Convinced? Here's some preparation tips for coming to the US
How to get to Madison
The best and recommended way to reach Madison is to fly into O'Hare International Airport, in Chicago. You can take the Van Galder Buses which ply between O'Hare airport in Chicago (Terminal 5E International Pickup Point) and the Memorial Union (UW Campus) in Madison. The cost of the ticket is around $25
The next best way is to fly into the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison. Call a cab from the following operators: Badger Cabs (608) 256 5566 (or) Madison Taxi (608) 255 8294 (or) Union Cabs (608) 242 2000 to reach your destination.The cab ride will come to around $25.
Once your travel plans are finalized, kindly fill in the new student Travel Information form at the IGSA website as soon as possible.
Keep your travel documents and academic documents in your cabin baggage. Be sure to have your passport, I-20, admission/offer letter, funding letter (if any) on person. Make sure you have your host's address, phone number, contact person's phone number and some loose change (at least $5.00 in 25 cents) for making phone calls. Keep phone numbers of friends and the IGSA contact persons handy. You would have already received an email regarding course registration. Enroll for at least one course in order to get your UW identity card when you come here. Do not worry too much about the courses you register for initially. Usually you can add and drop courses till the end of the first week of classes.
Things to bring
Check the TSA website for detailed instructions on prohibited and allowed items. Also check with your airlines for luggage allowances.
Clothes: Weather in Madison is generally divided into Summer (DRY; 25C to 32C), Spring/Fall (RAIN; 0C to 25C) and Winter (SNOW/WIND; -30C [rarely] to 0C).
One set of formal wear is recommended. Casual wear (usually tees and jeans), about 12 sets of undergarments and socks are recommended. Bring towels, napkins, leather belts, a good water-proof jacket with hood (a winter jacket in India that you can use in fall and spring here), handkerchiefs, and traditional Indian dresses. One sweater, muffler/scarf, wool/leather gloves and woolen cap. As far as outdoor winter garments (heavy jacket, winter gloves, boots etc.) are concerned, it is better to buy them here as the Indian ones are not sufficient for the Madison winter. Double bed sized bed sheets, big pillow covers, shawl/light blanket (for spring/summer use) should be brought along. It is more convenient to buy a comforter for winter use once you get here rather than bring a blanket from India. Recommended footware include flip-flops/floaters for summer, sneakers for general use, one pair of formals (get formal shoes from India. Very expensive in the US). Snow boots can be bought in the US for very cheap. Note: Indian clothes (particularly cottons) have a tendency to shrink when washed in a washing machine here, so please be careful with sizes. 1-2 sets of thermal underwear (woolens/synthetic) are also recommended. Rmember to get basic personal hygeine/grooming/make-up stuff. Get hair oil also if you use it.
Kitchen Stuff: Basic cooking/serving utensils should be brought along. These should include a non-stick pan
and/or tava, a pressure cooker along with spare gaskets and safety valves (big enough to cook for at least 3
people). It is optional to bring spoons, forks, knives and tea strainer. It is better to buy microwavable plates,
dishes, bowls, cup/mug etc. here. Bring condiments and spices (small quantities of standard masalas, sambar and curry powders). Indian stores in Madison are VERY well equipped, and you get almost all Indian stuff here. You may want to bring special homemade spices. Do not bring fresh fruit/non-prepackaged stuff as this may cause you problems at customs. Generally, you can ask for used utensils from seniors who are leaving.
Books and Stationary: Books related to your field (preferably in electronic form*), relevant class notes, a
calculator, pencils and refills, good pens, eraser, highlighters, and a backpack are recommended. Glue, tape,
staples, paper clips, rulers, notebooks, loose sheets/binders, etc. are cheaper in India. If you are joining one, most research labs will have common stationery available for your use. Textbooks are very expensive here (even used ones)! Find out which students are working under the same advisor to figure out what excactly to do. This could be arranged by the contact person per dept. Also, the libraries here have extensive collections of textbooks, which you can borrow from for whole semesters.
(* IGSA does not encourage you to download electronic books illegally off file sharing websites. It is unlawful!)
Medicines: You should bring all the Homeopathic/Ayurvedic medicines that you require. Medicines with
prescriptions for standard minor ailments like fever, head-ache, cold, cough, antibiotics (under direction from a
doctor), stomach-ache, nausea, antiseptic cream, pain-balm, nutrient supplements, band-aids, etc. are
recommended. Also personal medication (if on any) and medical history papers should be brought. Spare
eyeglasses/contact lenses/cases/solutions/prescription are also recommended. A complete medical checkup and
eye test done before getting here is recommended. Again, pharmacies here such as Walgreen's are well equipped with standard medications. Antibiotics cannot be bought over the counter though, and is available only under consultation with a doctor.
Note: Follow UW rules for immunizations. Have a prescription handy for all the drugs you bring. However, the
customs official could still throw out your medicines.
Other essentials: Needles and thread, buttons, a small toolkit, photos of deities (if religious-minded), family
photos, umbrella, music/movie collection, software collection, ethnic stuff (gifts/personal use), etc. An up-to-
date address book of all your acquaintances/friends/relatives in the USA - Canada region. Keep contact numbers of IGSA and University persons handy.
Electronics: Bring your laptop/memory sticks/SD cards/hard disks/media players/cameras/chargers/blank
DVDs, etc if you have them. If you don't have them, it is usually far cheaper to buy them in the US. Several
online and brick-and-mortar stores offer huge sales (Back to School Sale, Thanksgiving, Christmas Sales) and
offer steep discounts on many electronics and clothes/accessories.
Money: Bring sufficient money for the travel (about $50-$100 in small bills + $5-$10 in quarters). For stopovers while coming to the US (Heathrow, Frankfurt, etc), there will be Forex services in the airport for local currency if you wish to spend money at the airport. However, these do charge steep exchange rates. Even if you come with funding, your first paycheck will only come after ONE month. So bring sufficient money for the first 1-2 months of your stay in the US. Traveller's checks are the most convenient and safest way to bring cash. Traveler's checks can be cashed at any bank/at the Union. If you have an International Debit/Credit card
(expenses paid in India), bring that along. For housing you'll be required to pay rent for one month in advance, in addition to the first month's rent. Average rent for an apartment with a shared bedroom in Madison is about
$300-$400. You will also need some initial settling down expenses. Roughly you will require $1000 to $1500 for
the first month. For those of you who are curious, the minimum living cost of an Indian in Madison will be in the range of $850 per month (Rent: $350, Internet: $25, Phone: $45, Electricity: $15, Groceries: $200, Segregated Fees: $200). Shopping, travel, eating out, entertainment, etc will add to the expenses.
("Exit 263 John Nolen Dr" photo courtesy: Vasishta Ganti)