International Student Services

Division of Student Services

New Student & Scholar FAQs: Things I Wish I'd Known...

cris jy nisma prakher hannah

Cris Panda
(C) '12

JinYoung Park
(JY) '11
South Korea

Nisma Elias
(N) '12

Prakher Bajpai
(P) '14

Hannah Choi
(H) '14
South Korea

Congratulations on your acceptance to Reed! We are looking forward to your arrival in Portland! But first, here are some words of wisdom from current international Reedies that we thought might be useful to you:

Things I wish I'd known...

When to Arrive

  • JY: If you are planning on participating in an Orientation Odyssey (Outdoor, SEEDS, or International Orientation), you can arrive at Reed starting on Friday, August 22. If not, you can move in on Tuesday, August 26, when General Orientation begins. Check out the Reed academic calendar for other important dates if you want to plan ahead. Back to Top

Immigration Documents

  • JY: You should receive your immigration documents by the end of May. Make appointments with the U.S. embassy as soon as possible. If you do not receive your immigration documents by the end of May, please contact ISSBack to Top

What/How Much Stuff to Bring

  • JY: I’m probably not the best person to be discussing this question, as I brought way too much stuff with me, but the best advice I could give you is to try and bring the minimum that is absolutely necessary. No doubt you will buy things once you get here, and some things that you thought you really needed might just sit in your room without getting used. Keep in mind that the longest you can stay in a dorm room is one academic year, so you'll be moving quite a number of times during your time at Reed. (As I write this I am dreading the moving-out process...) 
  • C: This obviously depends on you. As a guide rule, make sure to bring all of the things you think are absolutely necessary for you. You might also want to bring quite a few clothes, as there might not be enough time to go shopping in the first few weeks. Don’t worry about the small things you might need in your room, there will be trips to stores where you can get the stuff you might need for your room.
  • N: During O-week (International Orientation), ISS will take you on two shopping trips and both will be to Target, which is one of the largest retailers in the U.S. There you can find everything from clothes to pet furniture to bedspreads, so you can check out the website to get an idea of the things you can buy once you get here and how much you think you might want to spend.
  • There is also information on what you can and cannot bring to campus on the Orientation websiteBack to Top

Important Documents

Portland Weather

  • JY: Normally it does not get too cold here in the winter and what you should really be thinking about is the rain. Most of the time, it won’t be pouring, but the drizzle would go on for what seems like forever. There’s a rumor that Portlanders don’t use umbrellas, but don’t let this stop you from taking your umbrella with you on a rainy day. Of course you also have the option of wearing rain jackets. But don’t let this talk about rain disappoint you. We do get beautiful sun breaks, and honestly, I never appreciated the sunshine this much before moving to Portland.
  • C: The weather is rarely cold, so if you’re a fan of snow you might be disappointed in the winter. It’s usually quite rainy in the fall, winter, and spring, which coincidentally are the times the college year is happening, but we get quite a lot of nice weather at the end of the spring, during the summer and at the beginning of fall. As for rain, unless you come from a tropical country, a rain jacket might be enough for you. People rarely use umbrellas and raingear is quite popular, but there are no rules to it other than your own preference.
  • P: During the winter it can get a bit wet and windy. It rains or rather drizzles quite often, but usually not enough to warrant the use of an umbrella, and a rain jacket, for the most part, is more than enough for such weather, escpecially when you are only trying to get from one building to another.  Back to Top

Clothing (What Kind of Clothes to Bring) 

  • N: The weather in Portland varies from warm in the fall to chilly in the winter till the beginning of spring. Do bring some warm jackets and clothes you would wear during the winter though nothing too heavy because that just takes up a lot of space and you could always buy a heavier coat if you think you need it. Definitely bring a raincoat/umbrella to protect yourself from the frequent rain. A pair of boots is also a good idea although I had never worn boots before and bought a nice pair from here. Bring along some t-shirts and long pants for the summer and fall. 
  • JY: I had never worn boots before coming here either, and I really appreciate having boots to keep my feet and the bottom of my pants dry. Definitely bring layering clothes and jackets/coats. My biggest wardrobe mistakes came from not wearing the right layers. I would wear light clothes inside and throw on a big jacket. Then I would get to class and take off my jacket, and it would be too cold to keep the jacket off and too hot to put it back on. Also, those little things called scarves are very helpful since your neck is one of the most vulnerable places to the cold.
  • CThis totally depends on you and mostly how sensitive you are to cold/rain. I’ve seen friends walking outside in the middle of the winter in flip flops and a T-shirt and I’ve seen friends wearing thick winter jackets in the same environment. However, as a general rule, wear layers of clothes especially since Portland weather can change really fast. My strategy is to wear a T-shirt and a jacket on top of it, so I can always have the right amount of clothes with the fast changing weather. Back to Top


  • JY: If you plan to bring a laptop, music system, hair dryer, etc., please remember to check that the voltage system is the same as that of the U.S., or plan to bring a converter with you. Converters and plug-adapters can also be purchased in the airport when you arrive in Portland.
  • H: A lot of Reedies use Mac laptops. However, this is not a requirement, and many students choose to use other laptops, tablets, or none at all. Also, the library and the ETC building (open 24 hours) provide plenty of computers and workspace. Back to Top

Money (How Much to Bring with You)

  • N: You should try to bring enough cash to get you by the first week or so at Reed before you open a bank account. However, during orientation all your meals are provided, so you would only need cash if you were going to buy things on the shopping trip (which most students do). Having some money in case of an emergency is also a good idea even if you do have a bank account. It is best not to carry too much cash when you travel. Bringing some of your funds in the form of traveler's checks is a safer option. There are places to convert money at the Portland airport if you choose not to do so before leaving your country. 
  • C: You don’t really need any money other than maybe for food on your trip. You might want to carry some extra cash in the chance you find yourself delayed in an airport in or outside the U.S. Sometimes the airline will pay for your expenses, but sometimes they might not. My guess is that a couple of hundred dollars would be enough for all of this. Don’t worry after you get to the Portland airport! Your host family or ISS staff will pick you up and deliver you to your destination (that’s Reed) with no additional charge! Back to Top

Dorm Rooms at Reed

  • JY: First, let me start by saying that I think most dorm rooms at Reed are pretty nice no matter where you are placed. Each building has its pros and cons and some are more popular, but each room has windows, is heated in the winter, and is spacious enough to serve the needs of a college student.
    Most first-year rooms at Reed are divided doubles. This means that there are two rooms that are connected by a door but you can only access both through one door (except for the rooms in the Grove area, where there is a wall but no door between the two rooms, just open space where there could be a door). This results in one roommate having the outer room and the other having the inner room. Both rooms have their pros and cons. Usually the more outgoing of the two who does not mind the roommate walking in and out of his/her room would take the outer room. In cases where the roommates have the same preference, I’ve seen people switch rooms after one semester. I’ve also heard of people who designate the inner room as the bedroom and the outer room as the social space and share both rooms. There are some undivided doubles at Reed, but these are often divided into two sections by moving furniture around.
    Another thing that might be different at Reed is the co-ed bathroom. Some people are even shocked by the co-ed floors themselves (like my mother), but for me the surprise was the bathroom. There is one living option that is single gendered—the women’s dorm—but other than that, you will be living with people of the other gender. If the co-ed bathroom is a problem for anyone in the dorm, the residents of that dorm can decide to have single-gendered bathrooms.
  • C: The rooms are nice in general. Of course some are better than others, so luck is kind of important when you get yours. Housing is quite diverse on campus, so the best room for you will depend on your preference. As a freshman, you will probably be placed in a double room, so a lot of your experience will depend on your roommate. A lot of the rooms are singles, so for the next years at Reed you’ll probably live in one. Apartments are also available, which are really nice and almost seem to be off campus. Freshmen, however, do not live in Reed apartments. 
  • H: Every dorm has a common room and kitchen area, which includes a refrigerator and other basic appliances such as a microwave. Depending on who you live with, there will be Kommie utensils, plates, food, etc. These Kommie items (visibly marked with "K" or "Kommie") are shared with everyone.
  • P: Almost all dorm rooms are nice and good in general, but of course they all come with their own share of pros and cons. Some might be closer to the Commons, while others may simply just be better looking. As a freshman, you may not really have much of a choice as to what dorm you end up living in, except if you apply for a theme dorm. Also, most of the freshmen are placed in divided doubles, which is like a regular double except with one big wall and door separating the room into two parts. It may be a good idea to talk to your roommate before coming to Reed and deciding who wants to live in the outer or the inner room. The closets are usually in the inner room, while the the main entrance to the room is in the outer room. Back to Top

Storage for Students Staying in the Dorms

  • JY: Reed dorms actually have a lot of storage inside the rooms, and if you run out of the storage space, you could always use the space under the bed and such. You also get to store up to four items (no size limit to my knowledge) in the storage rooms in the dorms as long as you live on campus. Back to Top


  • H: Each dorm has a laundry room with washing and drying machines. You will have to deposit money into your laundry account online through IRIS and swipe your Reed ID to operate the machines.
  • P: Reed provides every dorm with a laundry room. You can just deposit money into your Laundry account either online through IRIS or through the Business Office. And access to these rooms in you dorm are available 24/7. Back to Top

Will there be food at International Orientation?

  • JY, N, C: Yes!
  • N: There's plenty of food to be found during Orientation. You won't be going hungry.
  • JY: We asked you for your dietary restrictions, so please fill them out!
  • P: Most definitely! Just don't miss out on any of the fun socials. Back to Top

What food needs are covered at Reed?

  • JY: The cafeteria at Reed tries really hard to meet everyone's dietary needs. There are always vegetarian and vegan options (and sometimes gluten-free options) and they have recently started serving halal fried chicken strips. It is easy to walk towards the grill for a burger, but there are always fruits and vegetables at the salad bar for a more balanced meal. Back to Top

Registering for Classes

  • N: Registering for classes is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. Once you are here, you will be given a set time and place when you have to meet your academic advisor. S/he will give you your PIN number and discuss with you what classes you should take. You will then log onto where you will select the classes you and your advisor has decided on. Once you have finalized your schedule, you're all set!
  • CI strongly recommend looking over the class schedule and having a general idea about what classes you are going to take before you go to meet with your adviser in order to make things go more smoothly.
  • P: You will also be able to take placement tests for some of the courses like language classes during the O-week.
  • Keep in mind that registration does not occure until the Friday of New Reedie Orientation. Back to Top

Working on Campus

  • JY, N, C: There are lots of jobs available on campus. There are different types of work opportunities, depending on what kind of work you'd like to do.
  • JY: I’ve worked at various offices, at Commons, at the library, as a tutor, at Gray Fund events, and an overnight dorm host for the admission office. There are a lot more options like working at the mailroom, at the bookstore, at the Paradox (Reed’s student-run coffee shop), baking for the Paradox, at the Sports Center, as a lifeguard, and as part of the grounds crew. Just start your search early and don’t be disappointed if you hear some no’s at first. More jobs will be available as you get to know more people. 
  • C: You should look for jobs as soon as possible at the beginning of the year, maybe even before orientation starts. The place to do that is on under the Employment Opportunities link. The library offers the most jobs on campus, but there are many other offices on campus that hire students.
  • N: There is also an employment guide that is available for students listing the departments that employ students. You could use this list to go to the respective departments and ask if they are looking for new workers. A third resource is other current students whom you could ask where they work and what kind of experience they've had. Back to Top

Host Family Program (What is this about?)

  • N: A host family is a family that lives here in Portland and acts as a secondary family for you. Everyone has different experiences with their host families but activities that host families do with you may include showing you the city, taking you off campus sometimes or providing you with a home cooked meal. The host family program is designed to introduce you to American culture and acts as a resource for anything you need, other than your friends. I chose my host family to be my sister who lives in Portland and I'm glad I had that resource to get off campus once in a while and talk to people who weren't worried about their next paper or exam. Your host family is a way for you to interact with people outside of Reed and to go outside the Reed bubble during the year and during holidays.
  • JY: Everybody takes a different approach to it, but I think of it as another tie you’ll have with Reed and the U.S. I was assigned a family and I have also adopted a couple of families through my friends. While some people are like my secondary family, other people are just like friends. Not exactly like the friends I made at school but older friends who give me a different perspective. Different relationships but both very valuable. There is no particular way you are supposed to go about in the program, but I encourage you to get to know your host family (and your friends’ host families if you get the chance). There are a lot of great people in the program. Back to Top

Opening an American Bank Account

  • JY: You could do one of two things. The easier option is to wait until the Bank Fair. The other option, if you are like me and tend to be impatient, is to pick a bank and go over to open an account. Whether you decide to wait or to go on your own, you will need two forms of ID. I’m pretty sure that your passport and your Reed ID will do the job. The majority of you will not have a social security number by the time you open a bank account. That's okay, but do remember to give them the number once you get it. If you choose to go on your own, always mention that you are a student and ask for checking and saving account options that do not have any fees.You could probably get a student credit card, but be very careful about credit cards. Everyone will be asking you to start one, even at stores and supermarkets. I got credit cards to build credit—since I had none when I arrived—but I use them like debit cards, paying the full balance every month.
  • C: As for which bank to choose, U.S. Bank might be a good idea as they do have an ATM on campus. Also Chase and Wells Fargo have ATM’s that are quite close to the campus. As for me, I went with Bank of America; I like their customer service and their great online banking, which makes it really easy to do any kind of transactions. Back to Top

Cell Phone Options

  • JY: You could either go with a plan or prepaid. If you plan to use your phone a lot, a plan is probably better. If you don’t talk much on the phone, but want a way for people to contact you, and especially if you are only at Reed for one year, prepaid is a better option, as most plans require you to sign a 2-year contract. There are five main cell phone carriers that serve the Portland area: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and Cricket. While I think the coverage is pretty good for all five, those of you who do not have any credit history in the US should consider T-Mobile or Cricket as they are the only carriers that do not require a deposit for people with no credit history. If you have a preference and have money in your bank account, consider the other options, as the deposit is returned in one year.
  • C: If you don’t think you’re going to be using your cell phone a lot, you can get a Prepaid card. There are two options: you can either get a Pay as you go plan or Pay by the day. The Pay by the day plan usually assumes you will pay 1 or 2 dollars for everyday you will use your phones, but the charge per minute is quite low (around 10c/min). For the Pay as you go plan, you pay as much as you use with no other charges, but the cost is higher, around 30c/min. For details about plans, you can check the websites of the main carriers in the US: T-mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Cricket and Sprint, but you can also sometimes find great offers from other small carriers. Back to Top

Contacting Family Back Home Once at Reed

  • N: ISS will provide you with a $5 international calling card, which you can use to call your family right when you reach Reed. The bookstore carries similar $5 and $10 international calling cards that you can also use. However, these are expensive relative to the number of hours you get to talk. If your family has a good internet connection, I would heartily recommend using Skype, which is a downloadable program on which you can talk to anyone in the world at no cost. You have to open an account on Skype and so does the person you want to talk to. You can even video chat. Email is fast and costless, as well as MSN or Yahoo Messenger or Facebook chat (you need to start an account for all of these options).
  • C:  Of course more traditional communication, such as snail mail, is always an option. Back to Top

Stores/Restaurants Near Campus

  • JY: Just up the hill on Woodstock Blvd, we have a major grocery store (Safeway) that is open 24 hours and a smaller store (Bi-Mart). There are quite a few places to eat in this area. You could check out the famous Otto's sausages (they also have really good sandwiches inside), grab some Thai food at Tom Yum, get a burrito at Laughing Planet, sit down for some coffee at First Cup, grab a slice of pizza at Pizza Roma, or walk just a bit farther for some sushi or teriyaki at Tani's (click here for a map). If you'd like to shop for food at a cute hippy store, visit Trader Joe's on 39th Ave (also called Cesar Estrada Chavez Boulevard). If you go towards Steele and keep going on 39th past Steele, you will soon see a grocery store to your left. Trader Joe's has lots of healthier snacks and vegetarian-friendly products. Back to Top

How Close is Reed to Downtown?

  • JY: Downtown is half an hour away on a bike or by bus and probably about 15 minutes away by car. Back to Top

Going Places/Public Transportation

  • C: TriMet is the answer to your question. They have buses, the MAX (light rail) and streetcars. The ticket prices are quite good, at a couple of dollars for any trip within 2-3 hours.  There are two bus lines on the north and south ends of the campus and they both go downtown and there’s some more useful ones with a little bit of a walk. It takes about thirty minutes to get downtown with the bus, but you might need up to two hours to reach the farthest parts of the city. The public transportation system is nice and usually quiet and the drivers are polite and helpful. is an important website to check before going on a trip as some of the lines do not have frequent service, especially in the evening and weekends.
  • N: TriMet! I use Portland’s public transport system a lot (i.e. the buses and light rail) and I find them great to ride. The buses all have a schedule at and you can plan your travel itineraries on the site as well. There are the MAX light rails in downtown Portland and they take you all over the city. There are also cab companies, which you can call if you want a ride for example, to and from the airport, and most students usually call RadioCab which knows Reed College's location pretty well. Portland is also a very bicycle friendly city (apparently the second most friendly in the U.S.) so you can get by all your four years at Reed without ever needing a car.
  • JY: TriMet does a pretty good job, but lately I have been biking everywhere. I recently started biking as a form of transportation and it is one of the most liberating things I have ever experienced. Portland is good to its cyclists for the most part and lots of people bike here. It takes me less than half an hour to go downtown on my bike and it takes the same amount of time, if not longer, on the bus. It also helps you exercise without setting aside a time to go to the gym! Back to Top

International Communities in Portland

  • C: There is probably some of every international community though I must say Portland is not as ethnically diverse as other U.S. cities.
  • N: There are many international communities in Portland. Being a Bangladeshi myself, I know there is a large Bengali community here in Portland and a large Indian and Pakistani community as well. Apart from the South Asians, I know that fairly large Sudanese, Nigerian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese communities also exist. There are several Islamic centers, temples, and synagogues to my knowledge as well. All new Reedies will be given a multicultural guide during orientation by Student Services which will be able to help you figure out which communities are present in the city and how to reach out to them. Other Reedies, international and non-international, are great resources as well. Back to Top

Contact International Student Services

Gray Campus Center 104
Skype: iss.reed

Dana Lawson
Assistant Dean of Students for International Student Services

Subscribe to our mailing list

Follow Us