August 4th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
August has arrived again and the carefree whims of June and July are nothing but a fond memory again. Sure, the sun is still shining, the pools and beaches still crowded, but the school year ahead is looming over again like the cool breeze of the autumn, waiting to force the white sundresses into the closets and the students back into the stale classrooms. It’s only a few short weeks now until you’re sitting at your desk, listening to your mundane professor ramble on about the obscurities of life, thinking back on the summer you’ve had. What do you see? Did you study to get ahead in school? Did you stay home and work to make extra cash? Although a commendable use of your time, do you wish you had escaped for just awhile to test your limits and see the world? Or maybe you took the trip of a lifetime and saw a far away place that you’ll never forget. Regardless of what memories your summer brings, it’s never too early to get inspired to make your next summer vacation the best it can be!
Planning the perfect summer trip can take time, so start early! Start now! Here are some summer travel inspirations for students to help you through the strenuous school year to come, and to help you on your way to the summer vacation of your life.
Social learning and work and travel programs – If you prefer to spend your spare time learning and preparing for your future, travel may offer some surprising opportunities. There are programs all over the world that that allow you to learn while traveling. For instance, if you are interested in studying a foreign language, language immersion can be a smart choice. Resources like ESLdirectory.com and Study Travel offer different programs and information about studying language around the world.
If you want to attain new skills or study in the field, you can also look into intern abroad programs and trips. Check out Go Abroad and United Planet for great interning, teaching, and volunteering opportunities overseas. The programs look great on your résumé, and may even offer college credit! Many programs are flexible with dates, duration and location.
Of course, your college or university might offer some interesting opportunities to travel abroad and earn college credit. Check with your Study Abroad office to see what programs are available.
Cheap travel deals for students - Let’s face it. Students are tight on cash. We pay big money to sit and listen to the professor ramble on and challenge our young minds to the core. Student deals and discounts make traveling easier when every penny counts. For example, Student Universe gives options for discounted travel and tours for students.
Travel sites like CheapOair.com, Priceline, Hotwire and Kayak.com offer great deals on airfare and accommodations. Low-budget airlines line Ryanair are great money-saving options for short trips from country to country. Hostels, couchsurfing, and other hospitality organizations are popular among many students that can’t afford expensive hotels.
While you’re abroad, the International Student Identity Card can help ensure a cheaper summer trip, with discounts on travel and services. Showing the card will award you a student discount to most major museums and tourist attractions.
Unique experiences for a lifetime – Some destinations are especially great for students and offer a great combination of wonder, fun, and affordability. The Guardian recently rated the top 10 student trips. Here they are:
No matter your reason for traveling, you can be sure that leaving your comfort zone and experiencing new, exciting places and people will make your next summer vacation a memory that will last a lifetime. And you’ve got all year to look forward to it.
July 28th, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
If you already know that you want to become an international student in the US but are unsure when it comes to where to study- let our top 6 cities for international students in the US help you decide! These US cities have become popular with international students recently not just because they are host great schools- but because they’re able to cater to the lifestyle of an international student thanks to the diverse culture, access to the arts, and the variety of public transportation. Plus, they know how to show visitors a good time.
See why we consider these the top 6 cities for international students in the USA to study, then check out if they will be a good fit for you.
- Los Angeles (LA): In LA you can find a number of great schools like University of Southern California and the University of Los Angeles. This city is home to Hollywood, a district known for hosting movie stars and the Hollywood sign and is also often called the “Creative Capital of the World.” If you’re itching for somewhere to stretch your creative legs and get noticed, LA is a good option for you.
- New York City: If you’ve heard of “The Big Apple” then you’ve heard of New York City. It’s a city full of skyscrapers, bustling people and culture. If you prefer a building skyline to a tree line and honking horns to chirping birds then New York City will capture your heart. There you can see numerous landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, a series of infamous bridges like the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge, Times Square, Ellis Island and Central Park. Whether you walk, take the metro or hire a cab, the vast variety of transportation makes navigating the city as an international student an easy one. New York City also has a number of great schools for international students to choose from including New York University and Columbia University.
- Chicago: Although this Midwestern city is known as the “Windy City,” the weather won’t keep you from experiencing all this city has to offer. By taking the local metro, known as the “L” you can experience Chicago style pizza, take pictures by the bean, hangout at one of the lake beaches or catch a show at the Chicago Theatre.
- Boston: As the largest city in Massachusetts, and the state capital, Boston boasts endless gardens, museums, performing arts centers and theatres. Northeastern University and Boston University are just two schools in Boston you will want to make sure you consider.
- Philadelphia: Home to more public arts than any other US city, the cheesesteak and soft pretzels, you can’t go wrong if you choose to study in Philadelphia! Philadelphia is also home to numerous Fortune 500 companies making your chance of landing a great OPT opportunity pretty good. Check out the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University if you’re considering Philadelphia.
- Austin: If you’re looking for a city that can take you on a path less traveled, Austin is your city. With the motto “Keep Austin Weird” it’s hard to disrupt this city, making adjusting as an international student an easy task. Another perk is that you can save money on bus or metro fair- Walk Score ranked Austin the 35th most walkable city in the US in 2013. If interested in Austin make sure to check out the University of Texas.
If you choose to study in one of these top 6 cities for international students in the USA, make sure you check the insurance requirements of the school you choose to see if one of our plans will meet.
July 14th, 2014 by Ross Mason
Summer of Fun Competition
This summer, ISI is offering you not one chance – but two chances to win $500! The 2014 Summer Fun Competition runs all the way through July and August and its your chance to win one of our $500 prizes, or you can enter in both ways and win up to $1,000!
The competition is very easy – so there is no excuse to not enter!
We have two entry methods:
- Share our US Healthcare System Video to one of your preferred social network OR
- Tell us about your experience purchasing your insurance plan with us.
Then all you need to do is complete our application form (you will need to complete it twice if you want to enter in both categories) which can be found on our Summer Fun competition page:
The winners will be selected at random after the competition closes and we will announce them in our September customer newsletter and post them on our website.
July 7th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
F-1 visa holders are required to return to their home country within 60 days of graduation. The only exception, besides a visa status change, is to apply for Optional Practical Training. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a special opportunity for international students to further hone their skills by working in their field of study.
Here are the eligibility requirements in order to apply for OPT:
- You must be in F-1 status.
- You must have enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
- You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization.
If you meet these requirements, you are eligible to apply for OPT. However, the application process can be difficult. Here are 5 tips to make sure your OPT application goes smoothly.
- Do not wait for a job offer to apply for OPT. You are allowed to apply up to 90 days before your program ends and it is a good idea to allow the full 3 months for the application processing, processing in your international student office, and mailing.
- Make sure the job you take relates to your major or field of study. While on F-1 OPT, the work you will perform must directly relate to your major area of study. If you are starting a business, the majority of the work you perform must be directly related to your major area of study.
- Choose your OPT start date wisely. The “start date” is the date your work permission begins. You cannot work earlier than the start date, but you can start working later. As mentioned, your requested start date must be within 60 days after your program completion date. Changing the requested OPT dates after the application has been submitted can be very difficult, so choose your dates carefully.
- Complete and submit all of the required documents. They are:
- Completed I-765 Form
- Photocopy of all revised and previously issued I-20 Forms
- Photocopy of passport identification page
- Photocopy of F-1 visa page
- Two passport photos
- Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card OR your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information
- Photocopy of previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (if applicable)
- Check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
- Completed G-1145 Form (for convenient email or text notifications of your application processing
- Mail your application within 30 days of the new OPT-endorsed I-20 being issued. Late applications will be denied.
Be sure to check with your school’s international student services office for full details about their approval process and for help receiving your revised I-20. Remember these 5 tips and your OPT application will go as smoothly as possible.
June 30th, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
If you’re planning on studying in Denmark as an international student, you might be wondering what you need when it comes to meeting the international student insurance requirements for Denmark. The answer is- it will depend on your situation.
First, it’s important to realize that Denmark has nationalized healthcare. This means that eligible citizens in Denmark do not need to purchase a private health insurance plan for most medical expenses. Instead, medical services are funded through taxation.
To see if and when you are eligible for the Danish Nationalized Healthcare, find the situation below that best fits yours as an international student inside of Denmark.
More than 3 months of study in Denmark:
Citizens of the EU- If you are from within the European Union, bring your European Health Insurance Card to have access to immediate health coverage within Denmark when needed. However, keep in mind that you will still need to register with the Danish National Healthcare system once you arrive.
Non-Citizens of the EU- If you’re not a citizen of a country that is part of the European Union, then you’re not eligible for the nationalized healthcare system for the first three months you are inside Denmark. However, as soon as you arrive make sure you apply for the Danish National Healthcare so you can have coverage after your third month. In the mean time you’ll need to purchase a private health insurance plan for the first three months you’re inside Denmark so you can have coverage as needed.
Less than 3 months of study in Denmark:
Citizens of the EU- As mentioned previously, if you are citizen of the EU you have access to the Danish National Healthcare right away, as long as you bring your European Health Insurance Card.
Non-Citizens of the EU- If you are not from a country within the EU and you will be studying in Denmark for less than three months you will not be eligible for the Danish National Healthcare. This means you will need to purchase a private health insurance plan that meets the Schengen Visa insurance requirements for your time inside of Denmark.
No matter how long you are staying, something else you will want to take into consideration is that the Danish healthcare service will not provide dental insurance coverage. Even if you qualify for the national insurance, you might want to purchase a private insurance plan for dental coverage.
As touched on previously, if you will be inside Denmark for less than three months and you are not a citizen of the EU, you will need to purchase a private health insurance plan that will meet the Schengen Visa insurance requirements. If this applies to you, find a plan that meets the following requirements:
- The insurance company has a representative office in Europe
- Medical expenses, medical evacuation, and repatriation coverage of at least US $37,500 (or the equivalent of 30,000 euros)
- Insurance is valid for the duration of stay in the Schengen countries
If you have any questions when it comes to international student insurance requirements for Denmark or finding a plan that will meet the Schengen Visa requirements, contact one of our agents for further information.
June 23rd, 2014 by Jennifer Frankel
Summer time is here, and that means that many students will be grabbing their backpacks and making the journey across Europe. While most students venture to the big – and expensive cities – such as London, Paris, Prague, take the path less traveled and you might just surprise yourself (and spare your wallet!).
Here are 3 top hidden European travel destinations for students to enjoy:
1. Riga, Latvia
One of the secret treasures, Riga is the capital of Latvia, and has been influenced by the Germans and Russians due to centuries of occupation. This has characterized much of the architecture which has both Jugendstil and communist design. Not only will you have eye candy, but you’ll find Riga a hip and vibrant place for students to explore and enjoy! With its youthful population, students can find bars, clubs, and cafes within walking distance.
2. Bucharest, Romania
Want a “little Paris” without the price tag? Bucharest may just be the perfect place for you! Bucharest is Romania’s largest city and capital, with an abundance of things to do! With its Old Center, Parliament Palace, and not to mention – tons of museums, Bucharest will enchant you! With a prospering Jazz scene and abundance of parks, you will be fascinated by this multicultural city.
3. Valencia, Spain
A beautiful, charming old city, Valencia is located right on the Mediterranean Sea within 3-4 hours drive from Madrid and Barcelona. Are you a foodie? Did you know that Valencia is the birthplace of paella? If you go in March, there is the famous Fallas Festival. If you are looking for some time in the water, take your pick of the beach or hot springs, where you can just relax and enjoy yourself!
Have you traveled throughout Europe and have some hidden destinations of your own? Share it with us – we’d love to hear what secret town you found, and how to maximize your vacation without breaking the bank!
June 20th, 2014 by Ross Mason
What Belgium Offers International Students
When looking at international destinations to study abroad, most students who are looking to Europe tend to opt for England, Spain, Italy or maybe even Germany. But, a country that is often overlooked is Belgium – and we are here to tell you why you should consider it as a study destination as Belgium has so much to offer.
So what does Belgium offer to International Students?
Without a doubt, you cannot get more centrally located in Europe than Belgium. The country borders France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, all within a few hours drive or train, and you have access to the EuroStar which takes you directly into London, and of course air connections to all of Europe. Without a doubt, you cannot get a better location if you are looking for a starting point to explore all parts of Europe when you have time.
Most schools in Belgium teach in English, so for a lot of students this is an added benefit – but the level of multiculturalism is unrivaled. For example, there is not just one official language, not even two – but they have in fact 3 official languages; French, German and Dutch. You could not pick a better country if you are looking to really dive into languages and immerse yourself!
With prices across Europe generally increasing, with the UK now costing up to £38,000 in some places, international students in Belgium are typically going to be able to save more money. The cost of living is generally low, especially if you are also permitted to work during your studies, and you still have access to some of the world’s leading universities.
Quality of Life
Like other parts of mainland Europe, the quality of life in Belgium is very high. Not only do you have a vast array of architecturally rich cities like Bruge or Ghent, but you also have the benefit from being in one of the safest parts of Europe and access to an internationally renown healthcare system. All these things come together to offer students a very high quality of life, that perhaps other parts of Europe could not.
To learn more about the various options for international students, including health insurance and visa requirements, please visit our Belgium International Student center for more information.
June 9th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
Applying for a F1 student visa to study in the United States can be a long and tedious process. Once you finally make it to the interview at the US consulate, you’ll want to be ready to tackle any questions that are thrown at you so that there is no doubt that you are a qualified candidate to study in the States. Here is a list of the top 5 F1 visa interview questions that you can expect.
- “Why are you going to the US to study?” This and similar questions regarding your plans to pursue higher education outside of your home country can be expected. You’ll need a good reason why an education in the US is better for you than an education back home and why you prefer to study instead of joining the workforce.
- “What university will you attend and why?” Your choice of university says a lot about you as a person and student. Acceptance into multiple, reputable universities and your comparisons among them can shed light on your ambition and future goals.
- “What are your GPA, GRE, GMAT, SAT, TOEFL, and IELTS scores?” Not surprisingly, you will need to prove your academic capability. Being a successful student at home does not necessarily mean that you will be successful at an US university. Study abroad experience is something to mention, as well as strong written and spoken English.
- “How do you plan to pay for your educational and living expenses?” Arguably the most important aspect of your interview is proving that you can afford to study abroad. Be prepared to give details about your income, your sponsor’s income, and your plan to budget for things like room and board, food, insurance, transportation, etc., as well as your tuition and fees.
- “Do you plan to return to your home country after your program is completed?” F1 visas are only granted to those that have ties to their home country that will ensure that they will return there after their studies are over.
Although these are popular F1 visa interview questions, there is no way of knowing what questions your interviewer will ask of you. Being confident and prepared is the key! Check out this article on Questions to Expect during your F1 Visa Interview for more information.
June 6th, 2014 by Ross Mason
June 2014 Travel Warnings
The June 2014 travel warnings are a listing of any warnings that have been posted by the US Department of State in the month of May, warning travelers who plan to visit those countries. Countries listed through the month of May 2014 include:
Libya – May 27th, 2014
The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately.
Iran – May 22nd, 2014
The Department of State warns travelers to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran. Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States. As a result, U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling or residing in Iran. Since 2009, Iranian authorities have prevented the departure, in some cases for several months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens, including journalists and academics, who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons.
North Korea – May 20th, 2014
The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizen tourists have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally crossed into DPRK territory. The Department of State has also received reports of DPRK authorities arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country. In the past 18 months, North Korea detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours. Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.
Philippines – May 19th, 2014
The Department of State warns of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago, the island of Mindanao, and in the southern Sulu Sea area. Travelers should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there. Over the past nine months, there have been kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines.
Kenya – May 17th, 2014
Travelers in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas. The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including the Nairobi area and the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings – to include car bombings – kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports.
Central African Republic – May 13th, 2014
The Department of State warns against all travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) and recommends that those who remain in CAR depart immediately by taking advantage of existing commercial flights. The Government of Chad closed its border with CAR May 12, 2014. Only citizens of Chad returning home will be able to cross the Chad-CAR border.
Nigeria – May 6th, 2014
The Department of State warns of the risks of travel to Nigeria and in particular all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because of the May 14, 2013 state of emergency proclamation for those three states by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Department also advises travelers to exercise additional caution while traveling in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara States.
Syria – May 5th, 2014
The security situation remains volatile and unpredictable as a civil war between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country, along with an increased risk of kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism. No part of Syria should be considered safe from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, including kidnappings and the use of chemical warfare against civilian populations. Indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, including of densely populated urban areas across the country, have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury.
While traveling, please keep these travel warnings in mind and remember to exercise extra care if you are visiting these countries, and check with your travel insurance provider to make sure you still have coverage in place – sometimes some benefits can be excluded for countries under a travel warning. Travelers are also advised to enroll through the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay up to date on travel security information.
June 2nd, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
If you plan to come to the US to become an international military student you know that this training provides you with the experience and tools to become a future leader. However, to be an international military student you must meet a few requirements- including having adequate international student health insurance for the entire time you are inside the United States.
To meet the DSCA medical policy requirements, your international military student insurance plan must include a few specific benefits like having at least $500,000 in coverage and a deductible of $1,000 or less.
Many international military students purchase the Atlas Travel plan to meet their school requirements since it also gives students flexibility when it comes to coverage and pricing. You can choose either the $500,000 coverage amount to meet your minimum requirement or a $1,000,000 policy maximum if you want even more coverage.
Having the option to also pick your own deductible with this plan means finding coverage that can meet your requirements, needs and budget. When you use your insurance plan, the deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket before the insurance will begin to pay. Choosing your deductible on the Atlas Travel plan allows you to control how much you must pay when you use the plan. Although picking a higher deductible can lower your initial premium, when it comes time for a doctor’s visit or trip to the emergency room, costs are much easier to handle when a lower deductible is chosen.
Keep in mind some schools also require that your plan includes maternity. Check with your international military student office before you buy your plan to see if this requirement applies to you. If so, contact us for international military student insurance options that include maternity coverage.