As a relatively small university town, Iowa City is a great place for international students and their dependents to live. The pages within this section have a wide variety of information that will help you locate resources you need to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Also visit the Think Iowa City site for a detailed guide including specific businesses and restaurants, maps, events happening in our area, things to do, and arts and culture.

students at cafe in ped mall horizontal

It is unwise to carry large amounts of cash with you or to keep it at your residence. Instead, deposit it in a bank.

Checking Accounts

There are several different kinds of checking accounts but the most common for university students is the “Basic Checking Account.” This kind of account usually does not require a minimum balance and does not have a monthly service charge. Some banks might offer Student Checking Accounts, which include similar services as the Basic Checking Account. Most of the banks in Iowa City offer this kind of account to students and offer a “debit card” connected to the account that permits students to withdraw cash with no service charge from local ATM’s owned by that bank. Similar to credit cards, a debit card can be used for direct purchases at stores and restaurants as well as for online purchases and payments. You are often not required to present a Social Security Number to open a basic checking account like this, but you may be asked for the SSN for some other types of accounts.

Checking accounts also give students the option of ordering paper checks that can be used to pay bills or make purchases. While more and more students now use only their debit card with their checking account, students can request paper checks to be sent to them for a small charge. Students who have a very large amount of money to deposit and who would like to earn interest on this amount should ask their bank about a checking with interest account or about a separate savings account which can be connected directly to a student’s bank account. For more information about checking accounts visit the websites of local banks or visit one of their locations to ask questions.

Payments for regular monthly bills, such as utilities like electricity, cell phones, or cable, can be arranged electronically where you can request the companies to directly charge your bank account each month. You do want to be sure you are regularly checking your bank account to ensure there are no incorrect charges applied.


In most cases, international students and scholars are not able to take out a direct loan from a financial institution without having a co-signer from the U.S. agree to be responsible for the loan. Contact your financial institution to ask about the policy and process.

Credit Cards and Credit History

Unlike the debit card that comes with a basic checking account, international students who wish to apply for a credit card will almost always be required to show a Social Security Number. The SSN is available only to students who are employed, such as through on-campus employment. This means international students who are not working and therefore not eligible to get the SSN will not be able to apply for credit cards.

Students also need to have what is called a credit history in order to have a better chance at getting a credit card. Sometimes students can first obtain a secured credit card, which is based on a specific amount that you deposit ahead of time. In order to build a good credit history and get a good credit score you must be sure to pay your bills on time, including rent, utilities, your UBill, and credit card bills. Do not overdraw your checking account (this means pay out more than what you have in the checking account, creating a negative balance). Late or missed payments, having too many credit cards with large balances, or overdrawing on your checking account can cause negative reports on your credit history.

Direct Deposit

Through many employers, including the University of Iowa, it is possible to have your paycheck deposited directly into your checking or saving account at your bank. There is no charge for direct deposit, which saves the inconvenience of cashing or depositing a check yourself and assures that your money is available to be spent as soon as the employer transfers it.

General Comments

Most items can be purchased from a variety of stores. Since prices and quality vary, it is helpful to become acquainted with those stores where you can shop most conveniently and economically. Such information is available from people who have lived in Iowa City, from advertisements in local newspapers, and on the internet. You can ask a store employee whatever questions you wish to ask about a product without being obligated to buy anything.

Prices in stores are fixed. A shopper does not “bargain” for a lower price with the store employee, except in the case of automobiles.

The absence of clerks may lead you to believe that it would be easy to remove merchandise from the store without paying for it. This is called “shoplifting,” and is a criminal offense. There may not be many clerks in the store, but there may be closed-circuit television cameras, one-way mirrors, “store detectives,” or other devices intended to identify shoplifters. Most Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty businesses take all possible legal actions against shoplifters, even if the item stolen is small and inexpensive. Being arrested once for shoplifting can result in a court hearing, a fine, and publicity in the newspapers. Convictions may impact the ability to get U.S. visas in the future.

When you buy something other than food, it is advisable to keep the receipt you get when you pay for the item. You may need the receipt if the item is defective or unsatisfactory and you need to return it to the store where you bought it within the allotted days. However, if the receipt is lost, stores may issue you in-store credit or in-store gift card. With in-store gift card, the credit can ONLY be used or spent in the store that you made the transaction.

If you are considering filing a consumer complaint, please visit:

Sales Tax

A sales tax is added to the cost of some purchases. Income generated from sales tax is used to support various state-run programs, such as highway maintenance, public education, and law enforcement. The Iowa sales tax rate is six per cent. No sales tax is charged for groceries or prescription medicines. Particular cities or localities may have additional taxes.


Many international students are confused about tipping practices in the U.S. as it may not be something practiced at home, or may be done in an entirely different manner. Below is a guide from that gives a very good background for knowing when and how to tip in the U.S.

While tipping is not mandatory in most of the United States, it is customary in many circumstances for service, especially at almost all sit-down restaurants which offer table service.

Tipping practices can vary depending upon the location in the U.S., and even published guidance can vary greatly depending upon the source. For example, some Americans don't tip at a buffet restaurant, but it's generally good form to tip $1-2/person for wait staff just clearing several rounds of plates, to as much as 10 percent if the wait staff is refilling drinks and providing other services. The general rule is to tip in proportion to the service, and the quality of service being delivered.

Tip jars at carry-out restaurants are a recent innovation, and one resisted by many Americans. While one guide below advises to tip 10 percent at carry-out restaurants, many Americans do not tip for carry-out, even when a tip jar is present, and tipping at most chain restaurants, such as McDonald's, is not common. Some who do contribute to tip jars, put in change or only $1, depending upon the size of the order.

Keep in mind that those who provide service are often dependent on tip income and generally are grateful for any tips received, especially when prompt and exceptional service has been provided. Tipping is the means by which to acknowledge good service.

Many visitors to the U.S. feel pressured to tip even when they do not feel it is fair or reasonable to do so. Customers are REQUIRED to pay 'mandatory gratuities (tips)' if these are disclosed (on the menu or elsewhere) prior to being served. Mandatory gratuities are charged by many restaurants when large groups (6 or more; sometimes, 8 or more) are being served. Mandatory gratuities also are used by some restaurants with large numbers of foreign customers who may not be familiar with American tipping customs, often in tourist centers such as New York City.

When 'mandatory tipping' is practiced. you may add more to the 'mandatory tip' if there is a desire to additionally reward some exceptional service. Always examine your bill carefully to see if there is a mandatory gratuity included in the bill so that you don't accidentally add an additional gratuity to your payment. If you feel your service was deficient, you can request a manager in order to have the mandatory gratuity adjusted downward.

Fast food restaurants do not have tipping as there is no 'table service' (when a server brings your food to your table).

Some coffee shops, bakeries and other establishments have tip jars on their check-out counters. These have become more prevalent in recent decades and there is some confusion, even controversy about them. Generally, those who feel a desire to reward good service will make a contribution to a tip jar. Others do not. Both are fine.

Tips are often a major source of compensation for wait staff and other U.S. service providers. Employers often pay these employees lower wages in anticipation that tip income will provide a significant portion of the employees' income. Customers should realize that they are not automatically paying 'more' (due to tipping). In non-tipping countries, the tips are simply built into the price of the food. An advantage to tipping, therefore, is the ability to tip whatever is appropriate: if the service is poor, a small tip should be left, signaling to the server that their service was subpar.

Many hotel guests who tip housekeeping staff leave tips daily before leaving the hotel, both to reward the person immediately servicing the room and in expectation of good service.

Suggested tips:

$1-2/bag for skycaps, bellhops, doormen, and parking valets if they handle bags, $1 per coat for coatroom attendants, $1 per diner to 10 percent of the pre-tax bill at buffets, $2-5 per night for housekeeper, $5-10 for concierge (only if they arranged tickets or reservations), $1-3 per bag for grocery loaders (not in all areas of the US). Doormen who merely open doors are not tipped, unless they call a cab or provide another service. Parking valets are paid upon pick-up $3-5, depending upon much effort is required to retrieve a vehicle.
For waiters at sit-down restaurants, bartenders, barbers/hairdressers/attendants at beauty salons, taxi drivers, tour guides, and food delivery folks, the tip should be calculated as a percentage of your total bill as follows: 10% usually means you aren't totally happy, 15% usually means all was acceptable, 20% for excellent, over 20% for outstanding. 15-20 percent is considered standard in most communities.
For ski instructors, tipping 15 percent for adult groups and 10 percent for private clients is pretty standard.
These percentages are highly subjective!
Note that tipping percentages will vary in different parts of the country, and even in different parts of a state. Reportedly, tips of 25 percent may be expected at higher-quality restaurants in New York City. In Colorado a tip of 20% is considered normal.
Ignore sales tax when calculating tips or not, it's not set in stone.
Note that if you have more than one person serving you at these establishments, the percentage represents the total tip and your server will split it between the group.
Tips should only go to people who are helpful. If they don't help you, don't tip them. If you receive bad service, you should speak to management, not just ignore the tip as the server is unaware of the situation. Perhaps they think you overlooked the tip or another person picked up the tip and pocketed it themselves.
In some places a clearly displayed "Service Charge" or "Gratuity" might be automatically added to a bill, especially for party sizes of 8 or more. Check your bill for these charges before tipping. If the word "Gratuity" is used and you're not happy, check with the manager. A gratuity by definition is an amount you don't have to pay but choose to.

For further insights, discussions, and recommendations on tipping, see below:

Restaurants with table service: Tip 15% or more of the bill, based on the quality of service. If you receive exceptional service, 20-25% is customary. In major cities of the U.S. however, 20% is considered to be a "good tip." Note: In most larger restaurants in the USA, the server has to pay back a portion of their tips to the bartender, busser, hostess, and food runners. A good rule of thumb is if you see people other than your server helping maintain or clean tables, serve wine, or deliver food, those people are being tipped by your server for their work. Even if you do not see additional "support staff, it is very likely that the server is paying a portion of their tips to other staff.

Please note that in *some* states, restaurants are allowed to pay their servers as low as $2.13 per hour. This base wage varies among states, for example, Massachusetts pays $2.63, Connecticut $5, and California $8. Service is almost never included in the bill. If it is, it will say "Gratuity" or "Service Charge" with an amount next to it. If an amount is included as a "Gratuity" or "Service Charge," tipping is not required.

Unlike in most of the rest of the world, the total cost of table service almost always is NOT included in the bill, necessitating the need for tips.

The exception to this general rule occurs at some restaurants for large parties (typically six or more people). If you're with a large party, be sure to check your bill just in case. 15% - 20% is often automatically charged for a large party (six or more). If the tip is included, the breakdown of the bill will read "gratuity" or "service charge," which means that a tip is already included. As always, if you feel you did not receive 15% service, inform the management before paying your bill and have it adjusted to the adequate amount.

A good rule of thumb when calculating a table service restaurant tip is to ignore sales tax, and, for good service, calculate 15% of the entire food, beverage, and wine bill. (This is the amount listed before the sales tax line.) Add 20% if the service was outstanding, especially prompt or friendly, or the server fulfilled many special requests. Note: in most larger restaurants in the USA, the server has to pay back a portion of their tips to the bartender, busser, hostess, and food runners. A good rule of thumb is: if you see people other than your server helping maintain or clean tables, serve wine, or deliver food, those people are being tipped by your server for their work. In resort areas like Disney World, it is usually 3% to 5% of the server's total food, beverage and alcohol sales, so the tip should be adjusted accordingly. At higher end restaurants, there may also be a sommelier or wine steward. You should tip the sommelier separately, at your discretion. However, in some restaurants, the server tips the sommelier based on their individual wine sales, so it is advisable to ask your server first. Individual drinks you are served at a restaurant bar should always earn a $1-2 tip each.

In most states, sales tax is applied to the bill and is clearly indicated as such on the bill. In those states where the tax is 5% (Massachusetts as an example) or 6% it is simple to calculate the tip by rounding the tax up or down to the nearest dollar and then multiplying by three.

It is worth mentioning that New York restaurants have started adding automatic gratuity even though the number of people eating is far less than 6. Even with a group of three, gratuity of 20% may be automatically added both in restaurants and in 'pubs'. The automatic gratuity is also becoming common in areas that are highly tourist-oriented, such as the Grand Canyon. It is important to always check your bill!

For buffet restaurants, tipping servers who clear multiple dishes and provide drink refills is recommended. Some persons may tip buffet servers $1 per diner, others as much as 5 to 10 percent of the total pre-tax bill, depending upon the level of service provided. Buffet servers may not take orders or bring out food, but they do work hard keeping your table clean of the empty plates after multiple trips to the buffet line. In addition to this, they often help to keep the buffet line stocked and clean, and they make coffee, brew tea, etc. Remember that the minimum tip for any server should be $1 per person. Do not leave only 75 cents for a $5.00 buffet! As always, if you feel you have not been well-served, adjust the gratuity down. If a tip has been added to your bill beforehand because your party was 6 or more, but the server was inadequate or rude, inform the manager immediately before you pay your bill that you want the tip adjusted.

For bad or unacceptable service it is customary to tip as low as 10% or even less for very egregious behavior by a server. If service is bad enough to deserve only 10%, it is a good idea to let the manager know. Also, placing 2 pennies side by side on top of bills neatly placed on the table lets the server know that it is intentionally low because of bad service. If the server in some way offended you so that you do not wish to leave any tip at all, still leave the 2 pennies, so that they understand that you did not just forget to tip.

Counter service/fast food restaurants often have tip jars out, but you are not required to tip. If the service is exemplary or unusual requests are made, then tips are appropriate.

Bartenders: $1 per drink, or 15-20% of the total bill. If you tip well and consistently at bars and pubs, you *might* receive a drink on the house, known sometimes as a "buyback" or "comp". This typically occurs after the 3rd drink you buy, however, is usually reserved for regular customers. Some bartenders will still use the "old school" signal of leaving an upside-down shot glass near your spot at the bar, especially if you are engaged in conversation or if the place is very noisy, but it's not that common anymore. Turn the shot glass over when you want the free drink. Even though the drink is free, the labor isn't. Don't forget to tip on the "buyback." Note that some bars do not allow this.

Other optional tipping situations common to travelers include:

Hotel housekeeping/maid service: $2-3 per night up to $5, more in high-end hotels. Also more if there are more than 3 people in a room or suite. Leave the tip on your pillow or in a similar obvious place with a note that says thank you. Leave the tip each day when you leave the room, rather than at the end of your stay, because your room might get cleaned by different people each day, depending on staff schedules. If you have additional items delivered to your room, such as extra pillows, hangers, luggage racks, tip the person who brings them $2 or $3.
Concierge: Tipping is never expected, but always appreciated. The more difficult the request, the higher the tip. $5.00 and up per request is good.
In-suite dining waiter: Always read the bill, if there is a tip included, it will be on the bill breakdown. Ask the server. The policy of having the gratuity included in the bill is not the norm anymore. A service charge or convenience fee goes to the hotel, not the server. If there is no gratuity added, tip the server 15% - 20%.
Bellman/Porter: $1-2 per bag. More if the bags are very heavy.
Taxi Driver: 10-15% of fare, based on service.
Hotel limo driver: For a free ride from the airport, $10 - $20
Drink Server in a casino or bar: $1-$2 per drink. Some tip $5 for the first drink to make sure the waitress "remembers" them and returns often...
Valet Parking Attendants: $2 - $5 (when picking up car).
Dealers at Table Games in the Casinos: 5% of bet amount at end of session, or occasional bet for dealer in amount of your normal wager-dealer can show you where to place bet. You could announce " I have a $xx bet for the dealers, where do you want it?". The bet is usually placed in front of the player's bet. If you're concerned about having your bets rated for comps, place the additional bet on top of your own and tell the dealer that part of your bet is in play for the dealer and as long as your hands keep winning, keep toking the dealer with the winnings from that portion of the bet. The initial bet amount would be $1 - $5.
Slot machines host: $10-20 if they make a hand payout (over $1000).
Spa: For a massage or other treatment, 10% - 20%. Ask if the tip has been included, some spas will include a gratuity on your final bill. Most spas will provide you with an envelope to leave at the reception desk for the person who gave you your treatment. Also, if you wish to leave a small gratuity for the spa attendant who showed you around the Spa and got you situated, it is well appreciated, $2 to $5.
Hairdresser/manicurist: 10% - 20%.
Showroom captains: $1-2 for the person who seats you, more if you asked for "special" seating - $20 for a requested booth or table, more for one up front. Unfortunately this is where the fine line between tipping and bribery meet...
Tour Guides: 15% - 20% + depending on quality (knowledge, friendliness, etc)

Why are you expected to tip in the USA?

In * some* states in the USA, waitstaff and bartenders in restaurants are paid below the minimum wage, because the employees are expected to make up the difference, so to speak, in tips. (However, please note that the employer is required by law to bring the hourly pay of the employee up to the USA Federal Minimum Wage if the server does not earn an adequate amount of tips.) This means that a server could earn far above minimum wage on a good night ($200 a night is not uncommon), or hardly break even on a slow night. Servers are expected to pay income tax on your tips -- they truly are part of their normal wages for the job they do, not just "extra" money for them.

Always leave tips in cash, handing them directly to the person you are tipping, whenever feasible This makes certain that the right person is rewarded, and that the establishment itself cannot skim a portion of your tip by assessing the employee a percentage of what you tipped on the credit card. Many places are legally able to do this now, so, unless you absolutely need to charge the tip for business reasons, a cash tip is almost always better for the tipee. But the reason that servers prefer tips in cash is the fact that they can avoid declaring the income on their Tax Returns and avoid paying the Income tax and other payroll taxes on the amount. (Some do declare it, some don't).

All 50 states have different minimum wage laws. Some allow employers to pay less than the state's minimum wage to tipped staff, others do not. Federal employment compensation law requires that if employers pay less than minimum wage, tips must bring compensation up to the minimum wage or the employer must make up the difference. Therefore, no server legally makes below the federal minimum wage in the U.S. regardless of the amount of tips received.

Many staff in Las Vegas are unionized, with benefits and high wages as well as getting tips. These few are at the top of the industry and can make a six figure income. Tips are expected regardless of what state you are in or what wages the staff are paid. For better or for worse, tipping has become a part of most hospitality worker's pay.

Tipping in the USA is something you get the hang of after you do it a while. After a couple of days, you'll be able to gauge when you receive stellar service, or whether someone is "phoning it in." If you are mistreated anywhere, you should inform a manager. Don't tip poor service - let someone know you were unhappy, even if you just leave a note to the server as to why there is no tip added to the bill.

Some Cautions About Sales Tactics

In Shops

You might encounter salespeople who use various “high pressure tactics” to induce you to buy from them. This may happen in person or on the telephone. Many salespeople work “on commission,” which means their wages grow as the volume of their sales grows. They may be very good at talking people into buying from them. In general, they try to make the customer feel guilty or inadequate for not buying. Or they may try to establish what seems like a very cordial, friendly relationship so that the customer feels compelled to buy in order to maintain the friendliness.

It is wise to remember that you are never obligated to buy anything from salespeople. You ought to buy only those things you genuinely need or want and can afford. Try not to let your personal feelings about the salesperson influence you to make a purchase. Remember that you are entitled to ask a salesperson any question you wish about the product or service, and you are entitled to get a clear and complete answer. You can kindly tell the salesperson you want to think about the matter for a few days, or that you want to other people’s opinions. You can walk away from a salesperson without a cordial end to the conversation. If a salesperson telephones you (as is not unusual – some businesses hire people to telephone potential customers and try to talk them into buying, and this is called soliciting), you do not have to listen to the person’s entire “pitch” and respond to it courteously. You can interrupt the person and state that you are not interested in the product or service. You can simply hang up the telephone without saying anything. If you want to avoid these kinds of soliciting phone calls, you can have them blocked. The phone services provider could help set that up.

Of course, there are many salespeople who are genuinely interested in assisting customers and in offering them reasonable products and prices.

If you are in doubt about the wisdom of a particular purchase, you might want to consult with another person who has had experience with the product or business that interests you. If you receive unsolicited merchandise in the mail, you are not obligated to pay for it.

Avoiding Consumer Fraud and Scams

Foreigners anywhere are likely targets of people trying to take financial advantage of other people. Since international students and scholars are sometimes considered uninformed or unsophisticated and therefore easy to deceive, they need to be especially cautious in situations involving their money.

The dictionary defines fraud as “an act of trickery or deceit; intentional misrepresentation; an act of delusion.” Consumer fraud is the activity of getting people’s money by selling them defective or non-existent goods or services. The slang term is scam. Here is some information intended to help international students and scholars avoid being victims of consumer fraud.

The commonsense guideline is this: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

The following guidelines might help you avoid some current scams:


You may receive a letter or postcard, or perhaps even a telephone call, telling you about a wonderful “free” prize you have won. “All you have to do” is call a certain phone number to find out more about it! You will likely be required to pay shipping or insurance charges, or find that you must purchase additional merchandise. Or you might be required to go to a specific location and listen to a sales presentation in order to receive your gift. You will probably be disappointed with the “prize.” (You may even be asked to read off all the numbers at the bottom of a check in your checkbook, so that the caller will have your bank account number. You may be told that this information is needed for the “contest.” The telemarketer can access your bank account with those numbers, so DO NOT GIVE YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, CREDIT CARD NUMBER, or SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER over the phone or by email!!).

Door-to-Door Sales

Someone might come to the door of your home or apartment trying to sell you something. If you are not interested, just say so, immediately. You do not have to let anyone into your house. If you are interested in the product, you should ask the salesperson for proper identification, for example, a business card. Take your time deciding about the purchase. Do not be a victim of a “quick sell” or a “sob story,” in which you make a purchase too hastily or as a result of feelings of sympathy for the salesperson. Get everything the sales person promises you in writing, including warranties, guarantees, and a receipt. (The law requires a “three-day cancellation period” for purchase above $25 made form door-to-door salespeople and get a refund, but only in a few circumstances. If you wish to cancel the agreement you must do so by writing directly to the company within three days.)


You are likely to receive telephone solicitations from people who are either trying to sell you something or get you to donate money to some organization or cause. If you are not interested, say NO or simply hang up the telephone. You do NOT need to be polite to a salesperson who has telephoned your home, especially if the person will not take “no” for an answer.

Many Americans have become quite annoyed by telephone solicitors (or “telemarketers”), and have sought ways to discourage them. If you receive and unwanted call from a salesperson, you can say to the person, “Do not call me again.” Federal Communication Commission rules require the caller to note your request, and refrain from calling you again. To stop most unwanted telephone solicitations, you may go the website of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, where you register your telephone number on a list, and certain telemarketers cannot legally call you.

If you are interested in the product or service offered over the telephone, ask detailed questions and request more information in writing so that you can find out more about the company. Ask acquaintances about the company. Do NOT give your credit card or bank account numbers over phone unless you have previously done business with the company.

Buying by mail

Mail-order catalogues are common and efficient way of shopping in the United States. But you must be cautious when sending payment to an unfamiliar company for a product you have not seen. It is important, for example, to know about the company’s return policy and to read through the item descriptions carefully. It is also wise to keep notes on what you ordered, the date, the order number, and the company’s name, address, and telephone number.

If you use a credit card to purchase an item through the mail, you are unhappy with the item, you can notify the credit card agency that the cost associated with the item is “in dispute.” Then you will not be required to pay for the item until you have gotten satisfaction from the seller.

Buying airplane tickets by telephone, mail, or through the internet

Low-cost airplane tickets are often advertised in newspapers by travel agencies from other states. If you decide to buy a ticket based on such an advertisement, you are wise to pay with a credit card. If the “good deal” turns out to be a scam, you will have a better chance of getting your money back than you will if you send a check to pay for the ticket.

Buying through the internet

Internet purchases by credit card and money transfer have greatly increased, but both have the potential for fraud. Make sure when purchasing over the internet that the site you are using is secure (has a closed padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser screen) and that it is with a reputable company. Internet auctions have also become quite popular. They allow you to use money orders and checks as well as credit cards and bank transfers to pay for your purchase. (It is possible to send money to anyone who has an-email address using your credit or bank card through various secure internet programs, such as PayPal.)


A lot of students sell and buy things on craigslist. Goods on craigslist are usually second-hand, inexpensive. Although craigslist can be helpful, it has scams as well.

Health fraud

“Lose weight without the work!” “Muscles in Minutes!” Every year, millions of dollars are spent on “medicines” and devices that make false promises and have no real health or beauty benefits. Beware of extravagant promises, “scientific breakthroughs” and “miracle cures.”

Other Scams

Visit this page for additional information on other common scams, including via the telephone, email, and in-person.

How to file a consumer protection complaints

If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, first try to get satisfaction from the individual or business you believe took advantage of you. If that approach is not successful, you can contact either the following:

Better Business Bureau
505 5th Ave., Ste. 950
Des Moines, IA 50309-2375
Fax: 515-243-8137

Consumer Protection Division
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Fax: 515-281-6771


Furniture stores, department stores, discount stores, and second-hand stores all sell furniture. In addition, used furniture is often available from private individuals who have “garage sales” at their homes or who advertise the items they wish to sell in the classified section of the newspaper or on Craigslist. Advertisements about garage sales or items for sale by private individuals are found in four local publications. “Classified advertisements” in the Iowa City Press Citizen and Cedar Rapids Gazette are organized under headings such as “Autos,” “Household Goods,” “Furniture,” and “Miscellaneous.” The Daily Iowan also has a classified advertisement section that can be viewed online. You can also find used furniture information from posters around bus stops, in second-hand stores, or on craigslist.


“Drug stores” sell not only medicines and toiletries (soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorant, shampoo, etc.), but also small household goods, stationery, magazines, and many other products.


Please check MyUI to see where you can find your textbook, and what textbooks you need for the class. Used textbooks are sometimes available at those places for reduced prices. Used books that are in better condition tend to sell quickly. You can also buy textbook online if you want to, but you will have to take the shipping time into consideration.

Owning and Operating a Car

A Word of Caution

It may seem to you that everyone here needs a car. In fact, it is quite possible to live in Iowa City without one. Owning a car is expensive and often troublesome, because they need repairs that are usually costly and are not always reliable. Cars require regular and continuing spending for maintenance, license plates and annual registration, insurance, and fuel. Unless you have an ample supply of money, therefore, it is wise to be cautious about buying a car.

Driver's License

The Iowa Department of Transportation has a great handout with basic information including answers on whether you can use an international license, what insurance and registration are and if they are needed, and other common questions international students have about driving.

Only “Iowa residents” can be issued Iowa driver’s licenses. You can qualify as an Iowa resident by living in the state for at least 30 days, or by having children registered in school in the state. Generally speaking, you are legally a resident if you are present in Iowa and intend to remain in Iowa for the time being.

To obtain an Iowa license, you must go to the Coralville Driver and Identity Service Center in 2023 Jones Blvd., Coralville, IA 52241, 1-800-532-1121 (toll free in Iowa), or 515-244-8725. Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (please see DOT website for holiday hours). You will need your passport (to prove your identity and age), I-94, and certificate of eligibility (I-20 for people in F status, DS-2019 for Js). You will be required to take an examination concerning driving laws and practices. The test is not given within 30 minutes of closing time. In addition to the test (which you can take in writing or on a computer), you may be required to take a "road test." If so, you will be asked to drive your car while accompanied by a driver's license examiner. (You must furnish your own car for the test.) Road tests are given on a walk-in basis. To insure that an examiner will be available, it is best to go in during the early office hours.

Before going to take the driver's license examination, you should study the booklet, Iowa Driver's Manual, which is available at the Driver's License Department, the Civic Center, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, the Police Department, or the Public Library. The booklet contains all the information needed to pass the written part of the test and is available free of charge. The booklet is available at the Department of Transportation web site. The DMV website provides information about approval driver education in Iowa.

It is vital to learn and follow traffic regulations. Regulations concerning driving speed, turning, and parking are used to control automobile (and bicycle) traffic in the U.S. Most people generally adhere to those regulations, and the regulations are enforced by the police. Violations of traffic regulations are punished by fines, jail sentences, and/or loss of driving privileges. Cars parked in violation of regulations may be towed away, and the owner required to pay a fine, towing costs, and storage costs.


Driving in Iowa City

In addition to knowing local traffic laws, it is necessary, for safety's sake, to know the customs and practices local drivers follow. A related matter is what the Americans call "defensive driving." In their driver-training classes, Americans are generally taught to "drive defensively," which means to drive with the assumption that other drivers might make mistakes or drive dangerously. Some suggestions for driving defensively:

  • Watch other drivers (not just in front of you, but beside and behind you as well), and make sure they are staying in their lanes, not turning from the wrong lane, not driving too fast, not overtaking on the wrong side, or otherwise following illegal or improper practices.
  • Always allow enough distance between your car and the car ahead of you to come to an emergency stop without hitting that car.
  • Always watch for other drivers entering an intersection. Don't assume that, because you have the right-of-way or a green light, all drivers will yield for you. Drivers who are obeying the law will yield, but drivers who are not paying attention or otherwise driving recklessly may not.

In some countries, driving regulations are not as detailed or as strictly enforced as they are here, and driving habits may be shaped more by competition with other drivers than by laws. The laws regulating traffic are detailed but are different from the ones in the U.S. People who have learned to drive in other places may easily but unintentionally violate driving regulations here and then be penalized for their violation.

Iowa's Safety-Belt Law

Iowa law requires the use of seatbelts by the driver and front-seat occupants of any 1966 or newer car, truck, or van. Infants under 20 pounds must always be placed in an appropriate rear-facing car seat that meets federal safety standards, and which ideally is secured in a rear seat or (if there is no rear seat in the car) in a seat where there is no airbag. Should a collision occur, an infant placed in a rear facing car seat that is struck by an inflating airbag can be seriously injured or killed. Children under three years of age must be secured in a car seat that meets federal safety standards; children between 3-6 may either be secured in a car seat appropriate for their size/weight, or restrained with a seat belt. Ideally, all children under age 12 should always ride in the rear seat to avoid injuries caused by collisions and inflating airbags. Failure to use seat belts can result in a fine and court costs.

Buying a Car

You will probably be buying a used car, either from a car dealer or from a private individual. In any case you should have with you an acquaintance who is both knowledgeable about cars and skeptical by nature. Such a person could help you evaluate both the condition of the car and the claims made by the person who is selling it. These evaluations are essential, because buying a car, especially a used one, can be very tricky.

Remember that when you buy a car the "certificate of ownership" or "certificate of title" must be transferred to you from the previous owner.

Automobile Registration

If you buy a car, you must register it and obtain license plates for it. This is done at the Motor Vehicle Department in the Johnson County Administration Building, 913 S. Dubuque Street. Requirements for registering a car vary depending on whether the car is new or used and, if it is used, how old it is. To find out what you would have to do to register a particular car, visit the Motor Vehicle Department or call them at 319-356-6091.

If you sell a car, you must also do certain paperwork through the Motor Vehicle Department. You need to return the license plates to the MVD.

It is essential to have at least liability insurance if you have a car. You are required to have documentary proof of insurance in your car. Failure to do so can result in fines and in temporary loss of your license plates, automobile registration, and even your car.

Automobile Insurance

There are several types of automobile insurance:

  1. Liability insurance is the most basic type. It protects you if your car kills or injures someone else, or damages someone else's property. You are considered legally liable if a car you own (whether you or someone else is driving it) causes injury or death to another person or damage to someone else's property, unless the accident is clearly not the fault of the person driving your car. If you are legally liable for injuries, death, or damages resulting from an automobile accident, you could face payments of tens of thousands of dollars. If you do not have liability insurance to help pay those costs, you will have to pay them yourself. This is why you will want to have liability insurance, even if your car itself is not very valuable.
  2. Collision insurance protects your car in case of collision with another car.
  3. Comprehensive insurance covers losses caused by storms, thieves, and vandals.

Buying Car Insurance

In the yellow pages of the telephone directory you will find a long list of insurance agents under the heading "Insurance." Unless a friend can recommend a reliable agent to you, you should talk to at least two agents about your insurance needs. The amount of insurance you buy for your car should depend on its value. Insurance rates vary from company to company, and they depend also on the value of the car, the amount it is driven, the age of the drivers, and the past driving records of the drivers.

In Case of an Accident

Student Legal Services advises these measures if you have an accident in your car:

  • Call the police if there is any substantial damage to any car or other property.
  • Do not move any car that was involved in an accident until the authorities arrive.
  • Obtain identifying and insurance information from all drivers involved, and furnish your own to other drivers.
  • Never admit that you were at fault in the accident.

In Case Your Vehicle Breaks Down on the Roadway

  • Stay calm.
  • Park your vehicle as far off the traveled portion of the highway as possible.
  • Make your vehicle visible. Turn on the four-way emergency flashers.
  • Exit the vehicle from the passenger’s side, away from traffic.
  • Open the vehicle’s hood and leave it open.
  • Put reflectorized triangles behind your vehicle to alert other drivers; use your emergency flashers. If it is dark, turn on the interior dome light.
  • Use your cell phone to call for help.
  • If someone stops to help, keep your doors locked. Open the window slightly and ask the person to call law enforcement for help.
  • It is inadvisable to walk on an interstate, especially during inclement weather. However, if you can reach a source of help on foot, without jeopardizing your physical or personal safety, try the direct approach by walking. Keep as far from traffic as possible and walk on the right side of the roadway. Never attempt to cross a multi-lane, high speed roadway.

Driving in Winter

Winter often brings dangerous driving conditions to the Iowa City area. If you plan to operate a car during the winter, there are some things you should remember:

Get your car "winterized"

This means putting on "snow tires" (that have a heavier tread than regular tires), or at least making sure your tires are not worn smooth; putting anti-freeze into your radiator, unless your car's engine is air-cooled; changing to a lighter weight oil; and making certain your brakes, windshield wipers, turn signals, and headlights are in good operating condition. Be sure you have an ice scraper and a snow brush in your car. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends having a "winter driving kit" that includes tire chains, a small snow shovel, extra clothing, traction mats, booster cables, warning devices (flares or triangles), a small bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, or kitty litter), a flashlight, some cloth or a roll of paper towels, and a blanket.

Drive carefully

There are times in the Iowa City area (radio and television reports will tell you when they are) when roads are so slippery and/or visibility is so limited that automobile driving should be undertaken only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive under these adverse conditions, you should remember several safety rules:

  • Before starting off, remove snow and ice from all windows and remove snow from the entire car, so blowing snow does not obstruct your vision once you begin driving.
  • Start slowly, using second gear.
  • Do not follow other cars closely.
  • Drive slowly.
  • To stop, pump your brakes, rather than pressing steadily on the brake pedal. If your car starts to spin, turn your wheel in the opposite direction of the spin.
  • Watch other cars very carefully, and assume that their drivers are having difficulty controlling them.
  • Be very careful to obey all traffic regulations.


Buying or Renting a Bicycle

Bicycling is popular as a sport and means of transportation. Iowa City is considered a fairly "bike friendly" community, given a Silver rating by the League of American Bicyclists association. Whether you use a bike to commute to and from classes or work, enjoy riding paved urban trails, or enjoy taking your bike on more rugged, gravel trails in the country, it is easy to find a bike to fit your needs. Used bicycles are advertised on Craigslist and local bike shops.

The Iowa City Bike Library is available for those who wish to rent a bike for short term purposes, even for a day or weekend or up to six months. Visit the Bike Library site for more information. Local bike shops may also rent bikes.

Bicycle Registration

You do not need to license a bicycle in Iowa City. However, you may wish to have your bicycle's serial number registered at the Police Department. Having the serial number registered can help the police recover your bicycle if it is stolen. You can take your bicycle serial number to the Iowa City Police Department in the Civic Center, 410 E. Washington. There is no fee for registering the serial number.

You can also register your bicycle with the university. Registration offers the following advantages:

  • Unregistered bicycles will be immobilized or impounded for all parking violations.
  • Registration serves as a deterrent to theft.
  • Registration assists in the identification of lost or stolen bicycles.
  • It allows the University to better plan for improved bicycle parking and operation on campus.

You can register your bicycle on Biking at Iowa website: The site also shows maps of places to park your bike on campus, special rules for biking on campus, and events geared to cyclists.

Bicycle Theft

It is important to lock your bicycle securely whenever you leave it. Although bicycle theft is not as common in Iowa City as it is in large U.S. cities, it is still a serious problem. Ask the person who sells you the bicycle to recommend an effective lock for it. You should lock your bicycle into a bicycle rack, not to light poles, trees, or posts.

Bicycle Safety

When you are riding your bicycle on a street or road, you must obey the same rules and traffic signs as someone driving a car. You can be ticketed by police and be required to pay a fine for violating traffic regulations with a bicycle, just as you can for violating them with a car. There are hand signals you should use to let motorists know when you plan to make a turn. Putting your left arm straight out from your side signals a left turn. Bending the left arm upwards at the elbow indicates a right turn. If you are riding your bicycle before sunrise or after sunset, you must have a headlight and rear light or reflector. It is a good idea to wear light-colored or reflective clothing when riding at night, and a very good idea to wear a helmet anytime you ride a bike.

An increasing number of roads in Iowa City, as well as outside Iowa City, have special "bike lanes" designated for bicycles. Be aware that you are still required to follow the same rules as cars, should always signal your intentions to turn, and pay attention when changing lanes.

Before riding a bicycle in the Iowa City area, spend some time observing bicycle traffic patterns. Those patterns might not be the same as the ones you are accustomed to. Notice that cars do not usually yield to bicyclists. Neither do pedestrians. Bicyclists must therefore be quite attentive to cars, trucks, and pedestrians, and must be able to stop or turn aside if they find their path obstructed. In some other countries, bicycle traffic gets more preferential treatment than it generally does in the United States.

Bicycle Routes

View a map of bicycle routes for recreational riding in Iowa City/Coralville/North Liberty. For example, it is possible to ride between North Liberty and Iowa City using only trails/wide sidewalks! Other routes permit you to ride south of Iowa City to visit the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, including a nice loop around the small lake there. In other cases, certain roads are designed as "bike friendly" and contain extra wide shoulders for cyclists to use, though if riding on roads caution should always be used. Note that the City does not allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks in the commercial districts of Iowa City, or in the downtown City Plaza outdoor mall. Outside of these areas, bicyclists may ride on sidewalks but shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian (ringing a bell or calling out "passing on your left" is a common way to do this).

The State of Iowa is home to many beautiful bike trails that permit you to see aspects of Iowa that you may not otherwise see by staying in Iowa City or even driving on major roads, and these trails - often built on former railroad lines - are expanding every year. These include bike trails in the area of Lake Macbride, West Branch, between Washington and Keota, between Ely and Cedar Rapids, between Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls, etc. You can visit the website to discover maps and descriptions of trail systems through Iowa as well as other states, some that run for 100 miles or more!

Rules for Bicyclists

To improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians, the UI has adopted a set of rules for cyclists. Some definitions are used in these bicycle regulations, including “pedestrian areas” or “slow zones”, which mean any walkway, sidewalk, crosswalk, plaza, patio, play court, parking facility, loading zone, and any other University facility that is intended primarily or partially for use by pedestrians. In pedestrian areas, individuals traveling on foot or in a wheelchair always have the right of way. View more information on bicycle regulations on campus.

Public Transportation

Bus Service

Three local bus systems operate in the Iowa City vicinity--the University's bus system, called "Cambus;" the Iowa City public bus system; and the Coralville transit system. The central departure and arrival point for all these systems is the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets. You can check bus routes and schedules of all these bus lines on Note: Of these bus lines, only some Cambus routes operate on Sundays.


The Cambus is a free means of getting around campus. Rectangular, black and white “Cambus” signs mark the places where Cambuses stop. Cambus schedules vary with the academic calendar. You can consult the UI Cambus website, UICambus Facebook page, or the UICambus Twitter for important service updates and announcements. See the Cambus website for complete information about other routes.

Iowa City Transit System

Iowa City's public bus service is better and less expensive than that of most American cities. Service is provided between 6:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. No service is available on Sundays. Complete details about routes, fares, transfers and related matters is on the Iowa City Transit website.

Coralville Transit System

There is a separate bus company based in Coralville, the community adjacent to Iowa City. To get information about Coralville Transit schedules and routes, use the Coralville Transit website or call 319-248-1790. Coralville buses are blue in color.


There are several taxicab (usually called "cab") companies in Iowa City. Taxicabs have meters that register the fare a passenger must pay. It is customary to pay an additional 10 to 20 per cent of the fare as a "tip." Many of these companies provide transportation between Iowa City and the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Intercity Buses

Intercity bus service is a transportation resource for people in Iowa who do not drive or choose not to drive. The service allows them to reach destinations across the country. For more information visit the Iowa Intercity Bus Companies or Google companies such as Greyhound, Burlington Trailways, Megabus, etc.

Air Travel

The airport nearest Iowa City is the Eastern Iowa Airport, which is on the outskirts of Cedar Rapids, about 20 miles away.

You can make reservations for air travel directly with an airline, through a travel agency, or with one of several websites, like KAYAK, Priceline, etc. that sell tickets on behalf of several airlines. Ask friends or acquaintances what sites they have found helpful.

Transportation Service to/from the Eastern Iowa Airport

Please see for means of transportation.


The railroad line is known as Amtrak. It stops in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (about 50 miles from Iowa City) and in Davenport, Iowa (about 51 miles from Iowa City). Train service in the U.S. is not of the high quality found in Japan or Europe, but it can be an interesting way to see the country. For more information on Amtrak, please see

Car Rental

Any licensed driver can rent a car for a day, weekend, week, or month. Prices vary, so you should call a number of agencies and ask about their charges.

Iowa City and the University of Iowa have a contract with Zip Cars which may be rented by the hour or the day.

You may also Google "Iowa City car rental" for a number of local businesses that rent cars.


It is unusual on American highways to see people hitchhiking, that is, standing beside the road and indicating with a thumb or sign that they want a ride in a passing car. Hitchhiking is illegal in many states and is considered dangerous.

The General View of Children

The general objective of child-rearing for most American parents is to prepare their children to be independent, self-reliant individuals who will be able to manage their own lives by the time they reach 18, the age at which children are legally "on their own." Training for independence starts very early. Infants and young children are given choices to make, asked to express their opinions, and encouraged to do things for themselves as soon as they can. Parents will praise and encourage their children: "There, you see? You can do it yourself!"

What Do Parents Want for Their Children?

Although economic changes are making it more difficult to realize, most parents probably still hold the idea that their children should have "better lives" than they themselves had. To give their children the best possible chance to have a good life, they will, if it is possible for them to do so, invest considerable time and money in a child upbringing. This often takes the form of lessons, classes, and practices for learning to draw, play a sport, dance, sing, or play a musical instrument, Increasing numbers of parents begin investing in college savings plans when their children are still very young in anticipation of the child eventually attending post-secondary school.

Parents want their children to be happy and healthy. At a minimum this means they want their children to be free of significant health problems (physical and emotional), reasonably well educated, able to find employment suited to the children's interests and talents, and reasonably prosperous. Parents are concerned for their children's safety and will try to protect them from any harm from others or from injuring themselves.

While they are concerned with their children's well-being, American parents have their own personal interest in having a meaningful and productive life. In many cases, that means both parents will be employed, and children will be left during working hours in some form of childcare--perhaps with a babysitter, or in a daycare center or nursery school.

Where Do Parents Take Their Children?

Many parents will want to expose their children to as many aspects of life as possible, taking their children to places such as casual restaurants, stores, sporting events, social events, and performances. Exceptions to this would be to places such as an expensive restaurant or a live theater performance where a very quiet atmosphere is expected.

A formal invitation to another person's home does not normally include children unless it explicitly states that children are invited. If you have doubts about whether the people inviting you to their home expect you to bring your children, telephone in advance and ask them.

Americans generally have the idea that parents need some time away from the child(ren). Parents will often arrange for someone to "babysit" for their child(ren) so they themselves can go out. The babysitter is not always a person who knows the children, although most parents think it is better to find a babysitter who does know them.

Noise and Physical Freedom

Young children are expected to be noisier and more physically active than adults. How active and noisy they may be depends upon the setting. In their homes, children can run around and play with relatively little restraint. The parents of young children will "childproof" the home, putting any heavy, sharp, or otherwise dangerous objects, and articles a child could damage out of their reach. In this environment the child is given a great deal of freedom.

However, in enclosed public places, such as offices and stores, and in other people's homes, parents are expected to keep their children "under control," so they will not be touching or damaging anyone's property or unduly disturbing them. Parents need to be prepared to leave a public place if their children misbehave, especially when making enough noise they interfere with other people's enjoyment of the situation.

Male vs. Female Children

Americans will generally say that if they are going to have a child they will be happy no matter what the child's sex, as long as the child is healthy. Many Americans will usually try to avoid conveying the idea to their children that males are naturally more dominant and females more submissive, and that certain social roles are only for males while others are only for females. However, those more "traditional" views may still be found in some segments of American society. Visitors from abroad will notice considerable debate and comment on the status of women and gender in American society.

More diverse opinions may be found when it comes to gender identity of children, but there is a growing awareness that children can also face gender identity conflicts, including very young children who identify with the opposite gender rather than with the sex/gender they were born with.

What Forms of Discipline Are Acceptable?

American experts on child development and child rearing continually debate about the best means of inducing a child to behave appropriately, or according to the parents' wishes. Many experts emphasize "positive guidance," which means giving the child positive reinforcement when they do things the parents like rather than punishing them when they do something the parents do not like. It also means listening patiently to the child and acknowledging how they feel while telling them what unacceptable behavior is. An example: "I see that you feel really angry at Tommy for taking your toy, but you may not hit him." Another form of this idea is "positive redirection." An example: "Here is some paper to write on. Walls are not for you to write on."

Instead of using physical punishment such as "spanking" the buttocks or slapping a child's hand, parents are encouraged to use "time out" or "renewal time." During "time out," children who are misbehaving are required to sit (often in another room) until they can behave properly again. Many experts consider physical punishment destructive, because it can teach children to hurt others who are not acting the way they want.

Parents should note that punishment that leaves a mark or causes a wound or injury is not only undesirable but is also illegal. Parents who harm their children, even though the purpose is to discipline them, can be arrested for child abuse.

The Role of Adults Who Are Not a Child’s Parents

In some societies it is expected that adults who are not the child's parents--perhaps other relatives, or neighbors, or simply adults who happen to be present--can intervene to discourage a child from misbehaving. Americans do not generally have that expectation. A child's behavior is considered to be the business of the parents alone, or of the babysitter or other person left in charge of the child while the parents are away. Two exceptions: An unrelated adult might intervene when a child is doing something that seems dangerous (for example, playing with a sharp object, or getting to a place where a fall might result), and when one child is physically mistreating another. In these situations, the unrelated adult would act to stop the threat of harm but would not administer any punishment. Punishing is left to the parents.

Some Americans will act to stop what they consider misbehavior (for example, making too much noise or touching breakable objects) on the part of children visiting in their homes. Other Americans will tolerate the misbehavior--at least if the misbehaving child's parents are present.

How Children Are Expected to Treat Adults and Other Children

Children raised to be independent and self-reliant cannot be expected to be as respectful and obedient toward their elders. American children might argue with or otherwise challenge their parents and other adults. They may freely express their views, and they will not automatically accept instructions or comments from other people of any age. The typical behavior of independent, individualistic American young people seems inappropriate to visitors from some other countries. American parents try to teach their children to be polite to their elders (for example, by not interrupting them, not making too much noise in their presence, refraining from negative or critical comments, or even using honorifics, particularly in the southern US, such as "Ms. Jennifer"), but the children are not expected to defer to adults simply because the adults are older.

Older children are expected to treat younger children with consideration and perhaps even helpfulness, and are not supposed to injure them, force them to do things they do not wish to do, or otherwise "bully" them. Male children are expected to treat female children just as they treat other males, since there is no assumption that male children are superior. American parents are likely to become disturbed if they see an older child "picking on" a younger one, or a male child mistreating a female child.

Concluding Comments

The preceding comments have not addressed the problems confronted by parents raising children in a foreign culture. Those problems are many and vexing. Children have their own adjustments to a new language and culture, and their parents need to keep that in mind, so they can be as helpful as possible. Young children usually master the local language much more quickly than their parents do and are subject to media influences and peer pressures they would not encounter at home. Parents may experience considerable frustration if they wish their children to continue to use their own language and to behave in ways that would be appropriate in the home country. Parents will want to talk with other parents from other countries who have been here longer to get ideas on maximizing the benefits and minimizing the difficulties of raising children in another country.


Pre-Schools and Day-Care Centers (for children younger than five, the age at which a child begins kindergarten)

You will find a number of pre-schools listed in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under "Day Nurseries" and "Schools - Nursery and Kindergarten - Academic." Facilities vary considerably with respect to cost, philosophy of instruction, pupil-teacher ratio, and schedule. Comprehensive information about pre-schools and day care is at

Generally, a pre-school has shorter sessions and emphasizes educational activity. By contrast, day-care facilities have longer hours and are intended to be places where children can receive care while their parents are otherwise occupied.

Public Schools (for children five and older)

Public schools in the U.S. provide free education for children between the ages of 5 and 18. Schools in Iowa City are divided into three levels: elementary schools--kindergarten through 6th grade (ages 5 to 11); junior high schools--7th and 8th grade (ages 12 and 13); and senior high schools--9th through 12th grade (ages 14 to 18).

To register, children must be 5 years old by September 15 of the year they enter kindergarten.

If your child is entering school for the first time, you will need a birth certificate or other indication of your child's age. If your child has previously attended school, you will need a transcript of grades or some other document indicating the grade level at which your child should be placed.

For residents in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, and Hills, children will attend the Iowa City Community School District (District building address: 1725 North Dodge Street, Iowa City, IA 52245). Children usually attend the public school nearest their place of residence. To find out which public school is nearest to your place of residence, you can use the Home School Lookup tool or call 319-688-1000. Please note that all Iowa City Community School District buildings offer English Language Learner programs.

The Iowa City schools encourage parents of elementary and secondary students to become involved in their children's education. The schools want parents to be aware of the schools' functions, the grading systems, and their child's progress in classes. The schools schedule twice-yearly "parent-teacher conferences" to discuss each elementary school child's progress. An online program that parents have access to, called PowerSchool, permits parents to view grades, assignments, and attendance data for their children.

Parents can arrange to visit their children's classes or have special conferences with their children's teachers. Teachers want to hear from parents about concerns, problems, or questions pertaining to their children and school.

Students and scholars with children who intend to enroll in the Iowa City Community Schools should be aware school children must meet certain immunization requirements to enroll them in classes. The complete date (month, day, year) and the name of the physician or clinic where each immunization was given must be included.

Learn more about the Iowa City Community School District here.

Private Schools

The families of children attending private schools must pay tuition. Costs vary, depending on the age or grade and on the particular school. Like public schools, private schools are open to any student, regardless of religious affiliation. The few private schools that exist in Iowa City are described briefly here:

Regina Catholic Education Center - (early childhood center for children from ages 3-5, elementary for grade K-6, and Jr/Sr High for Grade 7-12, Religious Education for Grades K-8), 2150 Rochester Avenue, Iowa City, IA 52245 - Elementary: 319-337-5739, Jr/Sr High 319-338-5436. In addition to a curriculum comparable to public schools, religious education (Catholic) is available. Students must know some English to enroll. Some financial aid is available.

Willowwind School (grades K-6), 950 Dover Street, Iowa City, IA 52245. 319-338-6061 - Willowwind maintains a maximum enrollment of 45 children with a student/teacher ratio of ten to one. Unlike other public and private schools in the area, teachers may remain with the same children throughout several years. Furthermore, education in the basic subjects is directed to the developmental level of each child rather than the grade level. Willowwind offers instruction in French to all students, and also in Latin to older students. Tuition costs may be reduced by tuition scholarships or parental work exchange.


A babysitter is a person whom you pay to stay with and care for your children for a given period of time while you are away from your home. Babysitters usually receive between $5.00 and $15.00 per hour, depending on the sitter's age and experience, the number of children being cared for, and possibly other considerations. Babysitters generally charge more for each additional child.

It is a good idea to be acquainted with any person you hire as a babysitter, if not first-hand then through a friend, acquaintance, or reputable agency.

Neighbors sometimes "trade" babysitting with each other; groups of mothers sometimes organize babysitting cooperatives.

The 4Cs Community Coordinated Child Care can help parents find occasional child care, provide free, temporary child care for families facing serious life issues, and provide short-term, emergency child care when families facing crisis are not able to provide regular care. To learn more about the agency, call the 4Cs office at 319-338-7684 or visit their office at 1500 Sycamore St. Iowa City.


Cleaning products in the U.S. (e.g., laundry detergents, floor and car waxes, oven cleaners) may be different from those you are accustomed to using. Cleaning products are usually harmful and can be fatal if not used properly. They are particularly dangerous for children who may play with them or eat them if the products are left within reach. Other things that can be harmful to children are certain household plants, which may have poisonous leaves or berries, and plastic bags. Good safety tips are:

  • Keep harmful products where your children cannot reach them.
  • Carefully read the directions and warnings on the label of anything you use. The label will tell you how dangerous the product is, and how to use it safely. Some of this information is incomprehensible even to Americans. If you do not understand it, get someone to translate it for you before you use the product.
  • If your child has played with or eaten something you think might be harmful, CALL POISON CONTROL CENTER: 1-800-222-1222. They will ask for the name of the product, and perhaps ask you to read aloud the ingredients shown on the package or bottle. They will probably ask the age of the child, how much the child ate, and when it happened. Then they will tell you what action to take. More information of Iowa Poison Control Center.
  • If for some reason you cannot reach Poison Control, you can call the University Hospital Emergency Room, 319-356-2233, or Mercy Iowa City Hospital Emergency Room, 319-358-2767, or 800-358-2767.

Child Abuse or Neglect

Child-raising customs differ from culture to culture. In the United States there are laws aimed at protecting children from physical abuse at the hands of their parents, babysitters, or other childcare providers. A parent, guardian, or babysitter who abuses a child or does not provide adequate care or supervision can be reported to the Department of Human Services (DHS). A person often seen hurting a child can be reported to DHS. Severely neglecting a child's basic hygiene or feeding can also be reported by neighbors or teachers as an offense called "denial of critical care." Inadequate supervision, such as leaving a child alone, whether in a residence, out of doors, or in an automobile, can also be investigated. Financial responsibility for any damages caused by a child fall on the parent or guardian.

Teachers, neighbors, police, and the DHS are interested in keeping children and property safe. With that in mind, you will want to teach your children to stay away from streets and parking lots when playing, to respect other people's property, and to obey laws. Teach children not to get in cars with people they do not know, since this is a way in which children are abducted. Young children should not be left unsupervised.

An older but excellent article that may help illustrate frequent cultural - or perhaps more importantly, legal - differences in respect to behavior regarding children appeared in the New York Times in 1997.


The Iowa City area has three local newspapers. Both the Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Gazette are published every morning of the year. Their advertisements can be helpful for learning about garage and yard sales and "sales" at local businesses. University students publish the Daily Iowan (commonly called the "DI") on weekdays when the University is in session. It is a good idea to read The Daily Iowan to keep informed of events and activities on the campus.

The major regional newspaper is the Des Moines Register. The New York Times carries more national and international news than any other U.S. paper. The Christian Science Monitor is a smaller paper than the Times and has a higher proportion of international news. USA Today uses satellite technology to publish a weekday newspaper that is available in all parts of the United States. The Wall Street Journal is a major source of business-related news.

The DI is free to all registered students, and is delivered to all student residences.

The University's main library subscribes to both US newspapers and some newspapers from other countries, and keeps them in the periodical section. Prairie Lights Bookstore, 15 S. Dubuque St., carries newspapers from major U.S. cities.


AM and FM Radio. Approximately 35 radio stations can be received in the Iowa City area, 13 on the AM band and 22 on the FM band. Most stations characterize themselves by the type of music they customarily play. Thus, most stations characterize themselves as "classic hits," "classical," "country," "rock," "jazz," or "classic rock." Radio stations in the U.S. can be broadly divided into two groups: commercial and public. Commercial stations are supported by advertising, and tend to focus their programming on age groups and consumer groups they believe will buy their advertisers' products. Public stations are supported by government funding and voluntary listener contributions. Stations affiliated with National Public Radio tend to carry more diverse programming than commercial stations, including more news and analysis. Three NPR stations are received in this area. WSUI, at 910 AM, and KSUI, at 91.7 FM, are affiliated with the UI. KUNI, at 90.1 FM, broadcasts from the University of Northern Iowa. KCCK, at 88.3 FM, broadcasts from Kirkwood Community College. WSUI programming emphasizes news and information.

KRUI - 89.7 FM, KSUI – 91.7 FM, and WSUI – 910 AM are student-run stations at the UI.

Many stations carry brief, hourly news programs. Most have weather forecasts more than once per hour. WMT (600 AM) is among the official "emergency weather information" stations, carrying information about severe weather.


In Iowa, all public television stations now require either cable subscription, satellite television, or a special antenna capable of receiving digital tv transmissions.

These channels include:

  • CBS on channel 2 or 4,
  • NBC on channel 7,
  • Fox on Channel 8,
  • ABC on channel 9
  • Iowa Public Television on Channel 12

Many of these local channels have subchannels, such as 12.1, 12.2, etc. that may offer a variety of different programs.

With a cable connection you can receive more than 60 channels, depending on the plan you purchase. One cable channel is known as UITV, or University of Iowa Television. Through satellite transmission of a service called SCOLA, UITV broadcasts news and other programs from thirty different countries. All broadcasts are provided in the original language, without English subtitles. UITV is available on the different channels in different communities. The channels change periodically. Changes are announced to cable television subscribers.

Mediacom is the cable television franchise owner in Iowa City. Telephone 1-800-332-0245 for information.

Several companies offer satellite television in the Iowa City area. A Google search of "satellite television Iowa City" will show the companies and their websites.

Numerous online subscription programs are available with an internet connection, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.

Cell Phones

Buying a Cell Phone

You can buy a cell phone at any of the local department stores, or you can also choose to buy a cell phone when you buy a data plan with a service provider.

Choosing a Plan

Different data plans are provided from different service providers. The most common types of data plans are prepaid and family plan. With prepaid plan, you will pay as you use the service, or pay for unlimited minute for each day. With family plan, you can share your minutes (usually per month) with other devices/phones your family members, or friends have. The host/account holder of the family plan need to manage the account and the billing for the entire family plan. Additional services like connecting your other electronic devices with your phone, setting up the internet might be provided by the service provider. Consult with your friends and talk to a salesperson in the store to learn which plan works the best for you.


Once you have your Hawk ID, you will be able to connect to the UI Wireless Eduroam Network. Please see for more information on connecting your device the school network. If you need further assistant, please visit ITS helpdesk during office hours (semester support hours):8:00am-10:00pm Monday to Thursday, 8:00am – 5:00pm on Friday, 12:00pm – 5:00pm on Saturday, and 6:00pm – 10:00pm on Sunday.

To set up internet service at home, please see this list of Internet Service Providers and a detailed explanation of the types of services available.


Registered University of Iowa students will be assigned a Hawk ID. You can access to your email account by your Hawk ID and password. If you need assistant with your Hawk ID or password, please contact Information Technology Services at, call 319-3844357, or visit 2800 University Capitol Centre (the second floor of Old Capitol Mall).

ISSS will use only your UI email address (generally to send you important information about SEVIS, your immigration status, etc. If you have a non-UI e-mail address (for example, with gmail or yahoo), please register that address with the UI. Otherwise you may not receive important e-mail messages sent to you by UI offices, including the ISSS.


Post Office Locations

The main Iowa City Post Office is in southeast Iowa City at 925 U.S. Highway 6; its telephone number is 354-1560. The Coralville Post Office is at 2150 James Street; the telephone is 319-337-8881. Smaller offices are located at 701 Mormon Trek Boulevard in western Iowa City, at 1558 Mall Drive in eastern Iowa City, and at the customer service counters of most Hy-Vee grocery stores.

Mailing Parcels

U.S. mail as well as UPS, Fed Ex, and DHL can be sent from Mailboxes of Iowa City.

Things to do in Iowa City

Entertainment and recreational activities on the campus and in Iowa City are far too numerous to detail here. They include movies, concerts, recitals, art exhibits, performances, sports, and museums. Many are free of charge, including the UI Museum of Art, UI Museum of Natural History, music and dance recitals, and monthly orchestra performances. In addition, there are numerable student organizations that hold periodic social events.

You can also follow these groups on Facebook or Twitter to get information of the events happening in the area.

Many departments that offer performances (music, dance, theater) publish monthly or semester calendars or brochures with information about scheduled performances. Those brochures are available at the respective departmental offices, at the IMU Welcome Center, and at the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL). The ICPL's Information Desk maintains the Association List, a compendium of information about clubs and organizations in Iowa City.

During the pandemic, many departments and organizations on and off campus offer virtual events and programs, or offer limited in-person opportunities. Most of the events and programs information is posted on their website. You can also follow their social media for their offering.

The Arts

The University of Iowa is known as The Writing University. The Iowa Writer’s Workshop was founded in 1936. The International Writing Program has also brought over fourteen hundred writers from more than 140 countries since 1967.

Arts Iowa provides an online guide to performances, readings, exhibits, films, and other University of Iowa arts events.

The Iowa City – Coralville area offers numerous other arts venues, including the new Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, Riverside Theatre, several art galleries, and the Englert Theatre and Film Scene downtown. You can see Arts and Culture in downtown Iowa City for more information.

The Stanley Museum of Art counts more than 12,000 works in its collection, including paintings by Picasso, Pollack, and Matisse. Since the museum’s building was flooded in 2008, some selections from the collection can be seen on campus at the Iowa Memorial Union and the Levitt Center for University Advancement. Others are on display at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, an hour east of Iowa City on Interstate 80.

The Museum of Natural History, located in MacBride Hall, includes more than one million specimens from microscopic fossils to mastodon skulls. Exhibits in Iowa Hall illustrate the geological, biological, and cultural history of Iowa.

Old Capitol has served Iowa as a seat of government and education. Built in 1840, it was the home of Iowa state government. After the state government moved to Des Moines in 1857, Old Capitol became the first building owned by the University of Iowa. Today, as the Old Capitol Museum, it continues to serve both functionally and symbolically. Admission is free.

Athletics & Recreation


The Iowa Hawkeyes offer Big Ten excitement with 22 varsity athletic teams, including baseball, basketball, cross-country, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, rowing, soccer, softball, volleyball, and wrestling. Find team schedules.


University of Iowa Recreational Services serves the university community and the surrounding area. Facilities open to the public include fitness centers; swimming pools; indoor basketball, volleyball, racquetball, badminton, and squash courts; climbing walls; the outdoor Hawkeye Recreation Fields; the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex; Beckwith Boathouse; and the MacBride Nature Recreation Area.

Campus Recreation & Wellness Center (CRWC) provides climbing wall, competitive and leisure swimming pool, diving pool, jogging track, basketball/volleyball courts, gym, café, locker rooms, upgrade club locker rooms, wellness suit and recreational services administrative suite.

The Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex (HTRC) houses eight indoor and twelve outdoor tennis courts, 6,000 square feet of fitness space, an Indoor Turf Field and the Outdoor Rental Center. The outdoor courts are referred to as the Klotz Tennis courts, named after former Men’s Tennis Coach, Don Klotz. Also, the HTRC is the home of the University of Iowa Women’s and Men’s Tennis Teams. The facility is located at 2820 Prairie Meadow Dr. in Iowa City, just west of the Hawkeye Hall of Fame. Metered parking is available at the facility.

Finkbine Golf Couse, on the Hawkeye Campus in west Iowa City, is open to the public and offers adult and junior instruction programs.

The 480-acre Macbride Nature Recreation Area (just north of North Liberty on County Road F28) is the site of environmental education and outdoor recreation program as well as picnic areas, campgrounds, and marked trails for hiking and cross-country skiing.

Recreation in the Community

Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center (Iowa City Recreation Center), 220 S. Gilbert Street, 319-356-5100. Swimming pool, gymnasium (sometimes used for roller skating), wading pool for children, game room, racquetball court, weight room/exercise room.

Coralville Recreation Center, 1512 7th Street, 319-284-1700. Exercise room, game room, gym/community room, meeting room, parking (fee), and pool.

Ice Skating at Coral Ridge Mall, west of Coralville.

Festivals and Fairs

Like any other locality, the State of Iowa offer a number of annual events that attract both tourists and area residents. A few are listed here:

Downtown Iowa City Events

The Iowa City Arts Fest takes place each June, and the Iowa City Jazz Fest around the Fourth of July. These events both include free musical performances. The Arts Fest also offers arts and crafts and activities for children. See the Iowa City Downtown District calendar.

Davenport Holiday Parade

Held during Christmas season, and featuring a large display of helium balloons. See Downtown Davenport Partnership website for more information.

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair, first held in 1854, is now one of the most famous agricultural and industrial expositions in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors. Includes one of the world's largest livestock shows, food, arts and crafts exhibitions, concessions, and live entertainment. Held over an eleven-day period each August at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Johnson County Fair

Activities and events at the Johnson County Fair are similar to those of the Iowa State Fair, but on a much smaller scale. Held annually during July.

Kalona Fall Festival

Held in late September or early October each year, the Kalona Fall Festival emphasizes homemade foods, quilt displays and demonstrations, handmade crafts, and tours of restored buildings.

Pella Tulip Festival

The Pella Tulip Festival features Dutch dancing, singing, Volks Parade, and street scrubbing. Wagon tours of community and viewing of magnificent tulip gardens, large arts and crafts show. Festival is held each spring in early May, when the tulips are in full bloom.

Things to do outside of Iowa City

Two popular recreational sites near Iowa City are the Coralville Dam (three miles [15 km] northwest of Iowa City via Highway 218) and Lake MacBride State Park (four miles [7 km] west of the town of Solon, which is 12 miles [19 km] north of Iowa City on Highway 1). Both offer facilities for picnics, camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, and boating. The Dam became especially popular among sightseers after the 1993 flooding washed away soil and revealed many fossils in the bedrock. The site has been named the Devonian Fossil Gorge.

Kent Park, located about eight miles (13 km) west of Iowa City on Highway 6, has facilities for swimming and picnicking.

There are three principal tourist attractions in this area. One is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, east of Iowa City in the town of West Branch. The museum and memorial library are interesting to visit. They mark the birthplace and burial ground of the 34th president of the United States.

Another attraction is the Amana Colonies, which have maintained the atmosphere established by the Germans who founded them in the last century. The Amanas are known for certain products, notably meats, wine, woolen goods, and wood furniture. Tours of wineries and furniture and woolen mills are available. Oktoberfest, an old-world style celebration held the first weekend in October, is the Colonies' major annual event. There are several restaurants in the Colonies. To get to the Colonies, go 20 miles (32 km) west of Coralville on Highway 6.

Kalona is an Amish community located 22 miles south of Iowa City on Highway 1. Attractions in Kalona include the Historical Village and the Wahl Museum of antique collections.

Information adapted from the Iowa City Coralville North Liberty Visitor & Community Reference Guide.


Most Americans, and all American landlords, believe it is important that living quarters be kept reasonably clean (although you may encounter notable exceptions to this). The concern for cleanliness is evident in the supermarkets, where you will see a remarkably wide array of products designed to clean various parts of the house. You will not need all of these products. You can ask someone who lives here, and whose living quarters seem clean, to help you select the cleaning supplies you will need.

The Johnson County Extension Service, 319-337-2145, provides information and resources on cleaning (and other home economic related topics).

Major Appliances

Stoves and Ovens

Kitchen stoves operate on either gas or electric. In either case, it is important to keep the burners, drip pans (stainless steel bowls below the burners) and oven clean so they will work safely and effectively. You should wipe the burners/ drip pans after each use to keep the spilled food or liquid from burning or hardening on them. Clean the inside of the oven periodically, using ammonia or a special oven cleaner. When using an oven cleaner or any other specialized cleaning product, read the label carefully and follow instructions. Many cleaning products are harmful if inhaled or allowed to touch your skin so make sure to ventilate the kitchen well while the product is applied. Be sure to keep these products out of reach for any children. The Iowa Poison Control Center can be reached 24 hours a day/7 days for emergency questions by calling 800-222-1222.


A refrigerator should be defrosted when the ice (or frost) around the freezing unit becomes 1/4 inch (6,5 mm) thick. To defrost the refrigerator, turn it off, empty it, and let the water from the melting frost drip into a tray or pan which you can empty into the sink. You can speed the process of melting the frost by putting a pan of boiling water in the refrigerator beneath the frosted area. Wipe the inside of the refrigerator with a solution of water and baking soda. Put an old towel around the base of the refrigerator to collect water that reaches the floor. Some newer refrigerators defrost automatically, or do not have ice around the freezing unit.

Disposal of Trash and Garbage

Ask your landlord what you should do with trash and garbage. Refuse is collected once weekly in Iowa City and Coralville. If your apartment has a garbage (that is, food waste) disposal in the sink, be sure to ask your landlord what kinds of waste should and should not be put into it. (A garbage disposal is a machine that grinds food waste and allows it to be washed down the sink drain.)

Curbside Recycling

Both Iowa City and Coralville have voluntary curbside recycling programs. Ask your landlord or a neighbor what can be recycled, what containers to use for items you want recycled, and what the pick-up schedule is in your neighborhood.

Find out more about Iowa City recycling or Coralville recycling.

UI Recycling

The UI Office of Sustainability has recycling and waste reduction initiatives over the past few years.

Keeping the Kitchen Clean

American kitchens are less open to fresh air than are kitchens in some other countries. Thus grease and oil in the air tend to accumulate on walls and on the top of refrigerators and cabinets. These areas should be cleaned to avoid the development of unpleasant odors (it also become sticky). This is especially true if you fry food frequently. Keeping crumbs off the counters and the floors swept will avoid attracting insects and rodents. Vacuuming, washing or sweeping the floors should be done minimum once a week. American kitchens are less open to fresh air than are kitchens in some other countries. Thus grease and oil in the air tend to accumulate on walls and on the top of refrigerators and cabinets. These areas should be cleaned to avoid the development of unpleasant odors (it also become sticky). This is especially true if you fry food frequently. Keeping crumbs off the counters and the floors swept will avoid attracting insects and rodents. Vacuuming, washing or sweeping the floors should be done minimum once a week.

Keeping the Bathroom Clean

An important area in which there are widespread differences in customs has to do with toilets and bathrooms. While Americans in general do not clean and polish a bathroom every day, they generally believe that bathrooms should be kept relatively clean and free of odors. This means at least weekly cleaning of toilet bowls, bathtubs, sinks, shower stalls, and bathroom floors. Hair, soap residues, and water or other stains on mirrors and tile should be removed. Products for cleaning toilet bowls, porcelain (of which sinks and toilets are made), tile, and glass are available at many grocery or department stores. Again, these cleaning products need to be kept where away from children. The Iowa Poison Control Center can be reached 24 hours a day/7 days for emergency questions by calling 800-222-1222.

After any bath or shower, water that has gotten onto the floor around the bathtub or shower stall should be dried up. Towels and washcloths should be hung so they can dry without creating unpleasant odors.

A word about toilets. People in many parts of the world do not use the type of toilet on which a person sits. Instead, they are accustomed to the type on which a person squats. Unfortunately, the practice of squatting on a sitting-type toilet will eventually loosen the toilet from its connection to the sewer pipe that goes into the floor beneath the toilet. Then the foul-smelling water will leak out. Therefore, difficult though the adjustment may be, people who are accustomed to squatting on a toilet are well advised to learn to sit on the toilets used in the United States and follow the etiquette below.

Finally, three points about toilet etiquette:

  1. Flush the toilet after each use.
  2. Men should raise the toilet seat before urinating into the toilet so they do not splash urine on the seat, and then put the seat back down when they are finished.
  3. Toilets are not designed to have garbage flushed down them. They are designed to accommodate human waste and toilet paper only; anything else may cause the toilet drain to clog and water and waste to backup and spill on the floor.

Short-term Stay

These options are available for students who arrive a few days before residence halls or apartments are open. You can also check the "Hotels" section below for additional options.

  • Iowa House Hotel – A hotel located on campus in the Iowa Memorial Union that may offer discounted rates for both students as well as parents during orientation. Reservation recommended.
  • Heartland Inn - A hotel in Coralville with flexible short-term stay options, provides a shuttle to campus and other locations. Flexibility for international students who do not have a credit card or are below the age of 21. May have some information available in multiple languages Reservation recommended.


There are many hotels in the Iowa City area where students and scholars can stay when they first arrive and before they are able to move in to their permanent housing. It is recommended to always make a reservation. A listing of lodging options can be found on the website of the Think Iowa City.

Students, or those making hotel arrangements for them, do need to be careful about age requirements and whether a credit card is required at the time of checking in. Some hotels have minimum age requirements that would prevent a new 18 year old student from staying there. Others may require use of a credit card at the time of checking in.

On-campus Housing Information

Types of student housing in Iowa City include University Residence Halls (for single students), University Apartments (which accommodate some single students as well as students with families), and off-campus rooms or apartments. The UI offers housing for single students in several residence halls, and for families in University Apartments. Information about both kinds of units is at the website for University Housing & Dining. The University Housing & Dining website also has helpful resources for new international students who plan to move into the residence halls.

Off-campus Housing Information

The Off-Campus Living website can help students find off-campus housing information as well as other important information and support services related to off-campus living.

Rental Guide - Your Rights While Renting

Student Legal Services provides legal advice to University of Iowa students at no cost. They publish an informative series of articles in their Rental Guide covering the rights you have as renters. If you ever encounter difficulty with a landlord, contact Student Legal Services immediately for guidance.

The City of Iowa City Human Rights Office also has a website that includes information on discrimination and fair housing, along with a complaint form that can be filled out by anyone experiencing instances of discrimination. Their brochures are available in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin.

Renter's Insurance

Prudent tenants purchase “renter’s insurance” (which might also be called “homeowner’s insurance”) to protect against losses caused by fire, theft, or vandalism. This kind of insurance covers personal belongings in your room or apartment, and in your car if you have one. It also covers damages for which you would be legally liable if a fire or other accident that was your responsibility damages the building in which you rent and/or the property of other renters in your building. The cost of renter’s insurance varies depending on the value of your personal possessions, but is relatively low. When buying insurance, it is considered wise to get rate information from two or three different insurance agents.


Once you have your housing, you may need to contact services which provide utilities such as gas, electricity, and water. Ask your landlord which services are included in the rental costs. See the Off-Campus Living Guide for more information on maintenance, utilities, and other topics.

Disposal of Trash and Recycling

Ask your landlord what you should do with trash and garbage. Refuse is collected once weekly in Iowa City and Coralville. If your apartment has a garbage (that is, food waste) disposal in the sink, be sure to ask your landlord what kinds of waste should and should not be put into it. (A garbage disposal is a machine that grinds food waste and allows it to be washed down the sink drain).

Curbside Recycling

Both Iowa City and Coralville have voluntary curbside recycling programs. Ask your landlord or a neighbor what can be recycled, what containers to use for items you want recycled, and what the pick-up schedule is in your neighborhood. Find out more about Iowa City recycling or Coralville recycling.

UI Recycling

The UI Office of Sustainability has recycling and waste reduction initiatives over the past few years.

This page gives a list of some local, State and Federal laws that international visitors to the US need to be aware of. While these are not immigration issues, all international visitors are required to follow the same laws. This information is meant to be a very basic introduction to the more common legal issues international visitors may encounter.

Students seeking legal advice outside of immigration issues for F and J status are encouraged to contact Student Legal Services, the office on campus that provides professional legal advice and representation in many cases for University of Iowa students.

Driving Laws

For complete information on Iowa laws regarding licenses and driving, please see the driver’s manual for the Iowa Department of Transportation. You may also find specific information regarding obtaining your license.

Some common laws regarding driving in Iowa:

  • Seat Belts and Restraints -
    • The driver and front-seat passengers must wear safety belts.
    • Children under one year of age and weighing less than 20 pounds must be in a secured, rear-facing restraint system.
    • Children under 6 or over 20 pounds must be in an age-appropriate restrain system, such as a booster seat.
    • Older children who are large enough must wear the car’s safety belt.
  • Insurance and Registration –
    • All drivers in the state of Iowa must carry minimum liability insurance on their automobiles. The purpose of this is to provide some financial coverage for injuries and property damage in the event of an accident. You must carry proof of current and active auto insurance when driving.
    • All owners must register their motor vehicles with the county in Iowa in which they reside, and update the registration each year.
  • Accidents
    • If you are involved in an automobile accident, even if there seem to be no injuries and damage is minor, it is recommended you contact local law enforcement to come to the scene of the accident. They will assess and investigate the situation, fill out any necessary paperwork, and also connect you and others involved with medical care if needed. You should not leave the scene of the accident until law enforcement has arrived and told you it is OK to leave.
    • Gather information from the other driver, including copying the name and address from their driver’s license, a phone number, and copy down the license plate of their car. Do NOT discuss or admit to any fault. This is something to discuss only with the police and your insurance company. Do not let the other driver try to talk you into not calling the police.
    • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible, ideally on the same day as the accident.
  • Cell Phones and Texting While Driving – As of this date, Iowa currently does not restrict cell phone usage while driving, but texting while driving is against the law.

Domestic Violence

In the United States, and more so in Iowa than in some other states, domestic abuse (or “domestic violence”) is a crime. Laws aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence are strictly enforced in Iowa City and on the university campus. If a couple is fighting and the police come to the scene and find evidence of assault (such as a cut, bruise, or scratch), they are required to arrest the attacker and take them to jail for the night. In the morning, after appearing before a judge who sets the date for a trial, the attacker is set free. A "no contact" order is put in place until the trial. The order forbids the attacker from returning home, seeing, talking to, or having any contact with the victim.

Women who are victims of domestic violence may stay temporarily at the Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP), which is a "safe house" in a secret location. It is staffed by counselors who can help the woman and her children (if she has any) remain free of their dangerous situation and make decisions about the future.

The stresses of being a student family in a foreign country can sometimes lead to family violence, and wives of foreign students sometimes become victims of domestic abuse. Any woman who feels that she is being victimized by her husband or a person with whom she is living should seek help immediately. Staff are on duty at the DVIP (319-351-1043, or 1-800-373-1043) 24 hours a day. ISSS Advisors (319-335-0335), the RVAP (Rape Victim Advocacy Program, 319-335-6000, or 24-hour hotline 800-228-1625), and the WRAC (Women's Resource and Action Center, 319-335-1486) are committed to helping both foreign student wives and foreign student husbands who find themselves in abusive situations.

Child Abuse and Endangerment

In Iowa, a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18. There are numerous laws in place to protect children from physical, sexual, and mental/emotional abuse. Please see the Iowa Department of Human Services website for more specific details.

One area where some international parents may encounter problems is “denial of critical care.” In part this law has to do with ensuring children have necessary food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. But it also includes when it is considered legally safe to not supervise a child, or to leave them alone – something that can differ considerably from one culture to another.

“Failure to provide proper supervision of a child which a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under similar facts and circumstances, to such an extent that there is danger of the child suffering injury or death.” This definition includes cruel and undue confinement of a child and the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle when the person responsible for the care of the child is driving recklessly or driving while intoxicated with the child in the vehicle.

The Department of Human Services receives many inquiries each year regarding when a child can be left home alone safely. Iowa law does not define an age that is appropriate for a child to be left alone. Each situation is unique. Examples of questions to help determine whether there are safety concerns for the child include:

  • Does the child have any physical disabilities?
  • Could the child get out of the house in an emergency?
  • Does the child have a phone and know how to use it?
  • Does the child know how to reach the caretaker?
  • How long will the child be left home alone?
  • Is the child afraid to be left home alone?
  • Does the child know how to respond to an emergency such as fire or injury?

Alcohol and Illegal Drugs

Laws governing alcohol usage in Iowa can be complex and sometimes surprising for international students who may come from places that have different or no laws regarding alcohol. Below is a summary of the most common alcohol offenses.

  • PAULA – Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age – The minimum age to legally consume alcohol in the state of Iowa is 21. This applies to not only drinking alcohol, but “possessing” it as well. If you are “just holding” a beer for your friends, or it was “just sitting in front of you,” you can be issued a ticket and fined several hundred dollars in Iowa City. The easiest way to avoid this is to not drink under the age of 21, don’t hold your friends alcohol, and don’t let your friends leave it sitting in front of you.
  • Providing to Minors – It is illegal to provide alcohol to persons under the age of 21. This includes not only selling alcohol to minors, but purchasing it for them or giving it to them as well.
  • Public Intoxication – This means “being drunk and disorderly in public.” If you are or have been drinking, and behave in such a manner to indicate you are intoxicated, you may be issued a ticket or arrested.
  • Open Container Laws – In Iowa it is illegal to have open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle; it is also illegal to consume or have open containers of alcohol in public places. (Restaurant outdoor seating, such as you see in the Pedestrian Mall, is generally well-marked and they have special permissions for customers to consume alcohol in these areas.)
  • Driving Under Intoxication – Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) is illegal. In other words, driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is a crime, and carry very expensive fines as well as the possibility of jail time. In other states this may be referred to as DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated).
  • In the Dorms – UI policy prohibits possession or consumption of alcohol in the residence halls, even by students who are 21 and older. Be very careful about roommates, or visitors to your room, who refuse to observe this policy and who bring alcohol to your dorm room – if it is discovered, YOU may get in trouble even if the alcohol was not yours.


Iowa law prohibits smoking in almost all public places and enclosed areas within places of employment, as well as some outdoor areas.

On-campus – The University of Iowa is a smoke-free campus. Smoking is prohibited in all UI owned buildings, vehicles, recreation facilities, and parking lots.

Witness Tampering

“A person who offers any bribe to any person who the offeror believes has been or may be summoned as a witness or juror in any judicial or arbitration proceeding, or any legislative hearing, or who makes any threats toward such person or who forcibly or fraudulently detains or restrains such person, with the intent to improperly influence such witness or juror with respect to the witness' or juror's testimony or decision in such case, or to prevent such person from testifying or serving in such case, or who, in retaliation for anything lawfully done by any witness or juror in any case, harasses such witness or juror, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.”

If you or a friend is involved in a legal issue, or know someone who is, it is extremely important that you never contact others involved to try to get them to change their information, drop charges, or lie to law enforcement.

University Policies (Students Only)

The University of Iowa Code of Student Life includes information on a variety of policies students must follow and be aware of, including academic misconduct, discrimination, University of Iowa policies on alcohol and drugs, legal assistance for students, etc.

General Nature of the U.S. Medical Care Delivery System

Two characteristics distinguish the U.S. medical care delivery system from many others. First, it devotes considerable resources to prolonging the lives of seriously ill or injured people. The cost of medical care reflects the enormous investment in research, medication, and technology that this type of care requires.

Second, there is no general, governmentally-supported system for paying an individual's medical costs. That is, there is no overarching national medical care program or national insurance program.

The result of these and other factors is that medical costs in the U.S. are extremely high and they must be paid by the individual incurring them. Individuals can buy health and accident insurance that will pay some of their medical expenses. No health insurance plan readily available to students covers all medical expenses.

Visiting a Doctor

When you go to see a doctor, expect many questions. The doctor will expect you to give details about your symptoms--what they feel like, whether they are more noticeable under some conditions than others, how long you have had them, and so on. The doctor will ask you what treatments you have already tried.

In the U.S. health-care system, patients are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves by asking the doctors (or other care-givers) questions about their condition and its treatment. Patients are expected to ask about the costs of recommended treatment, and may be asked to participate in making decisions about treatment and medications. If the doctor does not know the likely costs, someone else in the office should be asked.

You should bring your insurance card with you to all health care appointments.

Health and Accident Insurance

Health Insurance Requirement

The University requires all international students to have health insurance. International students are automatically billed for insurance coverage unless they present evidence that they have comparable insurance under some policy other than the University one. ISSS provides complete information about health insurance requirements and procedures to newly arriving students.

International scholars are required to be on a University of Iowa health insurance plan.

Health Insurance Terminology

Understanding written information or discussions about health insurance requires understanding certain terms. These definitions of common insurance terms come from a publication called "To Your Health," from NAFSA: Association of International Educators:

  • Claim: A written request by the insured individual for payment by the insurance company for a cost incurred and covered under the insurance policy.
  • Co-payment: The portion of a covered expense, after the deductible is paid, which must be paid by the insured individual. The co-payment is usually expressed in a percentage, for example, if the insurance company pays 80 per cent of covered charges, the co-payment is 20 per cent.
  • Cost Containment: Actions or practices designed to minimize costs incurred by both the insured individual and the insurance company. Cost containment helps to maintain reasonable insurance premiums.
  • Covered Expense: Any expense for which complete or partial payment is provided under the insurance policy.
  • Deductible: The initial portion of a covered expense which must be paid by the insured person before the insurance policy pays its part of the expense.
  • Exclusion: Any condition or expense for which, under the terms of the insurance policy, no coverage is provided and no payment will be made.
  • Fee for Service: Medical care which is provided in exchange for a fee which is paid to the provider at the time the service is rendered.
  • Insurance Policy: A written contract defining the insurance plan, its coverage, exclusions, eligibility requirements, and all benefits and conditions that apply to individuals insured under the plan.
  • Insurance Premium: The amount of money required for coverage under a specific insurance policy for a given period of time. Depending on the policy agreement, the premium may be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
  • Lapse in Coverage: After an initial insured period, the period of time during which an individual is uninsured, usually because of failure to pay the premium.
  • Pre-existing Condition: A condition that existed prior to the commencement of coverage under a given insurance policy. Depending on the policy, a pre-existing condition may be defined as (a) a condition which had its origins prior to the commencement of coverage; (b) a condition which exhibited symptoms prior to the commencement of coverage; (c) a condition for which treatment was sought prior to the commencement of coverage; (d) a condition which was diagnosed prior to the commencement of coverage; or (e) a condition for which treatment was received prior to the commencement of coverage.
  • Preventive Care: Measures taken in advance of symptoms to prevent illness and/or injury.
  • Renewal: Paying a premium for an additional period of time (after the initial insurance period has expired) in order to continue coverage.

Coverage Provided by Health Insurance

Health and accident insurance does not cover all medical expenses. In general, it covers the higher costs that result from accidents and serious illness, with associated hospitalization, medical tests, and the services of doctors and nurses. The coverage provided by various health insurance policies varies. Literature accompanying each policy describes what it covers. Of course, policies that are more comprehensive in their coverage are more expensive.

Where to Receive Medical Care

Students in F-1 or J-1 Status

Student Health & Wellness, 4189 Westlawn South, 319- 335-8370 - Student Health & Wellness (SHW) is the University’s primary clinic for students to go to for health care. Students registered for more than four semester hours are assessed a health fee each semester. This fee allows a student access to the SHW to see a doctor with no office visit charge as many times during the semester as he/she needs. This fee also covers health promotion services across campus and in the clinic including fitness assessments, tobacco cessation, nutrition counseling stress management, sexual health and substance abuse counseling. Patients who have been assessed the health fee still must pay for lab tests, supplies, physicals, immunizations, procedures, medications, and other costs. Students' spouses and children are not eligible for these services. Students should have their current identification (ID) cards and insurance cards with them when going to the SHW.

The mission of the wellness branch of SHW is to support student wellness and learning through educational and health promotion services that help students create healthy lifestyle. Please see Student Health and Wellness for consultations and programs SHW provides to promote healthy lifestyles.

The SHW hours during the academic year are 8-5 Monday through Friday. See the web site for more hours during breaks and additional information. When SHW is closed, some options are

J-1 Scholars and F-2/J-2 Dependents

Primary Care Providers - Most people in the U.S. have a "primary care provider." This person in typically a generalist physician, usually specializing in Family Medicine or Internal Medicine, who can see patients for a wide variety of illnesses, tests, medication prescriptions, etc. You may also see members of their staff including nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. If necessary, your primary care provider will refer you to specialists, such as neurologists, dermatologists, etc.

In the Iowa City area, there are two main systems of primary care providers. You may select which system you prefer (be sure to check with your insurance company as some providers may have more/less expenses covered by insurance):

  • University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics health care: Typically people have a primary care provider in either the department of Family Medicine or the department of Internal Medicine. Children below 18 will be required to be seen in Family Medicine.
  • Mercy Hospital of Iowa City system: Several offices with physicians associated with the Mercy Hospital system are located around Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, and other surrounding communities.

Quick Care Clinics - These can be utilized for some very basic and fast services similar to what a Primary Care Provider would offer, but without typical waits for appointments. There are several offices located in the Iowa City area for either the University of Iowa hospital system or the Mercy Hospital system: UI Quick Care and Mercy Urgent CareThe student health fee does not cover visits to these clinics or the emergency room.

Emergency Room Services: The emergency room at UIHC or Mercy Hospital should be reserved for emergency situations only. Medical situations that do not involve immediate threat to life or health should be seen by either your Primary Care Provider or one of the Quick Care clinics in the area.

911: Dialing 911 for assistance is reserved for emergencies only (example auto accident, fire, heart attack, robbery). Calling 911 for non-emergency assistance may cause you to be assessed a fine for abuse of the 911 emergency system.


Pre-natal and Maternity Care and Family Planning (Birth Control)

In the United States a woman usually goes to a doctor or clinic for regular checkups during her pregnancy, and has the doctor deliver the baby in a hospital.

A private physician's fee for delivering a baby, including prenatal and postnatal checkup, plus hospital charges will cost thousands of dollars without insurance.

Pregnant women in need of a physician's services can see a Primary Care Physician as noted above, or may go directly to the Obstetrics-Gynecology Clinic at University Hospitals, or in the Mercy Hospital system.

If you are a student, you may visit Student Health & Wellness for information on birth-control information.

The Johnson County Public Health Department, Child Health Clinic (855 South Dubuque Street, Suite 217, 319-356-6060) provides free or very inexpensive services for infants from two months through children 16 years old. The Department operates a well-child clinic where an infant who is not sick can go for regular check-ups and immunizations. To use the clinic you must live in Johnson County and have a regular physician. Call to arrange a clinic appointment.

The Visiting Nurse Association (1524 Sierra Street, 319-337-9686) provides home visits for mothers with new babies and for the elderly. They also have some infant and toddler car seats available for use by families who need them.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, at 850 Orchard Street, 319-354-8000, can help a student in choosing a method of birth control. They also do routine gynecological exams and pregnancy testing and counseling.

The Emma Goldman Clinic for Women, located at 227 North Dubuque Street, 337-2111, offers birth control options and gynecological exams.

Dental Services

University students, scholars, and their families may benefit from the use of the Dental Clinic, which is staffed by professional dentists and by students who are training to become dentists and dental hygienists. Services generally cost much less than those of private dentists. Be aware that most health insurance policies do not cover dental care unless it is made necessary by an accident that has injured the teeth or mouth. Dental insurance options are available to both students as well as scholars.

Personal Safety

  • Keep your doors locked even when you are at home.
  • If someone knocks at your door or rings your doorbell, do not open the door until you have identified who is there. Never feel pressured to open your door to anyone you don't know.
  • Leave both an outside and an inside light on if you will be away from your room or apartment after dark.

The Department of Public Safety offers a number of services to help educate students, faculty, and staff as well as keep the community as safe as possible. These services include: code blue phones, educational programs, Nite Ride, special event staffing, and the Threat Assessment Team.

Transportation at Night


Iowa City is generally a safe area, but crime can happen here as it can anywhere else. There are numerous taxi services available in Iowa City for anyone wanting transportation home if it is after dark or you otherwise feel uncomfortable walking home.

The University of Iowa also offers NITE RIDE, a free shuttle service staff by University of Iowa Security Officers that operates between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. 7 nights/week. Currently the service is available only to women, and runs within specific boundaries. The phone number to arrange a NITE RIDE pickup is 319-384-1111.

Protecting Valuables

  • Lock the doors to rooms, apartments, and cars.
  • At the library: Do not leave valuables unattended, even briefly.
  • At bookstores: Some bookstores ask patrons not to take a backpack or other bag into the store. (The bookstore does this to reduce shoplifting.) These stores provide a place for you to leave your bag or backpack while you are shopping. Do not leave valuables in your backpack.
  • Bicycles: If you park a bicycle outside in Iowa City, be sure you secure it to a bicycle rack with a sturdy lock and chain. You can reduce the chance of losing your bicycle to theft by registering it with the police department.
  • Garments: Winter coats, hats, and scarves are sometimes stolen from coat racks in libraries or restaurants. If you own expensive winter clothing, you may wish to keep it in your sight in public places.


Every year ISSS learns of "scams" that target international students and scholars. A "scam" means someone is being deceptive in some way, usually trying to cheat you out of your money or your personal information. International students are common targets of scams because they are often unfamiliar with what is "normal," or may feel pressured into participating. Only you can ultimately protect yourself from being taken advantage of, but ISSS has created a list of common situations that may help you begin to identify when someone is trying to take advantage of you. Always report these things to the police department in your area. If you are on campus when it happens, notify the UI Campus Police. If you are at home or off-campus, notify the local policy department in the city where it happens (Iowa City or Coralville).

Always remember that scammers count on you to be easily intimidated, gullible, scared, and ignorant of how things "work" in the U.S. (although plenty of Americans fall victim to scammers as well). The best thing you can do to arm yourself is to think critically about your interactions and what people are trying to tell you, don't let fear or sympathy prompt you to do something you would not otherwise do, and don't let yourself feel you have to be "nice" to someone or fear offending them by saying no. Also trust that inner voice that often alerts you when something may be wrong.

Also remember that legitimate groups such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS, for taxes), the Department of Homeland Security (immigration), your bank, and the police department are never going to call or email you and ask/pressure you to provide information such as a Social Security Number or to send them money immediately. When that sort of thing happens it should be an immediate "red flag" (warning sign) to you that something is not right. In such cases, hang up, close the door, or walk away and alert International Student and Scholar Services if you have concerns about whether something was legitimate or a scam.

Phone Scams

You may get a phone call from someone who says they are with an authority such as the police, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or even immigration/Department of Homeland Security. They may indicate you owe some kind of money, and if you do not pay immediately, they will send law enforcement to arrest you, and in some cases that you will be deported. They may threaten or yell at you. In some cases, they may even have basic information about you such as your name, address, even home country. Some phone scams are so sophisticated that they have the technology to make it appear the call is coming from the local police department or other legitimate number, when it isn't, so you can't even completely trust caller ID. The best course of action is to simply hang up. Don't try to engage the person in conversation. Report this to your local police department and also inform ISSS.

We particularly see such scams pop up seasonally, such as during and right after tax season (spring), or during times when immigration is in the news (such as executive orders regarding travel bans), and try to take extra advantage of the situation to help convince people it is real.

Often scammers may find information about you on the internet to make it appear they have access to "protected" personal details. You can at least guard your local home address and/or phone number so that they do not appear on the UI student/staff directory. You may log in to MyUI and go to the section for updating your address. There is a dropdown item where you can choose to make your address, phone, or both private so that no one can get this information from searching the UI directory.

Scams Targeting Family at Home

A recent scam has been reported by international students at the University of Nebraska, as well as in other countries.

A complex new scam is targeting international students and their families.

According to the University Police Department, the scam involves international students being told they are implicated in crimes back home. The scammers coerce victims into a series of actions and threaten to harm family members in their home country.

Simultaneously, family members overseas are informed by the scammers that their relative has been kidnapped and will only be released if a large sum of money is paid. In each case, the scammers communicate with the victims in their native language and falsely claim to be government officials from the student’s home country.

Similar version of this scam have been reported worldwide, including Canada and Australia. Students and family members should know that embassy or consulate officials will not advise of legal cases or seek to verify personal information over the phone.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln administrators are advising students and family members who believe they being or have been scammed to contact university police or a consulate immediately.

In-Person Scams

Occasionally some individuals will target people they believe are international, and may approach you with stories that they are selling magazines to go to college or win a trip, or some other moving personal story that they hope will motivate you to give them money. Don't fall for it. If anyone on or off campus approaches you asking for money, or personal information, don't provide it. If you are interested in making charitable donations, there are many legitimate and reputable charitable organizations in the Iowa City area and ISSS staff can help identify those for you.

Email Scams

Students, staff, and faculty are often sent emails that try to make it appear is coming from the University of Iowa, such as from Information Technology Services (ITS). The email may ask you to log in and reset your password or enter other personal information.

Or the emails may appear to come from a bank, a federal government office (such as the IRS or Department of Homeland Security), or even announce a package coming to you from DHL or another express mail carrier. Always treat unexpected emails as suspect, and as with everything else if you are uncertain, stop by ISSS or Information Technology Services on the second floor of University Capitol Centre to ask them to help you assess whether something is "real" or not.

Another common email scam may come from someone who claims they have "secret" or embarrassing information about you, and that you'll have to pay them money so they will not release it to your family/friends/the public.

Employment Scams

In 2014 ISSS began hearing reports from the Pomerantz Career Center about scams relating to employment offers. Apparently some scammers will search things like LinkedIn and other sites, and target international students by contacting them to say they have a job offer. Often there may be an invitation to meet in person for lunch or coffee. Or there may be a request for you to send them personal information to get the employment process started. Again, never trust these. In some cases they may be attempting to get personal information from you in order to gain financially. In at least one case, the person contacting students was found to be listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.

This is not the typical way that job offers are made in the U.S. You should not respond when contacted, and definitely do not agree to meet the person. If you are uncertain whether the offer may be real or not, contact ISSS or the Pomerantz Career Center. For more information refer to “How to Spot Fraudulent Employers and Postings” on the Pomerantz Career Center website, in particular scrolling down to the section addressed especially to international students.

February 16, 2017 - The University of Iowa learned of a recent court case from January 2017 involving local scams conducted against international students in Iowa City where investment money was taken in promise of helping the students obtain the EB-5 green card. The case, involving New Asian Food Corporation and defendants Jennifer Xie, Mindy Xie, and Bin Yun Sun, was concluded in early January 2017. More information may be found on this Chinese news site or in this translated version. This information has also been verified independently and court details are available on Iowa Courts Online. ALWAYS be cautious if you are being offered unauthorized employment, or opportunities to give someone "investment" money in promise of getting you a green card. Consult an ISSS advisor or an immigration attorney before you take any action.

Scams Related to Sales/Purchases

Refer to this page for specific information on how to avoid scams in prizes, door-to-door sales, telemarketing, Craigslist, and other methods were goods may be purchased.

Emergency Communications and Notifications

Hawk Alert

The Hawk Alert system is used to notify the campus community of threats to physical safety in emergency situations. Please keep your contact information on MyUI updated in order to receive Hawk Alert in a timely manner.

Siren Warning System

Along with the Hawk Alert system, the UI Siren Warning System is essential to providing clear and prompt information to the community in the event of an emergency such as severe weather or violence on campus.

Activities for Spouses

The spouses of international students and scholars are sometimes discouraged by the fact that their spouse is so busy, and that they are left alone for such long hours with little to do. This can be an unpleasant situation for everyone concerned. It can be improved somewhat if the spouse participates in activities of their own and meets people. It is quite possible for a spouse who can manage some English and who is interested and outgoing to become extremely involved in educational and social activities in Iowa City. Here are some possibilities:

International Women's Club

The International Women’s Club (IWC) is a group of women from around the world who meet to share activities that promote intercultural friendships and understanding. Founded over fifty years ago, group activities include: English classes, coffees, cooking classes, and craft sessions; excursions to local cultural events; and special group holiday celebrations. Membership is open to all interested women. If you are interested in joining the club, please see for information on International Women’s Club.

Iowa City Public Library

123 S. Linn Street, 319-356-5200,

Free movies, records, videotapes, and a good selection of books (including some books and many films in languages other than English).

English Classes for Spouses

Iowa Intensive English Program

International Women’s Club

Less formal English classes are available through the International Women’s Club.

Kirkwood Community College Free ESL Program

Kirkwood Community College provides a free informal English language program.

The Center for Language and Culture (CLCL)

Media Library has approximately 3000 titles in the instructional materials collection in both analog and digital formats. In addition, the library has print ancillaries in the form of texts, workbooks and transcripts for some titles. The collection covers a wide range of subjects including language skills, music, literature, art, cultural history and civilization. The languages represented are American Sign Language, Chinese, Czech, English and English as a Second Language, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Zulu. The CLCL’s library holdings are cataloged in a computer database, which is updated often and may be searched from the CLCL website. It is located in 111 Phillips Hall. The Media Center graciously assists students' spouses who want to use the tapes available there even if the spouse is not a student. It is necessary, though, that the spouse go when the center is not busy. It is a good idea to visit the Media Center's director or the supervisor on duty to make arrangements.

Television is a good aid to learning English. Children's programs such as "Sesame Street" on PBS are especially helpful for beginners.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse or “domestic violence” is a crime in the United States. Laws aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence are strictly enforced in Iowa City and on the university campus. If a couple is fighting and the police come to the scene and find evidence of assault (such as a cut, bruise, or scratch), they are required to arrest the attacker and take them to jail for the night. In the morning, after appearing before a judge who sets the date for a trial, the attacker is set free. A "no contact" order is put in place until the trial. The order forbids the attacker from returning home, seeing, talking to, or having any contact with the victim.

Victims of domestic violence may stay temporarily at the Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP), which is a "safe house" in a secret location. It is staffed by counselors who can help the victim and their children (if they have any) remain free of their dangerous situation and make decisions about the future.

The stresses of being a student family in a foreign country can sometimes lead to family violence, and spouses of international students sometimes become victims of domestic abuse. Anyone who feels that they are being victimized by their spouse or a person with whom they are living should seek help immediately. Staff are on duty at the DVIP (319-351-1043, or 1-800-373-1043) 24 hours a day. Advisers at the ISSS (319-335-0335), the RVAP (Rape Victim Advocacy Program, 319-335-6000, or 24-hour hotline 800-228-1625), and the WRAC (Women's Resource and Action Center, 319-335-1486) are committed to helping international student spouses who find themselves in abusive situations.

Iowa is located in what is called the North Temperate Zone, where there can be considerable seasonal--and even daily--variation in the weather. The coldest temperature on record for Iowa City was –32ºF (-36ºC) on February 13, 1905; the hottest recorded temperature, according to the KCRG TV station's web site, was 109ºF (43ºC) on July 14, 1936. Many international students and scholars come from areas with less variation so it may be necessary to adjust wardrobes for the changes in the Midwest climate.

Efforts to introduce the Celsius scale in the U.S. have not been successful so temperatures are normally given in degrees Fahrenheit. The formula for converting a Fahrenheit temperature to Celsius is ºC = (F-32) x 5/9. Today, the temperature conversion can be done quickly by using a smart phone app, or doing a quick search on an Internet browser of your choice.

People living in Iowa are advised to check weather reports each day to get notice of expected conditions and changes. Visit local TV or radio station web sites/ phone apps for the most current weather updates:,, or The Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper web site or app has a very thorough weather reporting as well. Severe weather in diverse forms--heavy snows, high winds, ice storms, thunderstorms, high heat and humidity, tornadoes, and on some sites even high allergy or pollution alerts--can come at various times of the year. Being prepared with appropriate clothing can reduce your discomfort and provide safety during harsh weather conditions.

NOTE: The University of Iowa uses a campus-wide alert system - Hawk Alert, which in addition to reporting violent incidents includes sever weather warning. All students are highly encouraged to subscribe to this alert system which delivers text/SMS or email messages to you in case of a weather or other emergency on campus.

Dressing for Cold Weather

The cold weather during Iowa winters often comes as a shock to visitors from warmer climate countries. Low temperatures are made even more uncomfortable when the wind is blowing. During cold weather you will hear reports about the wind chill factor. The wind chill is the temperature of still air that would have the same effect on exposed skin as a given combination of wind speed and air temperature. The lower the air temperature and stronger the wind, the lower the wind chill factor.

Wind chill factors below -30ºF are relatively rare but they do occur. Radio and television reports warn listeners of dangerous wind chill conditions and when it is best not to go outside. Most of the time you can go outside if you dress appropriately. Here are some suggestions:

  • Wear several layers of lighter clothing rather than one or two very heavy layers. Several lightweight, loose layers will keep you warmer than one heavy layer because air trapped between the layers will be heated by the body and serve as insulation. Clothes with a lining are warmer than unlined garments because of the additional layer. Another advantage to wearing several layers of clothing is that extra layers can be removed indoors, where rooms may be quite warm.
  • Choose warm fabrics. The type of fabric used in a garment can also affect its warmth. More absorbent fabrics, which allow perspiration and body moisture to evaporate from the skin, keep you warmer. Natural fibers such as cotton and wool are the most absorbent and therefore the warmest fibers. (The fiber content of a garment is printed on a label attached to each garment sold in the United States, so when you are buying clothes, you can see what they are made of.) The weight of a fabric is not necessarily related to its warmth, but its thickness is. Thickly constructed fabrics (knits; pile fabrics such as fake furs; quilted, laminated or bonded fabrics; and thick tweeds) provide greater insulation and thus keep you warmer. Jackets filled with goose down, originally worn mainly for winter camping and hunting, have become very popular in recent years. Although very lightweight, they provide more warmth than jackets made of heavier materials.
  • Select clothing designed for cold-weather use. Garment design also affects insulation. Tight clothing does not keep you warmer. It actually inhibits blood circulation, so the body cannot warm itself as efficiently, and also provides less chance for warm air to be trapped in the clothing for insulation. However, garments should fit tightly at the wrists, ankles, neck, and waist to prevent warm air from escaping. Ribbed or buttoned cuffs are warmer than open sleeves; turtleneck collars are warmer than open collars; knee-high socks or tights are warmer than ankle-length socks; thick-soled boots are warmer than shoes; pants are warmer than skirts. A belt at the waist or a tucked-in blouse or shirt helps trap warm air at that area of the body.
  • In general, it is prudent when you must be outside during very cold weather to leave as few areas of the body exposed as possible. On very windy winter days, it is advisable to wear slacks rather than skirts, a long coat rather than a short jacket, and gloves. It is essential to keep your head and ears covered and to wear a scarf covering your mouth and nose. Remember that ears are easily susceptible to frostbite (damage to skin tissue due to freezing).

Countering Dry Skin Problems

Many people suffer from (or are at least annoyed by) dry, possibly itchy skin during the winter, because they spend time in rooms filled with air that has been dried during the process of warming. In the dry air, the skin loses its natural moisture. To counteract the discomfort of dry skin, consider getting a humidifier, a device that puts moisture into the air in an enclosed space. Apply a moisturizing cream/ oil to your skin after bathing. Use a hand lotion several times daily. Some lotions contains medications such as dimethicone which help with itchy, dry skin. Aloe vera, shea butter or other natural-ingredient based ointments/ lotions can be very effective too.

Walking on Ice

Walking on ice-covered surfaces is dangerous. It is common for people to slip on the ice and fall down. Broken wrists and ankles sometimes result. To minimize the chance that you will slip and fall on the ice, follow these suggestions from Dr. Nancy Hamilton, published in the University of Northern Iowa's "Words of Wellness" newsletter:

  • Take shorter steps.
  • Keep your body upright when you walk.
  • Keep your weight centered over your feet.
  • If your balance feels uncertain, bend your knees slightly.
  • Choose your footwear carefully! Wear low, rough-soled shoes. Crepe shoes, waffle shoes, or ridged soles are some suggestions.
  • Watch where you are walking. Areas that get a lot of morning shade tend to be icier than sunny areas. Also, watch for areas where ice is melting. The one thing more slippery than ice is ice with a thin coat of water on it.
  • Avoid hard packed snow. Fresh snow acts like sand to increase friction.
  • If you do start to fall, bend your knees fast and pull your arms in. You want to fall in a tucked position, like a ball, rather than all spread out like a board. Trying to stop your fall with your hands is one of the most common causes of broken wrists.
  • Plan to take a little longer to get where you are going. Maintaining control of your body is easier at slow speeds.


Tornadoes are powerful, twisting, wind/ hail storms that can measure up to several hundred yards (or meters) in diameter and may produce winds of more than 300 m.p.h. (500 km/h). These storms usually occur in the spring and early summer and can be very destructive and dangerous. When the National Weather Service issues a tornado "watch" it means that weather conditions are reasonably likely to produce tornadoes. Tornado watches are broadcast on all radio and television stations (as suggested earlier). A tornado "warning" means that a tornado has actually been spotted/ seen or touched ground in the area. The sirens of the Iowa City Severe Weather Warning System will sound continuously for three minutes following issuance of a tornado warning. The system is tested for 15 seconds the first Monday of each month. If you hear a tornado warning, immediately seek shelter as indicated:



Permanent major structure

Lower corridors, other areas without windows or outside doorways

Temporary or residence type structures

Nearest major permanent structure or the most protected area of the basement; avoid locations below heavy appliances

Hawkeye Drive or Hawkeye Court apartments

Basements of Hawkeye Drive buildings; bathrooms of first-floor Hawkeye Court units

In a car or outside

Always abandon your car. Take cover in a ditch or low-lying area. Protect head with pillow or hands.

Summer Time Air Conditioning

Using/ blowing cooler air during the hot and humid summer weather, typically after the outside temperatures reach at least 70ºF and more, is very common in many parts of the United States. The state of Iowa is known for hot and humid summer days too so many University campus buildings use automated air conditioning system. This is often controlled centrally and many times may not be adjusted individually by individuals for a particular office area. Some apartment buildings or older campus buildings use window air conditioning units which can be controlled. Air conditioning helps keep the humid air under control and from seeping into the offices. Since this air tends to be much cooler than the outside air temperature, the only solution for adjusting to it is to wear a warmer outer layer such as cardigan, light jacket or similar apparel.