![Be sure to prepare for your travels to the U.S.](https://iex-website.s3.amazonaws.com/images/handbooks/inside-the-usa/predeparture.jpg “Photo via Pixabay”)
Improve Your English Language Skills
A vital part of your cultural exchange experience is being able to interact with and talk to people in the U.S. Speaking English will be the most important tool for you to be able to fully engage and learn about American customs and practices. It is a good idea to practice English as much as possible before you arrive in the U.S., as it will help you adapt more quickly.
- Take an English language course before the start of your program or find a native English conversation partner.
- Watch English language television or movies; listen to English language radio broadcasts; read English language newspapers, books or magazines.
- Practice, practice, practice! Speak English as often as possible and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Most native English speakers will be happy to help you choose the right words.
Research Your Host Community
Review the state-by-state guides we provide on the Cultural Compass section of our website. You'll find popular options for experiencing American culture in the state you'll be visiting.
Airline Baggage Allowance
Be sure to check with your airline on how many pieces of luggage you may bring, the size, and weight of those pieces and cost per bag. Please be aware that many airlines in the U.S. have started to charge for luggage on domestic flights. Contact your airline before you depart to find out the latest fees and restrictions.
What to Bring With You (do not overpack!)
- Your passport, J-1 Visa and DS-2019 Form: You cannot get into the United States without these items, so make sure you have them in a carry-on bag. Make a copy of each of these documents and keep them in a separate bag, just in case you lose the originals.
- Dictionary: A good bilingual dictionary is essential.
- Pictures: Photographs of your family, friends and your hometown to show new friends.
- Items from your home country: Pictures, arts & crafts, recipes or small, locally made gifts are always nice to share with people in the United States.
- Toiletries: Shampoo, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor and deodorant are essential. You can buy a supply for the duration of your program once you arrive in the U.S., so just bring enough for one week. Liquids in your carry-on luggage must be in 3 ounce (88 ml) bottles. If you bring an electric razor, make sure it is battery powered, because adapters tend to fail.
- Medications (pack in your carry-on luggage): If possible, you should bring enough medication for the entire time you are in the U.S. and use the original bottle. Also, bring a note (written in English) from your doctor, indicating the type of medicine you take, just in case you need to get more. We recommend that you call your airline first to check what type of medication and how much you are allowed to carry on the airplane.
- An extra pair of prescription glasses: This will be very important in the event that your glasses are damaged or if you cannot have your contact lens prescription filled while in the U.S.
- Driver's license: Bring your international driver's license and/or foreign driver's license with you and be sure to pack it in your carry-on luggage. Keep a copy in a safe place.
- An open mind: Be prepared for things to be different.
What to Leave at Home
- Valuables: Expensive jewelry and family heirlooms.
- Anything you might be afraid to lose or that might get stolen.