Learning English is only part of your experience at ELS, the other part is absorbing your new surroundings and getting familiar with new cultures. To make your transition to your Center as smooth as possible, ELS is committed to helping you understand our academic program, and giving you a jumpstart on the information you should know before you arrive. 

Important Arrival Information

  • Download and complete the Important Forms that you will need to bring with you. (If you will be under 18 years old on your first day of class, your parent or guardian must complete and sign the forms for you.)
  • Find the location of your school using an internet map. Check to see how far it is from your new home in the United States. You should also research local markets, stores, and restaurants in your new area.
  • Learn what the weather will be at your ELS Center so you can bring the appropriate clothing for your stay.
  • Small souvenirs from your home country (such as candy or postcards) to share with your new classmates or American friends. If you stay with a host family, bring a small gift from your country.
  • A small bilingual dictionary or electronic translator.
  • A notebook and pencil or pen for your first day of class.
  • An electricity converter. The electrical current in the United States is 110V, 60 Hz.
  • Your Passport
  • A copy of your Form I-20 (if applicable)
  • Funds to pay all remaining fees at ELS
  • Your completed Important Forms, which will be needed on your first day of class.
  • Proof of medical insurance (if not purchased through ELS)

On the first Monday, ELS Centers will be open only to newly arriving students. Centers will administer any placement tests that have not been administered pre-arrival, host an orientation session and register all new students. 

If a holiday falls on the first Monday, ELS Centers will be open for newly arriving students checking in. Normal first Monday activities will take place on the following Tuesday.

  • If you want to drive a car while you are in the United States, you should consider getting an International Driver’s License before you arrive. It may not be possible for you to obtain a US Driver’s License after you arrive.
  • Besides your Passport, you should bring another form of picture ID that includes your date of birth. You can carry that ID with you while you are in the United States. Or, you might also make a photocopy of your Passport to carry with you while you are in the United States. You will want to keep your real Passport secure while you are here.
  • When you convert your money into US Dollars, you should ask for some small denominations. A lot of American shops and restaurants will only accept $20, $10, $5, and $1 increments, because $50 and $100 bills are not commonly used in the United States for everyday purchases.
  • If you plan to apply to a college or university in the United States, you should bring official copies of your high school or university transcripts, letters of reference and immunization documents. It will be difficult for you to obtain these after you arrive in the US. If you will apply to more than one college or university, bring more than one copy of each document.
  • Americans value punctuality. It is usually unacceptable to be even 5 minutes late to planned events. You are expected to be in class a few minutes before class begins. Arriving late is considered rude and disrespectful.
  • Be careful not to bring too many unnecessary items with you to the US. Your bedroom may be smaller than your room at home, and you will also purchase many items in America during your stay.
  • The minimum drinking and smoking age is 21 years old. If you wish to purchase these items, you must have a valid government-issued picture ID that includes your date of birth.
  • The weather and food may be different from your home country. Some students bring a small amount of medicine from their home country just in case they get sick when they first arrive.
  • There are many different ways for Americans to greet each other for the first time. Some people wave, shake hands, hug or give a kiss on the cheek. This may be different from how you greet strangers for the first time.
  • Americans treat people of different religions, gender, and ethnicity equally. Work and household responsibilities are shared evenly throughout the home, and respect is given to everyone.
  • Good topics of social conversation are sports, entertainment, and other everyday topics. Taboo subjects are politics, religion, income, and sex. Most Americans will ask you “Where are you from?” which is not meant to be offensive, but rather an inquiry about your home country and culture.
  • Restaurants in the US do not include a service charge in your check. It is customary to leave 15% of your bill for your waiter as a tip. (The amount can be increased or decreased, depending on the quality of service you received.) Taxi drivers should also receive a similar tip for their service.
  • When shopping, prices in the US are generally a fixed price, and it is common for a small tax to be added to every purchase (usually 5% - 10%). Most American shops do not negotiate prices with customers.
  • Many students want to open a bank account or purchase a cell phone once they arrive. The staff at the ELS Center can give you advice on how to open these accounts.
  • A neat and tidy appearance is valued highly in the US. Americans generally shower every day, and brush their teeth twice each day. They wash their hair at least twice per week, apply anti-perspirant or deodorant every day, and wash their clothing after every use.
  • Pointing at an object is acceptable, but it is considered rude to point at a person.
  • Waiting in line is common in the US. It is considered rude to push or shove ahead of anyone else in line.
  • There are no public toilets on the streets in the US. Public toilets can be found in hotels, restaurants, gas stations and stores. However, some businesses may reserve their restrooms for the use of their customers.
  • In America, pedestrians must yield to cars and other automobiles. Cars will only yield to pedestrians in designated areas (with corresponding signs) and in crosswalks.
  • Americans are very sensitive to health risks associated with smoking. Therefore, it is customary to ask if anyone in your vicinity minds if you light a cigarette, especially when visiting someone’s home. In public places, smoking is only permitted in designated areas. Each campus location follows university rules on smoking, so be sure to respect the institution’s policies.
  • If you are lost and in need of directions, it is acceptable to ask anyone for help. Most Americans are friendly, and will help strangers.