Office of Multicultural and International Student Life
The Office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs provides leadership in the University’s effort to support students of underrepresented populations and international students, inform the University community of the values of multiculturalism, and assist in encouraging a campus environment that is conducive to diverse student learning.
The purpose of the office is to amplify the academic, social, and cultural development of students as well as plan and implement programs that facilitate opportunities for self expression and cultural harmony.
Multicultural Advisory Board
The Office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs provides leadership in the University’s effort to support students, inform the campus community of the values of multiculturalism, and assist in encouraging a campus environment that is conductive to diverse student learning. The purpose of the Multicultural Advisory Board is to create diverse learning experiences through cultural programming at FMU. The board, made up of faculty, staff, and students, is open to all who wish to increase cultural awareness at FMU. If you are interested in joining the FMU Multicultural Advisory Board, please apply when applications are accepted.
The Francis Marion University community offers a welcome environment for international students. The Multicultural and International Student Affairs (ISA) web page will assist international students in arranging for travel to the United States, planning for their stay at Francis Marion University (FMU), and taking advantage of the services provided by FMU.
International students entering FMU as degree seeking or international exchange, receive support from not only the coordinator, but from faculty and staff members outside the Division of Student Affairs. The coordinator and the dean of students provide information and guidance regarding immigration documentation, foreign work permits, and general counseling.
The transportation system in the United States is quite different from that in most countries. Most Americans own cars, which are the most common form of transport. In South Carolina, the public rail and bus system is not extensive. Because FMU is a rural campus not served by public transportation, the International Student Affairs Office provides an occasional shuttle service to various locations in town, including banks, shopping centers, and other needed services. Additionally, the ISA Office sponsors periodic trips to locations of interest and entertainment in the area (examples include Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA, two historic U.S. cities within 2-3 hour drive).
A valid driver’s license is needed to drive a car. Each state in the United States issues its own driver’s license. To obtain a driver’s license in South Carolina, international students are required to demonstrate knowledge of the state traffic laws, pass an eye exam, and pass a driving test. Additionally, drivers must maintain appropriate insurance coverage on their vehicles which can be quite expensive.
To apply for or renew a driver’s license, or to change the local address listed on a current South Carolina Driver’s License, the following documents are needed:
• Passport with I-94 card and visa
• I-20 form
• Certificate of enrollment at FMU which lists the student’s current, local address. (Certificates of enrollment are available at the FMU Registrar’s Office.)
• Social security card
• Certification of residence (such as a copy of a utility bill or a housing assignment card from the University).
• Current driver’s license from home country.
Some countries and territories have reciprocity, an agreement, with South Carolina. This reciprocity means that these countries have driver licensing standards equal to or greater than South Carolina. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, you do not have to take the knowledge or skills tests to exchange your license for a South Carolina license unless your license has expired. These countries currently include Canada, France, Germany, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
More information about South Carolina motor vehicle regulations can be found at www.scdmvonline.com.
General Academic Information
The undergraduate bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, each year typically known as the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years of undergraduate study. The academic year includes the Fall Semester (Mid-August through early December) and the Spring Semester (Early January through early May). Academic course loads during the Fall and Spring semesters average 15-17 hours, which is 4 or 5 classes and a lab. Additionally, three academic terms are held during the summer months (Late May, June and July) and students may take one or two courses during these terms. More information is available from the FMU Admissions Office on these issues.
New Student Orientation
Orientation is a term used by U. S. institutions of higher learning to describe a formal program of introduction to the institution. At FMU, Orientation is a program specifically designed to assist the parents and families of our newest students in their transition to Francis Marion University.
You will be provided with information about the resources and services available. This information will help you succeed at Francis Marion. Most international students choose to participate in the Orientation program scheduled immediately prior to the first week of classes in August or January. During the Orientation program, students will become familiar with the academic requirements and register for classes.
Please note that ALL incoming students must participate in a New Student Orientation Program. Additional information about Orientation may be found at the FMU Web Site.
Course registration for a student’s initial term of enrollment at FMU typically occurs during their Orientation program. Registration for future semesters usually occurs during the preceding term in accordance with the following information.
The Registrar is responsible for the management of the registration process by which students enroll in classes. Registration procedures for each term are described in the schedule of classes for that term and on the University’s web site.
Each student should meet with his or her faculty adviser to select courses to be taken. The student may enter his or her schedules via the web, in their academic adviser’s office or in the Office of the Registrar. Students must confirm schedules and pay fees in the Cashier’s Office.
Through the registration process, students assume academic and financial responsibility for the classes in which they enroll. They are relieved of these responsibilities only by formally terminating enrollment by dropping or withdrawing in accordance with procedures and deadlines specified in the schedule of classes each term. Please remember that International Students must maintain a full-time course load to maintain legal status in the U.S.
Expectations concerning attendance, participation, involvement and other important issues may vary from class to class. It is important for all students to develop a clear understanding of the expectations in each class. To assist with this, course instructors provide a “syllabus”, which is a course outline containing course objectives, material to be covered, schedule of assignments, examination dates, textbooks, the instructor’s contact information, and general course expectations (attendance, participation, and other issues).
It is important for students to seek assistance if experiencing difficulty. Instructors typically maintain scheduled “office hours” during which they are available to students, and will often schedule appointments to discuss student concerns. A common mistake among international students is failing to seek assistance from their course instructor. In addition to individual assistance, the instructor may refer the student to other University academic resources, including the Tutoring Center (a service in which students may receive assistance from upperclass students with assignments), the Writing Lab (a center located on campus that provides free assistance for students with writing assignments), or study groups (typically these are informal and organized by students taking the same class).
Preparing for FMU and the United States
Health Requirements, Immunization, and Insurance
International students are required to complete a health history form, supply dates of previous immunizations, and have a current PPD, which is a TB skin test. The current immunization form must be presented to FMU Student Health Services before the student will be allowed to register for classes. This form is sent to all students when they are accepted at FMU. A full listing of the required immunizations is available from the FMU Admissions Office.
Health insurance is mandatory for all international students. If this insurance is not obtained before arrival at Francis Marion University, the student will not be allowed to register for classes and pre-registered courses may be dropped.
While FMU does not have a preferred insurance carrier, students may acquire insurance from the following vendors and services, depending upon their needs and requirements. International Students are required to maintain certain levels of insurance coverage as indicated below.
General health insurance may be purchased through the national Health Insurance Marketplace at: www.healthcare.gov . Students should explore their options carefully as coverage, premiums, and eligibility varies. International student health insurance must meet the minimum requirements as indicated by the U.S. Government. These requirements include:
Students with a J-1 Visa:
$100,000 or greater major medical benefit (per accident or injury).
$25,000 repatriation benefit.
$50,000 medical evacuation benefit (to his or her home country).
Medical deductible not to exceed $500 (per accident or illness).
Students with a F-1 Visa:
$50,000 or greater major medical benefit (per accident or injury).
$25,000 repatriation benefit.
$50,000 medical evacuation benefit (to his or her home country).
Medical deductible not to exceed $100 (per accident or illness).
If an international student has insurance that meets these requirements, they must submit a copy of the policy coverage and proof of validity (in English). Students may acquire insurance coverage from the following vendors:
Health Insurance Marketplace
Compass Benefits Group
The Harbour Group
Items to Bring
Climate and Clothing Needs: South Carolina has warm/hot weather from May to October, with temperatures usually ranging from 50 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 38 degrees Celsius). Cooler temperatures, ranging from 20 to 70 degrees F (-7 to 21 degrees C) usually occur from December to March. Students will need a heavy jacket during the winter months. Most students will purchase additional items for inclement weather (such as umbrellas, raincoats, etc.) upon their arrival.
Personal Items: Most students like to bring typical examples of art, crafts, traditional dress, photographs, tapes, maps, or other items descriptive of their country and culture to show interested Americans and provide a touch of home decoration to their new homes. Students may want to bring items they regularly use that may not be readily available, or may be more expensive in the United States. Examples include cameras, watches, personal electronics, or items available mainly in their home country.
If living on campus, basic furniture is provided in campus residence halls and apartments, but bed linens (twin long), blankets, pillows, and towels are not provided. If possible, students should bring a light blanket, a bed sheet, sheets and a towel. If that isn’t possible, you should plan to purchase them before moving into the residence hall. The ISA Office will provide transportation to local merchants to make such purchases.
Items not to Bring
You can obtain a booklet on U.S. Customs regulations at the consulate or embassy where you acquire your visa. Prohibited items include open containers of food, narcotics, agricultural products and goods for resale. Required textbooks and supplemental reading materials are available for purchase or in the University library. You do not need to bring books used in previous study.
It is best to purchase electrical appliances after your arrive. Appliances manufactured outside the United States may not work with our electrical system. The United States electrical system is 110 volts.
Until you have a mailing address in Florence, you may have your letters (not parcels) mailed to you in care of the:
Office of International Student Affairs
Francis Marion University
PO Box 100547
Florence, SC 29501-0547
“Hold for Arrival” should be marked on the envelope. The University cannot be responsible for any mail.
If living on campus, students may receive mail in a box assigned to them and packages may be received at the FMU Housing Office. Specific mailing addresses are sent with student housing assignments. Once you receive your specific mailing address, please use it for all written correspondence.
Students living off campus may consider renting a postal box at a local U.S. Post Office upon their arrival. While there is no post office on campus, the ISA Office will arrange for weekly trips to a post office during the academic year.
Traveling to the United States
International students must arrange for transportation to Florence, South Carolina between 2 and 4 days prior to the beginning of classes. If requested at least two weeks in advance, the ISA Office will arrange for transportation from your arrival point in Florence (usually the Florence Airport or Bus Depot) to the FMU Campus.
Transportation: If you come directly to Florence from any U.S. port of entry, you will save money if you purchase a domestic travel ticket with your overseas flight. Otherwise you will need extra money in U.S. dollars to purchase an airline or bus ticket to Florence. Exchange rates and U.S. taxes generally make it more expensive to buy tickets after you arrive.
Before buying an airline ticket, you should shop for the most economical fare. Some national air carriers offer student rates, and organizations often contract with travel agents for group rates. Bookings for discount fares usually must be made several months prior to departure. The Council for International Education Exchange (CIEE) arranges trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific passage for groups and individuals.
CIEE also sells the International Student Identification Card, which provides for reduced air, bus and train tickets; accommodations discounts in major cites; discounts for certain services and shopping, and traveler’s health and accident insurance for the duration of your trip. Travel arrangements through the CIEE are optional, and are not required by FMU.
Luggage and Baggage
Please do not send baggage or packages in advance of your arrival because the University does not have storage facilities for luggage, trunks, or packages.
Regardless of cost for excess weight, most students find it better to bring all personal baggage on the plane (check with your travel agent or airline for size and weight limitations) rather ship it separately. Students shipping items separately may require the services of an agent to arrange for U.S. Customs clearance and forwarding of unaccompanied parcels. Such services are expensive and result in considerable delays. Once you arrive, you may receive packages and parcels if you are living on campus.
Many students find it more convenient to exchange their local currency for U.S. dollars before their departure. It is important to not travel with large amounts of cash, due to the danger of loss of theft. If students anticipate bringing large sums of money to the United States, they should consult with their bank about the safest and most convenient means of carrying and transferring funds. Some students make arrangements for funds to be transferred in U.S. dollars to a U.S. bank before they arrive in the U.S., and that money is available immediately upon arrival. Foreign currency is not available in most U.S. cities, and all local businesses (including FMU) accept only U.S. currency.
Students arriving in the U.S. should have sufficient funds to cover expenses until they arrive on campus. The amount depends on individual travel plans. Most students choose to use traveler’s checks, which may be obtained at banks or travel offices and can be cashed by most businesses, including hotels, restaurants, and airports. Most vendor’s in the United States also accept major credit cards, such as Visa or MasterCard.
It is also advisable to carry a small amount of cash – at least one hundred dollars in paper currency and two or three dollars in coins for bus fares, telephones, baggage, lockers and tips.
Arrival at the University
Students are expected to arrive at the University no later than the arrival date specified on your I-20 form. There will be an Orientation program to become familiar with the campus and its resources. Students need to secure housing, get settled in, and learn about University procedures and regulations, register for courses, recover from travel fatigue, and begin the transition of life in a new environment and cultural setting. See the section on Traveling to the United States for more information.
Many international students choose to live in campus housing. By living on campus, students will have ready access to the library, computer center, the student center, sports and recreation facilities, dining hall, and academic buildings. Most important is the increased level of interaction with faculty, staff, and other students.
To live on campus, students must complete the FMU Housing Application and return it with the appropriate deposit as indicated in the acceptance letter received from the Admissions Office. International students must arrange for housing prior to their arrival in the United States. The FMU International Student Affairs advisor can assist students with information about their campus housing assignments. More information about student housing at FMU can be found at www.fmarion.edu/housing/.
Currently, FMU does not offer assistance with off-campus housing for international students. If students choose to live off campus, they should take great care when choosing a residence facility. When choosing an apartment issues that should be considered include cost, proximity to campus, and safety. A “lease” is a binding contract between the student and the property owner, or landlord. When a student signs the lease, they are obligated to pay the landlord monthly rent for the duration of the lease, which is quite difficult to break prior to the ending date. Students should never sign a lease unless they are completely satisfied with the apartment and surrounding property, and when they understand all the terms of the lease. Students who choose to live off campus should be aware that there is no public transportation available to transport them to and from campus or other locations.
Banking and Finances
Most international students choose to open a bank account with an American bank. To open an account, students should bring their student identification, passport, and funds for deposit. Banks offer many different financial services. Students may wish to compare the services and costs of several banks before choosing one at which to open an account. A checking account will permit you to write checks to make purchases and pay bills. Most retailers will accept a personal check on any U.S. Bank as long as you can show proper identification (passport, student identification card, or driver’s license). By using checks, it is easy to keep records of your purchases and payments. A “debit card” allows you to withdraw or deposit money to your bank account using an automatic teller machine (ATM) and to make purchases at stores that accept the card. Most students choose to use a major credit card (such as Visa or MasterCard), which is available in some countries prior to arriving in the United States.
At the beginning of the semester, the ISA Office will provide transportation to local banks to assist the student in opening an account if desired.
Employment opportunities for foreign students are limited BCIS regulations and are available only to students who have maintained their immigration status and academic standing. F-1 students may work on campus without permission from the INS or the office of International Student Affairs. F-1 students may work on campus no more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session. During the vacation periods and academic breaks, you may work full time (40 hours) per week on campus if you are returning to classes the following semester.
Generally, international students with an F-1 visa may not work off campus. There are situations in which students may apply for permission to be employed off campus. To do so, the student must consult with the ISA Office for more information. Please note that permission to work off campus is often refused, and the application process may take many months.
Social Security Number
A Social Security Number is an identification number issued by the United States Government for tax purposes, and is often used by various entities for identification. A social security number is often requested of individuals seeking to open a bank account, apply for a driver’s license, register a motor vehicle or complete a tax form. You do not need a social security number to open a bank account even if the number is requested and expected of a U.S. citizen.
However, you will need a social security number if you will be employed and paid by a U.S. employer. To apply for a social security number, students must go in person to the Social Security Administration Office in the McMillan Federal Building in Florence, SC. Students will need their passport, I-20, and a letter from the ISA Office. During the first week of classes, the ISA Advisor will coordinate transportation to the Social Security Office for those who expect employment. In some cases, it takes several months to receive a Social Security Card after submitting the application.
It is normal to have some ups and downs during the period of transition to a new culture. Culture shock occurs at a different rate for difference people, and may build up gradually. Everyone experiences culture shock in different ways. The most effective way to combat culture shock is to step back from a given event that bothered you, assess it, and search for an appropriate explanation and response. Try the following.
1. Observe how others are acting in the same situation.
2. Describe the situation; what it means to you, and your response to it.
3. Ask a local resident or someone with extensive experience how they would have handled the situation and what it means to the host culture.
4. Plan how you might act in this or similar situations in the future.
5. Test the new behavior and evaluate how well it works.
6. Decide how you can apply what you have learned the next time you find you find yourself in a similar situation.
7. Ask the Office of International Student Affairs for the names of other international students that may have experienced these feelings and seek their advice.
Throughout the period of cultural adaptation, take good care of yourself. Read a book or rent a video in your home language, take a short trip if possible, exercise and get plenty of rest, write a letter or telephone home, eat good food, and do things you enjoy with friends. Take special notice of things you enjoy about living in a host culture. If experiencing difficulty with the transition, international students should consult with the ISA advisor as soon as possible.
Francis Marion University
Office of International Student Affairs
Office of Student Affairs
843-661-1231 or 1-800-368-7551
Emergencies (FMU Campus Police)