Frequently Asked Questions

The following are answers and responses to questions that have been frequently asked by other incoming international students like you.

  1. How am I going to find housing? How shall I select a place to live?
  2. What is the weather like in Wisconsin?
  3. What is the food like in Wisconsin?
  4. How big is the campus?
  5. What is required for health insurance?
  6. What do I need to do regarding my visa after I enter the United States?
  7. What is academic life like in the U.S.?
  8. Will my English skills be adequate when I'm in Madison?
  9. How much money should I bring?
  10. Is the metric system common in the U.S.?
  11. Can I bring my electronic devices?
  12. Any other advice?

1. How am I going to find housing? How shall I select a place to live?

The search for your desired housing situation can be challenging, but you'll find right away that there are a wide variety of options to choose from. These options include university housing (only available if you apply early), private residence halls, and off campus housing and/or apartments. Most students live off campus in apartments or student houses.

You should select a place to live based on your budget, the kind of living situation you would like to experience (housing with international students or with American students), and the kind of neighborhood you would like to live in. Of course, proximity to your classes is an important issue, and you'll find that accommodation is cheaper the further away it is from campus. Have a list of questions ready when you're looking at apartments, and try to set a monthly rent amount you are aiming for. Refer to the provided housing section for more information.

2. What is the weather like in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin weather is something that most incoming international students are not prepared for. Madison summers are hot and humid, with an average temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius. Winters can be extremely cold. In January, the average low temperature is -12 degrees Celsius. These cold temperatures, along with the snow and ice, can be very uncomfortable if you are not dressed for the winter. Be prepared to buy a warm winter coat and thin comfortable summer clothes.

3. What is the food like in Wisconsin?

Finding food you consider convenient, tasty, and inexpensive might be difficult when you first arrive. Explore State Street and the wider downtown area; try as many different restaurants as you can to see what you like and what you don't like. Ask your fellow international students what they thought about different eating establishments. Madison does have many affordable restaurants with good food.

4. How big is the campus?

Madison has a large campus with tens of thousands of students, but don't let the size intimidate you! The campus is easy to tour on foot, and the distances between classes are definitely manageable. When you first arrive in Madison, take a good look around. Get a map from the international office and try to familiarize yourself with the campus. There's a lot to see. Explore the UW Campus Map.

5. What is required for health insurance?

Health insurance is required for international students studying at the University of Wisconsin. All international students attending the College of Engineering are expected to enroll in SHIP, a special health insurance program tailored for international students. Please see the health insurance information provided.

6. What do I need to do regarding my visa after I enter the United States?

Your orientation session will include a presentation by International Student Services when you first arrive in Madison. As an international student, you must comply with certain immigration rules; for questions regarding your immigration status, ISS is the office you should contact. ISS also has a variety of programs specially designed for incoming international students, including friendship programs, special get-togethers, socials, and international student advising and counseling.

7. What is academic life like in the U.S.?

The structure of American classes is more work intensive than many international students are accustomed to, so be prepared to study more regularly than you may at home. The culture, class schedule, and daily life also will be a bit different than what you are familiar with. It will take a few weeks to become adjusted, but you will eventually grow used to (and maybe even prefer) the differences. Even so, do not try to take on too much of a load in the very beginning. And do not be afraid to ask questions of your professors, or come to IESP with questions or concerns. Don't forget to visit our section about course enrollment at UW-Madison. It will answer many of your questions. Also take a look at the information on academic life at UW-Madison and in the United States.

8. Will my English skills be adequate when I'm in Madison?

You may have a bit of trouble following all the ins and outs of American English when you first arrive, but within a few weeks it will become much easier. When you first arrive, as well as throughout your stay, try to speak English as much as you possibly can with local shopkeepers, waiters or waitresses, and American students.

9. How much money should I bring?

Everybody has different spending habits, and the amount of money you bring will depend on your plans for traveling, how long you plan to stay in the United States, and what kind of lifestyle you want to live. Budget carefully, and bring sufficient funds to cover your day-to-day costs as well as money for traveling within the United States, outings and entertainment in Madison, and other discretionary expenses, as well as emergency funds.

10. Is the metric system common in the U.S.?

No. The United States has not switched to the metric system. You actually might find that some Americans are quite proud of their antiquated system. Be prepared to use the metric-to-English conversion (inches, feet, etc.). Conversion tables such as the Digital Dutch converter and UnitConversion.org are available online, and other resources can be purchased in Madison.

11. Can I bring my electronic devices?

The U.S. electrical system provides 110 volts; many other places provide 220 volts. The U.S. also provides AC (alternating current), which could be different from your home country. Generally, the power pack on most electronics allows the appropriate conversion of voltage (from 220 to 110) and current (from AC (alternating current) to DC (direct current)). However, you need to confirm this before you go in case you need a voltage transformer as well.

Consider what adapters you may need for any electronics you carry. In most cases, plugs need adaptors to fit into wall outlets in other countries.

Before you depart for Madison, try to purchase adapters for your more expensive electronic devices. For everything else, save time and space by purchasing the devices in Madison.

12. Any other advice?

Come to learn and to have fun! Life at the University of Wisconsin is what you make it. The more open you are to new experiences and new ways of looking at the world, the more beneficial and memorable your time here will be in the long run!