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 the International House Transportation web page 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 Center.

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 and Duke University 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. Connect with IHouse
  • International House offers several Programs designed for international students, including Duke Language Partners, English Conversation Club, Spanish Conversation Club, Chinese Conversation Club, International Friends Program, Global Caf√©, and more. Consider participating in one or more of these programs!
  1. Choosing Courses
  • When picking your first-semester courses, consider the structure of the course, such as amount of reading, writing, presentations, and be sure you are comfortable with the requirements. Classes such as policy and law, for example, emphasize heavy reading and writing requirements. If unsure, contact the instructor to discuss. Balancing your coursework during your first semester will give you a chance to adjust to the English language before taking courses heavy in reading, writing, and/or oral presentations.
  1. Practice English
  • While in the classroom, lectures, conversations, and groupwork are held in English. Take advantage of this opportunity to engage with peers who are both native and non-native English speakers to practice your English. Find opportunities to engage with students to practice your English-speaking (and writing) skills. Listen to US news channels, public radio stations, etc. See above regarding resources provided the IHouse.
  1. 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
  • Go to office hours of the instructor and/or teaching assistant to clarify your notes
  1. Study Groups/Group Projects
  • Join both social and professional groups and actively participate in events. These groups are open to all students and are a great opportunity to engage socially and academically.
  • 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 your peers to help proofread written work for group projects and/or take advantage of the various writing support opportunities (see below).
  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)
  1. Written reports
  1. Oral Presentations

2020 Resources (NEW!)

The 2020 Summer Transition Series for incoming international graduate and professional students provided by International House, Duke University. 

The resources included in these videos are: 

  • International House
  • Duke Visa Services
  • The Graduate School
  • Student Health
  • Office of Information Technology
  • Parking and Transportation
  • Off-campus Housing 
  • Duke Police
  • Counseling & Psychological Services (To be uploaded soon)

You can access the videos through Duke Warpwire (no VPN is needed for students in Mainland China) and You Tube