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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 and Ames, Iowa 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 Arriving later due to less expensive flights or wanting to visit other US cities first are not excuses for not arriving in Ames by the arrival date 

Graduate Students: Typically international graduate students who are receiving a full degree from ISU do not attend the same orientation as undergraduate international students, instead there are more independent orientation sessions. Graduate exchange students are expected and 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 2024 (Fall semester or Academic Year students)
  • Arrival Date: Arrive no later than August 13.

    Orientation starts August 14. We recommend not arriving on campus too much earlier than August 13, 1-2 days should be enough if you do want to arrive at ISU early.

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. Temporary housing in the fall is $25 per night.

More information can be found on the ISU’s Department of Residence Early Arrival webpage .

January Entry: Students are recommended to stay in a hotel in Ames for the few days between their mandatory arrival date and the move in date in January. Students will receive more information after being accepted, but we encourage students to prepare several hundred dollars to help pay for this hotel room during this time.

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 of $25 per day that will be placed on the U-Bill for the fall. Exchange students coming in the fall that are living in campus housing should budget for several hundred dollars for these and temporary housing expenses.


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. Students should refer to the Next Steps Guide they are provided prior to arrival for further details.
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. This website will continue to be updated as there is new information to share.