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Student Life

Can international students go on a term abroad?

Yes. Study abroad opportunities are available for a semester, full academic year, or summer to all Columbia undergraduates. The staff of the Office of Global Programs helps students learn more about these opportunities. As an internationally-minded office, the staff is well-equipped to discuss cross-cultural issues and the benefits of enhancing students' international experiences.

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Who needs to complete the language requirement at Columbia?

Columbia University teaches nearly 50 languages to the advanced level and over 170 languages are spoken in New York City, which makes your time at Columbia a fascinating way to connect language with culture and community. Study of a foreign language is required for Columbia College students and may be satisfied in different ways. Students who completed secondary school in a language other than English are not required to take an additional foreign language or an achievement test.

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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.

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Does the undergraduate program at Columbia offer CPT (Curricular Practical Training)?

No. CPT is employment authorization for an internship requirement or internship elective which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school. CC and SEAS do not have an internship requirement for all undergraduate degree candidates and do not have any electives that require an internship for which academic credit is earned toward the degree. Undergraduate students may apply for OPT if they need employment authorization for summer internships. This time is deducted from the 12-month total at graduation.
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Lots of students leave campus during the holidays. What are my options as an international student?

While many students choose to leave campus during academic breaks (U.S. Election Day, Thanksgiving, Winter Break and Spring Break), the residence halls remain open to their residents and you may stay on campus from move-in to the end of Spring semester. Although campus will generally be quieter during these times, administrative offices are open and operational and students (international and domestic) do stay on campus.

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Can I open a bank account? What do I need to set up an account?

Yes, you can open a bank account and many students choose to do so to help manage money and pay for certain items. International students do not need a Social Security number or a letter from the ISSO or any other university office to open a bank account. You do need your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and letter of admission to Columbia. Other items that could be helpful if you have them are your Columbia ID, a lease or housing contract with your name on it, and, if you have a bank account at home, a statement from your home country with your name and address printed on it.

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Dining services shut down during the holidays. Where should I eat?

It is true that Dining Services are closed during academic breaks. During break periods, students remaining on campus are still able to use their Flex Accounts to purchase food at off-campus vendors. You can add money to your Flex account through SSOL. First year students have the option of choosing a meal plan (Plan 3) that includes flex.

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Where can I get a letter confirming my address or student status?

Should you need to provide a letter confirming your address, you may contact the Hartley Hospitality Desk to request one. If you need to prove your student status at Columbia, you may request Academic Certification from the University Registrar.

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What are the policies I have to follow in the residence halls?

Undergraduate students who live in the residence halls are subject to the policies outlined in the Guide to Living. These policies, which range from the Cable Television and Cooking policies to the Alcohol and Other Drug policy, are put in place to ensure a residential community that is engaging and safe for all its members

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Can I join any student group?

Yes. While student groups are open to all students, some groups may require an audition, application or other requirements to join. Many simply allow you to start attending meetings at any time to participate and encourage you to do so. Two large-scale events that showcase student groups at Columbia include an Activities Fair during New Student Orientation Program and the Activities Day fair held every September.
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