Dear Mentor:

What should I bring with me to the US?

I'm from Chennai, India. I got admitted for M.S. in Civil Engineering (Transportation) for Fall 2001. I'm doing my final semester B.E. Civil in Anna Univ, Tamilnadu, India. I would like to get some advice. Kindly advice me on what baggage, clothes, shoes and books I should bring to the US.

US Bound, Chennai, India

Dear US Bound:

Let us first deal with the issue of clothes and shoes. A lot depends on the climate of where you would be residing, and you have not told us the place. As you know, the US is a geographically large country. Being the third largest country, behind Russia and Canada, the US is about three times the size of India. As a result, it offers an extreme diversity of climates, quite like the weather in India, from the Himalayas in the North to Tamilnadu in the South. The northern parts of the US have harsh winters and the southern parts and deserts areas have harsh summers, while the coastal areas offer temperate weather.

Having said this, your need for undergarments, which you can find in India, is the same for all climates in the US. You should bring some sweaters with you; however, winter related clothing is best bought in the US. You can not find appropriate kind of winter clothing in India. You can bring one business suit for job interviews with you, but again, we would recommend buying it in the US because of differences in styles and tastes. All in all, we suggest that you bring undergarment, shirts, and trousers.

We would also recommend that you buy shoes in the US, but you should bring 2 or 3 pairs with you, including running shoes, to get you started. Shoes in the US are made to last for the climate. Shoes from India do not last in the US. Shoes can be easily and cheaply repaired in India. Such is not the case in the US. Repairs are very expensive. You want to have shoes that last.

Now let us turn to the books. You are expected to buy books for all courses, although they are also available in the library. Books are specified by your professors. It is true that the same books are available in India at much cheaper prices, but you would not know the books you need until the courses begin. So, you should minimize the books to some particularly useful reference books or books that are dear to your heart.

One thing that you did not ask, but on which we wish to comment, and that is food. The US Customs guidelines require that all agriculture and food items be declared at the time of entry. If needed, these items can be sent for testing, or worse, they can be confiscated. Avoid bringing such items. Just about everything you want is available in the US at Indian grocery stores. And, relative to the cost of living, food is about the cheapest item in the US.

One final note: your best source of information may be the Indian students who are already at the university you plan to attend. Look at their website. Sometimes they have a webpage that gives detailed answers to your questions about how to prepare for the transition. If not, you can always send them an email. Check out our list of these organizations: Indian Student Associations.

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