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International Student Services

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Pack Intelligently

Traveling from your home country all the way to USC is an intense experience! Plan ahead and make sure you are only bringing the necessities with you when you pack your suitcase. You will need to think carefully about the things you absolutely need to bring with you and the things that can stay behind. Our students have shared some useful pointers about packing and traveling to USC.


Many students choose South Carolina because of the warm and beautiful weather. Columbia has a humid subtropical climate with mild winters. Did you know the city's current promotional slogan describes Columbia as "Famously Hot”? Most years, we don’t even have snow.

So, what clothes should you bring? First, you should know there are 4 distinct seasons. You can experience 4 seasons in a year in Columbia. It is a big campus, so sometimes it takes 20 minutes or more to walk to class and different activities. We recommend packing the following clothes:

  • comfortable shoes and clothes,
  • athletic clothes for extracurricular activities,
  • some business clothes class presentations

You cannot pack your entire closet when you travel, so make sure you pack smartly. Clothing that will last you 2-4 weeks is good enough. You will most likely shop for everything when you arrive in Columbia. The shopping mall is only 20 minutes away and International Student Services offers weekly shopping trips to places like Target and Wal-Mart. The USC bookstore also has many types of clothes with the USC logo. Most international students choose to shop online through Amazon and other websites like Asos which offer 2-day-shipping.


Toiletries, sunglasses, a towel, and a backpack are essential to bring when you first come so that you can use them right away instead of waiting for the first shopping trip to the grocery store or the mall. Again bring enough supplies for 2 weeks.


Do not bring electric appliances like a hair iron or dryer if you have to use a power adapter. A year on an adapter is not a good idea. These types of appliances can easily be purchased at one of the drugstores (such as Walgreens or CVS) that are located within walking distance of USC's campus.


Bring anything you cannot live without. If you have a prescription for medication, make sure to bring a version that has been translated into English. 

Other types of medicine, such as flu medicine, allergy medicine or vitamins, can easily be bought at USC's bookstore or a nearby drugstore. If you want more information about this, please visit Student Health Services.


Take some time to review the TSA approved food list. There are some kinds of food that you are not allowed to bring into the United States. Know which foods are permitted to avoid being stopped at the airport for bringing food that is not allowed.

Remember, there are plenty of international markets in Columbia, where you can get most of the spices, rice, and sauces you need, so don’t worry!

Dining Plan Options

Many international students at USC choose a Dining Plan option for their first semester. Dining plans provide on-campus food to students throughout the day at a variety of on-campus restaurants. For students who prefer not to cook, there are many restaurants and fast-food options in the Russell House Student Union as well as the surrounding Columbia area. Many restaurants are well within walking distance of campus and the On-Campus Dining Options offer a wide variety of cuisine. Make sure to review the meal plan options at USC and determine whether this is the best option for you.


A laptop computer or tablet will be useful the first few days to keep in touch with family. Wireless internet is free around campus. However, be aware that when you arrive it can take some time to setup a U.S. cell phone and find a suitable carrier.

Additional Packing Tips from Our International Students

  • Pack shoes first, then clothes, then toiletries and irregular shaped items in middle for protection.
  • Wear your winter coat and boots on plane to save packing space.
  • Keep important immigration documents (i.e. passport, visa, I-20) and airplane tickets in a bag that you’ll bring on plane. Most airlines allow 1 carry-on bag and personal item free on the plane.

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