IPOP Mentors

International Pre-Orientation Program [IPOP]

IPOP Arrival Day is Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021

Welcome! Grinnell is an International student friendly campus and we are all eager to meet you.

The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) is fluent in your regulatory needs and the nuances of cultural sojourn. We are co-located with the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) on the first floor of the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC). Our team is dedicated to helping you be successful, and to helping Grinnell College be International Student Friendly. The information below will help you prepare for the adventure! You are welcome to reach out with questions to OISA. We look forward to meeting you!

Karen Edwards, Associate Dean of International Student Affairs, PDSO/RO
Brenda Strong, Assistant Director of International Student Affairs, DSO/ARO
Emily Perry, International Student Advisor, DSO
Meet the IPOP mentors below!

#YouAreWelcomeHere #MiddleOfEverywhere #CourageToSpare

(Students who only enrolled online during 2020–21 and plan to enter the U.S. in initial F-1 status in August 2021 will not attend IPOP, but you will be required to attend some in-person meetings before classes begin. The information below might also be helpful to you. Your expected fall arrival date will be posted soon.)

First year international students in the class of 2025 must arrive on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, to participate in the required International Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP). Sessions will run from Monday through Thursday. You will learn about F-1 status and the regulatory and cultural issues that impact your time at Grinnell. You will meet the IPOP mentors and your FIS host, get to know staff and faculty, and have a great time exploring new surroundings and making new friends. There will also be time to open a bank account and complete your medical check-in and any needed arrival vaccination(s). It will be a fun, action-packed week just prior to New Student Orientation (NSO), which begins on Friday, Aug. 20. IPOP and NSO will help you experience more culture and less shock!

If you arrive before Aug. 15, you must make your own arrangements for lodging and/or transportation. You could stay in Des Moines, and request a College Shuttle on Sunday. Late arrivals require advance permission from the OISA and late entries can result in a denial at the U.S. Port of Entry.

  • Please visit your New Student Checklist, coming in May. Among the many forms listed there, international students must also:
    • Complete the I-20 Request Form as soon as possible but before June 1. This is required for students who will pursue an F-1 visa, and if you hold a different status, the form will help us learn more about your situation. The OISA will issue new I-20s starting in mid-April. See more below about the visa application process.
    • Complete the IPOP Registration Form as soon as possible, to help us prepare. It asks about your dietary needs, T-shirt size, transportation plans, emergency contact information, etc. You will also be invited to participate in Friends of International Students. FIS hosts are only offered to IPOP participants, and most students really enjoy the opportunity. FIS hosts want to help welcome you to our town, and they will befriend you during your first year on campus (many friendships last longer). The website offers more details and priority is given to students who apply early.
  • IPOP check-in will take place in the Humanities and Social Sciences Center (HSSC) first floor on Sunday, Aug. 15, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday, Aug. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon. We will arrange distribution of keys for students who arrive on College shuttles. If you arrive by your own transportation, you must visit the OISA to secure your room key and IPOP packet. You must also visit the OISA to present your immigration documents.
  • IPOP mentors will facilitate a souvenir gift exchange on the final day of IPOP, so please bring 15 small gift items – like a favorite snack, craft, or souvenir from home. Inexpensive prepackaged items are preferred. It is also fine to bring a small gift for your FIS host, though it isn’t required or expected.

Preparing For Your Arrival

  • Present your name in a consistent format, exactly as it appears on your passport.
  • Your Grinnell contact: Karen Edwards, International Student Affairs, Grinnell College, 641-269-3705.
  • Your U.S. address: 1115 8th Avenue, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA 50112.
  • If you already hold F-1 status via a U.S. school, let us know that you will release your SEVIS record to Grinnell.
  • Canadians do not need an F-1 visa, but you do need to present an I-20 & I-901 receipt at the border.

Step 1: Secure your I-20 FORM from the OISA.

The OISA issues new I-20s starting in mid-April. Throughout the pandemic, USCIS has allowed us to issue electronic I-20s via encrypted email communication. You must print all three pages in color and sign it in blue ink. [If our ability to issue electronic documents is suspended, we will transition back to using paper documents, sent by Federal Express.]

Step 2: Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee & schedule an F-1 Visa Appointment.

  • The $350.00 I-901 SEVIS fee must be submitted before you can set up your F-1 student visa appointment. Once you submit the fee, the payment/receipt will remain valid for 12 months. Present the payment confirmation at your F-1 visa interview and keep it for presentation at the U.S. Port of Entry.
  • Schedule a visa appointment as soon as possible. The visa appointment process and timeline vary by country, especially post-COVID. You can visit travel.state.gov to learn more — to find the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160, as well as current appointment wait time estimates by location, season, and visa category. The visa application fee is $160.
  • It is also important to prepare for your visa interview. EducationUSA offers visa tips and information and you can also locate in-country advising staff — many offer visa application tips and/or predeparture information sessions.
  • When you visit the U.S. Consulate for your interview, bring your: DS-160 Visa Application Confirmation; Passport; Form I-20 (signed in blue ink); I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Confirmation; Grinnell College Letter of Admission; OISA’s Letter to the Embassy; financial documents; and secondary school completion documents. The interview is your opportunity to confirm your intention to study in the U.S. and to return home after you graduate. The more you know about where you are going and why, the better you will do.
  • Consular officers conduct a high number of interviews and many decisions are based on first impressions. Keep your answers short and to the point. You will have 2-3 minutes – if you're lucky.
  • The F-1 visa requires ‘non-immigrant intent.’ Be prepared to articulate this intention.
  • The application asks about your social media use and officers might review your digital footprint.
  • You need to provide evidence of your funding (as submitted via the I-20 Request Portal).
  • Maintain a positive attitude, and NEVER engage the Officer in an argument or a lie.
  • The Consulate cannot issue your visa more than 120 days prior to your I-20 start date.
  • Initial arrival F-1 students cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to the I-20 start date.
  • Contact the OISA to update us on your progress!

For your first trip to Grinnell we strongly recommend flying all the way through to the Des Moines International Airport — especially this year, in the midst of a global pandemic. Des Moines is located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Grinnell – a one-hour drive from campus.

As soon as your flight is finalized, you can reserve a seat on a Grinnell Airport Shuttle operated by the Office of Facilities Management (FM) *select “Des Moines Airport Shuttles, for August 2021. FM shuttles are cost affective and the staff will try to assist you regardless of your arrival time and/or flight delays.

The College will offer virtual orientation sessions for parents in August, including a session with staff from the OISA. Most international students arrive on their own and parents do not need to accompany you. If your family does plan to travel to Grinnell, however, you must make their lodging arrangements in advance. There is no local taxi so they should rent a car at the airport or stay within walking distance of campus. If they need assistance with airport transportation, the FM Airport Shuttle link will offer instructions to schedule a driver (this additional support is only available for international families). It is also possible to hire a taxi, Lyft, or Uber from Des Moines to Grinnell.

If you order linens (bed sheets and towels) via Dorm Co, prior to July 15, your items will be delivered to your residence hall room prior to your arrival!

Address: Your Name, Grinnell College, 1115 8th Avenue, Grinnell, Iowa 50112 (OISA phone: 641-269-3703)

If you order late or purchase items through a different vendor, be forewarned that private packages are only available in the College Mail Room during business hours (Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

Grinnell’s student beds are sized 36 inches by 81 inches — extra-long twin’

Think carefully as you pack for this adventure. Contact the airline to find out the weight limitations. The more you bring, the more you have to haul through the airport, load onto the bus to Grinnell, and carry up the stairs to your residence hall room! Student rooms are equipped with a study desk, chair, chest of drawers, and a bed. Items like a study lamp, wastebasket, or school supplies, will be easier to buy here after you arrive.

In August, you will be able to access your personal campus mailbox number and combination via GrinnellShare. Your address will be: Your name and Box #, Grinnell College, 1115 8th Avenue, Grinnell, IA 50112 U.S.A. The College does not offer prearrival storage. If needed, you may contact C & K Storage at 641-236-3418 (this local company coordinates storage). If you need to ship items, you can mail them to yourself, but the package may not arrive prior to Aug. 10.

Items that you could/should bring from home include:

  • Academic Documents: If you intend to request credit for college-level work from another institution, you must submit official documents (certificates, transcripts, results, etc.) prior to fall registration.
  • Adapter: Electrical outlets in the U.S. provide 110-volt alternating current (AC) at 60 cycles. It may be easier and more cost-effective to purchase new electrical equipment here.
  • Clothing: Bring clothes you enjoy wearing! Students dress casually, so jeans and a T-shirt are appropriate. You might want one or two semiformal outfits since students do dress up for special events. If you are coming from a warm climate, carry a light sweater to use as you acclimate. You will have time to buy winter clothing later in the fall.
  • Travel-Size Toiletries: When you arrive, you may find it comforting to have shampoo, body wash, feminine products, or other toiletries that are familiar and work well for you. Bring small amounts of these products so that you have enough to last while you search for products sold in the U.S. that are comfortable and work well for your needs.
  • International Driver’s License: If you plan to drive in the U.S., you will need an Iowa license. It is helpful if you secure an International License in advance.
  • Cultural Items and Family Mementos: There will be many occasions for you to share your culture on campus and in the local community. We hope you will bring traditional clothing, photographs, music, recipes, and other mementos to share. These items can also be helpful for personal reasons — especially if you become homesick or nostalgic as you adjust to your new environment.
  • Learn how to cook before you leave home: Most meals will be taken in the dining hall, but students often become homesick for familiar food. You will have access to cooking facilities here, and if you stay on campus during winter or spring break, you will need to cook for yourself! Bring recipes and favorite prepackaged spices or snacks; that recipe will come in handy when you are invited to cook a dish from home for the International Student Organization’s annual Food Bazaar!
  • Money: We recommend that you carry approximately $800–$900 since you will need to buy your books and equip your room. Few banks can exchange foreign currency within 24 hours, and it will take a few days to get your local bank account settled (there will be time for this during IPOP). Carry a combination of traveler's checks, cash, and/or bank checks in U.S. currency.
  • Pack your positive attitude, too. This is going to be an amazing adventure!

Each day, millions of people pass through U.S. borders to conduct business, study, or travel as tourists. Department of Homeland Security requirements will affect your entry experience, so be prepared to approach it with a positive attitude. The F-1 visa allows you to enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the start date listed on your I-20. You must enter the U.S. on or before your start date, and a late entry is likely to be denied.

Travel Tips

  • Visit Homeland Security - Students.
  • Carry your immigration documents on your person.
  • Carry contact info for the OISA: 641-269-3703; and Campus Safety: 641-269-4600.
  • Most airlines forbid items like pocket knives, nail clippers, or fluids of over 3oz. in your carry-on luggage and they will be confiscated.
  • Electronic devices and online activity and social media posts are subject to search by visa and border officials.
  • Dress for comfort! A light sweater and a neck pillow are a good idea.
  • Secure U.S. currency before you travel or in the first U.S. airport.

When You Enter the U.S.

When you enter the U.S. you must present your passport and F-1 Visa, Form I-20 (all 3 pages, signed in blue), and your I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Confirmation. Financial documentation may also be requested.

Claim your luggage and pass through U.S. CBP procedures. If the inspecting officer asks why you wish to enter the U.S. you may inform them that you will be an undergraduate student at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. They will take your photo and fingerprints. If the officer has additional questions, you might be redirected to secondary inspection. This is standard procedure. In some cases, the officer will ask for your Grinnell College contact (the Office of International Student Affairs). In other cases, they might issue Form I-515A, which allows temporary entry and requires immediate follow-up with the OISA. If you don’t have the required documents, or if the officer is not satisfied with your case, they do have the discretion to deny your admission. We predict, however, that you will experience a successful entry.

When the inspection is complete, the officer will place an admission stamp in your passport to reflect the class of your admission: “F-1, D/S” (duration of status). Once you have entered the U.S. you will be able to access and print your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. We will help you do this during IPOP. The I-94 is updated electronically every time that you exit and re-enter the country, so we will advise you to maintain printed copies of each entry. This process is slightly different if you enter the U.S. through a land border.

Academic Advising, Tutorial, and Course Registration

Your prearrival checklist will include a form from Academic Advising, asking you to state preferences for your First-Year Tutorial course, which is required of all first-year students. Beginning June 1, you will be able to enter your choices online, and you will be notified about your tutorial placement before you arrive. This class emphasizes the skills you need to be a successful at Grinnell — critical reading, writing, discussion, and oral presentation skills. Your tutorial instructor will serve as your academic adviser for your first two years at Grinnell. You will meet during NSO, at which time you will register for the rest of your courses.

In many educational systems around the world, university students are expected to focus on a specific field of study. Students pursuing a liberal arts education — at Grinnell and elsewhere — take a wide variety of courses and do not declare a major until their second year. This allows you to become familiar with several academic fields and gain a better understanding of the intersections among disciplines, while also developing mastery in one chosen field of interest. As a Grinnell student, you have the privilege of developing your own program of study, and your academic adviser will help you with your course selection through individual advising sessions. Your adviser will introduce you to the options available and will help you select an array of courses spread among the humanities, sciences and social studies. To prepare, read Academic Planning for New Students.

Athletics and Sport Activity

Grinnell College is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III (NCAA DIII) and offers twenty “varsity” sports, in which one-third of the student body participates. For DIII athletes, academics remain the primary focus. Grinnell students are also involved in club sports (like Frisbee and water polo); intramural sports (like badminton; cricket; or Ping-Pong). Students can learn new sport and recreational activities for credit through the physical education activity class curriculum. The College’s impressive athletic facilities — including a natatorium, exercise room, indoor track, dance studio, etc. — are open to all students at no extra cost. If you have questions about athletics at Grinnell, feel free to email coaches directly, contact International Athletes and Allies, or visit the Athletics Department website.

Disability Resources and Assistive Technology Services

Grinnell College strives to create an environment that allows people of all abilities to do their best work. This may mean additional time for an exam or technology to help with notes for a student who has a documented learning disability, a room on a first floor for a student in a wheelchair, or the use of an assistive learning technology such as Read and Write Gold for reading text on a computer.

While the word “disability” can imply various conditions and may be subject to stigmas or negative stereotypes in the U.S. and around the world, it is important to know your right to request and receive reasonable accommodation for your functional limitations (e.g. physical/sensory/psychiatric disabilities, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses, and temporary injuries). An accommodation is any adjustment, modification, or service that allows an individual to experience better access to an environment.

If you or a family member need accommodations during IPOP, or if you have or suspect that you have a disability and would like to learn more and/or seek accommodation options, please contact Jae Hirschman, coordinator of student disability resources, or visit Grinnell College Disability Resources.


You will need to buy or rent the textbooks that are required for each of your courses. Students should budget at least $450 for books each semester. Textbooks are costly, but you can save money by purchasing used books or by renting them from the Grinnell College Pioneer Bookshop. Many students purchase or rent books through online providers at a lower cost. Some students purchase e-books to read from their laptop or Kindle. There is also a well-stocked lending library for students with financial need located in the Center for Religious Spirituality and Social Justice (CRSSJ).

Campus Employment

Your prearrival checklist will include links to employment information, and forms through our payroll provider (Paycor) which will be sent in early August. You should complete these forms prior to your arrival. There will be one final step to complete in-person during IPOP (since it requires presentation of your immigration arrival documents).

F-1 students are assigned a campus job upon arrival, which has the added bonus of helping facilitate your access to a U.S. Social Security Number. It is realistic for students to work 8-12 hours per week. It is possible to work as many as 20 hours per week, but that might not be wise since Grinnell’s academic program is so rigorous. Most initial job assignments are in Dining Services, where the starting wage is $10.00 per hour, with bonuses available for working steadily from semester to semester. You are encouraged to accept this position, but you will also have the option to pursue other positions on campus. Open campus positions are posted online through the Handshake system on the Careers, Life, and Service website. If you plan to remain on campus during winter or summer break, it would be wise to look for a campus job that also hires students during breaks.

Cell Phones

There is a landline telephone on every residence hall floor for emergency purposes, but there are no telephones in the individual student rooms. Most students carry a personal cell phone and secure a U.S. phone number. Note: There is free access to Wi-Fi on campus, which allows for communication methods outside of a phone number.

If you’d like to set up a U.S. phone number before you travel, you can buy a temporary U.S. phone number through Skype, a communication app that allows you to video/voice call others. It is a free application to download, and you can buy a U.S. phone number that will receive calls as long as you are connected to the internet. Another option is TextNow, which allows you to download a free app on your smartphone to set up an account and choose a U.S. phone number. Use of this app may come with associated costs, depending on your use.

There are local stores for U.S. Cellular and Verizon. There is good cellular service for Sprint or AT&T in Grinnell, but we do not have a local provider (there are regional stores, though). Students offer mixed reviews about the quality of local cellular coverage through T-Mobile; Service in the Midwest is limited. You must be 18 to purchase a monthly phone plan and most require a U.S. SSN (which takes about four weeks after submitting your application during IPOP). Alternately, some students purchase prepaid plans which are available to anyone. You can, for example, purchase a prepaid phone plan through carrier like Verizon, Cricket, or U.S. Cellular; a prepaid SIM Card through carriers like Mint Mobil; or prepaid phones like Straight-talk, Netphone, or Tracfone, online or at the local Wal-Mart. Some current students advise new students to avoid using a phone from home with a U.S. SIM card due to poor service and higher costs. It is wise to research this on your own or to consult with your IPOP Mentor.

Computer Access

While there are many public computers and printers on campus, most students bring their own computer. There is wireless access throughout campus, and you will be provided network storage server space to save data that is accessible from any College public computer. For more information, contact: Information Technology Services: 641-269-4901; TechnologyServicesDesk@help.grinnell.edu.

Financial Aid

Grinnell’s international student tuition grants are offered on the basis of financial need at the point of initial admission to the College. We are committed to providing a consistent aid package that is renewed on a yearly basis. Moderate increases to grant assistance are made annually as costs rise. The maximum timeframe to receive aid is eight semesters. Grinnell will not increase (or decrease) your award for changes to your family’s circumstances, such as fluctuations in exchange rates or additional family members in college. No changes are made for loss of sponsorship. All students must maintain satisfactory academic progress according to standards prescribed by the College.

U.S. citizens apply for and receive financial aid based on CSS Profile and FAFSA guidelines.

Health Care

The U.S. health care system offers excellent care, but the system can be challenging and costly to navigate. As a student, you will have direct access to Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) when you are in Grinnell — it is located in the center of our campus. SHAW staff includes registered nurses and counselors who provide health and counseling services to Grinnell students. With the exception of modest, at-cost fees for a few medical tests and supplies, these services are delivered free of charge. Visit SHAW’s website for more information about these services, support for after-hours care, and the excellent options for medical providers in the local community.

All students are required to submit health and immunization records to SHAW. This ensures the College that you and your peers are properly vaccinated and it assists us in coordinating the care of those who become ill or experience health-related emergencies. You will receive instructions this spring and you will need to complete the required forms by the July 15 deadline. If you have questions about these forms or processes, please contact SHAW through your Student Health and Wellness portal.

International students who are unable to secure a COVID-19 vaccine in their home country prior to arriving at Grinnell will be eligible for vaccination on campus. Visit COVID-19: Meeting the Challenge and read the Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Questions may be directed to Student Health and Wellness (SHAW).

Health Insurance

Grinnell College requires all enrolled students to carry health Insurance that is ACA-compliant. You must enroll in (or request a formal waiver of) the student health insurance plan that is offered through Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. The deadline to do so is Aug. 14, but it is best to pre-enroll to ensure access to the plan prior to your arrival in the U.S. This plan offers year-round coverage, worldwide. The premium for 2021–22 is $1,841. The cost will be billed on your fall statement. Grinnell students also have the option to purchase dental insurance through Delta Dental of Iowa. The dental plan, if you choose to purchase it, would begin as of Sept. 1. You will receive more information about health insurance and the dental insurance option with your tuition bills. Questions about health insurance may be directed to Jim Mulholland, director of compensation and risk management (641-269-4818); or contact Ramsey-Weeks, Inc. (641-236-3141, 715 5th Ave.).

Student Organizations

The Offices of Student Involvement and Intercultural Affairs help support student leadership activities, but student life on a residential campus is driven by your engagement. The Student Government Association is very active in policy decisions and campus social life. Numerous student organizations focus on everything from cultural or religious affinities, to intellectual passions, to niche hobbies or interests. Getting involved with clubs and organizations is a great way to meet new friends, contribute to our active campus life, and gain practical leadership skills.

The International Student Organization (ISO) is one of the largest groups on campus. The ISO Cabinet is elected by the membership, and they work to build community and organize special events. Other active student groups have included the African & Caribbean Student Union (ACSU); App Dev; Badminton; Chalutzim; Chinese Student Association (CSA); Cricket Club; Frisbee Club; International Soccer Club (ISC); Friend of Slavs; Muslim Student Association (MSA); Model UN; Student Organization for Latinos/Latinas (SOL); South Asia Student Organization (SASO); and many more.

Living on Campus

Grinnell’s residential community fosters social and personal development, encourages self-governance, and complements your academic goals. All students are required to live on-campus, with limited exceptions for seniors and rising third-year students. On arrival, you will meet your residence life coordinator (RLC) and community adviser (CA). RLCs are professional staff who live in the halls and support community life and CAs are trained peer leaders.

New students are matched with a roommate, based on the information you provide on the housing application. Answer questions honestly to help ensure the best possible match! Room assignments are typically available in early August, and students will receive an email from the Office of Residence Life that provides instructions on how to obtain your information. All first- and second-year students are required to have roommates, and most rooms are doubles. Some first-year students are assigned to triples or quads.

During academic year breaks, you might choose to travel with friends or participate in break programs through the College. That said, Grinnell allows international students to remain in your campus residence room during these breaks at no extra charge. Many campus services remain open with limited hours (libraries, athletic facilities, Student Health and Wellness, etc.). Campus Safety remains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The dining hall is not open over winter or spring break, so students typically cook (there are modest kitchens).

There are students who stay in Grinnell during the summer, too. Students who find a campus job or Grinnell research position can secure on-campus housing for a fee. Some students choose to rent or sublet a local apartment. It is important to plan ahead, if you wish to take advantage of the College’s storage and transportation resources. The same open and closing dates and times apply to all students.

The Five-Year Planning Calendar is a helpful tool for booking round trip travels.

Shops and Services in Grinnell, Iowa

Grinnell’s quaint downtown area is located just three blocks from campus — and there is a lot to offer considering our rural location. You’ll find Hotel Grinnell; Bikes To You (selling used and new quality bikes and merchandise); The Strand Movie Theatre; The Pioneer Bookshop; several local restaurants and food/drink establishments; an active Community Arts Center, and numerous other businesses (Brown’s Shoe Fit, Co.; Anna Kayte’s Clothing Boutique; Ace Hardware; etc.). Phase 2 Consignments and Second Mile Thrift offer second-hand clothing and housewares at a reasonable cost. There is also a discount store (Walmart) just south of town, with several nearby services. In addition, the College also offers occasional weekend shopping shuttles to Des Moines and Iowa City.

The Grinnell Chamber of Commerce offers more information online.

Tuition Payments for Students

In late June you will be billed the amount for the fall semester only, and the billing schedule is posted online. Your account will be available through GrinnellShare via the Student Self-Service portal. If mailing your fees to arrive on time in July is difficult, we encourage you to use our online international payment options through flywire. Checks are also accepted, if they are drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars, payable to Grinnell College.

If you have not paid this bill by registration, you will not be allowed to enroll. Since students are not allowed to register if their fees have not been paid, notify the Office of Student Accounts in advance if you will be bringing your payment with you. This office is located in the Admission and Student Financial Services building (ASFS). You can contact student accounts by email or by phone at 641-269-4100, or visit their website.

Weather in the Midwest

Temperatures range from 90˚F (32˚C) during hot summer days (July and August) to below freezing, 5˚F (-15˚C) in the cold Iowa winter (January and February). Winter in Iowa can be challenging, but we’ve been thriving for many generations and we know that you can handle it!

It will be hot when you arrive in August, and most students will wear shorts or skirts, t-shirts, and sandals at that time. In September, it can be warm during the day and cool at night. It grows gradually colder in October and November, and your clothing will transition to jeans and a sweatshirt with a hat and light jacket. By mid-November, you will need a winter coat, boots, hat, and gloves. The coldest time is typically in January and February, and the cold begins to subside in late March or early April.

OISA staff are fluent in the regulatory issues facing students and exchange visitors who don’t hold U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. Immigration status impacts access to opportunities, services, and benefits, and all international Grinnellians are invited to bring questions our way. You will be treated with respect and privacy. If your regulatory needs exceed our purview or expertise, we will encourage you to pursue legal counsel outside of the College.

Most international Grinnellians hold an F-1 visa. The OISA is responsible for the institution’s compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS), and we will teach you about your F-1 documents and your responsibilities, limitations, and benefits. We will also offer advice about managing paperwork and keeping good records. The OISA’s robust advising materials (handouts, forms, links, and video clips) are available on GrinnellShare, which requires a Grinnell log-in.

A few examples of F-1 responsibilities, limitations, and benefits, include:

  • You must maintain full-time enrollment (12 credits minimum per semester), with limited exceptions.
  • You may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and up to 40 hours per week during breaks.
  • Many F-1 students participate in off-campus study, course-embedded travel, and/or internships — but there are unique visa challenges so advanced planning is very important.
  • The OISA provides travel and re-entry advice as it relates to your status and maintaining date-valid documents. Re-entry, for example, requires a date valid travel endorsement. Regulations require that you carry valid documents during domestic travel as well.
  • You may enroll in summer courses on another campus as a transient student, maintaining your SEVIS record with Grinnell, but you cannot work on that other campus.
  • When you declare your major the OISA reports it in SEVIS and issues a new I-20. Access to U.S.-based internships or employment, paid or unpaid, is limited to work that is directly related to your major.
  • You will have access to curricular practical training (for off-campus engagement that is curricular) and optional practical training (12 months per degree, to use immediately after you graduate). Students with S.T.E.M. majors (biology; biochemistry; chemistry; computer science; economics; general science; mathematics; physics; psychology) have access to 24 additional months of practical training.
  • You must have an offer of employment before you can apply for a U.S. Social Security Card. We will extend an offer upon your arrival, and the OISA coordinates transportation during IPOP to Social Security Administration in Des Moines. We also encourage you to secure a REAL ID (a state ID card or driver’s permit/license).
  • You are required to file a U.S. Federal Tax Return even if you don’t work on campus. The OISA provides free tax software for students and scholars.
  • An arrest, even for misdemeanor charges, can have negative consequences for non-immigrants.
  • You must make normal progress toward your degree completion. A program extension beyond 8 semesters requires preapproval through the OISA.
  • Upon graduation, F-1 students are typically eligible to:
    • pursue graduate studies;
    • use Optional Practical Training authorization (Students on OPT or STEM OPT maintain F-1 student status and continue to report through the OISA.); or
    • leave the U.S.

We are here to teach and advise you throughout your enrollment at Grinnell!

Thanks for reading through

2021 IPOP Mentors

  • Rachael Arkell

    Rachael Arkell ’22

    Rachael is a French major with a linguistics concentration from Winchester, U.K. Before coming to Grinnell, she attended Alton College in the U.K., and can speak English, French, and small amounts of many other languages. As a Grinnellian, Rachael has participated in course-embedded travel to Washington, D.C., and Virginia, and hopes to study abroad in Paris next spring. Her favorite place she has traveled to is the island city of Le Mont Saint Michel in France: “The architecture is magical, its narrow, winding streets crammed with bustling shops (which inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter), leads steeply up to the abbey at the top.” Rachael enjoys arts and crafts with friends and keeping up with world news, and is involved in the Oratorio Society and Friends of International Students (FIS) at Grinnell, stating that her host family has “widened my experience of Grinnell from the college bubble to the community.”

  • Huandong in a green field with a goat

    Huandong Chang ’22

    Huandong is a mathematics and computer science double major from Tianjin, China. He speaks Mandarin and English, and attended Tianjin Nankia High School before coming to Grinnell. Huandong loves to visit Singapore: “I love its order and its harmony between man and nature. Also, I took my last trial on SAT there, and it directly (or indirectly) led me to Grinnell. Singapore is my lucky place.” Huandong loves participating in sports like swimming, tennis, soccer, and weight training. One of his most memorable times at Grinnell was going canoeing with GORP (Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program) in Arkansas for a week. He also talks with his FIS Host Family about the history and culture of Grinnell and around the world.

  • Shubhi stands outside with her hand by her head

    Shubhika (Shubhi) Devrani '22

    Shubhi is an economics and political science double major from Mumbai, India. She studied at Oberoi International School for secondary school and she is proficient in Hindi, English, and Spanish. She’s enjoyed traveling to places like Indonesia, the U.K., and Switzerland. In her free time, Shubhi likes to practice meditation and mindfulness, yoga, and healthy cooking/baking. She is also really interested in houseplants and traveling. At Grinnell, she has participated in Mock Trial, the Class Ambassador Program through the Student Government Association (SGA), and has been a preschool teacher and middle/high school mentor. Shubhi also loves to cook and explore different cultures with her Friends of International Students (FIS) host family. One of her favorite quotes by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, suffering, struggle, loss. They have an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

  • Kexin, sitting in a green field next to a small tree

    Kexin (Sherry) Huang ’22

    Sherry is a psychology major with a neuroscience concentration from Wuhan, China. She attended Wuhan Britain-China School before coming to Grinnell and speaks Mandarin, English, and a little bit of Japanese. Sherry’s favorite places in the world are her home city, Wuhan, and the city of Osaka. She believes they have similar vibes as they are both warm places, physically and emotionally. Sherry enjoys singing, reading manga, and cooking. Recently, she’s been watching other people’s morning routines on YouTube to make up for the fact that she could never get up early. She has been the publicity coordinator for the Chinese Student Association at Grinnell and is the incoming Vice President of Grinnell’s International Student Organization (ISO). A quote Sherry loves is by Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I like the the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

  • Shirley Jwa

    Shirley Jwa ’22

    Shirley is a biochemistry major, and considers both Seoul, South Korea, and Bellevue, Washington, U.S., as her home. She attended Newport High School in Washington, U.S. for secondary school, and speaks Korean, English, and some Mandarin and Spanish. In her free time, Shirley enjoys playing the piano, singing karaoke, and traveling. At Grinnell, she is the current president of the Korean Student Association (KSA), plays water polo, and is a part of the Cultural Attaché Program. Shirley’s favorite places that she has lived or visited include Seoul and Yeosu in South Korea, Hanoi, Vietnam, Kyoto, Japan, and San Diego, California, U.S. A quote that she loves is: “Even when you think it’s too late, it is the best time to start.”

  • Isidro sitting on the steps of a house

    Isidro Mendizabal '23

    Isidro is a theatre and dance major from Quito, Ecuador. He attended Fundación Colegio Americano de Quito for secondary school and speaks Spanish and English. One favorite place he’s visited is the mountain Pasochoa in Ecuador. He misses the mountains and his siblings! At Grinnell, Isidro likes to make short films, read plays, and watch movies. In town, he likes to bike around at night and likes that Grinnell looks like a movie set. He also has a host family, Nancy and Allan Maly: “During my second year, a friend invited me to dinner with their host parents and it was so fun. It was experiencing the town from a different perspective, and they were so warm towards me. I got adopted. Now my best friend is also my host brother.”

  • Ariel smiles while standing outside

    Ariel Richards ’23

    Ariel is a chemistry major from Kingston, Jamaica. She attended Immaculate Conception High School before coming to Grinnell, and she speaks English and intermediate Spanish. One of the best places she’s visited is Italy: “I enjoyed the calm and friendly ambiance, the historical sites/sceneries, and the food. My most favourite activities in Italy were climbing to the top of buildings such as St. Peter's Basilica then basking in the beauty of view and definitely eating gelato.” In her free time, Ariel’s go-to hobbies are karaoke and playing the piano, and she’s currently learning how to play the harp! At Grinnell, Ariel takes photos for the Scarlet & Black, and performs with the Grinnell Singers. She is also involved in campus organizations like the African and Caribbean Students Union, Black Students in STEM, Gender and Women Minorities in Computing, GrinTECH, and ISO. A fun fact about Ariel is that she collects coins and keychains from around the world.

  • Antonella Diaz Rodriguez

    Antonella Diaz Rodriguez ’23

    Antonella is an undecided major from Quito, Ecuador, interested in pursuing education licensure, and speaks Spanish, English, and beginner Arabic. She attended Academia Cotopaxi in Quito for secondary school, but has lived all over the world! She lists Canelones, Uruguay; Muscat, Oman; Cairo, Egypt; and Quito, Ecuador, as her favorite places she has lived. At Grinnell, Antonella is involved in the Latin American Ensemble, works at the Grinnell College Preschool, and was the 2020 Fischlowitz Travel Fellowship recipient. She enjoys dancing as well, which she participates in through the Student Organization of Latinxs (SOL). Antonella also participates in the Friends of International Student Program, saying that her host family has “become like a second family that is constantly checking in on me. I really feel like I have somewhere to go whenever I feel homesick or need some advice. Overall, the experience has been amazing.”

  • Akshat Tiwari ’23

    Akshat is an art history major, with the intention to double major with economics, from Kolkata and Hyderabad, India. They attended St. Xavier’s Collegiate School for secondary school and speaks Hindi, Bengali, and English. Akshat enjoys visiting Dublin, Ireland; Mcleodganj, India; Shillong, India; Singapore; San Francisco, U.S.; and their hometown of Kolkata. In their free time, Akshat likes to look at art, visit museums, cycle, play trivia, and practice portrait/amateur photography. An important fact about Akshat is that they played Simba in a Lion King production as a kid, something they are still very proud of! At Grinnell, Akshat runs a radio show for KDIC (a local Grinnell radio station), and participates in the FIS Program: “They let me spend Thanksgiving with them, introducing me to this American holiday, and they made me care packages to deal with finals week stress, making me feel more at home.” They are also active with off-campus study programming, studying abroad in Copenhagen (Spring 2021) and soon again in Amsterdam (Spring 2022). Akshat will serve on the ISO Cabinet for the 2021-22 school year.

  • Rei stands with a city skyline behind her

    Rei Yamada ’22

    Rei is a studio art major, with an intention to double major in art history. Though she was born in Tokyo, Rei feels most at home in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and attended Hong Kong International School for secondary school. She identifies more often as global nomad rather than associating with one particular country or nationality, and she can speak Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English. The Gold Coast in Australia, Kuala Lampur in Malaysia, and Morocco are some of Rei’s favorite travel destinations. Some of Rei’s hobbies include drawing, painting, learning new languages — but her most unique interest is always finding a new skincare routine. She also dearly love cats. One of her favorite quotes is by Scarlett O’Hara: “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

  • Austin Yu

    Xinmiao (Austin) Yu ’23

    Austin is an intended physics and computer science double major from Guangzhou, China. He attended the Affiliated High School of South China Normal University for secondary school, and speaks Mandarin and English. At Grinnell, Austin is involved in the Chinese Student Association (CSA), Outdoor Recreation Club, and Friends of International Students (FIS). He also enjoys photography, specializing in landscape and portrait. Two of his favorite places in the world are Chongqing, China and his hometown of Guangzhou. Austin’s favorite quote is: “Pure pragmatism cannot imagine a bold future. Pure idealism cannot get anything done” Richard M. Nixon.

  • Sun is wearing a straw hat, smiling and pointing his fingers to the left

    Sun Yuvachitti ’24

    Sun is an undecided major from Nonthaburi, Thailand, who may be interested in studying history, English, or Spanish at Grinnell. He attended International Community School in Bagkok for secondary school. Sun can speak English, Thai, and Spanish, and has a well-rounded knowledge of basic phrases in Portuguese, Italian, French, Turkish, and Hindi/Urdu. He also loves to travel around Bangkok and Singapore. In his free time, Sun can be found looking up historical topics on his laptop, having deep conversations with his friends, or going on long walks around campus and Grinnell. He works in Dining Services on campus, and hopes to start a history club with his friends in the future! One of his favorite quotes is by Thomas Paine: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

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