Preparing for Arrival in Charleston

What to Pack

A list of packing recommendations and information about what is and is not provided by the College of Charleston is included in the ELI Student Handbook.
For students planning to live on campus, a list of items prohibited by the College of Charleston Department of Residence Life may be found on the CofC Campus Housing website.

We advise against bringing spices or other food items, as these may violate U.S. Customs regulations. To avoid any difficulty at the Port of Entry, students should familiarize themselves with U.S. Customs regulations prior to packing.

Health Insurance

The College of Charleston requires that all international students be enrolled in our health insurance plan. Please refer to the student insurance website for more information.

Students who are currently participating in a health insurance plan that offers similar or better coverage may submit an insurance waiver request by creating an account and selecting the waiver option. If a waiver is granted, an English-language copy of the personal health insurance policy must be submitted to the ELI, where it will be kept on file. As it may take some time to receive documentation in English, such requests should be made to the insurance company before a student’s departure to the United States.

For further instructions regarding insurance waivers, please contact Melissa Ochal at the Center for International Education.

Additional information about health insurance and the U.S. healthcare system may be found in the ELI Student Handbook.

Travel Plans

The city of Charleston is served by the Charleston International Airport (airport code: CHS).

Students should plan to arrive at least two days prior to the start of the session.

Students holding F-1 or J-1 student visas may enter the United States up to 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 forms.

Students should share their travel plans with the ELI, and contact the ELI Director, David McIntosh at least two weeks prior to arrival to make a request for airport pick-up.

Port of Entry

Upon arrival to the U.S. Port of Entry, you will meet with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who will determine whether you may enter the United States.

Students should have the following documents ready:

  • Passport
  • SEVIS form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Arrival/Departure Record Form I-94
  • Proof of funding
  • Acceptance Letter

All visitors entering the U.S. must state their reason for wishing to enter the country. You may also be asked to provide information about your final destination. It is important that you tell them that you will be a student at the College of Charleston.

If you do not have all of the documents listed above or have packed them in your checked luggage, you may be asked to go to secondary inspection. If you do not have proper documentation, there is a chance that you will not be admitted to the United States.

Information and resources related to arrival in the United States may be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States website. Additional details regarding the Port of Entry process may be also be accessed through the Study in the States website.

Student Orientation

A student orientation session will be held at the North Campus the day before classes are to begin. The orientation will provide new students with important information about the College of Charleston and the ELI program, including classroom rules and expectations, the academic calendar, and class schedules.
Immediately following the orientation session, students will be issued both oral and written placement tests. The placement tests are designed to measure a student’s ability to understand spoken English, as well as his or her ability to read, write, and speak English. This assessment allows the ELI staff to place students in the class that will best meet their needs, abilities, and study goals.

The following day, students are invited to gather before the first class (held at the main CofC campus in downtown Charleston) so that they may have an opportunity to introduce themselves and ask any additional questions of the ELI staff.

During the first day of classes, students will be given a tour of the College of Charleston campus. This tour includes a visit to the “Cougar Card” office – where they will obtain their official student IDs – the bookstore, the library, and the student health center. Students with F-1 Visas will also meet with someone from the CofC Center for International Education, who will verify their documents and review immigration regulations.