Below was my first experience traveling to US for the very first time from “RedBus to US” in July 2004…I wrote the below experience to my cousin as soon as I landed in US to guide him…If I read the experience again, I feel terrible in terms of how I wrote the article..damn ! I would like to keep my student experience original…Hoping that it will help someone…
I visited India many times after the very first time and the process is pretty much the same. If you traveling for first time, you may be nervous, but you should never panic anywhere especially at immigration…make sure you have the important documents with you all the time. Carry some quarters and cash. Carry some ear buds if you are really sensitive to sound.
For the first timers especially F1 students who are coming to US :
Go to the airport at least 3 hrs before the departure of ur flight…Write the complete address of the place where u are going to on ur baggage.u either stick a paper on the suitcases or scribble with a sketch or marker pen.but make sure that u write the adresses coz that ll be useful when ur luggage is misplaced or lost. I wrote with a chalk piece soaked in water..this works fine…write phone no also….
In chennai at airport: may be same case at HYD Outside the airport at the departure end u ll see a LCD board that shows the status for different flights.eg:if it is written that LH759 check-in ,it means that checkin is going for that flight and u can go and checkin.If its written LH759 boarding, it means that the flight is boarding passengers now..U ll have to go inside the airport when the board shows check in which means that u can go book ur luggage and proceed to the immigration
Once u enter the airport at chennai the process consists of four things.
1.Book ur baggage
Once u enter the airport u can see sign boards which show where u have to book ur baggage.eg:people going in lufthansa ll go to a different counter than those going in airindia.first u ll have to put ur luggage on rolling machine when it comes at the other end they ll put a security tag on that.then collect ur luggage keep them on the trolley and proceed further.the counters will be labeled with the flight name and class.So u got to go and stand in a queue there.Now u ll be given a form to fill.this is a sort of embarking/disembarking form.U ll just have to fill in small details like passport no,flight name.
U ll have to write only a part of it and keep it with u…then at the counter they ll weigh ur baggage .Usually they allow 2 or 3 KGs in excess but may be not more .If u have more u ll have to pay extra amount. it is around 600 per KG ….If ur bags are within the acceptable limits they ll take the luggage and on each suitcase they ll put a sticker around the handle and the counterpart ll be attached to ur ticket..So if u have 2 suitcases two stickers ll be attached on ur ticket cover page.These stickers are very important coz they ll be used if ur baggaged are missed and u want to reclaim them.they ll ask u basic question like which univ etc.They ll check ur visa etc.then they ll tear two pages from ur ticket and give u two boarding passes .( in My case ) One from chennai to Frankfurt and the other from frankfurt to Houston. these are very important.U ll have to show them while boarding the flight..the boarding pass from frankfurt to washington D C ll have the torn page inserted in it and the other boarding pass ll not have the torn page.The page they ll keep for themselves.they ll also give u a handbaggage tag which u ll have to tie to the handbaggage u carry. now u dont have any luggage except for the hand bag.So now u can go and see ur parents off or talk to them for a while coz once u enter the immigration u ll not be allowed to come back.
after u are done with the baggage booking go to the immigration officer.he ll ask u some questions and he even saw my I 20.So when he asks .What are u going to do,say do my Masters in XXX specialing in XXX,always be specific.here he ll take the form that u filled before.tear it into 2 ,stamp one half and give it to u.this thing keep it with u safely..
now u ll have to take the escalator and go upstairs where u ll have to undergo security check in .Ur baggage is scanned and they ll check u with a metal detector.
4.boarding the flight
after security check in u ll go to a longue where u ll have to wait until they announce that the aircraft is ready for boarding which u can see in a LCD display there..So now u can relax,go to toilet and call ur parents using free telephone(only local numbers ) there.now on ur boarding pass u ll be given the zone no and the gate no and they ll call them accordingly.like “passengers going to frankfurt by lufthansa and having zones 1 2 can go thru gate 2” like this.So once u board the flight they ll tear ur boarding pass and give u the counter part and also guide u to the seat.keep the counterpart safe ..
now keep ur baggage up in the boxes given above ur seats
in lufthansa , u ll be given a pillow and blanket . and also headsets u can see in the TV infront of u and listen by headsets.here u can also listen to hindi songs on channel 11 which u can set on ur hand rest.
one or two hrs later they ll serve u dinner.U can go for veg or non veg.i went for veg and i was given rice,some capsicum curry and beans.bread jam and butter are common in every meal.then u can go to sleep or do what ever u like .I slept and got up at may be 6 o clock ,did brushing and got freshed up.then after sometime they served breakfast.
this time it was vada,tomato bath and sambar.they ll tell u the local time at frankfurt so adjust ur watch accordingly.i got down at frankfurt at 7:30 local time…they ll clearly show u in the TV where to get down where u have to go etc in the plane before landing…
Once u get down from the plane there ll be an officer who ll look at ur passport and ask u “which school”.then there ll be a bus which ll take u to a terminal.
Now once u get down at the terminal see the LCD Screens which display the timings of ur flight.If there are any changes in the flight schedule theyll be displayed there.Now see ur boarding pass.
u ll find the gate no..u have like A 60 ,B 34 etc
now u ll have to go to the appropriate gate depending upon ur destination(mine was washington dulles).In my case it was A 60 i had to take an accelerator and then a tram kind of thing called “skyline” which ll take u to these gates.u can ask the people there they ll help u out .Once u go to the appropriate gate .They ll again do the security check like the one they did in chennai.and then u ll have to wait in a longue and then u ll be asked to board the flight ..
So the ambience will be the same like before flight ..so get settled in ur seat .after few hrs they ll serve u lunch.I took non veg so it was sphagetti(its like noodles )and chicken(with butter),the other item was pasta..they ll also server coke ,water,orange juice ,beer ,wine ,champagne etc.(free).
then two hrs before landing theyll serve u lunch. in my case they served pizzas. ( This is same in any flight entering USA )they ll also give u two forms once is the
customs declaration form and the other is I 94 from(white one) .In the customs declaration form they ll ask u the total cost of the things u r getting into US .just write $300 like that .
Now once u get down at the US airport ( i,e. Port of entry is the first place u land in USA….if u land in New york then ur port of entry is NY….no probs and this….if NY then u will get a domestic flight ) u ll have to go and stand in the queue named non-US citizens………….it takes an hr or more also…sometimes……..here he ll take the
form I 94 stamp it and staple it to ur passport ,take ur finger prints ,ask u some questions,stamp on ur I 20.I was again asked the same old question”which school”.( some of them may irritate why r u early or late etc be prepared and be confident this is like visa counselling…nothing to worry ra……say u got visa late so late…i can register…like this and also show the print out of the Letter by Royer….ok )now after this go and collect ur baggage (the two big suitcases u booked in Hyd )take them in a trolley and u ll go to an officer.If suposse in the customs declaration form u checked the box say food, u ll be asked what food are u getting. u say dry food.
He might some times ask u to go to another counter where they ll open ur baggage and check each and everything or else he might just send u .after passing through this there ll be an exit ,if this is ur final exit u can leave the airpor thru that or if u have a connecting flightu can proceed the other way.So dont worry ,everything ll be fine and also be frank with the officers in US
Important preacautions to be taken:
1.never leave ur bagggage unattended.always keep ur bagggage with u even when u go to bathroom. be very very cautious abt this.
2.dont even entertain if someone asks u to look after their luggage.
3.buy a purse kind of thing to keep ur passport and tickets etc
u have a special one for passports……always keep passport with u in u r pocket…