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International Student Programs and Services

I am sick and not sure how to utilize the American health care system. What do I do?

As a student, you have access to on-campus health care at Columbia Health Services. Columbia Health consists of three primary areas; Medical Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Disability Services. When you enroll, you are automatically assigned a Primary Care Provider (PCP). Your PCP is a physician or nurse with whom you schedule routine appointments (like an annual physical exam). It is important to get to know your PCP – s/he will be an important resource for you during your time at Columbia – even if you are not sick.

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Do I need health insurance?

Yes. Under New York State Law, all enrolled students are required to have health insurance. Columbia students are automatically enrolled in the basic student insurance plan administered by Aetna. If you already have private health insurance or are covered by a parent/guardian, you can request a waiver if the coverage meets or exceeds the New York State requirements. However, it is strongly recommended that all international students utilize the Columbia plan as if offers the best coverage and providers in the neighborhood.

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I need someone to talk to. What are my options?

Talking to someone is one great way to organize your thoughts. If talking is what you need, consider connecting with a roommate, a suitemate, or hallmate. There is a community of advisers at Columbia to speak with about any feelings, issues, or concerns that may arise at Columbia. During operating hours (typically 9:00am to 5:00pm), administrative offices are open for conversations with students regarding academics, student life, internships and careers, studying abroad, financial aid, health and well-being and many other topics.

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Do I get credit for the advanced work I did in High School?

CC and SEAS may grant up to 16 credits earned from Advanced Placement (AP), General Certificate of Education Advanced Level Examinations (A levels), the International Baccalaureate Examination (IB), and other national systems. Credit is typically awarded after the first year. A complete description of policies, credits, and/or exemptions can be found in the College and Engineering bulletins.


What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 student status that allows students to gain experience in their field of study by applying for off-campus work authorization. Students in F-1 status are eligible for 12 months of OPT per educational degree level. OPT may be granted and used before graduation (pre-completion OPT ) for part-time work during the school year or full time work during vacation periods.


Where can I stay when I am visiting campus? Can I just stay on campus?

We recommend you secure reservations off-campus. For a list of hotels that give a Columbia rate, please visit the Travel Portal and click on hotels on the left menu. Budget friendly options near campus include:


How do I get to campus from the major New York City airports?

Columbia’s campus is accessible by public transportation as well as yellow taxi and car service. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) serves the New York Metro area by subway, bus, rail and bridges and tunnels and has a nice How to Ride the Subway guide.


I would like to get an unpaid internship or volunteer off campus. What do I need to know?

Interning and volunteering offer opportunities to gain experience, build your skills, and strengthen your resume. For unpaid work on or off campus such as volunteering or an unpaid internship, you may start right away and do not need OPT. You must be sure the position is unpaid for anyone (i.e. not just you because you want to take the job as a volunteer). Start by using these tools:


What do I need to consider regarding eligibility to undertake an internship or job?

As an international student, it is essential that you fully understand your eligibility to work in the location of the internship or job and the process to gain work authorization. Eligibility to work considerations include:



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International at Columbia


510 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: 001 (212) 854-0720

Fax: 001 (212) 854-9801

Office Hours
9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.