Tips and Resources

These tips come from our current and past international students based on their experiences here.

Getting Around
Want to reduce your carbon footprint and travel by bus? Durham is connected to the neighboring cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill by the Triangle Transit Bus Services which are free to Duke Students with the GoPass. Within Durham the DATA buses will take you wherever you wish to go, also free with the GoPass. Visit for more information

The Duke student health center provides information on the type of medical insurance plans international students are required to enroll in as well as facilities of the Student Health Centre.

International House
Duke’s International House (IHouse) is a great resource. During the summer, IHouse hosts virtual online sessions to help new students plan their transition. In the week prior to the Nicholas School orientation, IHouse hosts a Resource Fair and Orientation for international students, which includes an especially helpful session on academic integrity and differences in the style of courses in American universities. IHouse also maintains a Wiki site to put international students in touch with each other before and after they arrive in Durham.

International Students’ Listserv
You will be added to the Nicholas School International Students’ Listserv the summer before you arrive. The address is Use this list to post any questions or concerns you may have and current international students will try to help you find answers. It’s best to use your Duke email address to write to the listserv or your message will be delayed.

Living Essentials
Need to open a Bank account, places to shop, or concerned about personal safety? Visit the Living Essentials website by the International House and Living at Duke by Student Affairs to find information about everything and anything you need to settle in comfortably in the US.

When to Arrive
Under visa restrictions, international students may arrive no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of their program. Arriving as early as possible within this window will help you get settled in your new home, attend orientations, and visit Duke’s International House and Visa Services Office.

Finding Housing
Duke’s Office of Student Affairs Website is good resources to learn about neighborhoods, housing options, and transportation. International students get priority for on-campus housing until early May.

If English Is Not Your First Language
Your time at the Nicholas School can be a great opportunity to improve your English and prepare to apply for internships and jobs in English-speaking countries. Here are some tips:

  1. Choosing Courses
    • When picking your first-semester courses, try to avoid taking many classes that have heavy reading and writing requirements (e.g., policy, law) or classes for which grading is based largely on oral presentations. This will give you a chance to adjust to the English language before taking such courses.
  2. Everyday English
    • Speak English at school (even with others from your home country)
    • Live with English-speaking students
    • Take advantage of English language partners and English classes
    • Listen to news programs in English
  3. Taking Notes/Participating in Lectures: If You’re Having Trouble
    • Ask the instructor to write out key vocabulary words
    • Ask permission to tape-record the lectures
    • See if there are lecture notes available on the course web page or from the instructor
    • Ask to borrow notes from an American student
    • Go to office hours of the instructor and/or teaching assistant to clarify your notes
  4. Study Groups/Group Projects
    • Join groups that include American students
    • If you are having trouble organizing a group, ask the instructor to help set up groups
    • Be sure you are clear on what work (e.g., homework problems) can be done in groups and what must be done individually
    • Ask American students to help proofread written work for group projects
  1. Exams
    • Ask instructor if any accommodations for non-native speakers are acceptable (e.g., more time, use of English-native language dictionary, use of “bullet points” instead of complete sentences)
  2. Written reports
  3. Oral Presentations