Skip to content

Arrival Information and Orientation

Exchange students are required to attend all of the International Student Orientation organized by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). During the multi-day orientation, you will meet other exchange and international students, go through immigration processing, complete a health screening, learn about campus resources, and more. The orientation starts up to 10 days before the start of the semester. A specific arrival date is available below and will also be provided in your acceptance letter from admissions.

Exchange students are required to attend all of their orientation. It is expected you will arrive in the United States by your reported arrival date at the latest. If uncontrollable circumstances will require you to arrive later, please contact your exchange coordinator and the Office of Admissions at 

January Entry 2021 (Spring semester or Calendar Year students)
  • Undergraduate Students: January 19 - January 21 (Arrive No Later Than January 18). 
  • Graduate Students: Graduate Student Orientation: Scheduled sometime between December 22 - January 22 (Arrive No Later than January 21, though arriving by January 18 is recommended)
    • Typical International graduate students do not attend the same orientation as undergraduate international students, instead there are more independent orientation sessions. Graduate exchange students are encouraged to arrive by the undergrad arrival date and participate in the whole orientation though, including social activities and sessions for exchange students. Graduate exchange students who will not be able to attend the regular undergraduate orientation should let their exchange coordinator know. 

August Entry Orientation typically starts up to 10 days before the start of the semester, and some new exchange students may choose to arrive before that day when housing may not yet be available. Temporary housing for fall orientation is available for students who arrive before they can move into their on-campus housing is available.

January Entry If your permanent residence is not ready by the time you arrive in Ames, Best Western Hotel is offering reduced room rates from December 18th, 2020 to January 31st, 2021. New international students may reserve rooms under ISSO’s name to receive the reduced rates of $79 per night for a king room and $89 per night for a double queen room. To reserve your room, please contact Deann Malfero, the Assistant Manager at Best Western Hotel, at 515-296-2500 or You must reserve your room with Deann directly to get the reduced rate. Booking from alternative third party websites may cost you more. Alternative and independent arrangements can be made through Airbnb or hotels in Ames.  

Students who are coming to ISU starting in the fall semester (either fall semester students or Academic Year students) who live in ISU housing will be able to move into their housing before the official move in day. This is called early check-in and will be during orientation. For each day you are in housing prior to the official move in date, there is an additional cost. This cost has not been released for Fall 2020 but it was $25 for Fall 2019. In Fall 2019, exchange students ended up being charged for 3 days of early move-in which was $75.

There are multiple ways you can get from the Des Moines International Airport to Ames and campus.
Executive Express - (recommended)
The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) collaborates with Executive Express, a local car service company, to provide all incoming international students a FREE shuttle service from the Des Moines International Airport to Ames, Iowa. Each student is allowed to have two pieces of luggage and one lap item when traveling. Any additional luggage will be $15 per bag over allowed amount; personal items that can fit on your lap are not to be included in the luggage count.

To register for a free shuttle, you must email Cyndy Thayer, the manager for Executive Express, at by Sunday, December 20th at 11:59 PM. Registration after December 20th may require additional fees at cost to you. In the email to Cyndy, you must include the following information:
  • University ID number
  • Phone number (if applicable)
  • Date of travel
  • Time of arrival in Des Moines
  • Airline carrier name
  • Arrival flight number
  • City that you are arriving from
  • Drop off location in Ames
At a later date, you will be contacted by Executive Express with details about your scheduled shuttle service. *Note: You may be sharing transportation with other incoming international students who share a similar arrival time to your own.

Drop-Off Location: If staying in temporary housing, select "Orientation Housing" as the drop-off location. If staying at an alternate location, select "Home Drop-Off" as your drop-off location.
Uber or Lyft
Uber and Lyft are popular modes of transportation for international students. To use Uber or Lyft, down their mobile application(s) on your phone. You will need to set-up payment with your credit card information. Once the app is set up on your phone, you can request pick-up from your current location to your destination in Ames. Price can vary depending on the day/time, but is typically around $90 USD (including tip).
You can find the queue for taxis directly outside of baggage claim. The price can vary, but anticipate around $100 USD (excluding tip).
Arrive with US Dollars
There are no currency exchanges at the Des Moines Airport, so you must have at least $200 US dollars with you when you arrive in Des Moines (in $20 bills or smaller) for meals and local transportation. If possible, you should obtain some US dollars in your home country before traveling to Des Moines. You may also exchange money when you first arrive in the US at your first Port of Entry (i.e. Chicago, LA, New York, etc).

Delayed luggage
Because of the large number of connecting flights students may have in order to reach Des Moines, it is not uncommon for baggage to get delayed en route. We suggest you bring at least an extra day's worth of clothing and any essential personal items (medications, etc.) with you in your carry-on luggage in the event that your luggage gets delayed. Pack all of your immigration documents in your carry-on luggage as well. 

Special instructions for luggage: Please put your name and Iowa State University in English somewhere on your luggage. This will help us locate any luggage that is lost or delayed.

ISSO New Student Orientation

Click here for all the information on Orientation including transportation to campus, housing during orientation, the schedule, FAQs, and more