18. Coming to the US - Travel Arrangements
Booking flights can be quite hectic if you don’t know where to start. However, there are many agencies that can help you book your flights very convenient. If you know someone who has gone abroad before, it may be wise to ask them how they booked their flights. The following are some of the different ways you can book your flights:
Flight-Booking Apps: You can find numerous suggestions for the apps you can use, these should not be limited. An example of these apps is StudentUniverse to book my flights, which I find very convenient.
Agencies: There are a handful of agencies that can help you book a flight. You could always check online for these agencies, but it would be even better if you know of someone who has actually used that agency before. Agencies may be more expensive, but they are hustle-free for first-time flyers.
Airline Websites: The other option for finding flights is simply looking into an airline website. This is usually preferred for people who have a strong preference for specific airlines.
As you travel, ensure that you have a few dollars, at least $50, to cater for your food at the airport and a few other things that may emerge on transit.
When choosing a flight, double check that your layover country doesn’t require you to have a transit visa. The UK can be troublesome with this. Choose a route that won’t put you through additional procedures.
Usually, different schools will have different vaccination requirements for their students. However, there are specific vaccines you probably want to get even if the school doesn’t require them. These are:
The Yellow Fever vaccine
M.M.R. Vaccine (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
The Polio Vaccine
It is highly advisable to get these vaccines in Kenya, simply because they may end up being very expensive if you choose to have them administered abroad. As I mentioned above, each school will most probably have a list of vaccines that you need to take before arriving at school. This means that you should maintain a schedule of when you will take these vaccines before you fly out. This should be timely, just so you make sure you don’t run out of time. In case you do so, you need to notify your school’s health office before you leave the country.
Shopping is usually a fun concept, until you realize how much money you need to buy your stuff. Although most schools, again will send you a list of things you may need, keep in mind that these are the things you MAY need, and you will probably never have to use half of that stuff. It is usually typical for you to buy things that you don’t need if you do your shopping before you get to school. Luckily, most schools know this and will give you a chance to go shopping once you get to school for orientation. This means that you won’t have to buy lots of stuff as you leave home.
Tip: Please buy all the clothes you may need from Kenya because they are really expensive if you get them abroad. This is with an exception of winter clothing, which you may not find at home. It is highly advisable that you get winter clothing from the place you’ll be going to. Remember, freshman shopping is not your only spending endeavor, so make sure you still have money for other stuff.
Long Distance Relationships?
This is always a tricky topic, and if you are currently dating, you would probably fight me if I tell you it won’t work. So I won’t! However, I will tell you that there are so many factors that have to play for a long distance relationship to work out. This is hardly ever so. New challenges like time difference and long distance start to come into your relationship once you give that last hug. To be honest, this is not easy to pull off, and that’s why many of us who came abroad dating are now single 😦 . If you are willing to try it, then that’s totally fine, but just a heads up; IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT SEEMS ON TV.
So once you say goodbye to your girlfriend/boyfriend, you have to have your stuff together so you don’t get denied entry into the US. There are key documents you need to have in order to have a smooth entrance into the US:
Passport: As you may know, you cannot cross the border without the passport, leave alone get into the US. You also need this because it contains your Visa, which you should have gotten way before your day of departure.
I-20: Your I-20 is your best friend. This is what shows that you are legitimately travelling to the US and for a good reason. This document is sent by your school and you are required to sign it. MAKE SURE YOU’VE SIGNED IT!
Admission Letter: That precious document you got that shows that you were accepted to the school should be within your reach as you travel to the US. This is usually in case you need to prove to the Homeland Security people at the airport that you are actually a legitimate immigrant into the US, that your whole admission story isn’t a lie.
Pen: Although you may get a pen on the plane, please just seem organised by ensuring that you have a pen in your bag. You will need to fill a declaration form in the plane and may need to also write out something random. Trust me, you don’t want to pace around the airports looking for a pen.
Vaccination Card: You may also need to use the vaccination card/certificate that you get once you receive vaccine shots. You may not need it as you get into the US, but you may need it along the way, or when you get back to Kenya.
SEVIS Payment Receipt: Once you arrive in the US, the Homeland Security people will ask to see your receipt.
These are just but the most important of the things you’ll need to carry with you, but it is safest if you have a folder that contains all your important documents, just in case you need them. These documents should be kept in your hand luggage, and not in the bags that you check in. You will not see these bags until you are done with customs. You may put these documents in your carry-on but it is preferable to have them as or in your hand luggage (usually a back pack).