sources of fire. Turn off the main gas valve, all electric lights and appliances.
- Put on your shoes to protect your feet from broken glass and debris.
- Place a wet towel across the nose and mouth to prevent smoke inhalation.
- Check for news and instructions.
- Leave the house and take refuge in a safe area. Earthquake aftershocks may continue for a considerable time even though the first large shock.
If an earthquake occurs while you are out:
- Beware of glass, signs, or other falling objects.
- Stay away from concrete block walls or large objects that could fall over.
- Do not use elevators.
- If you are in a public place, obey the directions of the personnel in charge. If you are inside a building, get under a solid table to avoid falling objects; if on the street, place a handbag, or backpack over your head for protection from falling objects, and go to a safe place.
- If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road. Do not attempt to drive during or after a severe earthquake.
After an Emergency
Report your whereabouts to the designated UCEAP campus contact and contact your family to let them know you are safe. During a natural disaster, voice networks can become overloaded with many people trying to call each other. A text message to family and friends is more likely to get through than a phone call.
Students with Spouses & Dependent Children
UCEAP is not responsible for spouses and/or dependents that may be traveling with you. It is your responsibility to make necessary arrangements and payments.
Dependents (spouse and children) will also be entered into SEVIS and will be issued certificates of eligibility (J-2). Parents, other family members, your fiancé(e), or a boy/girlfriend are not considered dependents, and cannot be issued certificates of eligibility by your host UC campus. Your spouse or children cannot automatically work in J-2 status; a work visa is required. For more information, visit the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service webpages
When applying for the visa, you must be prepared to provide proof of your relationship to your dependents (e.g., marriage and birth certificates), and documentation showing that you have adequate funds to support your dependents and yourself.
If you are planning to take a dependent or spouse on UCEAP:
- Notify your home university and the UCEAP Systemwide Office.
- Find your own housing in the community. Family or married-student housing facilities are generally not available to students with dependents and may have a waiting period of a year or longer for placement.
- Ensure that you will have adequate financial resources.
- Ensure that your dependents have adequate health insurance coverage. UC campus health insurance providers offer dependent coverage.
- Arrive early in California within the 30-day allowable period before the start of the term and classes, so your dependent(s) or spouse have time to transition to their new environment.
As you plan your stay in the U.S.:
- Assume that the level of services and facilities in California may differ from the services you are accustomed to at home.
- Investigate childcare and educational facilities if you plan to bring a child. Not all schools offer after-school childcare.
- Be aware that short-term participants have more difficulty making arrangements for dependents.
- Consider your dependents’ English language proficiency.
Estimated Costs of Attending UC
The chart below provides the estimated average fees and expenses for the 2014–15 academic year (nine months)*. It is only provided as a guide. Estimates for 2015–16 are not yet available. Actual costs for the 2015–16 academic year may be higher.
|Books and Supplies
|Living (Room and Meals)
|Personal / Transportation
Fees and tuition that do not apply to UCEAP reciprocal exchange students:
|Fees and Tuition
* Figures for fees and tuition, books and supplies, living, and personal / transportation are averages.
Actual costs vary, depending on your location and lifestyle.
You can purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore or online. Many students buy used textbooks to reduce costs. Before making purchases, talk to your instructors and classmates to confirm which materials are required and the best sources for buying new or used textbooks.
Living expenses for students who choose to live off campus depend upon the community surrounding the campus. Additional costs associated with renting an apartment or house include a security deposit, last month’s rent in advance, utility payments, and furnishings. Students find inexpensive household items at garage sales, thrift stores, and on Craig's List
(a free classified advertisements .
Fees and living expenses associated with attending school during the summer are not included in these estimates. Summer session course fees are not paid by UCEAP. You can expect to spend around $5,000 for living expenses during the summer.
Personal and transportation expenses include personal items, laundry, recreational activities, and costs for local travel. Local bus transportation is free for students. Airfare and phone calls between California and another country are not included.
These estimates assume that a student has moderate spending habits, is not supporting a spouse or family, and is well supplied with clothing and other personal belongings. Budget carefully and be conservative in your purchases until you have a clear picture of your costs.
If you need financial support for your year abroad, investigate scholarships, loans, and grant opportunities offered by your home institution or home government agencies. You are not eligible for UC financial aid.
If you will be receiving a stipend or scholarship, arrange to have the money paid into an account at home that you can access with a debit card via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). If your university issues you a scholarship check, have the check drawn in U.S. dollars or deposit it in an account at home, and access the money using a debit card. See ATM/Debit Cards/Credit Cards in this chapter.
UC Fees and Expenses
Although you are not responsible for your educational fees while on the exchange, you are responsible for all living expenses and health insurance fees. You are also responsible for all fees that are unique to your personal course choices or interests, such as books/readers (photocopied texts), laboratory fees, studio fees, materials, orientations, and optional leisure activities.
Do not panic if the first bill that you receive prior to arrival includes tuition, registration, and campus fee amounts. These charges will be removed from your account after your campus verifies that you are a reciprocal exchange participant.
Billing information is delivered online; you may not receive a printed paper bill. You are responsible for checking your student account regularly and paying any fees that apply. If you have questions, ask the UCEAP Systemwide Office or your Campus UCEAP Advisor so that you can avoid any late-payment fees.
Reciprocal exchange students are not encouraged to work while on UCEAP and must plan to have sufficient funds to cover living expenses for the full period of study. J-1 visa holders are not eligible to work off campus. Part-time, on-campus employment is, however, an option at all campuses.
Social Security Number (SSN)
The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) issues Social Security numbers (SSNs).
When a non-U.S. citizen requests an SSN, the SSA must verify the applicant’s immigration documentation with the Department of Homeland Security. If the applicant has just arrived in the U.S. and his or her data are not available in electronic form, manual verification is necessary and issuing of the SSN might be delayed by several weeks or months.
If you need an SSN, ask the International Students Office for advice on how to apply for one.
Bringing Money to the U.S. from Abroad
When you first arrive in California you will need enough money for immediate expenses such as hotels, food, insurance and housing fees. Do not bring large sums of cash! Currency exchange facilities in the U.S. are less common than they are in many countries, and changing money at U.S. banks can be expensive. Some banks exchange foreign money, but only if the currency is in notes. Many UC campus cities do not have currency exchange offices.
Contact your home country bank for details about the following:
- Travelers Checks: The money is immediately available if checks are in U.S. dollars, and they can be replaced if lost or stolen. But checks in large denominations can be difficult to use. Checks in a foreign currency are subject to exchange fees.
- Electronic Banking/ATMs/Check Cards: Cash is available immediately from Automatic Teller Machines. Exchange rates can be good, but there may be a daily limit (e.g., $200–$300) and fees for using the service.
- International Credit Cards: Money is available immediately and exchange rates can be good. Some U.S. businesses do not accept international credit cards.
- Bank Checks/Drafts: These are useful for large sums of money, but funds are not available for three days to three weeks after deposit (depending on which bank is used).
- Wire Transfers: This is the safest way to transfer money. It is immediately available. An account at a U.S. bank must be opened first, and there may be a fee for using the service.
One of the first things you will need to do when you arrive in the U.S. is set up a bank account. Before you open an account, be sure to do some preliminary research to compare services and fees.
There are two basic types of bank accounts:
- Checking accounts are for payment of regular bills and shopping needs. There are many different types of checking accounts. Consider account fees and when they may be charged. After opening an account, you should order checks with your name and local address printed on them. Most businesses will only accept a check that has this printed information.
- Savings accounts are for larger sums of money. They earn interest on the balance and are available at all banks.
ATM / Debit Cards / Credit Cards
When you open an account at a bank, you may request an ATM/debit card. An ATM/debit takes money directly out of your bank account to make a payment. You can use your card to access your bank accounts and to make purchases. Most businesses accept debit cards for payment. Some ATMs may charge a fee.
Major credit cards (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, etc.) are accepted all over California. Credit cards are preferred at hotels, gas stations, and rental car agencies. Many hotels insist on payment in advance and some hotels will not accept guests without a credit card. It may be easier to apply for and obtain a credit card in your home country.
Rental & Utility Bills
Most rental and utility (gas, telephone, water, electric) bills are paid by check or money order (cashier’s check), or online. A fee is charged for money orders, generally a flat fee or one percent of the transaction value over $100. They can be obtained at banks, grocery/convenience stores, and at certain host campus university centers. Transfers of money to pay expenses may be services provided by your bank. Most off-campus landlords require a cashier’s check or money order to initiate a rental agreement.
Students who have been in the U.S. for some time during a calendar year must file a U.S. annual tax report (also called a “tax return”) by the following year’s tax filing deadline. Income that must be reported includes all income earned in the U.S. (wages, scholarships, earnings on investments, etc.).
The U.S. tax system is confusing to international visitors (and to U.S. citizens, too). The International Students Office on your host campus will have information that can help you understand your tax reporting obligations. Check with the International Students Office to see if a tax workshop is offered before the filing deadline of April 15. Remember that the International Students Office staff are not certified tax advisors and cannot answer specific tax questions.
Sales tax is a state tax added to any item sold, except for essential food items. The sales tax in California is approximately 8.25 percent to 9.75 percent, depending on the city and county. Sales tax is not included in the price marked on items or on menus in restaurants. You must be prepared to pay the full amount of your purchase, including tax, when you buy a product.
Personal Property Insurance
Purchase insurance for personal items, such as laptops, cameras or other electronics before departure. If you purchase expensive items in California, consider buying personal property insurance immediately after purchase. Before purchasing personal property insurance, either at home or in California, check if your current policies (homeowner or rental policies, credit card company policies, etc.) include personal property coverage. You are responsible for insuring your personal property against loss due to fire or theft.
Accidental damage is the number one cause of computer loss. Theft is number two. Many companies offer insurance policies for computers.
UC Housing Damage
As a resident, you are responsible for any damage due to your acts of negligence, your guests or anyone under your control. Each resident is financially responsible for cleaning and damage repair in his/her room or apartment, as well as any damage during move-out. If individual responsibility cannot be determined for damages assessed in common areas (lounges, computer clusters), at the University’s discretion, all residents will be jointly responsible and the charge will be shared by everyone in the residence. The Room Condition Report is used to assess damages. Check if your or your parents’ homeowners or rental insurance policy coverage can be used while on exchange.
Property / Renters Insurance
Your landlord’s insurance policy will not cover your losses due to theft/damage or if you are sued by someone who claims to have been injured in your rental due to your carelessness. Renters’ insurance typically costs $350 a year for a $50,000 policy, which covers loss due to theft or damage caused by other people or natural disasters. Check GradGuard
, SallieMae Insurance
for property/renters insurance information.
Every car owner and driver in California must be covered by a motor vehicle insurance policy. This insurance may be more expensive if you do not have a U.S. driver’s license. Costs depend on your age and gender.
Before you purchase insurance, make sure that the insurance company you select is licensed by the California Department of Insurance (1-800-927-4357 or website at insurance.ca.gov
). Contact numerous companies to compare costs (“premiums”).
For more information on insurance companies, consult the telephone directory or online resources. A helpful website is Consumer World
What to Know Before You Go
Important Telephone Numbers
National emergency number
(for police, ambulance services, fire department)
UCEAP emergency phone number
(after business hours, on a weekend or
a holiday, call the UCEAP emergency
answering service and a UCEAP staff
member will return your call immediately)
To place a long-distance call
within the U.S.
|Dial 1+ (the 3-digit area code) + (the 7-digit phone number of your correspondent)|
To place an international call
|Dial 011+ (the country code) + (the area code) + (the number of your correspondent)|
Toll-free numbers begin with
(there is no charge to the caller)
|1 - (800), (888), (877), (866), or (855)|
(provides phone numbers of businesses
and individuals for a small fee)
|Dial 400 or (area code) + 5551212|
Discuss communication expectations with your family before the start of your exchange studies. Arrange to contact your family by appointment, especially after arrival. Regularly contact your family to reassure them of your safety and whereabouts.
Your host UC campus will provide you with an e-mail account free of charge to communicate important information to you, such as immigration information, housing assignment, enrollment instructions, deadlines, special activities, etc. Check your e-mail regularly for messages and instructions from various UC offices, including your instructors and UCEAP.
You can access your UC account from computer stations on campus, in computer laboratories, residence lounges, and the university center or library. Many students like to maintain an additional non-UC account (such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo!). If you prefer to use a non-UC account, ask how messages from your UC account can be forwarded to your personal account.
UCEAP Reciprocal Exchanges will be contacting you via your home university advisor and by e-mail with information about your participation in UCEAP. Please add the firstname.lastname@example.org
e-mail address to your e-mail account’s approved sender list to avoid having important information sent to your spam folder.
Depending on your area, you may be able to choose your long-distance phone service provider. Many U.S.-based long-distance phone companies (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon) provide special rates for international calls. Short text messages sent from a cell phone may be a cheaper way to communicate internationally.
International Calling Cards
You can call home by using an international calling card, a credit card or an operator-assisted or collect call. International calling cards are by far the least expensive and can be purchased on the Internet at very low rates or at most grocery or convenience stores.
enables you to make free video and voice calls, send instant messages, and share files over the Internet with other Skype users. It is great for international calls back home—especially if you and your caller have a web camera.
Driver’s Licenses & California ID Cards
All individuals driving in the state are responsible for knowing California’s driving laws. Get the California Driver Handbook at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or go to the DMV website
. Seat belt, cell phone use, and “no-texting” laws are strictly enforced.
California does not recognize an International Driving Permit as a valid driver’s license.
Bring along your valid home country driving license.
A California driver’s license is not expensive and can be obtained by passing a written and road test. The written test is available in several major languages.
When you apply for a California driver’s license, you must present a U.S. Social Security card or documentation that indicates that you do not qualify for a Social Security card. For that reason, it may not be possible to apply immediately after arrival.
A California driver’s license also serves as an identity document for cashing checks, use of credit cards, verification of age, etc. In some locations, passports are not recognized as identity documents for such transactions.
If you are not planning to drive but would like to obtain a California identification card, you can apply for one at the local DMV. For more specific information, visit this DMV webpage
For information about car insurance, see Money Matters in this guide.
The weather in California varies widely. Northern California is colder and wetter than southern California.
During the fall and spring, the temperature ranges from about 60ºF to 80ºF (16ºC to 27ºC) during the day. A sweater or light jacket should be warm enough for most days. From December to February, the weather is colder and wetter north of Santa Barbara. A warm fall coat in colder countries would serve as a winter coat at most UC locations. Spring temperatures range from 70º to 90ºF (21ºC to 32ºC). From June through August, most of California is quite warm, with inland temperatures sometimes exceeding 100ºF (38ºC).
- If you cannot fit it in your luggage, leave it at home.
- Experiment with carrying your luggage. If you cannot carry your luggage comfortably down the street and back, remove some items.
- Label your luggage on the outside and inside with your name, home address, and destination.
- When traveling, always personally carry your passport, certificate of eligibility, ticket, prescription medications, and money.
- Never put medications, travel documents or valuables in your checked luggage.
Most students prefer clothing that can be worn in layers. Campus fashion is fairly casual; many students wear shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals to class. If you are planning to send additional items by mail, have a friend or family member ship them to you after you arrive at your UC campus. Items cannot be stored at the Campus EAP Office or the International Students Office.
Supermarkets offer a variety of food and household merchandise. Ask other international students for recommendations about where to find foods from your home country, but try to experience the wide variety of international cuisines available in California.
It is much easier to buy small electronic devices in the U.S. than to bring them from abroad. The U.S. uses electrical current of 60 cycles and 110 volts. Plugs are flat with two or three prongs. A converter and adapter plug may be needed to use appliances from your home country.
Before packing for the U.S., learn about regulations that prohibit the entry of certain items. Importing fruit, vegetables, plants, and certain meat products is prohibited.
Prepare for Cultural Immersion
Culture shock happens to everyone in varying degrees. To successfully adapt to a new culture, it helps to know what to expect from both the foreign environment and yourself. For details on this topic, review “Cross-Cultural Adjustment,”
an article by Dan K. Smith.
The culture curve is a metaphor for the emotional ups and downs that you may experience during your time abroad.
Phase 1: Euphoria—You are excited about your new environment.
Phase 2: Culture Shock—You begin to experience the cultural differences between home and the U.S. (“homesickness”).
Phase 3: Surface Adjustment—You begin to accept and learn how to function in your new environment, and your language skills rapidly improve.
Phase 4: Unresolved Problems—You begin to feel the tension of unresolved problems with specific aspects of your host country.
Phase 5: Feel at Home—You begin to feel at home after you have adjusted emotionally, socially, academically and physically to your new environment.
Phase 6: Departure Concerns—You begin to realize that your time abroad is nearing an end.
Reading about politics, history, and current events in the U.S. can help you adjust more quickly after you arrive. Visit the UCEAP Reciprocal Exchanges
webpages for direct links to campuses, newspapers, and U.S. and California links of interest.
Meet UC Students
Meet UC students currently attending your home university before you leave for the U.S., as they can tell you about life at your UC host campus.
UC students can also be valuable contacts after you arrive in California. Many reciprocal exchange students arrange to share California housing or find temporary housing with UC students they meet in their home country.
Visit UC Online
After you have received notification of your UC campus placement, visit the Reciprocal Exchanges web page
and find information about your UC campus. There are links to campus catalogs, schedules of classes, and instructions on how to enroll. Take a virtual tour of your host university before you arrive. The International Students Office at each campus provides information, including orientations specifically for international students and important visa updates. Visit the WWW Before You Leave Home webpage
What to Do When You Get Here
Present your passport, visa, and any other travel documents to the international student advisor.
Contact the international student advisor before any travel that requires your exiting and reentering the U. S.
Visit the International Students Office to meet new friends, finding housing, learn about the area, and get information on special events and activities for international students.
Before the start of your first term, your host UC campus holds an orientation session to provide you with information about enrollment, visa issues, safety and services available on campus. Attendance is required. Your host college or department (or the Graduate Division, in the case of graduate students) may also hold an orientation. Visit the Pre-Arrival Instructions
page for your host UC campus to find about dates and times of orientation sessions.
Remember to make time to relax and have fun!
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.