Office of International Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

We have collected some of the questions most often asked by other incoming international students and listed them here. We hope that they will be helpful to you. If you still have questions we have not covered we encourage you to ask! It is likely that another student has the same question. Submit your own question using our convenient online web form.

I'm living on campus. Do I need to bring my own bedding or will USM provide it? 

You will need to purchase your own bedding. USM can loan you some bedding temporarily until you have the opportunity to buy some. We recommend that you purchase bedding online and have it shipped directly to campus. USM works with Residence Hall Linens. You simply place your order, have it shipped to the Gorham campus and pick it up at the mailroom when you arrive on campus.

As part of the New International Student Orientation we will also include a visit to a local department store where you can purchase bedding, towels and any other items you need for your dorm, apartment or classes.

Can I bring a car to campus?

Yes, you can bring a car on campus. All students pay a "transportation fee" which includes parking on campus and use of the University bus system. In order to park in the designated student parking lots on either the Portland or Gorham campuses you will need to get a parking pass. Please get this pass ASAP to ensure you do not get ticketed! You must go to the Parking and Transportation Office in Portland to get this pass. You will need to bring with you proof that you are registered for courses and your automobile registration. 

If you do chose to have a car with you in the dorms on the Gorham campus, please be aware of snow bans so your car will not get ticketed or even towed!  Students can learn about parking bans through the Parking and Transportation office. 

Can you tell me how much my books will cost? Do I have to buy them or can I borrow them from the library?

The price of books varies from major to major.  The USM Bookstore located on campus is an easy place to purchase your books. They also now offer the opportunity to RENT books which can be a much cheaper option. The USM Bookstore also sells USED books which are often much cheaper than new books.  

If you want to get a sense of how much your books will cost you can go to the USM Bookstore’s websiteand chose ‘Order Textbooks’. Using their prompts, you should be able to figure out which books you will need for the semester.

If you choose to order books from an external site you can use the ISBN number given for each book, search the following websites to see which price is most affordable:,, and the USM Bookstore itself. In addition to renting books from the USM bookstore you can also check out Chegg which is a good site for both buying and renting textbooks.  They offer free shipping to and from and even plant a tree for every textbook you purchase from them!

Can my boyfriend/girlfriend/parents visit me in Maine?

Yes, we always welcome visits from home as long as they do not interfere with your studies. If you need a letter to assist them with the visitor’s visa process or hotel recommendations contact the International Programs Office. A few notes about "overnight" guests if you are living on campus:

  • All guests must be 21+
  • Guest can stay NO MORE than 3 nights in a 14 day period
  • In order for your guest to stay ALL room-mates must agree that it is okay. 

Should I open a bank account in Maine?

If you are only staying for one semester we do not recommend that you open a bank account. If you are staying for longer there are several banks close to campus which should be able to meet your needs. 

Can I get a US Social Security Number?

That depends. Not all students are eligible. It depends on several factors including which program you are in (ESOL, exchange, etc.), whether or not you are eligible to work in the US and whether or not you have a job.

In general, Undergraduate and Graduate degree candidates are eligible for a Social Security number IF they have an on campus job. 

What should I do about my cell phone?

Students should check with their cell phone provider at home to see if you can get an international SIM card to put in your phone while you are away. This will help to avoid roaming charges and allow you to use your same phone in the US.

Another option is the prepaid option. Once you arrive in the United States, students can purchase a new phone with a prepaid plan at any Wal-Mart or Target. When it is time to head home you will not have to worry about canceling or switching your plan.

What kinds of activities are available for students on campus?

USM offers a wide variety of Student Groups and activities on both the Portland and Gorham Campuses. Many students get involved with clubs having to do with their major; for example chemistry majors may join the Chemistry Club. However, that is not your only option! We have politically active student groups, outdoor oriented student groups and much more. Many of our students are interested in the Asian American Association. Whatever your interests, USM has an opportunity to get involved. New groups and clubs are always welcome too - so if you can't find a group you are interested in you can start your own.

I have heard that Maine has lots of outdoor activates. Is there any group or office on campus that can help me experience these?

The University of Southern Maine has an Outdoor Recreation department which offers low cost outdoor excursions and events to students. Past events have included camping, skiing, snowboarding, white water rafting and more. A schedule of these events will be available to you when you arrive on campus in the Fall.

Will I be able to work on campus?

Only Undergraduate and Graduate degree candidates are eligible to work on campus and jobs are very limited. Students should not expect to be able to find on campus work.   We will talk more about work during orientation and we encourage you to talk directly with a member of the International Programs office since everyone's situation and eligibility may be slightly different. 

What kind of things are there for college students to do in Portland and/or Gorham?

Downtown Portland is a small but very active little city. There are always events going on that are either free or quite inexpensive. Popular places for live bands and events are; The Big Easy, The State Theatre, Port City Music Hall, and The Station. The Gorham campus also hosts a bunch of events and activities including live music, movies, trivia completions and more to help you enjoy your time on campus.

Take advantage of our winter months by ice skating at Deering Oaks Pond.  If you have skates they also have open skating hours at the Gorham Ice Arena on campus.

Portland Trails has a number of different routes available for walking, biking, running and sightseeing.

Depending on what time of the year you are studying in Maine, there are tons of fairs and festivals in Portland and other surrounding suburbs. This is a great way to have some fun, eat some yummy food and see our local farming and agricultural culture at work. Calendar of events has a great list of festivals, fairs, and going-ons.   

How can I visit Boston, Mass.?

As you know Boston is just 2 hours away from Portland, Maine. Close enough for a day visit or a weekend trip.

Students who want to get to Boston can easily use the Concord Trailways Bus or the Amtrak train to travel to Boston.  The train that travels between Portland an Maine is called the "Down-easter" The bus offers student discounts of $5 per trip for College Students with a valid ID and has more departure times throughout the day and evening.

Am I allowed to travel to Canada?

Some students can easily enter into Canada as a tourist while others will need to obtain special permission to travel to Canada.

We suggest you view the list of countries which need a visa to enter Canada. If the name of your country is on this list you will need to apply for a Canadian Tourist Visa. It takes approximately 4-6 weeks and you need to mail all of your original immigration documents...including your the Canadian embassy in New York.  If you have questions about this process please connect with the USM International Programs Office.

If you do not need a Canadian visa we suggest that you check in with the International Office prior to your travel so that we can make sure you have the appropriate documentation to easily cross the border and return to the US safely.

Didn't find the answer you were looking for? Submit your own question using our convenient online web form.