Arrival Information
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Welcome to Western Carolina University!

In your first few days at Western, there are many things you need to prepare to insure that you are properly housed, registered for the appropriate classes, have paid your bill, can access the library, etc. Below are the things you need to do and know about at WCU. There is no specific order to these tasks. Do try to accomplish them within the first 2 weeks.

You can also find helpful information in the Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs and WCU booklet, Information for International Students. Also consult the WCU Student Handbook.

Appropriate Attire

Although, Cullowhee is located in the Great Smoky Mountains, the region fully enjoys all fours seasons - spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Therefore, you need to be sure to bring appropriate clothing to suit the weather conditions. Spring and summer alter between warm and sunny to cool and rainy. With the changing of the leaves in autumn comes the cooler temperatures. By Winter, which lasts usually from late November until early March, you will need to have a heavy coat to endure a few weeks when there may be periods of below freezing temperatures.

Also, remember that casual dress is common place at WCU. Students attend class in whatever they decide. Therefore, it is not necessary to bring "professional" attire to attend classes. Just remember casual!!

Check into Student Housing

Housing should have sent you your room assignment prior to your arrival. Most rooms are double occupancy. Make sure you know the name of the residence hall and your assigned room number when you arrive on campus.

If you do not have bedding, ask your head resident for a complete linen pack (that includes sheets, blanket and a pillow). You can use this for a few days, free of charge. You need to get to a store to purchase sheets and pillowcase for a “Twin” bed. You may need a 'Standard' pillow, a blanket and a spread or comforter.

Each room has two Internet portals, at no additional cost.

Laundromats are in each residence hall and are coin operated.

A head resident is assigned to each residence hall to assist residents and plan programs.

Off-Campus Housing

If you would like to live off campus, the best time to search for an apartment is after you arrive at WCU. The Department of Residential Living on campus (227-7303), located on the ground floor of Scott Residence Hall, has an advertisement board on which available apartments are advertised.

Generally, the rent of an apartment starts at about $300 per month, which may or may not include electricity and water. You will pay extra for telephone and Internet connections. If you wish, you might be able to arrange to live together with others, so that you will be able to split the cost.

Be aware that little or no public transportation is available and you will have to arrange private means of transportation (car or bicycle) if you choose to live off campus. Very few off-campus facilities are within walking distance.

Phone Service

Local calls are free of charge. This means you can call from your residence room to everywhere on campus (227 extension).

To dial on campus, use only the last 4 digits. You can also call free of charge some local areas with these first three digits: Cullowhee (293), Sylva (586 & 631), and Cashiers (743).

To call off-campus, dial “9" and the 7-digit number.

Attend International Student Orientation

The International Student Advisor arranges the International Student Orientation at the beginning of each semester. This session introduces students to important people and services at Western Carolina University, and is a great way to meet other international students.

Visit International Student Advisor

The International Student Advisor, Christopher Pedo, office address: 109 Cordelia Camp Bldg.

Visit the Office of International Programs and Services

You may also contact Kevin Childers, Student Services Specialist, (828) 227-7494 / ext. 3455. He is your contact person for questions concerning F-1 or J-1 visa requirements. Another contact is Dr. Lois Petrovich-Mwaniki, Director of International Programs: (828) 227-7494/ ext. 3433, or at home, (828) 586-0048.

Getting Your Cat Card

This is your campus identification (ID) card. If you live on campus, it enables you to eat in the cafeterias on campus, including food services in the University Center (UC), take books out of the library, use the gym (Reid), and get in all the athletic events. You pay a reduced fee for some concerts and plays, and student concerts are usually for free.

WCU prefers that you pay tuition and fees (exchange students are exceptions). However, for international students, this is not always possible. If you need an extension, you will need to inquire about this at ONE STOP office. You can still get your Cat Card to eat in the cafeterias. Yet, you are well advised to bring some extra cash, so that you can buy food before your Cat Card can be fully activated. If you live off-campus, you will not have to buy a meal plan, but you still need your Cat Card.


Paying Your Bill

You need to pay your bill after you have enrolled in classes and selected a meal plan. Pay at the Cashiers Office on the 3rd floor of the Administration (HFR) Building. It is preferable to pay with a cashier's check, money order, traveler’s checks, cash, or a check drawn on a local bank. The Cashier's Office will not allow you to pay with a credit card normally. You can pay with a credit card but you are charged approximately 3%. This means that on a payment of $5100 you will be charged an additional $150-$200.

Meal Plan

There are a number of options to choose from. Some of these meal plans require that you eat a certain number of meals per week in Brown Cafeteria. Get more information on WCU Dining

Health Services

If you have not submitted your immunization form (PDF) in advance of your arrival, you must take this to Health Services in the Bird Building. You must also show them proof of medical insurance for the time you will be attending WCU before you can register for classes, or apply for the WCU Health Insurance Policy. Please note that you must also either waive out or agree to the policy.

If you do not have health insurance, you can purchase it through Health Services. Remember that your health fee entitles you to use the Health Services and the free ambulance service any time you need it.

For minor problems, such as flu, colds, etc. you can get a free examination and medication if necessary.

DO NOT go to the hospital for medical care unless referred by Health Services.

Classes and Academics

As for reading your schedule, a tip:

M = Monday; T= Tuesday; W= Wednesday; R=Thursday; F=Friday TBA=To Be Announced

Building Codes:

NS=Natural Science
RD=Reid Gym
UO=University Outreach Center
UA=University in Asheville

See Your Academic Advisor

If you are a degree-seeking student, you need to visit your academic advisor who will assist you in designing your program of study. Consult your acceptance letter or go to the department on campus that is responsible for your program. If you are unsure about this, contact the International Student Advisor in HFR Administration Building or the Exchange Student Advisor in International Programs and Services.

What is vital to your success at WCU? Always consult your advisor concerning your classes, change of classes, and program. Likewise, if you drop below a full course of study or change program, you must see the SEVIS Coordinator in the Office of International Programs & Services.


Make an appointment to take a tour of Hunter Library. Go to the Reference Desk and request the tour. You will be informed about library holdings and made aware of all of the databases you can use for your research.

Computer Connections

There is a regulation requiring students to have a computer. It is not a requirement that exchange students have a computer, due to the temporary nature of their study, but many find it more convenient to bring laptops. Computer labs are available.

Social Security Number (Not to be confused with your 920-Digit Banner ID)

You can receive a 9-digit student identification number from the university when you apply that typically begins with the digits: 920. This is not a legal social security number. You need to remember this number because all offices on campus use it to identify you.

To Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN):

You need a Social Security Number to work on campus. You need to apply, in person, for a Social Security Number with the Social Security Office in Franklin, NC, telephone: 828-369-2684. If you are on a F-1 visa, you will need a letter from your employer on campus stating that you have a job, your I-94, I-20, and your passport.

To get a letter from your employer, you will have to go to the payroll office, HFR 310. If you are on a J-1 visa, you need a letter of approval from Kevin Childers, SEVIS & Exchange Student Coordinator, your I-94, and your passport.

Once you apply in person, you can find out your Social Security Number by calling the office the next day after 9 a.m. You will receive the card within two weeks to a month. You need to have your Social Security Number before Payroll Office can process your paperwork (before you can get paid). Memorize this number and give your new number to the WCU Admissions Office (if you are an undergraduate) or to the Graduate School (if you are a graduate student) and the Cashiers Office. Your Social Security Number will not replace your 920 number.

Working On Campus

As an F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant visa holder, you are not eligible to work off-campus unless it is part of curricular training or optional practical training. For on-campus jobs, check with Career Services in Killian Annex, where there is a list of those departments on campus that need student help. Once you receive the offer of a job, you need to apply for a social security number.


You can open a bank account with a number of local banks. They can provide you with a debit and visa card.


Traveling around Sylva and Cullowhee can be a problem without a car. There is van service to Sylva on the weekends.

When traveling to and from the airport, you will need to make arrangements for airport pick-up and departure at the beginning and end of each semester. There may be a charge for other travel to and from the airport during the academic year.

A number of international students purchase used cars while at WCU. You can get more information on this from students, friends and campus employees you know. Also, try the classified section of local newspapers and the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper. The IWANNA paper is full of items for sale and can be purchased at supermarkets in town.

The license plate for your car can be purchased at the License Plate Agency, 238 E. Main St., Sylva, NC. Telephone is 586-3886.

Learn more about transportation and travel to Western.

Driving In The U.S.

If you purchase a car, you must have a valid driving license from your country or an international driver’s license. You must also purchase car insurance. You can do this with any insurance company, but prices can differ dramatically from one company to another so you need to shop around.

All international students have to provide proof of physical address (no PO Box) to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

You need to inform yourself about the North Carolina and U.S. driving regulations and laws.
You can get a book from the Drivers License Office (DMV) in Sylva, NC:

876 Skyland Drive, Ste.2

(828) 586-5413

8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Monday-Friday

Learn more about North Carolina Driving Laws.

Some of the major rules to follow are:

  • Drive on the right-hand side of the road!
  • If a yellow school bus stops (with its stop sign out and lights flashing) on any 2-lane highway or 4-lane (undivided by turn lane or median) highway , you must also stop! That means that if you are following the bus or approaching the bus in the opposite lane, and the bus stops with its stop sign out, you MUST STOP. Always stop if you are behind any school bus with its sign out and lights flashing.
  • In North Carolina you can turn right on the red light after stopping if there is no traffic approaching, unless posted otherwise.
  • Seat belt regulation: All persons in the vehicle must use seatbelts.
  • You are not permitted to have opened alcohol in the vehicle. You can store it, unopened in the trunk (boot) of the vehicle. Each state has fines connected with driving while drunk. Make yourself aware of them.
  • A “Ped Xing” sign means Pedestrian Crossing (pedestrians may cross at this location you must stop and allow them to cross).

Student Counseling Services

Counseling services are available at the Counseling and Psychological Services Center located on the ground floor of Scott Residence Hall. The Center offers, at no cost, consultation to full-time and most part-time students about personal concerns and/or difficulties they might have adjusting to college life or the American culture, coping with personal loss or various addictions, and other matters. For an appointment and further information contact Dr. John Ritchie, 227-7469.

Host Family

Host families are people from the community around Western Carolina University who volunteer to help you become better acquainted with an American family by including you in some of their family activities, and who help you feel that you have a friend in your new community. Host families will invite you to dinner, parties, shopping, sporting events, etc., once or twice a month. Contact Christopher Pedo


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