Mentoring Service for New Iranian Students
Each fall, ISA organizes a voluntary pick-up and mentoring service for new Iranian Penn Staters. ISA officers will try to match you up with a graduate student mentor, preferably from your academic department, who will give you a ride from your arriving terminal (state college airport/ bus station) to your apartment/temporary housing. Your mentor will be available to familiarize you with Penn State and life in State College, and help you settle down during the first week of your arrival. If you are interested in this service, please send us your name, PSU ID, department, arrival date, and point of entry. An officer will get in contact with you shortly. Also note that this service will be provided to the extent of our available resources.
We look forward to welcoming you to Penn State!
Some information will follow that might be helpful to those who are moving from Iran to State College:
The first step will be to get to the United States of course. You will need to consider a few trade-offs. The options, although changing constantly, are as follows and each option has its own advantages/disadvantages:
- Iran Air (via London or Paris or other destinations in Europe): Relatively inexpensive but it’s IranAir! Some students do like it.
- Emirates (To New York (JFK airport) or Washington DC (IAD) via Dubai): A reliable airline. They don’t have the most professional crews but they are very friendly. This is particularly important when you have a little extra weight on your luggage. Its normal baggage allowance is 2 pieces of 23 Kg (50Ib) each.
- Qatar Airlines (To Washington DC (IAD) via Doha): Reasonable pricing; its normal baggage allowance is two pieces, with 23 Kg each.
- Turkish Airlines (To New York/DC via Istanbul): Relatively inexpensive, one of the best service quality in the world, and this flight is also a very good option because of the number of luggage they allow on their American sister flights (two 23 kg pieces). In other words, with necessary arrangements with certain American airlines, you would be allowed to carry additional luggage on your domestic flight to state college. This is also a relatively convenient flight for those students traveling from cities other than Tehran the capital.
- Other European Airlines (i.e. Lufthansa): A little expensive but reliable. These airlines can also book your connecting flight to State College (the airport code for State College is SCE), whereas many other airlines usually do not offer this service. European airlines usually allow you to take one piece of baggage up to 23Kg weight. Extra baggage will be charged at a relatively high rate. Please note that policies of European airlines change frequently and they might not offer any flights to Iran when you need them!
When you get to the US, the next step would be to arrange your trip to State College. That is if you do not have a direct connecting flight to State College (SCE). You have a number of options here:
- Bus: There are a number of bus companies operating in this area, one of which is Greyhound. It has bus services to State College from Washington DC, New York City (NYC), Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other major cities in the Northeast. One disadvantage is that a 4 hour trip usually takes up to 7-8 hours because of multiple stops and bus changes in cities along the way. The fare is about $50 from Washington DC or New York City to State College. Another bus company is Megabus which runs several daily buses to State College from Philadelphia and New York, with an average ticket price of $30. It can reach as high as $70. You will probably end up paying more than just one ticket fee because the ticket price includes only one piece of luggage and one carry-on. If you schedule your trip relatively early, you might be able to find fares as cheap as $1. Dragon Delux is another company which has services from New York to State College. The ticket price is around $30 per person one-way, and the trip takes approximately 4 hours. Also note that all of these bus companies have their terminals located in the city (and not at the airport). You may need to get a cab or use other airport transportation services to arrive at the designated bus station.
- Plane: State College has a relatively small cozy airport, although it is an international airport. The Airport Code is SCE. Connecting flights into State College are provided by several major U.S. airlines (United Airlines, USAirways, and Delta Airlines), and a flight would typically cost about $400 in high seasons. Flight into SCE is a convenient option especially if you don’t know anyone in the U.S. and it is your first time traveling to State College. However, you might have to purchase the ticket separately, since most international airlines will not book it for you. There are a number of websites (i.e. Kayak) that would take care of that for you. If you are going to choose this option, make sure the layover (between your arrival and departure) at your first port of entry in the U.S. is sufficiently long to allow for the special registration process and/or a possible change of terminals within the airport (minimum of 4 hours?). U.S. airlines do not have a free baggage allowance, and you will need to pay $25, $60, or $185 for one, two, or three pieces of luggage, respectively.
- Car: By checking http://pennstate.craigslist.org/rid/, you might be able to share a ride with someone who will be traveling to State College from NYC or Washington, DC on the same day. The way it works is that you would contact the driver to arrange the pickup at a location that will be convenient for both of you. It might also be possible for the driver to pick you up at the airport and then have you share the travel expenses.
State College Transportation System
One of the good things about State College, compared to some major cities in the U.S. is that it has a comprehensive and highly reliable public transportation service. During the Orientation week, DISA (Directorate of International Student Advising) will provide you with an ample amount of information on how to get around in State College using the CATA Bus. You can find more information about bus routes and schedules at http://www.catabus.com/. For those of you who are wondering how life would be without a car, we have to say that you can get by without a car (especially during the first year, while you are adapting to the new environment); if you schedule your rides with CATA. After that, you can either purchase a bicycle, which is a common means of transportation in and around campus, or start to look for a car with a reasonable price; assuming that you don’t plan to live downtown/near campus. Here, information regarding Housing in state college will follow.
Finding a place to live in State College can be really DIFFICULT! It’s turning out to be easier with the new complexes being built but apartments generally get rented out very quickly, and by the time you get here, most of the more affordable and hassle-free accommodations will not be available. One option for graduate students would be to rent a unit at White Course Apartments (on-campus graduate housing), which is not really recommended. It’s quite expensive for what you get. You can find more information about White Course by referring to your admissions package or visiting their website at http://www.housing.psu.edu/ Generally, graduate students tend to live in apartment complexes that have more graduate students or professionals and fewer undergraduates, because of noise concerns. Here is a list of some apartment complexes that have a large number of graduate student residents (including some Iranian students):
Vairo Village: http://locations.rentberger.com/vairovillage/
Park Forest Apartments: http://www.apartmentsstatecollege.com/property.php?id=47
Copper Beech: http://www.cbeech.com/
Parkway Plaza: http://www.parkwayplaza.com/
Regency Square: http://regency-square.com/
Executive House Apartments: http://www.apartmentsstatecollege.com/property.php?id=46
As a rough estimate, the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in State College is in the range of $600-$900 (depending on the apartment and the location). Pay attention to the utilities which may or may not be included in the rent. You might be liable for an average fee of $30-$40 electricity fee per month. You can contact the landlord for estimates of other possible expenses. Also most landlords would want a security deposit equals to one month rent which would partially (or in full) be returned at the end of your lease. Of course, you can expect to pay less if you choose to have roommates. However, you should be careful in selecting a roommate as you are going to be living with your roommate for one year. So, pick wisely. For more information about off-campus housing, and to search for a place or a roommate, you can visit:
Student Tips for Renting an Apartment
To rent an apartment, you will need to fill out an application form, pay for the application fee, and leave a deposit. If you cannot find a place before your arrival (which is likely), you can stay in one of the University’s temporary housing facilities for around $20/day. For more information, you can refer to:
Food and shopping
If you are a fan of Iranian food, you will have no problem finding most of the ingredients to cook. It might be a good idea just to bring along some dry herbs with you to make it easier in the first few months. Some special ingredients such as Zereshk, Saffron, roasted seeds such as sunflower seeds, and Iranian prunes are sometimes hard to find in State College, but that does not mean you cannot find them. There are many Iranian supermarkets in large cities in the U.S. If you travel to Washington, DC or any other big city, you’ll be able to find Persian food ingredients that you don’t find in State College. There is also a small international supermarket (Tang’s international market) in State College that carries Lavash bread, tea, dried lemon, Kashk, Sugar cube, etc. For those who are concerned with Halal food, there are a couple of Indian, Lebanese and Arab restaurants downtown and also one of the commons on campus (known as Moji Commons at North side halls) that serve Halal food too. Halal meat and chicken is also available at some local stores.
Do not waste your money and/or time buying tons of new jeans or shirts before you leave home. Apparel is less expensive here, especially at the end of the seasons; also common outfit in sometimes different compared to Iran. Just bring enough clothing for the first semester when you will have little time for shopping are not yet well familiar on where to get good deals. Make sure you bring at least one warm coat and some jackets or hoodies, because fall is short and winter tends to be long here. Don’t worry you will survive, we all did! Bringing a scarf, hat and gloves is better than bringing lots of shirts and pants. A winter boot would also be helpful although it would be kind of heavy to bring. During your Orientation program, you can go to some shopping centers around or go to the State College Mall with other new students via the CATA bus. The university volunteer leaders will guide you through this.
Wal-Mart, Target, Giant and Wegmans are well-known chain stores that can provide you with almost all of your needs in State College. They are all on CATA bus routes such as the V and N route. There is also a bigger Wal-Mart store near Nittany Mall, and you will have a scheduled trip during orientation week using the M route. Later, you may also choose to become a Sam’s Club member, if you want to do some of your shopping at lower cost, in larger quantities. Especially for those you will be coming with a number of children.
Finally, make sure to visit the DISA orientation weblog which usually contains useful information for new students: http://issorientation.blogspot.com/
Have a safe trip and looking forward to seeing you soon,