*Sidekick (noun, informal): a close friend or assistant, who accompanies another on adventures. Some famous sidekicks include Robin (Batman’s sidekick), Ron and Hermoine (Harry Potter’s sidekicks), Woodstock (Snoopy’s sidekick) and Joe Biden (Barack Obama’s sidekick).
Graduate Sidekicks are current international and American graduate students at Northwestern. Not too long ago, they were new graduate students themselves, so they understand what you are going through. They are here to help you, answer your questions, and accompany you as you begin your adventures at Northwestern!
Learn more about the Graduate Sidekicks below. Email the Sidekicks at NUInternationalOffice@gmail.com with your questions today! Sidekicks will respond to your email within one week.
**Please note: the Sidekicks have been advised to focus on sharing their experiences. If you have admissions or financial aid questions, please contact your academic program. If you have immigration/visa questions, please contact your IO Advisor**
A sidekick hopes to help you feel supported, informed, confident and independent as a Northwestern graduate student.
To meet the Sidekicks, visit here.
Reblogged from Northwestern International Student Orientation’s (for undergraduate students) blog:
"All four of the main cellphone providers are available within walking distance of Northwestern—Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Additionally, there are several different types of plans you can choose from: family, individual and prepaid.
Carrier pricing and coverage:
Coverage in Evanston is generally good, though some buildings such as Tech have close to no signal. AT&T, however, recently improved coverage in Tech, so if you’re an engineer or science major you might want to consider that. The wireless internet is more or less useable from any part of campus, so you probably won’t need your data plan much while you’re on campus, especially since 4G doesn’t cover all of campus, but do get more data if you plan to travel to Chicago a lot. T-Mobile generally has the worst coverage, while Sprint has the best, but T-Mobile is also generally the cheapest and Sprint the most expensive. Verizon is also fairly costly, while AT&T is closer to T-Mobile.
With family plans, you typically share calling minutes with several other people, though some plans also have you sharing messages and data. These plans are generally the cheapest and also the most annoying to set up, as multiple phones have to be set up, and splitting the bill is confusing at first. Verizon and Sprint allow up to ten people in one family plan; T-Mobile and AT&T allow up to five. As far as I know, T-Mobile has the cheapest family plans (as low as $20 for each person), and international students typically shy away from Verizon and Sprint because a ten-person plan is too difficult to manage. Family plans are usually a two-year contract, paid on a monthly basis. I personally am on a T-Mobile family plan with four other people for ~$25 per month, and we share 1000 minutes (which we never finish because minutes are free when calling during off-peak hours such as the evening and also between other T-Mobile users), unlimited messaging, and 2 GB of data each (which I have never used more than 800 MB of).
For individual plans, you choose a combination of minutes, messages and data (for example, unlimited minutes, unlimited messages and two GB of data) and pay a fixed amount per month based on the combination you chose. These are also usually two-year contracts, and tend to be the most expensive. Advantage is you don’t have to worry about messy bills, and you don’t have to find other people to set up a plan with.
Prepaid plans are not contract-based, and are instead by month, day or minute. You can pay a fixed amount per month for a fixed number of minutes/text/data. Day plans are similar, but for a fixed number of days. Other plans involve paying for each specific minute/message/megabyte, such as ten cents per minute/message and twenty-five cents per megabyte. Monthly prepaid plans are probably the cheapest individual plans, and can be as low as ~$30. If you don’t use your phone much, a prepaid plan by minutes might be good for you, but the bill piles up pretty quickly if you do use your phone often. And for some carriers, you also get billed for each text message you receive. I spent three years on a T-Mobile minute-based prepaid plan, and it was fine when I didn’t use my phone much, but there were also times I burned through $100 in a month.
If you have a carrier-locked phone and don’t want to bother with switching phones when you come to the US, you can get it unlocked in your home country (it’s illegal in the US now) so you can just insert a new SIM card and start using it. If your phone isn’t carrier-locked, then all you need is a US SIM card. You can also purchase a new phone for fairly low prices—ie, $200 carrier-locked iphone with two year contract. There are also usually “activation fees” involved.
Here’s another resource you can use: ISA Setting Up A Phone"
Having a local bank account is important to transfer money and make payments. There are two kinds of basic accounts: a checking account and a savings account. Usually a checking account is essential for you to deposit and withdraw money or write checks to make payments. The checking account comes with an account number which identifies your account and a debit card which you can use it to get access to your checking account and manage money. Sometimes, it is helpful (but not necessary) to have a saving account, which provides higher interests.
It is up to you which bank to choose. Basically there are four good choices for you in Evanston. US Bank, compared with other three banks, is a rather small one, which only has branches in the Midwest of USA. But US Bank is the only one that has a branch on the Evanston campus in Norris University Center (the Northwestern student center) and you can use your Wildcard as a debit card to withdraw money from the US Bank ATMs around the campus. The other three larger banks are: Chase Bank, Citibank, and Bank of America. All of them have branches nearly all over the USA and provide good customer services. Citibank is the only international bank, which is convenient for international money transfer. Chase also provides many good credit cards as well as perks, and has the most ATM locations in the Chicago area.
When opening the account, you need to take your passport, I-20 and some cash with you (apartment lease or electric statement to show the residence is needed sometime). Usually you can start make use of your account just after opening it and receive the debit card in one week.
It is better to open a student account. You need to make direct deposit every month or keep certain balances if you open a regular account to waive the fee. And you can ask the bank clerk whether there are some offers that provide bonus money when opening an account. If it is not a student account, you will also be asked to filling the W8-BEN form (for foreigners) later to waive the tax withholding.
When choosing to open an account at one bank, you actually start building a credit relationship with it, which can help you if you want to get a credit card. For example, it is much easier to get a credit card issued by Chase if you have its checking account. When you have limited credit history, it is not probable to be approved for most credit cards. However, you can start with some student credit cards (including the US Bank student card and Discover it card for students). You can find many good introductory passages to apply and manage credit cards online.
US Bank: 1999 Campus Dr, Evanston, IL
Chase Bank: 1603 Orrington Ave, Evanston, IL
Citi Bank: 817 Church St, Evanston, IL
Bank of America: 1336 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL
When you go shopping, take a cab or eat in a restaurant, you will find the final amount you need pay is higher than the sticker price. Why is it? The reason is that the sticker price does not include tax. You will need to pay the tax separately. However, in many other countries such as China, the sticker price includes tax so you just pay the amount you see. The General Tax is 9.25% (e.g. eat in restaurant), and Food and Drug Tax is 2.25% (e.g. supermarket).
In the US, it is a custom to leave a tip for those who serve you, because the income of many of them comes from the tip they earn. Occasions when you need to leave a tip include eating in restaurant, taking a cab, and staying in hotel. If you pay by credit card, you will have the receipt on which you can write down the amount of your tip and the total price. You can round the total off. For instance, in a restaurant, if the price is $13.66, you write $2.34 for the tip and make the total $16. If you stay in a hotel, you are supposed to tip the housekeepers and bellmen.
United States: Tipping & Etiquette provides some tipping situations common to travelers:
Here is the picture from Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping that gives you a sense of how much you should tip in different situations. In this article, you can also find quite a few interesting facts about tipping in the US.
Foreign Driving License
Illinois law allows students to drive on a valid license from their home state or country under the following conditions:
If you have permanently moved to Illinois from another state or country, your non-Illinois driver’s license is valid for 90 days. You must obtain an Illinois license within that 90-day period or when the driver’s license expires, whichever comes first.
Each U.S. state sets its own laws regarding driving so if you plan to drive through other U.S. states, you must be sure that your foreign driver’s license will work there as well.
Illinois Driver’s License
International students who would like to obtain an Illinois Driver’s License have two options:
Please note that there is no such thing as an International Driver’s License, but there is an International Driving Permit which is issued in your home country only. The International Driving Permit translates your license to make it easier for U.S. officials to read, but by itself doesn’t give you permission to drive.
State of Illinois Driver’s License
A driver’s license is an official document which states that a person may operate a motorized vehicle (motorcycle, car, truck or bus) on a public roadway. As most citizens of the U.S. possess a valid driver’s license, it has also become a standard form of picture identification.
To apply for an Illinois Driver’s License, you must visit a Secretary of State Drivers Facility (also called DMV for Department of Motor Vehicles). An appointment is not required. The closest facility to Northwestern University is located at 5401 N. Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60630 (for other locations, see: http://www.ilsos.gov/facilityfinder/facility). Expect to be there for a few hours, and try to avoid peak times if possible.
You will need to bring the following documentation with you:
When you apply for an Illinois Driver’s License, at the DMV you will be required to take:
Illinois Rules of the Road contains information on driver’s licenses, traffic safety issues, and general information regarding Illinois traffic laws and ordinances. In particular, it is important to read the chapter on Driver’s License Exams to find out what you will need to know for the written exam and road test. Illinois Rules of the Road is available online at http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/pdf_publications/dsd_a112.pdf.
In the United States, citizens are able to register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license. This is called the “Motor-Voter Act.” You may be asked about registering to vote while you are at the DMV; it is very important that you do not register to vote. When you register to vote you are stating that you are a U.S. citizen; if you are not a U.S. citizen, you will be committing voter fraud and will be deportable from the United States!
Temporary Visitor Driver’s License
A Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL) is issued by the Secretary of State’s Office for non-U.S. citizens who are living temporarily in Illinois and cannot get a Social Security Number. A TVDL is issued for the purpose of driving a car. It is different from Illinois Driver’s License because the words “Not Valid for Identification” appear on the TVDL.
A TVDL is issued for a maximum of 3 years or the period of time a non-citizen is authorized to stay in the U.S., whichever period is shorter. Please note: Applicants for TVDL must be authorized to stay in the U.S. for at least one year and must have at least 6 months remaining on the authorized stay when they apply for a TVDL.
To apply for a TVDL in the State of Illinois, you must also visit a Secretary of State Drivers Facility (also called DMV for Department of Motor Vehicles).
You will need to bring the following documentation with you:
The examinations are the same as for the State of Illinois Driver’s License.
Illinois State ID Card
If you do not need to drive in the United States, but want a form of identification that is easier to carry than your passport, you may apply for an Illinois State ID Card by following the application instructions listed above for obtaining a driver’s license (without the examinations, of course). The fee for an Illinois State ID Card is $20.
For more information about Driver’s Licenses, Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses, or Illinois State ID Cards, please visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com.