Center for Global Engagement
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Getting Started at North Georgia
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Finances Housing Land and Mobile Telephones Skype and Other Internet Communications Options Safety and Legal Issues Transportation Driving Taxes Illness Academic Integrity Class Expectations
Paper money is available in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, and higher. Coins are available in denominations of $.01 (the penny), $.05 (the nickel), $.10 (the dime), and $.25 (the quarter). There are also a few types of $1 coins that are easily confused with quarters, but these are not in wide circulation.
You will want to open a bank account within a few days of your arrival. There are several types of accounts available. Checking and savings accounts are the two most common ones. A checking account allows you to deposit money and then write a check or use a debit card to pay for your purchases. A checking account may or may not have a monthly fee or service charge, and some checking accounts require you to maintain a certain minimum balance. Also, some checking accounts are interest bearing and others are not. A savings account is a good place to store funds that you do not need to access on a daily basis. Ask your bank clerk for a complete explanation of the types of accounts that are available. Your bank may also offer other services, such as foreign currency conversion, travelers’ checks, bank drafts, and money orders. Money deposited in banks is generally insured for the amount of the account, up to $100,000. For good resources on banking, budgeting and finances, visit http://www.themint.org. To find a local bank, visit http://www.yellowpages.com
Automated Teller Machines (ATM’s) dispense cash, allow transfers, and accept deposits 24 hours a day. ATM’s are accessed by the account holder’s debit card. This debit card allows you to withdraw money directly from your account. If you use an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank, you may be charged a fee for using this service. See http://themint.org/spending for more information.
You may wish to open a credit card account, but be sure to read the fine print, and pay attention to the interest rates that the credit card company will charge you for any unpaid balances. Credit cards allow you to make purchases even if you do not have any money available for that purchase, which means that you are essentially borrowing money from the credit card company. As a result, credit card debt is a big danger, so be careful to keep track of your expenses, and try to pay the balance in full each month. Be aware that it is sometimes difficult for international students to acquire a credit card issued by a US bank. You may receive unsolicited mail from credit card companies informing you that you have been pre-approved to receive a credit card, but most of these credit card companies require US citizenship or permanent residence status to qualify. See http://themint.org/owing for more tips and helpful information.
There are a limited number of on-campus living options currently at UNG. Many international students live off-campus in Dahlonega, Dawsonville, Gainesville, Cleveland and other surrounding towns. If you are interested in living on campus please contact Residence Life at 706-864-1902 or visit their website at: www.northgeorgia.edu/reslife/
Living in an apartment or house off-campus requires that you make a security deposit and sign a lease or rental agreement. A security deposit is usually equivalent to one month’s rent. Paying a deposit means that you have expressed interest in the property and intend to live there. It essentially “holds” the property for you until you move in. The security deposit will be returned to you when you move out, provided you leave the apartment in good condition. When you move into the apartment, you sign a lease or rental agreement. This is a binding legal contract between you and the landlord. When you sign a lease, you are obligated to pay the landlord monthly rent for the duration of the lease. Therefore, before you sign you should be reasonably sure that you can live with your decision for the duration of your lease. Never sign a lease unless you are completely satisfied with the apartment and surrounding property. Sign only when you understand all the terms of the lease. When you sign, you also agree to be responsible for any damages that occur while you live in the apartment or house. You must give 30 days notice to your landlord before you move out, in writing, and you will need to remove your name from the lease.
As soon as you have confirmed where you will live, it is a good idea to immediately contact the local utility providers to set up service for your telephone, water, electricity, gas, and cable or DSL service. In some cases, hook-ups can take up to two weeks, so be sure to take care of this immediately. Utility companies usually charge a fee for connection of services and may also require a deposit, so be sure to ask about any charges or deposits that will be associated with your service. Usually, you will have to make an appointment and be present in your apartment or house when the utility providers arrive to initiate service. If you are not present, the provider will not connect your utility, and you will have to reschedule and be present at a later time in order to have your service connected.
When you vacate the apartment, it should be left clean, including the refrigerator and oven. At the time you vacate, do not leave anything behind and surrender your keys immediately. When you vacate, you must call each utility company and order the service disconnected or be responsible for usage after you leave. You must give a forwarding address for final bills, or go in person to close these accounts.
Renter’s insurance will cover your possessions in the event of theft, fire, flood, or other disaster. This insurance is available for any type of room or apartment you rent. When you purchase this insurance and something happens to your belongings, the insurance company will provide you with full or partial replacement value for your possessions depending on the situation. This insurance is optional, so you might want to weigh the risks and benefits of purchasing this type of insurance. If you have expensive equipment, many valuables, or would rather be “safe than sorry,” you may want to consider purchasing renter’s insurance. This insurance will bring some peace of mind when unforeseen circumstances occur. To find a local insurance provider, you may use http://www.yellowpages.com
NOTE: Due to the wide use of mobile phones in the United States, public phones and phones in residential housing on campus have been disconnected and are no longer available.
If you want to call your friends and family using a land line telephone, using a calling card is probably the most financially savvy way to do so. You can buy calling cards at most grocery stores and convenience stores. There are also several websites where you can purchase calling cards. The websites http://www.callingcards.com and http://www.phonecards.com usually have very good rates for dialing internationally. When purchasing a calling card, follow the instructions. These will tell you the number to call and the authorization number to enter. The time used talking on the phone will be deducted from the card. After each call, you will be told how much money and time is left on your card.
If you want to call collect, dial “0” and the operator should assist you. The option of calling collect is not available to most countries. You may also want to establish an account with a long distance company, so you can dial directly. You may choose any long distance carrier to provide this service to you. Shopping around and calling different carriers may pay off to find the best rate to your country. The following is the procedure for making a direct international call:
1. The international access code is 011
2. The country code (listed in the telephone book)
3. The city code
4. The local telephone number
For domestic long distance calls, dial 1+the city code+ the local telephone number. For calls in Dahlonega, dial the city code and the local telephone number. Local calls are free.
If you wish to purchase a mobile phone, there are various calling plans, service providers, and options available. There are currently four major mobile phone service providers that serve the Dahlonega area: Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T Wireless, and T-Mobile. These providers have both pre-paid/temporary plan options and contract agreement options. Be sure to carefully compare plans before choosing a mobile phone provider. Many of the contract options require at least a one-year service contract and once chosen, the contract is very hard (and expensive) to terminate.
If you and the person you are speaking to both have an internet connection, speakers and a microphone, the most cost effective form of voice communication would be through the use of Skype or an equivalent. Using Skype, both parties can talk for free over their internet connections. You can also call land lines using Skype by setting up a Skype-Out account and pre-paying for phone time. For more information on Skype please go to: http://www.skype.com/welcomeback /.
Also if you are on the internet, you can use one of the many instant messaging services like msn, aim, and yahoo to connect with your family back home and your new friends in the United States. Also, you can use social networking sites like facebook and myspace to stay connected. If all else fails for internet communications, there is also the old standby of regular email.
You will almost always have access to a computer with internet while on campus, even if you do not have your own. Internet communications are a good and cost effective way to stay in touch.
Police in the United States are trustworthy and fair about enforcing laws and procedures. As an international student, you are subject to the laws of the federal US government and the Georgia state government, and are expected to be aware of those regulations. You are also entitled to the same protections as US citizens. If you break the law, you are expected to know your rights and responsibilities. You may want to read and become familiar with the advice offered by the American Civil Liberties Union, available at the following Web site:
Though most safety tips are common sense, it is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Always lock your apartment or car door. Always let roommates know where you are going, what you are doing, how long you plan to be gone, and who is accompanying you. Avoid walking alone at night. Avoid carrying large sums of cash or valuables with you. Do not open the door to strangers. Do not divulge personal information about yourself or where you live to people you do not know. Walk briskly and purposefully when in unfamiliar areas and do not act lost, even when you are. When a situation makes you uneasy or uncomfortable, do not ignore your instincts.
To report an emergency where someone needs immediate help, dial 9-1-1. This number will connect you with emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Tell the emergency dispatcher the exact nature of the emergency, and do not hang up the phone until instructed to do so. Calling “911” will dispatch the police, fire department, or a hospital ambulance. If you need to reach the local police in the event of a non-emergency, simply dial “0” and an operator will connect you. To reach the University Police, dial 706-864-1500. Dialing “911” as a joke or prank is illegal and can result in fines or even criminal prosecution.
Bicycles can be bought new or used through advertisements in the school or local paper, or through local stores.
Some students choose to purchase automobiles. They are a great convenience, but can be very expensive. It is wise to compare base prices, additional costs, and get advice from experienced people not involved in selling cars. Consumer Reports magazine is a good reference on most US and foreign cars and is available at newsstands and libraries.
Used cars are less expensive than new cars, but the buyer must be willing to take the risk of car trouble and repair costs. Any reputable person selling a used car will allow you to take the car to a garage mechanic to be thoroughly checked before you decide whether or not to buy it. Mechanics will charge for this service, but having the car checked is a wise precaution to avoid buying a car in bad condition.
Plan your purchase before you visit a car dealer: the age and type of car you want, price, down payment, and terms of financing. You should make a note of the Kelley Blue Book value of the car, which is the most recognized car appraisers in the United States. When you visit the car dealer, explain to the salesperson that you do not intend to buy a car now, but that you plan to shop around and compare prices. Do not permit the salesperson to urge you to make a quick decision.
Taxis are available in Dahlonega, however, these are not the best choice financially. In Dahlonega, it is hardly possible to hail a taxicab, so calling a taxi company is necessary. When calling, please be prepared to state the exact address from where you wish to be picked up. Please visit http://www.yellowpages.com to find local taxi companie
You must have a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle in the United States. Your international driver’s license authorizes you to drive in the US, but local laws and driving procedures may be very different from those in your home country. You may wish to obtain a Georgia driver’s license.
If you already have a driver’s license, you will be asked to surrender your home country license before a Georgia license is issued. Please contact your country’s embassy or consulate to ask them what the procedure is for retrieving your driver’s license or applying for a new one when you leave Georgia. Please visit http://www.embassy.org for a listing of embassies and consulates in the United States. If you do not have a license, you will need to take a written test and a driving test in order to obtain your Georgia driver’s license.
To apply for a driver’s license, you must also show proof of identification (passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and I-94 card), a social security card or letter from the Social Security Office stating that you are ineligible for one, and proof that you reside in the state of Georgia by showing a utility bill or bank statement, and a copy of your rental contract/lease agreement. If you have all appropriate documentation, you will be required to take a written and road test in order to get a Georgia license. A $20 fee is required at the time the license is issued that is payable by cash, check, money order, Mastercard or Visa. For more information on required documents, go to the Georgia Driver Services page.
You can apply for a driver’s license or state ID at one of these nearby Department of Driver Services locations:
1010 Aviation Boulevard
Gainesville GA. 30501
Tuesday - Friday 8:00 - 6:00
Saturday 8:00 - 12:00Cumming
400 Aquatic Circle
Tuesday – Friday 8:00 – 6:00
Saturday 8:00 – 12:00
In order to operate a car in the US, you need to have car insurance. Georgia requires all drivers to have liability insurance, however, if you limit your coverage to this type of insurance, only the car of the other party with whom you might be involved in an accident is insured. It does not cover the damage to your own car. For this type of coverage, collision insurance must be purchased. Please let your insurance company advise you on what coverage is best for your vehicle and situation. There are many car insurance companies, and you should shop around to get the best rates. To get a better insurance rate, it is helpful to have a Georgia driver’s license rather than one from your home country. Learn more about car insurance at http://www.carinsurance.com. To find a local insurance provider, you may use http://www.yellowpages.com.
All drivers are responsible for knowing the driving regulations of the State of Georgia. You can find out all driving rules in Georgia by downloading the current Georgia Driver’s Manual, which is available online at http://www.dds.ga.gov/drivers/index.aspx.
If you break the law and are spotted by the police, the police officer will indicate that you need to pull over by turning on a siren and by flashing the car’s blue lights. As soon as you can do so safely, pull over to the right side of the road without impeding the flow of traffic or turn into a parking lot. Park the car, but do not get out. Roll down the window when the officer approaches, and be courteous, even if you are angry or puzzled about why you were pulled over. You will need to provide the officer with your driver’s license, proof of auto insurance, and the car registration. If you are issued a ticket, you will probably be subject to a fine, and you may be required to appear in traffic court. If you are issued a warning, you will not need to appear in court or pay a fine, and you should thank the officer for only issuing you a warning.
If you are involved in an accident involving another car, call the police immediately and alert them to the need for an ambulance if you or other passengers are injured. It is best to avoid a confrontation with the other driver, so it might be a good idea to avoid speaking to the driver until the police officer arrives.
All international students in the United States must obey a United States law, which means that international students need to file tax documentation for any year that they were in the United States. Failure to file tax documentation can have a negative effect on a student’s immigration status and may prevent a student from attaining other visa statuses. The international student advisor is trained to aid students with preparing their Non-Resident tax returns and documentation. International students may make an appointment with the international student advisor to do their taxes starting the week after UNG’s spring break in March until April 14th.
In the event that you become sick, it is advisable that you visit the Student Health Clinic located on the first floor of the Chestatee Building. The staff there will evaluate your illness and refer you to a doctor or to the hospital emergency room depending on the seriousness of your illness. An ambulance should be summoned for any life-threatening emergency, the emergency number is 911.
Academic standards and practices are influenced by culture. What is considered appropriate academic behavior in your home country might be different from what is appropriate in the US. The US definition of academic honesty is based on the cultural values of individualism, fairness, the idea that individuals must work independently, using original thinking, creativity, and invention. This means that plagiarism and cheating are not tolerated. Plagiarism is defined as copying the work of someone else and not naming this person as your source. In the US, this will be perceived as an attempt to utilize the ideas or words of another person as your own.
Plagiarism is one of the most serious violations of academic conduct standards in the US. When you are writing a paper you research many sources and then present or summarize other people’s ideas. While writing the paper you must name your sources and identify them when you are using their words and ideas. This also applies to the work of other students. Discussing ideas for a paper with friends is okay, but it is not acceptable to hand in papers that are the same as your friend's paper, or to let someone else write your paper for you, even though the ideas are yours.
Cheating is defined as copying someone else’s work or taking prohibited information or tools to an exam. Be sure that the work you complete is always your own, and be sure to ask about proper citations and references if you do not yet fully understand how to use them.
Your instructor will give you a course syllabus, which contains all the information relevant to your course-expectations, required texts, suggested texts, assignments, exam dates, and additional course requirements. This syllabus is considered to be an implicit contract; by enrolling in the course, you accept the information and schedule that are outlined in the syllabus. Most instructors tend to follow the schedule printed in the syllabus, so generally you can count on the assignment and test dates listed on your syllabus.
Class attendance is usually required and often affects your final grade. It is important that you make every effort to attend class. When you cannot, try to obtain any notes and handouts that were missed during your absence. It may also be a good idea to meet with your professor during his or her office hours after an absence for any material you missed.
Adequate class preparation ensures that you can participate actively and productively in class on a voluntary or compulsory basis. Your professors should be addressed as “Doctor” or “Professor” followed by their last name unless they inform you otherwise. Though lively debate is sometimes the norm in classes that involve considerable class discussions, interrupting someone else while he or she is talking is considered rude, especially if the person you interrupt is your instructor. Looking someone in the eye when you speak to him/her or when he/she speaks to you is important; avoiding eye contact makes people uncomfortable and gives the impression of indifference.
All professors have scheduled office hours during which students can go talk to them to ask questions or discuss problems. Professors encourage students to visit them during their office hours. If you need additional time, you can also make an appointment to meet with your professor outside office hours.