International Studies Abroad

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Pre-Arrival Guide

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General Information

Please visit the Office of International Students and Scholars website for general information about preparing for your arrival to USD. In addition, the International Student and Scholar Handbook is a great resource for your pre-departure planning. This handbook covers topics such as finding a place to live in San Diego, purchasing or renting a car, opening a bank account, etc.

Student Visa

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.

The USD Exchange Program Advisor will enroll students in academic classes on a space-available basis based on the “Learning Agreement" completed by the student and approved by the student’s home university advisor. Accepted students should click here for course selection instructions.


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.

On-Campus Accommodations

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.

Students will be given access to the online housing application once they are officially accepted by USD. 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.

Off-Campus Accommodations

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 J-1 exchange students and visiting scholars must demonstrate health insurance coverage for their time at USD. Please refer to the Health Insurance section of our website for more details about this requirement.


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.

To learn about transportation options during your time in San Diego, please refer to page 14 of the International Student and Scholar Handbook.

Public Transportation:

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System:

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.

Car Rental:

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


Parking Permit:

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 Portal

MySanDiego is an online portal designed for students to access information such as the USD email account, 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 to the Exchange Program at 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.

Additional Resources

Please see the Office of International Students and Scholars Resource page for more information about life at USD and in San Diego.