Arriving in Iowa City

For information regarding making travel arrangements, housing, orientation, and living in Iowa City please visit the New Students webpage. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Arriving in Iowa City

When do I need to arrive?

Please review Important Dates in the New Students webpage.

What if I can't arrive in time?

Contact Robert Gutwein in Study Abroad (319-335-0353) to discuss. It is highly recommended that you make every effort to arrive on time in order to benefit from the excellent orientation program that the ISSS offers. Students who arrive late are at a social and academic disadvantage.

What airport is closest to Iowa City?

Please review Travel Arrangements on the New Students webpage.

It is less expensive for me to take the bus from Chicago to Iowa City than it is to fly into the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. Can I do that?

Of course, it is up to you. The advantage is that you will save some money.  Disadvantages include:

  • Adding an extra 4-6 hours onto your journey, and making your jet-lag worse.
  • You have to get your luggage from the airport to the bus depot in Chicago.
  • This means you'll probably take a taxi or a train, which costs money.
  • The bus depot in Chicago isn't in a very nice section of the city, especially after dark.

Where should I stay my first night in Iowa City?  Where can I stay until I can move into my dormitory room, or until I find an apartment off campus?  Does it cost extra to move in early to my dormitory room?

Please review Housing on the New Students webpage.

What are the residence halls like?

See the UI Residence Services website for a good description of the rooms, as well as information about services available in the residence halls. Almost all rooms are "doubles," meaning you share a bedroom with another student.

Why do most international students live in Mayflower?

The Mayflower Residence Hall has kitchenettes, making it possible for students to do their own cooking, and many international students seem to prefer this. The Mayflower, along with Hillcrest Residence Hall, is also open during the winter break, so students can stay in their rooms during the break between fall and spring semesters. Also, Mayflower Residential Hall is home to the International Community Crossraods, a unique living/learning community for students interested in foreign cultures, languages, and international issues.

What if I decide I don't want to live on campus?

First, a word of caution: locating suitable off-campus housing in August can be rather difficult. If you prefer to live off-campus, we recommend trying to secure an apartment prior to arrival. Our staff cannot assist you in your search for off-campus housing, but we can supply you with suggestions as to where to research possibilities. Still, this option is available to you if you do not wish to live in a residence hall.

If your exchange includes on-campus housing as a benefit, and you choose to live in off-campus housing rented from landlords, the Office for Study Abroad will issue you a check for the equivalent of the cost of a shared room in the Mayflower that you can apply toward rent.  See Off-Campus Housing Service for listings of available off-campus housing.

When will I meet my academic adviser?

All students are assigned an academic adviser in the college where the majority of their classes will be taken. Your adviser will have a copy of your application materials in order to better help you select courses. An appointment to register and finalize your course selections will be scheduled for you during the orientation period, soon after you arrive in Iowa City.

Is there anything I can do before my appointment?

Browse the on-line schedule of courses on the "Iowa Student Information System" (ISIS) at before you come to Iowa. Become familiar with this page and the courses offered in subject areas that interest you. To view courses on ISIS.  Be sure the page is set for the semester you want to research.

  1. To do this, see "Sessions" on the upper-right hand corner of the screen. Click on the arrow to view a list of semesters from which to choose.
  2. Click on Course List at the top of the page.
  3. Click on Guide to Courses by College and Department.
  4. Click on your college, such as:

By clicking on the college you will receive a list of departments within each college, and by clicking on the department you will receive a list of courses offered with descriptions of their content.  Students who wish to take classes in the Tippie College of Business are advised that classes are in very high demand there. Students in some direct, bi-lateral exchanges sponsored by the College of Business (for example, Tilburg, Frankfurt, HEC, ebs, Corvinus, Vienna) will be pre-enrolled by their academic adviser prior to arrival.  Others should see the informational handout Enrollment Policy for Non-Business Students for guidance about course availability. All students should pay paticular attention to pre-requisites when planning their course schedules.

Are the residence halls wired?

Yes. Computer access in all residence halls is excellent. Details are available at the UI ResNet website.

How can I get a University of Iowa e-mail account?

You can set up a University of Iowa e-mail account as soon as you are admitted and receive your "Hawk-ID" and password from the Admissions Office.

Are there computers I can use on campus, or do I have to buy my own?

There are "Instructional Technology Centers" in many campus buildings, including most residence halls. Sometimes they get very busy, especially during the middle and the end of the semester, but if you plan ahead enough, you can use them to do your work instead of buying a computer here.

What if I want to buy a computer anyway?

The UI's Instructional Technology Services department (ITS) offers student discounts on computers. See the ITS Computer Demo Center for details.

I've heard that all international students are automatically signed up for student insurance here. What if I don't want to buy it?

Please view Health Insurance on the New Students webpage.  For details regarding applying for an exemption, please see the Insurance Exemption Guidelines webpage. Note: If you are an ISEP student, you will be automatically exempt from buying the UI plan and do not need to do anything special.

The UI student insurance lasts all year, even through the summer. What if I buy that, but I leave the US in May? Do I need to pay for the entire year?

No. Contact the Benefits office about how to cancel the policy prior to departure from the U.S.  Generally they require a copy of your plane ticket or other documentation to cancel the policy.

What immunizations do I need to get?

See Immunization and Immunization Clinic Information on the New Students webpage. 

My exchange program does not pay for everything (tuition, room, board). When do I need to pay for the expenses not covered under my exchange benefits?

Students are billed at the beginning of the semester and have three payment options:

  1. Pay the entire semester's charges at once.
  2. Pay in three monthly payments for a fee of $20 per semester.  1/3 in September; 1/3 in October; 1/3 in November; 1/3 in February; 1/3 in March; 1/3 in April
  3. Enroll in a fee management plan to spread payments out over 10 months (there is a rather large finance charge for this).

The University does not accept credit card payment for bills.

Please Note: Students are required to buy books for their classes shortly after school begins. This expense can range from $100.00 - $500.00 per semester. Prepare yourself for this expense at the start of the semester.

For more detailed information visit:

How much does it cost to live in Iowa City?

That depends on your lifestyle. If you eat at restaurants a lot, travel a lot, go to the pubs a lot, etc., it can be quite expensive. If you have never had responsibility for managing your own money before, start planning now to develop a realistic budget for your living expenses. See Estimated First-Year Costs at Iowa (designed for US students, don't forget).

Can I work while I am in the US?

Your ability to work in the U.S. is dependent on your status.  If you are an F-1 student, view these Employment Options.  If you are a J-1 student, view these employment options

Special procedures apply to ISEP students, who should consult John Rodgers in Study Abroad after arrival.

Do I need to open a bank account while I'm in the US?

Almost all international students open bank accounts here, and have checking accounts from which they pay their bills. Opening a bank account is relatively quick and easy, and using checks is also very common here.