Frequently asked questions: Students

What is the weather like in Columbia?

Columbia, (and most of the Midwest) has four distinct seasons, but please be advised that the weather fluctuates frequently and quickly in Missouri, unlike your home countries where the weather may change more gradually. It is not uncommon for the temperature to change 20 degrees Fahrenheit within a 24-hour period. There is a saying in Missouri: “If you don’t like the weather today, just wait until tomorrow!” You can a find information about average temperatures and precipitation on the U.S. Climate Data website.

What should I bring with me?

Your English

We would like you to challenge yourself to speak as much English as possible while you are here, even to the other students in your program. Why? Because you are coming for an English-only program, and we have seen that the students who choose to speak English in and outside of class are the students who improve the most.

Type A and B plugs with a standard U.S. electrical outlet
Type A and B plugs with a standard U.S. electrical outlet

Laptop computer and adapter/converter

You will have access to the computer labs at MU and there is wireless internet access across campus. Laptops can be used if you bring the proper adapters/converters, but we cannot provide adapters for you. If you choose to bring an adapter/converter for use with any of your equipment, do your research and purchase the correct adapter/converter prior to your arrival in the United States. The U.S. uses Type A (ungrounded/two-prong) and Type B (grounded/three prong) plugs, and either can be plugged into a grounded/earthed outlet. The voltage is usually 120 V. Learn more on the World Standards website.

Other items

If you have favorite medications that you like to use for various ailments, including the common cold and flu, we recommend you bring them with you. You will have health insurance in the U.S., but American health care costs are high. You will be responsible for certain deductibles and payments when receiving health services. Additional items we suggest you bring include:

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination(s), if you have documentation or a card
  • Laptop
  • Mobile phone
  • Towels (bath and hand towels, can be purchased upon arrival)
  • Personal toiletries you may not be able to find in the U.S.
  • Extra contacts and/or eyeglasses (eyeglasses are very expensive in the U.S.)
  • Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications that you prefer for minor issues (headaches, stomach upset, etc.)
  • USB storage devices
  • Exercise clothing (You will have access to the student recreation center — Mizzou Rec — which most students love and visit frequently.)
  • Tennis shoes/sneakers and comfortable shoes for walking
  • Swimsuit (Mizzou Rec has excellent pool facilities, and you must have appropriate swimwear to use the pools. Note that men in the U.S. do not typically wear brief-style/Speedo swimsuits — swim shorts are much more common. It can be difficult to find swimsuits in Columbia, especially in the wintertime and women’s one-piece suits are less common, though you can order them after you arrive.)
  • Indoor slippers (can be purchased upon arrival)
  • Something nice to wear for graduation day or other special occasions
  • Internationally recognized ID (Some students mention that having an international driver’s license is helpful when needing to show proof of age over 21. Many bars and markets will not accept IDs in other languages, and the ID must be officially recognized and have your photo, full birthdate and full name.)

If you are living in the residence halls, review the Mizzou Move-In Checklist.

How can I get bedding for my residence hall room?

Mizzou is offering a bedding bundle through the Mizzou Store that you can purchase and have delivered directly to your room prior to your arrival. The bundle includes sheets, pillowcase, comforter, pillow and towel. You will find this option when you complete the housing forms in the Residential Life portal. You cannot order anything through regular retailers (Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.) and have it delivered before you arrive. Advance purchases must be made through the Mizzou Store only.

What kind of clothing is appropriate?

You do not have to dress up for classes, but you should look nice. Occasionally, it will be necessary for you to dress in business casual attire — this means no jeans, casual T-shirts or sneakers. Therefore, you should have some clothes that are appropriate for a professional environment, such as khaki pants, nice slacks or a modest skirt (not too short). It is completely acceptable for women to wear pants, and especially when it is cold, slacks or pants may be more comfortable. You should also bring comfortable shoes for walking as well as nicer shoes for professional environments and your program graduation.

What should I know about travel to the U.S.?

Remember that you must bring all of your original visa documents with you when you come to the United States. This includes your signed DS-2019 and, of course, your passport. It is imperative that you not lose any of the official documents you obtain upon entry to the United States. This can cause you to be detained or possibly denied entry into the U.S., and we don’t want this to be an issue for anyone.

Should I open a bank account in the U.S.?

Some students have chosen to open bank accounts in the United States, and there are several banks within walking distance of campus for you to choose from. If you do not wish to open an account in the U.S., there are many ATMs on campus and around Columbia you can use to withdraw money from your bank account back home, but you may have to pay a withdrawal fee. Check with your bank at home to find out the best option for accessing your money in the United States. We recommend you have at least one credit card you can use in the U.S. in case you have trouble accessing your home account when you first arrive.

How do I get a mobile phone?

Many students purchase a U.S. SIM card from Mint Mobile or Phone USA. After you arrive in the U.S, you can also purchase a pre-paid phone with refillable minutes. Please note that most large mobile service providers in the U.S. require one- or two-year contracts, but there are other options available. You should also ask around in your home country before leaving for good options.

What about when I’m not eating in the dining halls?

There are a few program-sponsored meals during orientation and graduation, and all field trip meals are included in the program cost. Depending on the dining plan you choose, you might decide to have quick breakfast foods in your room or “on the go.” You can purchase a rice cooker for your room, and you can talk to your roommate to decide if you’d like to share the cost of a small refrigerator to store perishable items.

You will be taken to Walmart and Lee’s Market (small Asian grocery store) right after arrival to buy food and anything else you need. Your first shopping trip will be the day after you arrive, and then we will take you every few weeks to stock up.

What will my housing be like?

Most students will be housed in the residence halls on the Mizzou campus. In most cases, we will work with Residential Life to get all students in halls that are near each other and you will be assigned a domestic roommate. Most residence halls have double rooms (two people per room) and community bathrooms. There are also common areas and lounges for studying and socializing.

What are the health insurance requirements for the University of Missouri?

Health care in the U.S. is a private system and can be quite expensive. To make sure you are able to cover any medical expenses and satisfy legal requirements, MU requires all international students to enroll in the Anthem Student Advantage health insurance plan provided through the university. The cost is approximately $950–$1,150 for a semester program (rates change annually). Shortly before your arrival in the U.S., we will provide more details about how to enroll.

What is tipping culture 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 that offer table service — many food servers depend on tips as an essential part of their wage. Generally, the average tip is 15%–20% of the total meal cost.

Tipping practices can vary depending on the location in the U.S., and even published guidance can vary greatly depending on the source. For example, some Americans don’t tip at a buffet restaurant, but it’s generally good form to tip $1–$2 per person for wait staff just clearing several rounds of plates, or as much as 10% 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 the service being delivered.

Tip jars at carryout restaurants are a recent innovation, and one resisted by many Americans. While one guide advises to tip 10% at carryout restaurants, many American do not tip for carryout, even when a tip jar is present, and tipping at most fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, is not common. Some who do contribute to tip jars put in change or only $1, depending on 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 receive, especially when prompt and exceptional service has been provided. Tipping is the means by which to acknowledge good service.

How safe is it to live in Columbia or travel in the U.S.?

Columbia is one of the safer towns in the U.S., and residents enjoy a high quality of life with a very low crime rate. However, it is a growing community, and it is not wise (here or anywhere) to walk around alone after dark or in areas without many other people. You should never get into a car with someone you don’t know (aside from taxi or a similar driver service), and you should take care of your personal belongings when you are walking alone. In general, you will find locals very friendly and approachable, but you should always be aware of your surroundings when you are here or traveling anywhere unfamiliar.

Can I easily find hot water to drink?

Americans do not commonly drink hot water by itself — most drink coffee or hot tea — and it is difficult to find public water supplies with a heating element for fresh hot water. However, if you are at a restaurant or someone’s home, simply inquire if you could have hot water to drink. Most homes have stovetop or electric kettles, and you may purchase these for use in your home as well. Tap water in the U.S. is safe to drink, though some people choose to drink filtered water — it all depends on your preferences.

Do Americans wear slippers inside?

Most Americans do not wear indoor slippers except in the wintertime. Many people wear shoes inside their homes, and workers who come to do service in your home (electrical, plumbing, cable or internet, etc.) will not take off their shoes before entering the home. If you feel more comfortable wearing indoor slippers, you may take them with you when you go to other people’s homes, and it is acceptable to ask guests to remove their shoes in your home.