Moving to a new country for any long-term reason could somehow feel as if someone had clicked the reset button on your life. At least, this was how I felt moving to U-M for graduate school and having to resettle in Ann Arbor. There were the little things that made the big cumulative difference; take for instance, changing my address and phone number, opening a new bank account, getting a new driver license, registering for a US Social Security Number, etc. While they seem easily doable in retrospect, they were really not so easy at the actual periods when I had to do them as a newcomer. Below is a list of three non-school essential needs for new students and how to get them done.
Getting a New Phone Number: This is the first thing you want to do because several other services will have to be linked to your phone number. Whether you want to open a bank account, sign up on Uber and other such services, or need a 2-factor authentication tool, having a US phone number comes first. Luckily, it is also one of the easiest things to get.
In Ann Arbor, there are three main phone companies: T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. All you need to do is walk into any of their stores and the assistants on duty will do the rest. Monthly prepaid cost of their lines is between $40 and $60.
Opening a US Bank Account: This is the next thing to do and comes in handy for setting up direct deposit, paying student fees, shopping, and just about everything else. In Ann Arbor, there are about four popular banks: Chase, Huntington, Comerica, and Bank of Ann Arbor. (Also, PNC is the official bank of U-M).
In most cases, opening a bank account is straightforward; most banks make special provisions in the Fall for international students coming in to open accounts. Make sure to have your passport, I-20, and other immigration documents when going to the bank. Most banks will not require an appointment before visiting or an initial deposit either for a checking or a savings account.
Getting a Michigan Driver License: This is about the one document one is likely to find tedious to get because of the several official processes it requires. However, some of the perks are that a driver license doubles as an authorization to operate a private motor vehicle and a state government ID. You will also need it to register on car rental services like Zipcar and Uber, which are useful for personal trips or running errands.
Not to worry, it is very doable and gets easier the more time you give it. A step-by-step process for applying for a new driver license can be found on the Michigan Department of State website and the U-M International Center website. Make sure to book an appointment online or by phone before visiting. Most important, don’t forget to go with your passport, I-20, and other immigration documents.
Written by Eezer Agu
Summer Orientation Peer Advisor