Getting to Know Seattle
Part I: Packing, Banking and Cell Phones
 Pre-Arrival Email #5 of 6
FIUTS connects university students with local and global communities through programs that build international awareness, cross-cultural communication, and informed leadership. 
Space NeedleHello again! At this point you probably still have many questions about life in Seattle like what to bring, where to open a bank account, and how to keep in touch with your friends. This e-mail will hopefully answer some of those questions.

Want to get a head start, and start networking with fellow international students new to the UW this year? You can visit our 2011-2012 New UW International Student Facebook group and the FIUTS Website. We also have tons of information and advice for you compiled by past international students and staff in our online International Student Handbook on topics like housing, banking, phones and more.
Packing for Seattle
The rumors you've heard about Seattle rain are true: it rains frequently throughout the year, and we often have grey, overcast days. Don't worry, we get plenty of sun too!
Every Seattleite should have an umbrella, sunglasses, a warm jacket, walking shoes for all of the hills, and clothing for temperatures ranging from slightly below freezing in winter up to around 85 degrees Fahrenheit/30 degrees Celsius in summer. Seattle is a very casual city, and most students wear jeans and casual clothing to class.

You will probably also want to pack a rain-proof jacket, both for wearing on campus and for enjoying the many opportunities to explore the nearby beaches and mountains, including participating in FIUTS events and activities!   


A laptop computer is an important tool. There is free wireless internet on campus and in various businesses around the city. U.S. outlets have two prongs and 110 voltage, which means that you may have to bring/buy a converter or leave your appliances at home. In addition to any personal things that make you feel at home, you may want to bring some interesting items from your home country such as photos, candy, books, etc. to show your friends and host family and to give as gifts.
Banking in Seattle
If you are staying in the U.S. longer than six months, living off campus, or planning to work in Seattle, then you should open a bank account at a local bank. You will need your passport or other official photo ID. Research the types of services different banks provide, the accompanying fees, and how to transfer funds from your home institution. 

Banks compete for your business, so don't be shy about asking questions or shopping around. You should be able to open a student account for free at most banks. Every bank will give you a credit or debit card and checks once you open an account. Most shops, restaurants, and other businesses in Seattle will accept major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard, as well as traveller's checks.
Cell Phones  
Cell phone companies charge different rates and offer different types of contracts and services. Plans can range from $30 - $100 per month depending on how many minutes you use.  Most companies require a minimum contract duration of 1 year, but some have special deals for students, and almost all contracts include a free phone.

Pre-paid phones are an alternative to contracts, but they are much more expensive if used frequently. To set up a contract service plan you will need a Social Security # (except for prepaid or "to go" phones), a State-issued ID and Debit or Credit Card with a Visa or Mastercard symbol. If you do not have a social security number or debit card, you may need to pay a large deposit of a couple hundred dollars.

You can find a list of other popular cell phone companies on our website.
Check out the International Student Handbook for more detailed information about Seattle media resources, what our city is famous for, descriptions of different neighborhoods, shopping and more! If you are looking for short-term or long-term housing, visit our housing page.
Next week's final orientation email will have more information to help you get to know the city of Seattle. As always, contact us if you have any questions!
Brianna Mercker
Manager of Student Programs
Foundation for International Understanding Through Students  (FIUTS)