Pre-Departure Information

Get inspired

The 7 Wonders of Oregon video will get you inspired to live in this diverse state.

Portland guides

The Visit OHSU website has lots of information about coming to OHSU for the first time. It's a good resource for planning your first trip.

The Portland Relocation Guide offers great maps, family-friendly activities, urban living guides, and descriptions of the best Portland area neighborhoods.

Willamette Week, a local news and event paper provides guides about everything fun in Portland, including food, drinks, and guides to events in the city.

When you arrive in Portland, please come to the Office of International Affairs. You will meet with an Immigration Services Specialist. You will also receive a welcome package with some resources and information to help get you started.

Get directions to the Office of International Affairs.

Extended stay hotels

Residence Inn Marriot is close to the Marquam Hill and SW Waterfront Campuses.  This hotel also offers an OHSU discount.

Extended Stay America is close to the OHSU West Campus and the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Other options

Banking services

Both banks and credit unions offer a wide variety of financial services such as savings accounts, checking accounts, loans, mortgages, lines of credit, currency conversion, travelers checks and investment checks.

Larger, non credit union, banks will allow internationals to open an account without a social security number (SSN).

How to open an account

To open an account you must complete an application and show two pieces of identification. One form must have a photo, such as a passport or drivers license. The second form can be a major credit card, alien resident card, or a piece of mail with your address on it, such as a utility bill. You will also need to deposit some amount of money into your account.

Types of accounts


With this type of account, you make deposits and are then able to write checks to pay bills and make purchases in place of cash, provided you have enough money in your account. There are various types of checking accounts with different types of privileges and restrictions, so you need to make sure you understand what the clerk at the bank is telling you. It is important that you keep track of deposits and expenditures in your account so that you do not overdraw and suffer penalties.


You can deposit any amount of money into a savings account, but the purpose is to keep it there to let it grow. You can make withdrawals by visiting your bank or ATM. Some banks may require you to keep a minimum amount of money in these accounts to avoid a service charge, but they all pay interest.

General banking information

Debit cards

You may arrange to get a debit card when you open your bank account, at which time you will receive a four digit personal identification number (PIN). Most businesses accept debit cards to pay for your purchases. The amount of your purchase is automatically deducted from your checking account. The card can also be used as a credit card if it is marked with a Visa or MasterCard symbol. The important difference between a debit card and credit card is that when a debit card is used, the money is taken out of your checking account immediately. If debit cards are lost or stolen, you should report it immediately to your bank, or you may be held responsible for all charges made to your account.

Automated teller machines (ATM)

ATMs allow you to do a variety of transactions, including withdrawing cash, making deposits, transferring funds between accounts, and inquiring on account balances. You access the ATM with your debit card. Your bank is one of one or more banking systems which allow you to access your account information through an ATM. To know if a particular ATM is part of a system that your bank uses, you can compare the bank system symbols displayed on or around the ATM machine with those symbols appearing on your debit card. ATMs are located in a variety of locations, including banks, grocery stores, shopping malls, etc. In addition to the proper ATM card, you will need to know your four digit PIN code to use the ATM.

Credit cards

Purchasing can be done at many stores, restaurants, hotels, and gas stations on credit. Some credit cards are good for only specific stores or companies. General credit cards can be used at many establishments; Visa, MasterCard and American Express are commonly used general credit cards. While credit cards are very convenient, keep in mind that interest is charged each month (often between 15-20%) if the entire balance is not paid off within a specific time period. The credit system in the U.S. is set up to encourage cardholders to spend a lot of money and you may find it difficult to make monthly payments. If credit cards are lost or stolen, you should report it immediately to the appropriate credit card companies, or you may be held responsible for all charges made to your account.

Bringing money to the U.S. from abroad

When visitors first arrive in Portland, they will need enough money for immediate expenses such as hotels, food, registration fees, and housing costs until a bank account can be established. It is not recommended to carry large sums of cash while traveling; there are safer options available. Contact your home country bank now for details about the following:

  • Traveler's Checks—The money is immediately available if checks are in US dollars, and they can be replaced if lost or stolen. But checks in large denominations can be difficult to use. Checks in a foreign currency are subject to exchange fees.
  • Electronic Banking/ATMs/Check Cards—Cash is available immediately from Automatic Teller Machines. Exchange rates are good, but there may be a daily limit ($200-$300) and fees for using the service.
  • International Credit Cards—Money is available immediately and exchange rates are good. But not all US stores and businesses accept international credit cards.
  • Bank Checks/Drafts—These are useful for large sums of money but funds are not available for three days to three weeks after deposit (depending on which bank is used).
  • Wire transfers—This is the safest way to transfer money. It is immediately available but an account at a US bank must be opened first. There may be a fee for using the service. Students may also may their tuition & fees via Bank-to-Bank Transfer.


  • Oregon is known as the Beaver State.
  • Oregon's state bird is the Western Meadowlark.
  • The capital of Oregon is Salem.
  • Oregon joined the U.S. in 1859.
  • Oregon has 240 incorporated cities and 36 counties.
  • The highest point in Oregon is Mount Hood at 11,239 Feet.
  • The lowest point in Oregon is the Pacific Ocean at sea level.
  • The deepest lake in Oregon and in the USA is Crater Lake at 1,958 feet.
  • Oregon's state motto is "She flies with her own wings."


  • Portland is known as the Rose City.
  • Portland's city bird is the Blue Heron.
  • Average temperature in Portland is 33.5º in January and 79.5º in July.
  • Portland is 78 miles to the Pacific Ocean and 65 miles to Mt. Hood.
  • Portland is a city that is shaped by two rivers. To the north the Columbia River is the border between the State of Oregon and the State of Washington. The Willamette River flows through the center of downtown Portland. Portland was built at the junction of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.
  • Portland is the largest city in Oregon.


In the U.S. the dollar is the only accepted currency. In paper notes, there are $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. These are known as dollar bills. Coins (valued in cents) include the:

  • Penny (1¢ or $.01)
  • Nickel (5¢ or $.05)
  • Dime (10¢ or $.10)
  • Quarter (25¢ or $.25)
  • Fifty cent pieces (50¢ or $.50)
  • Dollar ($1.00)


When a date is written in the U.S., it is in a format of month/day/year.


The U.S. does not use the metric system.

Weight is measured using pounds and ounces. These are as follows:

  • Pound (lb) = .45 kilograms
  • Ounce (oz) = 28.00 grams

Liquids are measured in cups, pints, quarts and gallons. These are as follows:

  • Teaspoon (tsp) = 5.00 milliliters
  • Tablespoon (Tb) = 15.00 milliliters
  • Cup C = .24 liters
  • Pint pt = .47 liters
  • Quart qt = .95 liters
  • Gallon gal = 3.80 liters
  • There are two pints in a quart and 4 quarts in a gallon.

Speeds are given in miles per hour (mph).

Length is measured in inches, feet, yards and miles. These are:

  • Inch (in or ") = 2.54 cm
  • Foot (ft or ') = 30.00 cm
  • Yard (yd) = .90 meters
  • Mile (m) = 1.60 km

Temperature is given in degrees Farenheit (written as ºF).

  • 98.6ºF = 37ºC normal body temperature
  • 32.0ºF = 0ºC freezing point for water
  • 212.0ºF = 100ºC boiling point for water

When you know Farenheit, subtract 32, multiply 5 and then divide by 9 to get Celsius.

Time changes and time zones

There are two different time changes in the U.S. Daylight savings time occurs between March and November and standard time is used the rest of the year.

In April we set the clocks ahead one hour and in October we set the clocks back one hour.

There are four distinct time zones in the U.S.

  • Pacific: Portland: 9:00 a.m.
  • Mountain: Denver: 10:00 a.m.
  • Central: Chicago: 11:00 a.m.
  • Eastern: New York: 12:00 noon

Personal safety

Always be aware of your surroundings and walk confidently.

  • When walking at night always try to walk with a friend or a group in a lighted area. You should also consider carrying a flashlight for increased visibility. If you need an escort to your car while on campus, contact the public safety office at 503-494-7744.
  • Carry a cell phone for emergencies and program emergency numbers into speed dial if possible.
  • Have your car and house keys out and ready.
  • When walking around cars, wear light colored or reflective clothing to help motorists see you better.
  • Never get into a car with someone you do not know.
  • Always lock your vehicle.
  • Do not wear headphones that keep you from hearing what is going on around you.
  • Avoid walking near large bushes that you cannot see around.
  • Avoid parking on dark streets. The best place to park is under a street light or in a staffed parking structure.
  • Always walk facing traffic.
  • Never hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers.
  • In emergency situations, contact the public safety emergency number at 503-494-4444 or the local police/fire department at 911. Please only use these numbers in an emergency For non-emergency public safety issues, call 503-494-7744.

Safety of personal possessions

  • Always keep your apartment or house doors and windows locked.
  • Never open the door to someone you do not know.
  • If you keep valuables, such as jewelry or cash in your home, make sure they are well hidden. Never carry or display large amounts of cash.
  • If you own or use a car, never leave anything valuable in it. If you must, put valuables in the trunk, under a seat or cover them before you leave your car.


Look into the baggage restrictions for the airline you are taking abroad. Some airlines will allow you to check two large suitcases for international flights, but you may want to find out the size and weight.


Make copies of all important documents.

  • Passport (bring an extra photocopy with you as well)
  • Entry documents such as visa letters, invitation letters, etc.
  • Copy of Insurance policy
  • ATM and credit cards


It's also important to remember that you may have to carry your bags on your own, so don't pack more than you can carry. Here are some specific things you will want to remember:

  • Comfortable shoes for walking
  • Rain gear
  • Appropriate clothing for your internship site, if you are doing an internship, including an interview outfit. Your internship placement will have info on the style of dress required at that company.
  • Seasonally appropriate clothing (coats for winter, bathing suits for summer, etc)
  • Layers! It is difficult to plan for every changing weather pattern but the best way to do this is to pack a few basic pieces that can be appropriately layered for cooling or warming temperatures.

Health items

  • Speak to your doctor about getting extra prescription medication; bring enough for your first few months of your stay
  • Contact lenses and glasses
  • Shampoo, soap, etc- you can buy more in the U.S., but bring enough for the first few days while you are getting situated. If you have particular brands of toiletries that you like to use, bring these with you, as it's possible that you won't be able to find exact brands and products.
  • Personal health kit- band-aids; anti-itch ointment; hand sanitizer; vitamins; cold medication; diarrhea and upset stomach medication; personal hygiene products. Please note that similar products will be available in the U.S.

Portland International Airport (PDX)

7000 N.E. Airport Way, Portland, OR 97218

U.S. Healthcare System overview

U.S. Healthcare System Overview

This video by International Student Insurance teaches international people how to prepare for their arrival in the U.S., how the U.S. healthcare system works, and how international people should seek medical care appropriately if they become sick or injured. Additional information can be found on the International Student Insrance's website.

Mental health wellness for international students

Mental Health Wellness for International Students

This short video introduces the concepts of mental health for internationals in the U.S.  Covering mental health awareness and warning signs, dispelling myths, and showing ways to seek treatment, the video seeks to demystify a complex topic.

Why you need medical insurance

Medical care in the United States is more expensive than in any other country in the world.

The U.S. government does not pay any part of the medical expenses for international students/employees studying or working here.

It is generally not possible to purchase insurance after you get sick because an illness or injury that you already have, called "preexisting," is usually not covered by insurance.

U.S. immigration regulations require many nonimmigrants to carry medical insurance, either as a condition of maintaining status or as a part of their financial certification.

Types of medical insurance

In the U.S., generally individuals can choose from one of the following types of medical insurance:

Indemnity plan

Under this type of plan, you pay an insurance premium and then you can choose your physician and other healthcare providers, refer yourself to specialists, and otherwise make independent decisions about what type of care to seek. The insurance pays a fixed percentage of covered expenses and usually requires deductibles and co-payments. This type of plan is usually the most expensive type of medical insurance.

Preferred provider organization (PPO)

A PPO operates much like an indemnity plan, except the plan provides incentives for insured individuals to seek care from practitioners who are on a list provided by the insurance company. Under a PPO plan, the insurance company will generally cover a higher percentage of the cost, and sometimes require you to pay a lower deductible, if you choose to use one of their preferred providers.

Health maintenance organization (HMO)

HMO Open Access: An HMO with open access provides coverage for many services but requires that you seek care first from one selected physician (primary care provider) before you go to any other physicians or health facilities. The HMO will provide you with a list of physicians from which you select your primary care provider. Your insurance will provide coverage for visits to your primary care provider and for most services that he or she recommends. Services that you seek independently (without consulting your primary care provider) are generally not covered.

HMO closed panel

An HMO with a closed panel is one in which the physicians and other practitioners work directly for the HMO. All services must be provided directly by the HMO and its staff. Services that you seek outside the HMO are generally not covered.

General information

  • After you enroll in an insurance plan, your insurance company will send you an insurance identification card. The card remains valid only as long as you continue to pay your insurance premiums. Some insurance companies specify a waiting period before coverage begins, so it is important to purchase insurance immediately upon arrival to the U.S.
  • Keep your insurance card with you at all times, and show it to the doctor or hospital when you seek medical treatment.
  • Some doctors work directly with the insurance company for payment, and others require you to pay and seek reimbursement yourself by filing a claim. Ask about payment arrangements before you receive medical treatment so you know what to expect.
  • Complete claim forms accurately and completely, and respond promptly to any requests for information from your insurance company. Failure to do so could delay the insurance company's payment to you or to the doctor.
  • In order to be prepared for an emergency, you should locate the nearest hospital to your residence/work.

Additional resources

Compass Benefits Group maintains a website that provides information about health & wellness in the U.S., information on how to use the U.S. medical system and information on how to use insurance.

Medical insurance definitions

Health and wellness resources for employees and postdocs

Benefits are an important part of the total compensation package for employees and Postdoctoral Fellows. From meeting your family's essential health needs, to saving for the future, to enhancing your day-to-day well being, programs are designed to be comprehensive, affordable and customizable to meet the diverse needs of employees and their families. For a full description of employee benefits, go the Human Resources websiteTo enroll, please go to the benefits website.

Health insurance

OHSU group insurance plans are an important part of your total compensation package and offer several ways to maintain a degree of financial stability for yourself and your family in the event of illness, injury, disability or death. OHSU insurance benefits also offer flexibility that lets you choose the level of coverage you need. Invest a little time to learn about the various insurance plan options — you will make more informed decisions about the choices that are right for you.

Learn more about OHSU health insurance plans.

Services for employees, partners and family

Employee Assistance Program (EAP): Confidential help when you need it!

Moving to a new country or city can be difficult. There may be a time when you truly need someone to talk with. The EAP provides you and eligible members of your household 24/7 access to confidential counseling to help you address issues such as relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, financial hardship and general stress or depression.

The most commonly used benefit of the EAP is three free visits (no copay or other out of pocket cost to you) with a counselor for you and/or your dependents. 

Learn more about the EAP.

Services for postdocs

The staff at the Student Health and Wellness Center understands and recognizes that many people experience stress as they combine busy lives and the demands of studies, work and making time for family and friends. If you are seeking help for primary care, emotional or behavioral health, visit the Student Health and Wellness website.

See a full description of Postdoctoral scholars insurance. For a full description of Postdoc benefits, check out the Postdoctoral Fellow's Guide.

Health and wellness resources for students

Enrollment in Pacific Source's school-endorsed student health insurance plan is automatic for all students at the start of your academic program.  You may also elect to enroll spouses, domestic partners and children on the insurance plan.

See full details on the Student Insurance Plan page

In addition to standard student insurance, students and their partners can seek support and care at the Student Health and Wellness Center with Primary Care, Preventative Care, and Behavioral Health and Wellness Services. Learn more about the services.

Health and wellness resources for international visitors

OHSU does not endorse any particular travel/emergency medical evacuation insurance. However, commonly used providers include:

U.S. Department of State regulations require all J-1 Exchange Visitors to have medical insurance for themselves and any accompanying J-2 family members for the duration of their program. U.S. regulations require all exchange visitors (both J-1s and J-2s) to have health insurance during the duration of their exchange visitor status. The health insurance plan selected by the exchange visitor must meet the minimum requirements designated by U.S. law at 22 C.F.R. 62.14, and the exchange visitor and accompanying dependents may be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Foreign medical insurance policies

J-1/J-2 Exchange Visitors who will be covered within the United States under a foreign insurance policy must submit a copy of the insurance policy to the Department of Immigration Services. If applicable, the policy documentation should have an English translation, indicating amounts of coverage and the dates of coverage. Individuals carrying policies that do not meet the minimum levels of coverage outlined by the J1 regulations, will be required to purchase insurance that meets the U.S. Department of State requirements, which must include medical evacuation and repatriation coverage.

Pregnancy insurance coverage

Most U.S. medical insurance plans will not cover a pre-existing pregnancy. If you or your spouse is currently pregnant and you are not eligible for OHSU Employee medical insurance, you must purchase a medical insurance policy in your home country that will cover the pregnancy and birth while you are in the United States. OHSU Employee medical insurance policy will cover a pre-existing pregnancy, provided certain provisions are met. If you are eligible for OHSU Employee medical insurance, please contact Human Resource (HR) as soon as possible.

Elective insurance coverage

It is important to remember that in the United States certain kinds of elective medical care, such as eyeglasses or dentistry are ordinarily not covered by regular medical insurance. Exchange Visitors should take care of such needs before leaving home, or may elect to purchase separate coverage for these needs through a private company.

Alternative health insurance plans

Please find below a sampling of companies that sell health insurance to international exchange visitors and their dependents.

Insurance plans that allow for coverage of J-2 dependents without requiring coverage of the J-1

Please find below a sampling of companies that sell insurance to cover medical evacuation and repatriation:

Disclaimer: This list is provided as an information service only. It is not an exhaustive list of services or companies and is not an endorsement by OHSU of any company listed.