Please visit the Office of International Students and Scholars website for general information about preparing for your arrival to USD. In addition, you may reference our New International Student Handbook for specific information about housing, transportation, banking, etc.
All Exchange and Free Mover students must have a J-1 Student Visa in order to attend classes at USD. A Form DS-2019, issued by USD’s Responsible Officer (RO) will be sent to the student after acceptance. Students will need this document to complete their J1 Visa application and appointment with the US Embassy or Consulate.
For more information about the J-1 student visa, please see the Office of International Students and Scholars Information for J-1 Students page.
Course Selection and Registration
Exchange and Free Mover students should work closely with their academic advisor at their home university to determine which USD courses fit best with their academic plan.
Undergraduate Course Catalog/Course Search:
Utilize the undergraduate course catalog to find information about class descriptions and prerequisites. Once you have determined courses that you would like to take, conduct a course search by semester to determine if the course(s) will be offered during your term of study at USD.
PLEASE NOTE:Pre-requisites of USD courses must be respected. Students will not be enrolled in classes if they have not completed the prerequisite (or equivalent). When conducting a search select “Co- & Pre- requisites” under Display Options to view prerequisite requirements.
Undergraduate courses are indicated with course numbers between 100 and 499. Undergraduates may not take classes with course numbers of 500 and higher.
Lower Division (1st and 2nd year): 100 -299
Upper Division (3rd and 4th year): 300-499
Graduate Courses (not for undergraduates): 500+
Some recreation classes may be taken for credit, others are just for fun. Examples of recreation classes are Surfing, Sailing, Dance, and Marital Arts. For a full list please see Campus Recreation Course Website.
Exchange students are welcome to enroll in recreation classes but should be aware that additional fees (typically $50) usually apply. Students will not be registered in recreations classes by their USD advisor but will be given instruction on how to register themselves upon arrival.
Course Load per Term
Undergraduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units (typically 4 classes) at all times.
Normal Course Load: 15 Credits (5 classes)
1 Course = 3 scholastic credit hours (SCH)
1 SCH = 15 contact hours
USD Exchange Program Advisor will enroll students in academic classes (not including recreation classes). Students are not guaranteed enrollment in the courses listed on their Learning Agreement. Listing 10-12 classes (approved by the home university) on the Learning Agreement is recommended. Changes will be made on a very limited basis but are not guaranteed.
Students must arrange their own housing. Assistance will be provided with on-campus housing. Students who choose to live off-campus will be responsible for making all arrangements independently.
Applying to live in on-campus housing is recommended. We have found that students who live on-campus have had a much easier transition to life in San Diego. When comparing the cost of on-campus housing students should consider the amenities, which make on-campus living a very economical and practical choice. Students who live on-campus will have the advantage of a furnished apartment/dorm room, wireless Internet upon arrival, and on-site laundry facilities.
Residence halls are just a short walk to classes, campus dining facilities, the library, gym and the Student Life Pavilion. Students who live on campus will not necessarily need to rent a car to efficiently get around on a daily basis. USD also operates a Tram Service; an on-campus service that shuttles students to various stops around campus.
On-Campus Housing Application Process
Students will not have access to the housing application until they have been officially accepted by USD and have created their USD email and MySanDiego accounts. More information about housing options and the on-campus housing application will be sent following student’s completion of the exchange student application. On-campus housing is limited, thus students who wish to live on-campus are encouraged to complete the housing application as soon as they are given access.
Typically exchange students will have roommates who are American students and can help them integrate into the USD community.
Information about renting off-campus accommodations (including information about neighborhoods in San Diego, what to look for in a rental, etc) can be found in our International Students Handbook. Students may also visit our Facebook page to connect with other students and community members about off-campus housing opportunities.
On-Campus Dining/Meal Plans
USD has a variety of dining facilities on campus and students. Visit the USD Dining Services web site to see all dining options.
MEAL PLANS ARE OPTIONAL. Students can use cash and credit cards at all dining facilities, or electronically add money to their USD student ID cards (“campus cash”, see below). Student who plan to eat on campus often may choose from number of meal plans to best suit their needs. Costs range from $200 to $1,996 per semester.
Students are encouraged to wait until they arrive at USD to decide whether or not to purchase a meal plan. They will have time to purchase a plan or make changes to their meal plans during the first week of classes.
Health Insurance Requirement
All international students and scholars on a J-1 visa are required by federal law to carry health insurance for themselves and their dependents for the duration of their program.
Students have the option to purchase health insurance through USD. Details (cost and summary of benefits) will be provided to the student prior to arrival. The insurance premium is automatically added to your university bill at the time of registration during each semester. Payment for the insurance premium is due upon arrival through the One-Stop Student Center.
View health insurance requirements, cost, and benefits summary on the Office of International Students website.
J-1 students and scholars that already have health insurance that meets USD's standards may opt to waive the university health insurance plan. Please refer to this page for health insurance waiver requirements and instructions.
NOTE: Even if you have already filled-out USD's online waiver, you are still required to provide proof of insurance when you meet with OISS for check-in.
Please refer to the following guidelines to check for the type of information your insurance paperwork must have:
- Include effective dates of coverage (starting and ending dates)
- Include maximum dollar coverage for each sickness and injury
- Include outline of covered services
- Include list of excluded services
- Include insurance company contact information in case of emergency
- Explicitly state provisions for medical evacuation and repatriation
For questions on the health insurance requirements and online waiver, please feel free to send us an email.
Airport pick-up is not provided by USD. We recommend students take a taxi to campus or their off-campus residence when they first arrive. A taxi ride from the San Diego International Airport to the USD campus should cost approximately $20.
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System: http://www.sdcommute.com/
Public transportation in San Diego is not very extensive. It is possible to get around the city using public transportation, but not always the most convenient.
We do not recommend students purchase a car if only staying in San Diego for one semester. However, students may want to rent a car. The car rental company listed below is recommended by the USD International Center based on past experience.
Dirt Cheap Car Rental
4420 Pacific Highway, San Diego
Phone: (619) 234-9300
Students who wish to park a car on campus must purchase a parking permit. Please visit the USD Parking Services web site for information.
MySanDiego is an online portal for students to use to access information such as USD email, class schedules, event calendars, student account billing, and other student resources. All exchange students will be given instructions about how to open a MySanDiego account and USD email account after they have been officially accepted by USD.
International Buddy Program
The International Buddy Program originated in the International Center as a student mentor program designed to help international students who are attending the University of San Diego ease into student life. This program is committed to pairing international students with a committed, domestic USD student who can help them adjust to living in a new city and connect them with local students. The goal of the International Buddy Program is to enrich the international student’s experience abroad and to create a truly global community.
If you wish to request a Buddy, please contact the USD International Buddy Program.
Please see the Office of International Students and Scholars Resource page for more information about life at USD and in San Diego.