Get ready -- your adventure to study in California is about to begin!
Here’s some helpful information as you make plans to arrive in the United States: packing and what to bring, navigating airports, and what to expect when you arrive. (For the steps to take before you arrive, check out the Visa Information section.)
What to Bring
Once you have decided upon a school, it’s time to start planning what you’ll bring. But how do you plan for an entire year to fit in a suitcase? Don’t worry — it’s possible!
Because California is such a huge state, the clothing you’ll need will vary depending on where you’ll be attending school. Here are a few general tips.
Southern region (San Diego or Los Angeles) — the weather is the warmest in the entire state, and spring and summer-weight clothing are common year-round.
Central Coast region (Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo) — plan for moderate weather all year, not too hot, not too cold. Winters can be chilly with rain, but rarely very cold.
Central Valley region (Sacramento or Fresno) — expect moderate or cool weather in the winter (and don’t be surprised by the thick fog that can cover the valley in the winter months) and hot weather in the summer.
Northern region (San Francisco and Shasta) — closer to the coast, you’ll find cool, rainy winters and moderate summers (San Francisco’s famous fog is often more dense in spring and early summer). Further inland, and depending on elevation, winters can be cool with rain, or cold and lots of snow! Summers are generally moderate, getting hotter as you go inland.
Be sure to check out the Maps & Regions page for more information on the area you’ll be living in.
Traveling light is always a good idea, so how do you decide what to bring for an entire year of studying in your new California school?
If you can plan to pack everything into a carry-on and a checked bag or two, you’ll be in good shape. Concentrate on filling your luggage primarily with mix-and-match clothing to get you through two or three weeks of outfits. You can fill in gaps and have fun shopping for new clothes once you arrive.
Be sure to leave room in your luggage for mementos and special items from home, like a couple cherished photos, small artwork, traditional or local clothing, and items unique to your city or culture. It will be fun to share these with your new friends as you compare what life is like where you’re from.
When you arrive in California, part of the fun of exploring your new city will be shopping for the necessities of student life: lamps, small furniture, kitchen items, coffee maker, rugs, etc.
Chances are, you’ll first arrive in California at one of nearly 150 airports throughout the Golden State.
From the two major international and transcontinental airports — Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) — to smaller international, municipal and regional airports, you’re likely to find an airport near where you’re arriving.
Below is a list of the state’s largest airports, from northern to southern California:
And once you’ve arrived, you’ll discover that California is a big place. During school breaks or for quick getaways, you may choose to fly to different places throughout the state. For more on in-state travel, check out the Getting Around section.