FAQs


Contents

  1. 1 Before coming to JHU
    1. 1.1 How and when to apply for the US visa?
    2. 1.2 When should I arrive?
    3. 1.3 Which airport to fly to?
    4. 1.4 How do I get to the campus from the airport?
    5. 1.5 Which mailing lists to join?
    6. 1.6 What to bring?
  2. 2 About Baltimore
    1. 2.1 How is the weather in Baltimore?
    2. 2.2 Is Baltimore safe?
    3. 2.3 What are the Indian restaurants around?
    4. 2.4 Where do I get groceries and other household items?
  3. 3 Getting Around
    1. 3.1 What are the modes of public transport in Baltimore?
    2. 3.2 What is the Homewood-JHMI Shuttle?
    3. 3.3 What is the Collegetown Shuttle?
    4. 3.4 What is the Hopkins Blue Jay Shuttle service?
    5. 3.5 Will I need a car to get around the city?
    6. 3.6 Is an Indian Driver’s License valid/useful?
    7. 3.7 What different campuses does JHU have and how do I commute between them?
  4. 4 Housing
    1. 4.1 Will I be provided temporary accommodation?
    2. 4.2 What are the good living areas near campus?
    3. 4.3 How do I look for roommates?
    4. 4.4 What are the typical rents?
  5. 5 Finances
    1. 5.1 How much money should I bring?
    2. 5.2 What is Social Security Number (SSN)? How to get one?
    3. 5.3 How to open a bank account?
    4. 5.4 How to get a credit card?
    5. 5.5 How much does it cost to live in Baltimore?
    6. 5.6 How much cash do people typically carry?
  6. 6 Health
    1. 6.1 Is it necessary to have health insurance?
    2. 6.2 What are my options for health insurance?
    3. 6.3 Do I need to get Travelers’ insurance?
    4. 6.4 If I fall sick, where do I go?
    5. 6.5 Where can I buy medicines?
    6. 6.6 What medicines should I bring with me?
  7. 7 Academics
    1. 7.1 Where do I buy books?
    2. 7.2 Is there an on-campus facility where I can use the internet and print documents?
    3. 7.3 How do I contact other students in my program?
    4. 7.4 Am I eligible for part-time jobs?
    5. 7.5 How do I find on-campus jobs?

Before coming to JHU

How and when to apply for the US visa?

It is best to apply early for an F-1 visa, as the background checks can take up to 4-6 weeks. Thus, it is advisable to apply as soon as you receive the I-20 form from the University and have all other documents ready. You will need to fill out an online Visa Application Form available at the US Embassy website and schedule an appointment for visa interview.

When should I arrive?

You should try arriving about one to two weeks prior to the day of the orientation. This will give you some time to look for a place to live, find roommates, unpack/purchase things for the apartment and familiarize yourself with the area in general.

Which airport to fly to?

You should arrive at the BWI Airport, as it is the closest to the Baltimore city and is well-connected by public transport. Avoid booking flights flying to Dulles International Airport as it is much further away and can cost almost $100 to get to Baltimore from there.

How do I get to the campus from the airport?

Students are encouraged to book tickets together. From the airport, one can avail shared shuttle services like SuperShuttle and Go Airport Shuttle.

Which mailing lists to join?

IGSA uses a google mailing list for all public communications within IGSA community, including notifications from the board, information on rental, sublets, sale of goods, carpooling and any other messages. However, no soliciting is allowed on either of the forums. To be added to this mailing list, please register with us. New students are suggested to join the Johns Hopkins Fall 2014 group to make sure they do not miss out on useful information.
We also recommend you to join the IGSA Facebook group for important updates on IGSA activities.

What to bring?

For suggestions on things to bring here, please visit the link above (Things to bring to USA)

About Baltimore

How is the weather in Baltimore?

Baltimore has four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter. Thus the temperatures vary greatly through the year. The summer can be quite hot and humid with temperatures above 35C, while winters are pretty cold with below freezing temperatures on several days from December through February. Baltimore also receives few snow showers during the winter months, and occasional winter storms can result in accumulations of several inches. Thus, a heavy winter jacket and boots are recommended (Advice: purchase them from the US).

Is Baltimore safe?

Like many big cities, Baltimore has many good and bad areas and has a relatively high crime rate. Thus, it is important to be very careful about the safety. The area around Homewood - between E 30th and E 35th Street and St.Paul Street, Charles Street and W. University Parkway - are well secured by the Hopkins Security. Taking necessary precautions can avoid unpleasant experiences. Avoid walking alone in the dark and in sketchy areas. If possible avoid using cell phones when walking outside. Use the Hopkins Escort Van service during evening and night. You can check out the campus crime and safety reports online at https://www.jhu.edu/life/security/.

What are the Indian restaurants around?

Near the Homewood campus:
  • Tamber's
  • Masala Kitchen
  • Ambassador
Accessible by JHMI/CollegeTown Shuttles and Public Transportation:
  • Bismillah restaurant
  • Akbar
  • Kumari
  • Nepal House
  • Indigma
  • Darbaar
  • Lumbini (also has a small Indian grocery store)
  • Kathmandu Kitchen
  • India Cuisine
Accessible by cars (around the city):
  • Pawan Foods (has a small grocery store)
  • Royal Taj
  • Paradise Biryani Pointe
  • Mango Grove
  • Woodlands Restaurant (near DC, South Indian Cuisine)
  • Udipi Palace (near DC, South Indian Cuisine)
  • India Breads
  • India Tandoor
  • Café Spice
  • Indian Delight
  • Kabab Stop

Where do I get groceries and other household items?

Around Homewood Campus (arranged by distance):
  • Eddie's Market (St Paul St)
  • University Market (St. Paul St)
  • Giant Foods (E 33rd St)
  • Punjab Groceries (E 33rd St) - Indian Groceries
  • 7-Eleven (N Charles St)
  • Giant Foods (W 40th St)
  • Safeway (N Charles St)
Accessible by Shuttles/Public Transportation:
  • Whole Foods (Harbor East)
  • Target (Mondawmin Mall)
  • Walmart (Putty Hill Avenue, Towson)
Accessible by car:
  • Patel Brothers (Catonsville) - Indian Grocery
  • Lotte Plaza (Catonsville) - Indian Grocery
Pharmacies:
  • RiteAid (Greenmount Ave)
  • CVS (N Charles St)
  • RiteAid (W 40th St)

Getting Around

What are the modes of public transport in Baltimore?

Baltimore city has several modes of public transport including MTA buses, Light Rail and Subway. The subway and light rail are not well-connected to the Northern part of the city (around Homewood campus), and commutes over long distances may require multiple connections and long travel times. The recently started Charm City Circulator is a free and convenient option for traveling on few routes in Downtown Baltimore.

What is the Homewood-JHMI Shuttle?

The Homewood-JHMI shuttle is a university-run shuttle service between the Homewood campus and the Medical campus in downtown, with intermediate stops at Penn Station and Mt. Vernon. It is extremely convenient for people who are living near Homewood or Mt. Vernon and work at the Schools of Medicine, Public Health or Nursing or at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The complete schedule can be found at here.

What is the Collegetown Shuttle?

The collegetown shuttle is a shuttle service that connects different universities and colleges in the Baltimore area. It also goes to some popular places such as the Towson Town Center Mall, Towson Place (Sunday only) and the Inner Harbor (Weekends only). For a complete schedule, please visit Collegetown website. Please note that university ID is required for boarding and each student is allowed one guest.

What is the Hopkins Blue Jay Shuttle service?

The university offers a free door-to-door pickup and drop-off service during evening and night within a 1 mile radius from the Homewood campus. The route vans follow a fixed route and cover common places of interest (such as the Rotunda and Superfresh) as well as the bigger apartment complexes. These vans run during the evening at fixed times. The schedule can be checked here. In addition, there are non-route vans which run from 5 PM to 2 AM and can be used to travel between any two places in the coverage area. To request a van, please call 410-516-8700.
For more information: Visit: nextbus.com

Will I need a car to get around the city?

Having a car is not necessary in Baltimore, as there many form s of public transport are available. Also, the Yellow Cab service (410-685-1212) in the city is quite convenient.
Though having a car can drastically reduce commute times, additional costs such as parking, insurance, maintenance and fuel must be considered before purchasing a car.

Is an Indian Driver’s License valid/useful?

In Maryland any country’s license is valid for one year, and can be used for driving during this period. In addition, having a valid driver’s license can hasten the process for obtaining a Maryland License, as you can avoid the learner’s license and driving school classes. For the latest rules about driver’s license, please visit: http://mva.state.md.us/. An international driver’s license does not offer any additional advantages.

What different campuses does JHU have and how do I commute between them?

Housing

Will I be provided temporary accommodation?

Yes. IGSA tries to provide incoming students temporary living arrangements with other host students for the first few days of their stay in Baltimore. This gives them an opportunity to explore the neighborhood and find roommates before signing a lease. Please register here for temporary accommodation- http://goo.gl/forms/f3sNl3cT8J.
Please note - We will be unable to provide temporary accommodation before August. We would also request you to limit your stay with your host to 4-5 days.

What are the good living areas near campus?

Majority of the Indian graduate students live in the apartment complexes are located near the Homewood campus. This includes apartments from 28th to 35th Streets and N Charles, as well as around University Parkway, and they’re generally safe. Some students also stay in the row houses (independent units) located near St. Paul or Calvert Streets which are cheaper, however there are generally less safe than the apartment buildings. The Homewood-JHMI shuttle runs through the above cross-streets and hence is a convenient way to get to classes/work. For a more comprehensive list of apartment buildings, please visit the housing link.
Most areas near JHMI are not very safe. Most students working in the medical center prefer living near Homewood and taking the Homewood-JHMI shuttle to work daily.
Another option is Mt.Vernon, where the Peabody School of Music is located. This area is also safe and bustling with cafes, restaurants and stores- the Homewood-JHMI shuttle stops at St.Paul and Center street in Mt.Vernon. Please bear in mind the apartments in this area tend to be a little more expensive than Homewood.

How do I look for roommates?

You can submit your roommate requirements and preferences to the IGSA Housing database. The database can also be used for getting contacts of other students who may also be looking for roommates. You can also register and fill in your roommate requirements here- http://goo.gl/forms/f3sNl3cT8J. We will share the excel sheet generated from the form with all those looking for roommates.

What are the typical rents?

The rents depend on the type of apartment and their occupancy. The rents for studios (efficiency), 1 BHK and 2 BHK are typically in the range of $800-$950, $900-$1250 and $1300-$1600. Sometimes one can manage to get some deals with the apartments, which can lower the rents.

Finances

How much money should I bring?

Please refer to the Things to bring section above for details

What is Social Security Number (SSN)? How to get one?

Everything you want to know about SSN can be found here: http://ois.jhu.edu/Legal_Matters/Social_Security_Information/.
Please read the instructions carefully. This is a very important document in your life at JHU and in the US. 

How to open a bank account?

The major banking options available are as follows: Bank of America, Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union and M&T Bank. All of these have locations at the Homewood and Medical school campuses with ATMs located on both campuses as well. Visit the bank’s branch and create the basic bank accounts. 

How to get a credit card?

You can apply for a credit card ONLY after you have received your SSN. At this point, your credit score and history are non-existent.
Credit score/history is something that plays an important role in determining your future interest rates and other credit approvals. For example, purchasing a new phone/mobile connection, applying for a new loan or credit card, determining security deposit while leasing an apartment. It is generally advisable to get a credit card linked to your bank account. Also, one should state to the bank personnel that this is your first line of credit in the US. They would recommend the credit builder card options they have.

How much does it cost to live in Baltimore?

The main living expenses include rent, food, utilities, groceries, books and transport. The rent is variable depending on the apartment. The other expenses vary on an individual basis, and typically range between $300 and $500.

How much cash do people typically carry?

People generally carry $20-50 on them, as credit or debit cards are the more convenient modes of payment. It is not recommended to carry large amounts of cash.

Health

Is it necessary to have health insurance?

Absolutely. Health care in the United States is very expensive. Thus having a decent health plan is absolutely necessary.

What are my options for health insurance?

The Johns Hopkins University provides full-time graduate students an insurance plan from Cigna Health Care Provider. The School of Medicine has a separate plan. These plans are not the best insurance plans due to their relatively high co-pays (10-20%) and deductibles ($75-250), however they are free through the University. The annual fees for other plans will be higher. Please note that the health plan does not include dental and eye care. Thus, it is recommended to get a routine eyesight and dental checkup before coming to Baltimore. It is also advisable to have a routine blood test back home.
Students enrolled in certain part-time programs, such as AAP, are not eligible for the University health plans and must purchase an individual insurance plan that is at least equivalent and satisfies some of the criteria set forth by the University’s health system.

Do I need to get Travelers’ insurance?

If you do not have an active health insurance before coming to the US, it is advised to get travelers’ insurance. This is a precautionary measure as health care without insurance can be very expensive.

If I fall sick, where do I go?

The Homewood Campus Student Health & Wellness Center is open for all full-time Arts & Sciences and Engineering graduate students, and provides free of cost consultations.
For consultation at other facilities, please check with your insurance provider in advance to ensure that your health plan covers the consultation/procedure.
The closest emergency facility is at the Union Memorial Hospital. In case of any emergencies, please call 911.

Where can I buy medicines?

The closest 24-hour pharmacy is Rite Aid (located in the Rotunda, phone: (410) 467-3343). Some over the counter medicines are also available at some supermarkets and grocery stores.

What medicines should I bring with me?

It is a good idea to get some common medicines such Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, antacids, anti-allergic, cough syrup and a course of antibiotics.

Academics

Where do I buy books?

In general, books are cheaper in India. If you know what you need in advance, or if you want common reference books, please buy them in India. The University has its own bookstores at Homewood (Barnes and Noble at 33rd & St. Paul) and JHMI. Additionally, usually you can get better deals online at sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Half.com.
You can also buy used books from other students on the Johns Hopkins Textbook Exchange Facebook Group.

Is there an on-campus facility where I can use the internet and print documents?

Free Wi-Fi is available on campus. The JHGuestNet network is open for all, while the Hopkins network requires login using your JHED login ID. There are public computers available in the MSE library and Krieger Hall on the Homewood Campus.
The library also has Color and B&W printers available that can be used at a fixed rate and you can pay by loading money on your JHU ID (JCard), also referred to as JCash.

How do I contact other students in my program?

Generally the department administrative staff can provide you with the contacts information of some senior students in the department.
You can also post on IGSA’s Facebook group or mailing list to inquire about students in your program.

Am I eligible for part-time jobs?

Part time jobs depend on your visa status. Most of the students at Hopkins are on an F-1 visa, which allows them 20 work hours a week of on-campus job. However, please note that the research assistantship (RA) and teaching assistantship (TA) often fill up that quota of allocated 20 hours.
Once you get a job you need to fill a form from the Office of International Services (OIS). One copy of this form goes to your employer and another copy goes to the Student Employment Office in the basement of Garland Hall. This is a onetime affair only, done to enter you into the payroll system.
If you are here on a tourist visa, then you will only be allowed to take part-time classes and not work at all.

How do I find on-campus jobs?

If you're looking for a job, try Student Employment Services. There is also a recruitment fair for student jobs at the start of the Fall semester.
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