Step 1: Before You Leave
If you applied to the English Language Institute (ELI) as a non-immigrant student, you must hold an F-1 visa. The ELI will issue you immigration documents upon acceptance of your application. Bring your immigration documents and passport to your local consulate to obtain an F-1 visa.
Gainesville has no direct international flights, so you will need to book a flight into a nearby city and take a short flight into Gainesville (GNV). Most flights to Gainesville are routed through Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Charlotte, or Atlanta. Shuttle service is available from some major airports to Gainesville via RedCoach.
Try to make your travel arrangements as soon as you receive your immigration documents. The ELI office is open during the week and is closed on Saturday and Sunday. Please remember this when making your travel arrangements.
Be sure to bring enough money for your first few days in Gainesville until you can open a bank account. Carry a little cash to pay for things around town, but keep most of your cash in a safer form, like traveler’s checks. See the finances section below for information about banking while you’re in Gainesville.
What to Expect
- Weather: Florida is famous for its warm weather and water recreation activities. Be sure pack some shorts, T-shirts, and bathing suits, especially if you plan to attend a summer session. If you are attending a fall or spring session, be sure to pack some warmer clothes too. Because Gainesville is in North Florida, the temperatures are a little cooler than cities like Miami and Orlando. Temperatures during the Spring and Fall terms may be as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degree Celsius), but these temperatures usually don’t last very long.
- Entertainment: Though Gainesville is a small town, there a many types of recreation activities available. The nightlife in Gainesville includes professional theater, nightclubs (dancing), bars, and movie theaters, so plan accordingly when you pack clothes to wear at night. During the day, Gainesville offers several parks, springs, and tourist spots, as well as several beaches, Disney World, and Busch Gardens all within two hours driving. The ELI will visit some of these spots during the term, but there are many more that simply can’t be packed into one term.
- Housewares: At the beginning of the term, the ELI will organize a trip to one of Gainesville’s large shopping stores. Plan to buy bedding, kitchenware, and study materials at one of these stores. You will also have a chance to shop at a grocery store with ELI staff members to help you.
Some Helpful Internet Sites
- Study in the States: Study in the States provides helpful information to prospective and current students and student visa regulations, applying for the student visa, and arriving in the US.
- EducationUSA: EducationUSA connects prospective students to a global network of more than 400 advising centers supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State.
Step 2: Arriving in Gainesville
While the ELI does not provide airport transportation, we have listed below several hotels in the area that do. If you make reservations at any of these hotels, be sure to ask for the University of Florida rates. A bus is available from the Gainesville airport to UF campus. Google “Taxis Gainesville FL” to get a list of available companies.
Here is a list of several nearby Gainesville hotels that offer airport shuttle service from GNV: Best Western Gateway Grand, Hilton University of Florida Conference Center, Holiday Inn University Center, Spring Hill Suites, and Sweetwater Branch Inn Bed & Breakfast
This is the university hotel located on campus (does not offer shuttle service): Reitz Union Hotel
The date on your letter of acceptance is the day you must check in at the ELI. Be sure to check in on time, since you will receive valuable information from our staff on that day. This is also the day for course registration and placement testing. For immigration purposes, it is important that you contact the ELI if you are not able to arrive at the ELI on this day. If you are entering the US on an F visa, you can arrive up to thirty days before the program start date listed in part five of your I-20.
Please note that ELI students are not eligible for residence hall accommodations on campus (dormitories), and homestays are not common in Gainesville. The ELI does not arrange housing for ELI students directly.
You are responsible for finding and arranging your housing, but Gainesville is full of student-centered apartment complexes and we are sure you will find somewhere comfortable to live. However, the apartment rental process in the US may be very different from the rental process in your country. To help you find an apartment, the ELI includes housing information with your acceptance letter. We also email you this information before you arrive, and we provide information during Orientation Week. For housing options in Gainesville, click here.
Most students spend between $200-$400 per month on food. The ELI Student Life office organizes a shopping trip at during Orientation Week to help you find what you need in the grocery stores. The ELI strongly recommends bringing a lunch, snacks, and water to school to help you concentrate during the day. Preparing meals at home and bringing a lunch can help lower food costs.
Since cash is not accepted for housing, tuition, and some other expenses, you’ll want to open a bank account once you arrive in Gainesville. We recommend Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Campus USA, which have branches on or near UF campus. At the bank, you will be able to open a checking account, get a debit card, and purchase money orders and cashier’s checks.
Step 3: Welcome to the ELI
During the Orientation Week, you will check in and you will also take the CELT placement test. The results of this test will be used to place you in classes with other students who are at the same level as you. Levels are assigned for each skill, so you may have different levels in your grammar, listening/speaking, and reading/writing classes. During the first week of classes, your teachers will double-check to make sure you are in the appropriate level by giving diagnostic tests in class.
During Orientation Week, be sure to attend the ELI’s Academic Orientation, Cultural Immersion Program Seminar, Student Life Seminar, and Medical Issues Seminars. You will learn important information about life in the US and how to make the most of your time at the ELI.
Students are required to show proof of health insurance coverage for the entire ELI term. You will not be allowed to attend classes without it. We strongly recommend that you buy insurance when you arrive at the university. You can buy UnitedHealthcare plans for $209 per month, or you can look at other plans on the UF International Center website here (the cost of these plans varies depending on the student’s age).
However, if you choose to buy insurance in your country, your insurance company must verify that your plan meets these requirements (PDF).
US immigration laws require visiting students to the United States to submit a record of their immunizations. To study with us, we also require immunizations records on this form (PDF) only.
Tuition payment must be made by cashier’s check, money order, or credit card. Traveler’s checks can only be accepted if you have the exact amount needed, as the ELI office cannot make change. We cannot take personal checks or cash for tuition payment. If you pay by cashier’s check, it should be made out to the University of Florida. Please make checks payable only for the amount of your ELI tuition. Housing and insurance must be paid using separate checks. Tuition payment is due 2 days after classes begin. There will be a late fee if tuition is paid after this date.