Getting Organized

Personal items

The nearest grocery store (also called a supermarket) is called Stop & Shop and is located at 1620 Tremont Street in Boston. It is about a 10-minute walk from MassArt towards the Mission Hill neighborhood. There is also a pharmacy, Walgreens, right next to it. Bed, Bath and Beyond is a home goods store where you can purchase linens and other things you may need for your apartment. It is about a 15-minute walk from MassArt and is located at 401 Park Drive, near the Landmark Center.


Mail and postal services

Postage can be purchased at the local Post Offices. Postage changes according to the weight and destination of your package. There are several post offices within walking distance of MassArt.

Zip Codes
All addresses in the U.S. are assigned a 5-digit (sometimes a 9-digit) zip code number, according to the state, city, and even individual areas within a city. These numbers speed mail delivery. If you do not know the zip code number, contact the post office for a list of zip code numbers. Incorrect or missing zip codes may delay mail delivery.


Identification (ID)

Social Security Numbers

A social security number (SSN) is an identification number linked to Americans' government retirement earnings. Over the years, the SSN became a sort of "national ID number" that merchants required to get everything from an apartment or mortgage to a call phone or car loan - even from international students. The Social Security Administration (SSA) saw this as misusing their system. Thus, in October, 2004, the SSA implemented much stricter regulations regarding who is allowed to get an SSN.

At this point, F-1 international students can only get an SSN upon receiving a job offer in the U.S., for tax purposes only. (Note however that if you are an F-1 student who has already received an SSN, you are still permitted to use it.) If you do have a job offer and thus need an SSN so that they can pay you, there are new forms and policies for requesting an SSN, so make an appointment to see the International Student Advisor.

If you are able to get an SSN for the purpose of earning money in the U.S., note that this card DOES NOT MEAN that you can necessarily work off campus. Your card will be marked to show that it is invalid without separate work authorization, which can only come from the International Student Advisor, and, for most off-campus work, from the Department of Homeland Security. You should be able to do everything you need to do without an SSN: get a driver's license or state identification card, open a bank account, etc. See the International Student Advisor for any problems.

Massachusetts Driver's License

If you are interested in obtaining a Massachusetts Driver's License, please read the section of "Cars" section on the Transportation page and follow the driver's license link to see the requirements and where to obtain a license.

Massachusetts State ID

State IDs are a good option for students who wish to obtain a "government issued" ID card but do not wish to use it for driving purposes.


Computers and other electronics

Many international students prefer to wait until they arrive in the U.S to purchase a computer and cell phone for use while they are here. If you choose to do this, we recommend you plan to purchase your computer through the MassArt Supply store. The store is a Macintosh dealer and is able to offer significant student discounts for all MassArt students.

Other electronics can be purchased at Best Buy in the Landmark Center (near Bed, Bath and Beyond). We recommended that you avoid making purchases on the internet as some students have been the victim of fraud or scams.


Cell phones

If you would like to purchase a cell phone, you will need to shop around to find the best plan that works for you. Caution: make sure you read all rules and regulations for every plan carefully before you agree to a contract with a cell phone provider. You do not want to get locked into a plan that you either can't afford or do not want. One issue some international students may face is not having credit history. Some cell phone providers must see prior credit history in order to approve a new contract. Most international students who do not have credit history may find that a "pay as you go" plan is the best option. Some potential cell phone providers are Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint



One of the first things most students want to do when they get here is to set up a US bank account. This will make it easier for you to access cash, pay bills, and budget your funds. Most banks in Boston offer special account packages for students. Make sure you read and understand all of the policies and responsibilities for an account before you sign up. Some of the local banks in the area are Wainwright Bank, Citizens Bank, Bank of America, and Sovereign Bank.

When you go in to set up your account, you will need to make sure you have complete personal identification with you including your Form I-20 and your passport. We recommended that you contact each bank to determine which other documents may be required to open an account.

Caution: Many banks charge fees to use ATM's, to withdraw money internationally, and for monthly maintenance. Make sure you research each bank's fees and policies before opening the account so you are not surprised with unforeseen charges later.

Money and ATMs

While it is possible to conduct banking transactions in the United States by meeting with a staff person at the bank, most banks encourage their customers to use the ATM's for all transactions including depositing checks, cashing checks, and withdrawing money. It is more convenient for both the banks and the customer to conduct business using ATM's. Many banks also offer online banking services as well.

We recommended that you ask a bank staff person to demonstrate how to use an ATM, particularly for depositing money. There are several steps you will need to follow that may be specific to depositing money in the US such as signing the back of your check. It is important not to use the ATM for transactions until you are completely comfortable with using it.

Warning: Many ATM machines in the US do not return your ATM card until AFTER you have already taken the money out of the machine and/or completed the entire transaction. It is important to take care not to leave an ATM without your card in hand. Some visitors to the US struggle to remember this step and lose their ATM card as a result.