Start researching your school's location to give you some basic ideas of the things you should be packing to bring to the U.S., and be aware that America is home to some really diverse weather.
For any international students who want a better idea of what to expect from the weather in the states where their schools are located, wunderground.com is a great general resource for checking up on the temperatures and weather in different states.
NOAA.gov is another useful site that could give a more detailed look at the weather in your school's state. When you're doing your research and thinking of how you're going to manage your luggage weight, pack light but pack smart.
[Learn how to find the right U.S. college location for you.]
Below is an overview of the four large American regions and some of the weather you can expect from each. Use it to inform some of the suitcase choices you will soon be making, but look more closely at each region too -- these areas can be very large.
The West (states including California, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona): As a general rule, sun shines on California and the Southwest, but international students heading to a school in California should also be prepared for the occasional earthquake. The international house at University of California--Berkeley is built near a fault line, although I never felt the effects of that while I was studying at the school.
Generally the temperatures are cooler further north and in the mountains, with snow in areas like Tahoe, and hotter in the south, growing more desert-like as you head inland from the coast. Places like Los Angeles are prone to the occasional wildfire.
If you're going to school in California or the Southwest there is little point in packing any heavy-duty cold clothes; keep everything fairly lightweight and easily weather adaptable.
Those headed to the Pacific Northwest and colleges near the Rocky Mountains, however, should pack for cooler weather, including rain and snow gear. Montana, in particular, can get extremely cold.
[Check out the best U.S. colleges for winter lovers.]
The Midwest (states including Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas): Expect a big mix of weather in these states. These are some places where you actually get a seasonal cycle.
It can be temperate in the spring, hot in the summer and cold in winter. Positioned inland from the oceans, the climates in these states can often be very different.
Tornadoes are one type of extreme weather to expect in the Midwest, much of which falls in what residents refer to as Tornado Alley. Along with the Northeast, the Midwest was hit by a polar vortex in January, so this is one of the places students should incorporate some snow gear into your suitcase, especially if they want to indulge in some winter sports at the end of the fall semester.
The South (states including Texas, Mississippi, Florida): The South can be an intense region to live and study in. Coastal towns like New Orleans and Miami are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes -- although international students heading there shouldn't be worried. A classmate of mine was trapped indoors by Hurricane Isaac for nearly two weeks but emerged unscathed.
If the hurricanes pass you by, expect it to be hot, humid and feel incredibly sticky in the fall and equally hot but much more prone to heavy rain in the summer. The southernmost point of Florida is technically deemed a tropical climate.
Students should pack lightweight clothes and an umbrella for the bursts of heavy rainfall that often come flooding through. One international alumnus from the University of Miami recommends wearing sunscreen to avoid the sunburn on those lazy beach days.
[Get more advice on what to pack for studying in the U.S.]
The Northeast (states including New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts):
In this part of the U.S., the weather can go from one extreme to the next, with hot and sunny summers and bitterly cold winters.
This is the region that bore the brunt of the polar vortex through the end of 2013 and into 2014, and temperatures can fall well below freezing in most winters, so international students should make sure they have a sturdy coat in their suitcase or plan to buy one while there.
With visas and plane tickets to think about, the weather might seem like the least of your worries right now; but doing your research now could save you time and money in a few months' time.
Emily Burt, from the United Kingdom, studied at the University of California--Berkeley on an exchange program. She will graduate from the University of East Anglia in 2014 with a bachelor's in American literature and creative writing.
- Natural Phenomena