Pre-Departure Student Guide

Find useful information about preparing for EF Academy Pasadenaall in one place

Traveling to Pasadena, California

Find out what to pack, get detailed instructions about flying to the US, and know what to expect during your first days on campus.

Welcome to Pasadena

Prepare for EF Academy Pasadena by reviewing this page filled with helpful information, including packing lists, instructions about flying to the US and what to expect during your first days on campus.

Read the Welcome Plan, which includes webinar dates and other useful deadlines throughout the year:

Sign up for Welcome Plan webinars below:

For help in selecting courses with your University and Academic Counselor, please review our course catalog:

To view our 2024-2025 Academic Calendar see below

Please also review the School Handbook, so you are aware of this information before arriving to campus:

Documents and items

Make sure to bring the following documents and items with you in your hand luggage:

  • Valid passport

  • Printed E-ticket or boarding pass

  • Charged phone and other electronics

  • Emergency contact numbers in case of delay or a missed flight

  • Pocket money (in cash)

  • Printed Copy of your I-20

  • Any prescription medicines that you take

  • Your US SIM card (see below)


Your US phone number

EF Academy Pasadena requires that all students have a smartphone with an American phone number (US SIM card) with country code +1.

Students should order one in advance to insert in their phones before travel.

Please share your American mobile number with your home admissions office as soon as you have received it.

Documents and items to bring in your hand luggage

Valid passport

Printed E-ticket or boarding pass

Charged phone and other electronics

Emergency contact numbers in case of delay or a missed flight

Pocket money (in cash)

Printed copy of your Form I-2

Any prescription medicines that you take

Your US SIM card (see below)

Packing list

This list will help you remember the most important things you’ll need as you study abroad. Don’t forget that you’ll always be able to purchase things you need if you forget something important!

Make sure you pack according to the climate you’re traveling to. Winters in New York can be chilly, so be prepared with a warm coat, mittens and a hat! Be sure to bring a couple of nice outfits, too. From dances on campus to attending plays on Broadway, you’ll want to have some more formal attire for special occasions.

Please mind our school dress code and bring clothes that demonstrate consideration for a diverse international school community of students and teachers.

You can find toiletries just about anywhere you go, but when it comes to your favorite face wash or conditioner, it’s always best to come prepared just in case you can’t find the same products in the US. Eventually, you’ll find something local that works for you, but for the first few months, you’ll be happy you have something from home to work into your daily routine.

Of course when you’re going to school, you’re going to end up with plenty of books throughout the year. But sometimes you’ll want a break from studying and other required reading. When that time comes, you’ll be glad to have a few easy reads. It will also come in handy during your travels when you can use the extra reading material to pass the time on the plane or train.

We’re not going to sugar coat it: homesickness while studying abroad can get real. Oftentimes it will be the little things related to your culture, like your favorite foods, that will make you miss home the most. Tuck away some of your favorite snack food for one of those homesick days. Plus, a great way to start a connection with your new roommate is to offer them something delicious to eat!

It’s obvious that while living abroad, you’ll need to have your passport with you, but some other key documents to have around include your visa, I-20, school ID and flight tickets. You should also keep copies of important details like flight information, school documents or identification numbers. When it comes to legal documents, nobody ever regrets being overprepared. Keep all your important documents in your carry-on bag when traveling! Just remember to store your information in a safe place once you arrive on campus.

While WhatsApp, Skype, and Instagram are all great ways to stay in touch with people you care about, there’s something to be said about a handwritten letter. You never know if you’ll want to write to your family back home or start sending postcards. On a day when you’re feeling homesick, there’s always something comforting about reading a letter in a loved one’s handwriting.

We recommend having some cash when you travel and to get you through your first week of school. Once you’re settled in, your best option will be to keep your money in a bank account back home that can be accessible in the United States. There are Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in the main lobby of the school to withdraw cash from major debit/credit cards. If it is important for you to open a US bank account, this is also possible with the support of our Student Services team at EF Academy New York.

Even if you like to take notes by hand, you won’t be able to do all of your studying without a computer handy. But what good is having a laptop if you forget your charger at home? Take it from your fellow students of the world: running out to buy a new device charger is pricey and annoying in every country, so remember to bring yours with you along with an adaptor.

Flights and arrival

Welcome to the United States! You made it! Getting off a plane in a new country can feel a little disorienting, so let’s make sure your arrival is a smooth one.

Your flight information

It is very important that you share your flight details with the admissions office by July 30, at least one month before arrival, so we know when you are arriving. The best thing to do is to forward us your flight confirmation when you book your flight. We are also happy to help book the flight for you, so feel free to reach out to your local office for help. If possible, please book your flight for daytime arrival to Pasadena so your roommates and staff can be awake to give you a warm welcome!

Your arrival in the USA

When you first get off the plane, you might feel a little lost and disoriented. Don’t worry, this happens to everyone. Airports have good systems in place and it is relatively easy to find your way around. This is what you’ll do:

1. Go through immigration

When you land in the USA, follow the signs that say ‘Immigration’ or ‘Arrival.’ There are usually long lines here, so please be patient. When you get to the desk, the official will ask to see your passport, visa, I-20 and probably also go through a routine fingerprint and photo check. You will also be asked questions about your travels. Be calm and honest. Tell them that you are coming to the US to study and when you will return to your home country – this last one is very important!

2. Pick up your luggage at Baggage Claim

After you have cleared Immigration, you will follow signs to Baggage Claim, where you’ll pick up your checked luggage. To find out which conveyor belt will have your bag, check the flight numbers on the TV monitors. When you get your bag, be sure to check the name tag before leaving – a lot of bags look the same!

3. Go through Customs

Once you have your bags, it is time to go through Customs. Here you will give the Customs Declaration Form (which you filled out on the plane) to the officer. They might want to look inside your bags to check for any illegal goods. Again, don’t worry, this is a common procedure.

4. Proceed to the Exit or Arrivals Hall

From this point on, look out for our airport greeters. They will be carrying EF Academy signs and be easy to find. Make sure you verify that they have your name on their pick-up list, since many students are arriving on the same date. You should also make sure you have the school address with you just in case. If you cannot find your driver, wait at the arrivals area. Do not leave the arrivals area. If you can’t find them, you can call the Director on Duty at +1 (626) 507-9224.

Getting to campus

All students whose parent(s) are not personally dropping them off at campus will be greeted at the airport on arrival day by a professional driver and escorted to campus. Students flying into LAX are set for three roundtrip airport transfers in 2023-2024:

  1. Arriving to Pasadena in Fall 2023, leaving for winter break in December 2023

  2. Arriving to Pasadena in January 2024, leaving for spring break in March 2024

  3. Arriving to Pasadena after spring break, leaving for summer break 2024

Taxis, Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services are not permitted.

You can find our 2023-24 School Calendar here.

  • Wear your EF Academy hoodie. This will make it easier for the professional driver to spot you.

  • Ensure your phone has enough battery when you land.

  • Rest on the plane – your first days on campus will be busy!

  • Your first days - called Welcome Days - will be packed full of activities to help you adjust to the new time zone. Bring your a-game!

Help is near

If you have any problems when you arrive at the airport, please call the Director on Duty: +1 (626) 507-9224

If you miss a flight or have any problems along the way, please call the Emergency Phone: +1 (626) 507-9224

If something happens to your checked bag, you should report this before leaving the airport. Go straight to your airline’s service desk or the desk saying ‘Lost Baggage’. Show them the baggage receipt you got with your boarding pass when you first checked in. You will be asked some questions about your luggage, and they will give you a confirmation which you will need if you are claiming money from your insurance company. Remember, insurance companies usually do not cover any damaged or lost luggage if you don’t report it right away at the airport.

First week's checklist

During your first few weeks on campus, you will make many friends from around the world and discover a completely new way of learning. As part of your first weeks, you will:

  • Move into dorm room​

  • Campus orientation and safety trainings/drills​

  • Special course placement assessments​

  • Teacher subject presentations​

  • Meet your House Parent ​

  • Meet your University & Academic Advisor​

  • Meet your Advisor​

  • Fun social activities​

  • A mix of virtual and coordinated safe in-person events​

Residential life

Living on campus is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to take care of yourself while making friends for life. Just like being a solid student, successful and satisfying dorm living requires a high degree of personal responsibility and respect for others.

  • Twin bed with extra-long mattress

  • One set of sheets and towels (sheets, pillow case, duvet cover) and towels

  • Blinds

  • Desk, chair and lamp, shelving

  • A closet space

  • Set of drawers with one lockable drawer (you will need to bring your own lock)

  • An amazing roommate or two!

  • Refrigerators

  • Electric blankets

  • Irons

  • Hot plate

  • Heating coils

  • Coffee machines

  • Halogen lamps

  • Sunlamps

  • Candles

  • Propane torches

  • Firecrackers

  • Weapons

  • Rice cookers

  • Lighters

  • Incense

  • Anything capable of reaching high heat levels or containing an open flame is forbidden. Nothing that is or remotely resembles a weapon can be anywhere on campus.

Room assignments

How rooms are assigned

Room assignments are made by the school before you arrive, taking into account your responses on the roommate survey sent in July. Living arrangements are decided based on age and gender. We always try to have students of different nationalities sharing a room; after all, what better way to learn about a new culture than from your roommate!

*Roommate surveys are not conducted prior to January start on account of limited dorm room availability mid-year. The below policy on room changes remains the same.

Policy on room changes

Room changes are not allowed during the first eight weeks of school. We find that when you give it some time, students wind up getting along. It is not healthy for relationship development nor your school career to change rooms right away if you have a clash with your roommate. The first step in any roommate dispute is always mediation. If you ever have difficulty talking to your roommate or need support in addressing a conflict, ask your House Parent- they’re here to help you!

Living on campus

At boarding school, you are the primary person responsible for looking after yourself. Learn to live independently by organizing your responsibilities.

Pocket money

Although your daily meals and weekly shuttles to and back from popular areas in Pasadena are covered by school fees, you’ll probably want to spend some money on extra activities and weekends. We recommend a budget of around 300 USD per month.

Parents: Please make sure your child always has access to at least this much money on a monthly basis. We recommend that you bring a bank or a credit card from home. There are Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in the nearby shopping area E. Washington Blvd to withdraw cash from major debit/credit cards.


This might be the first time you’ll need to do laundry by yourself, but there are plenty of people on campus to help you out. Washers and dryers are located on campus and operated through an app that you can download on your phone. Simply enter your credit card information, scan the code on the washer or dryer, and voila! Washers and dryers are available from 7am until 10pm, however no washing can be done during Study Hall. There are dry cleaners are also located on E. Washington Blvd near the school.


You and your roommates are responsible for keeping your room tidy. Make sure to make your bed, hang up your clothes, regularly empty the trash and vacuum your room. There is a vacuum in each hall that you can borrow; just ask your House Parent. House Parents inspect rooms for cleanliness on a weekly basis but also visit rooms at random intervals without previous notice. The school housekeeping team cleans all communal areas, including the communal bathrooms, daily.

Traveling off campus

Travel to Los Angeles requires a higher level of vigilance and self awareness. When students want to go check out a museum or a new restaurant in LA, there are convenient transportation options close to campus. For day trips, students must ensure they’re back on campus in time for curfew. You can always call the emergency number if you experience any difficulties traveling to or from the city.

Students may leave campus for short or extended periods of time, but there are several layers of permissions, stipulations, and limits placed upon off campus travel. All travel requests will be declined unless an approved form of transportation is provided by the student or parent.​ Taxis and rideshare apps--including Uber and Lyft--are not permitted for students in any grade level. Violations of this expectation will result in disciplinary actions

Note: Students in grades 9 and 10 are not permitted to travel to Los Angeles unless they are on a school-sponsored trip or traveling with a parent or guardian.

Settling in

Leaving home at your age and travelling to study and live in a boarding school with young people from all over the world is exciting and transformative, but it can also be challenging. Don’t worry if it takes you some time to adjust. Adapting to a new environment, schedule, people and even homework takes time and patience. It also takes a support network of adults here on campus, in addition to your parents back home, to work together to see you through until you are fully on your feet.

House Parents will interact with you most, especially at first. Go to these adults with questions and needs, but always feel free to ask any adult for support. Once classes begin, students also have teachers and a dedicated University & Academic Advisor for support.

Staying healthy

Proper hydration, sufficient sleep, good nutrition and exercise form the basis of good health. Keeping your room clean is helpful prevention as well. While the Health Center and residential life staff will support you in staying healthy, you must also take responsibility for your own wellbeing.

ERIKA insurance: All students (except US and Canadian residents) are covered by ERIKA insurance. The ERIKA insurance policy covers most accidents and illnesses.

If you get sick or feel unwell, you can visit the school nurse on campus. EF Academy has nearby walk-in clinics and there are hospitals in the area. Our school can arrange for you to see a wide array of specialists as needed.

Make sure to let us know if you take any medications. No medication is allowed to be held in rooms unless approved by the Health Center. All medication brought from home should be listed on the Certificate of Health form. Please note that there are many medications that are legal in other countries that are not legal in the United States or that require a prescription.

You must have a completed Health Certificate, signed and stamped by a medical doctor, on file. Please note that you may not travel without first submitting the complete Health Certificate. Make sure it is clearly scanned for us as sometimes students will need to bring a printed copy to an appointment. If you have indicated a current medical condition (which may or may not require medication), you must also provide detailed information about it from your doctor.

Staying safe

Boarding school provides you with a safety net, allowing you to try try new things without fear or trepidation. At EF Academy, you are supported not only by teachers, but by House Parents, Dorm Heads, Advisors, University & Academic Advisors, sports coaches, nurses, club advisors and more.

The role of the Residential Life Team is to care for you and help you make good decisions. We use the Orah app for all off-campus travel and passes so that we know where students are in order to help keep them safe. The way you conduct yourself, both on and off campus, is essential to staying safe. The Residential Life Team will talk more about this once you are on campus. It's important for everyone to work together and consider the impact of their behavior on the community.

Please ensure you have read through the Code of Conduct, which you will find in the EF Academy Agreement. The Code of Conduct clearly explains the rules and expectations of our school community both on and off campus, which you will have read, agreed to and signed as part of the admissions process.

Our professional 24-hour security team is dedicated to preserving the safety and security of the entire campus community. Their mission is to keep the school community safe. The security team screens guests and visitors and ensures that the laws are abided by. They are based at the campus entrance and exit point.

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