First Day at RIT –

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

When I got to Rochester for the first time in late July, 2016, I had some idea of what all needed to be done but with not much conviction. An extremely helpful leasing office assistant at Park Point helped me out with a map of RIT and the key areas marked out. However, without the use of Google Maps, I ended up not being able to follow the map too well and took a much longer route than necessary to get to Gleason Circle! A helpful app to download on your mobile phone beforehand would be “RITMobile”. It is available on the App/Play stores. The RIT Wi-Fi is accessed using the same university credentials that you would have used during the application process. This post is my attempt to help an incoming student with their first day on campus at RIT.

So, let me begin with introducing Gleason Circle. It is where you would catch the RTS public bus (to head towards downtown), the RIT shuttles (to get to Park Point, the Province, and all on-campus housing), and The Lodge’s shuttles. It is also from where you usually get picked up by a friend or a cab. This is the south-central part of campus (roughly where Texas is in the continental United States). The residence halls (dorms) are located to the east of this point, and almost all the academic blocks are to the west of this circle. It is the de-facto center of the campus. You could check out the map of RIT at https://maps.rit.edu.

For an international student such as myself, the first place to go to is the International Student Services office which is on the second floor of the Student Alumni Union (SAU). This is roughly north-west from Gleason Circle.

Once signed in with ISS, you need to get your student ID. This is done at the Registrar’s office (first floor) which is in the George Eastman building (right next to the SAU).

After this, your previous academic documents might need to be verified in case they were not submitted during/after application. For doing this, you would take your degree certificate and transcripts to the Graduate Enrollment Services office which is on the lower level in the Bausch & Lomb Center.

While running around finishing up the formalities, if you feel like grabbing a bite to eat, check out the various dining options that are on campus. Although all may not be open until start of term, there certainly are some places that could serve you nice food; the Brick City café, Artesano’s (both in the SAU), Crossroads, the Cantina Grill (both in the Global Village), or the always available vending machines all over campus. I personally love the deli sandwiches at Brick City, and the nachos at Salsarita’s (located within the Cantina).

After you are done filling up on some much-needed energy, I would suggest you visit the Student Health Center in the August Center to verify and ensure that all necessary immunization and health insurance related action items are taken care of. Do visit the Wallace library; it is right by Gleason Circle and it houses Java’s café, which, per most people I know, serves the best coffee on campus.

Depending on your major, your department could be located anywhere from the George Eastman building to the Golisano Institute of Sustainability (far west of the campus). Look around and start getting used to the campus. RIT is going to be your home for at least a couple of years, start getting familiar with it right away!

Student Banking – What you need to know

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

A bank account is essential for a student. Whether it is about getting that little bit of extra money from your parents that you need for a weekend trip, or tuition fees from your sponsor, or for managing your own salary, one always needs a bank account or two.

Major American banks like Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase are popular choices. The former has a branch located in South Town Plaza (a mile away from campus), and an ATM in the Gordon Field House. The latter has a branch located about 2 miles from campus. There is no ATM on campus however with a car, it is quite accessible. The other convenient option is Advantage Federal Credit Union bank. Its branch is located on campus and there are multiple ATMs across campus.

In Bank of America, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement for students under the age of 24. For others, the monthly maintenance fee of $12 can be waived by having at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more made to the account each month. If this is not done, the bank expects that a minimum of $1500 be maintained in the account each day (a grace period of 60 days in the beginning). For more information regarding this and other fees, read here. 

In Chase, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement for students between the ages of 17 and 24. For others, the monthly maintenance fee of $6 can be waived by having one direct deposit made to the account each month. If this is not done, the bank expects a balance of $5000 to be maintained every day. For more information regarding this and other fees, check here.

In Advantage Federal Credit Union, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement with no restrictions on a student’s age. The fact that the branch and ATMs are located on campus make this bank quite an attractive and affordable option. However, the limitation with this is that since it is a credit union, its presence is local so there would be no ATMs if you go out of Rochester.

All banks would have the concept of a savings account as well. They are used to store money safely (cannot be withdrawn/used from a debit card) and earn interest on it. Check with the bank for the various options that they offer. Usually, you would need to make one transaction to/from the savings account to keep it active and free of any maintenance fee.

Opening an account in any of the banks is simple and fast. As an international student, on my first day in the US, it took me 20 minutes to get my account created in Bank of America. All they needed were my passport and I-20 (to ascertain that I was indeed a student). A Social Security Number is not mandatory to open the account; it can be updated in the bank once obtained later.

In my experience till now, I have found that using Bank of America is the most convenient option considering all factors since the branch is not too far to visit if need be, and an ATM is located on campus. When I am not earning enough from the on-campus job to be able to qualify for a waiver of the monthly maintenance fee, I just maintain $1500 in my account. I treat that as a safety net for emergencies.

Credit scores are an important part of a person’s life in the US. They are checked when you buy a phone plan, rent a house, buy a car, etc. As an international student, this was an alien concept to me. Credit cards, if used well, are a good way of building a good credit score. There are firms like Credit Karma which help individuals plan their credit card usage as well as possible to reflect positively on credit reports.

Applying for a credit card from Chase or Bank of America is quite straightforward although getting one may be random if one has no prior credit history. Advantage Federal Credit Union does not offer credit cards. There are some companies like Discover which offer credit cards to students on attractive offers; you would not need to open any separate bank account with them. Credit cards also offer cashback or rewards for using them. Ask your bank representative about all possible options while applying.