This post contains all the information for planning your travel to Daytona Beach once you have been accepted into the flight school and have secured your student visa. If you need help or advice with applying to the university, financial aid or getting visa please feel free to contact me.
Planning your travel
Before you leave Nigeria your admission officer will usually make reservations for you in any nearby hotel with cost ranging from $45 - $100 (per night) depending on your budget and taste. I can assure you that the $45 hotel (Extended Stay Deluxe) is more than convenient and tasteful enough for your needs. However, Nigerian students here are usually happy to accommodate you (for free) for a day or two on arrival until you can find a place to move in.
The school is not set up like a university and so does not have hostels or dormitories, you will have to find accommodation in the various apartment complexes within the city. With this in mind plan to arrive at the school at least one week before the start of your batch of ground school to afford you time to settle in. Your admission officer will usually advice you and assist you in sorting accommodation.
Transportation is very difficult and expensive in this city due to the absence of trains, few taxis and buses. The norm here is to buy your own car which is possible from $1500 upwards. You can sometimes find cars at a cheaper cost in the school website from outgoing students.
Buying air-ticketsDaytona Beach International Airport (DAB)
This is the best way to reach Daytona Beach. The school is located on the airport itself, it is within walking distance. As of now, only Delta Airlines, Air-Tran and Continental Airlines offer service at the Daytona Beach International Airport and thus provide limited services. The airport is small and hence security and customs don’t take more than 20 minutes.
Students from Nigeria should remember that there are no direct flights to Daytona Beach. Generally, the port of Entry (the first airport at which you will land) will either be Orlando, Atlanta or sometimes Miami, New York, etc depending on which airline/route you travel by and then you will have a connecting flight to Daytona Beach. You will have to check out your bags at the port of entry, finish customs, immigration, etc. This process can take a while, generally about 1-2 hours. Hence, plan to have a time-gap of about 4-5 hours before your connecting flight to Daytona Beach from the port of entry. This will give you enough time to relax, call home and enjoy the feeling of arriving in the United States of America. If you are coming from Nigeria and plan to call home from a public place, you should consider buying an international calling card from Nigeria itself as International calling rates from public places (e.g. airports/hotels/etc.) are extremely high. Any device that takes advantage of wifi can also help you communicate with home through the internet. Once you arrive, you can purchase more calling cards from the bookstore or the internet. I currently use www.rebtel.com for all my calling cards, simply because they have the best rates.
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
As Orlando International Airport is a lot busier, you will find a cheaper direct flight air ticket from Nigeria to Orlando International Airport (MCO). Also you may find a direct flight to Orlando and you don't have to worry about connecting flights to Daytona Beach as MCO is an hour drive from Daytona Beach. (Only do this if you have friends in the Orlando area who will be willing to pick you up.)
Academic and Financial PlanningAll of the text books and materials you will need for the program will be provided by the school and billed as part of your tuition. However you can bring along any books that you think might be useful or helpful.
ComputersComputers are the most useful tool for a student, we recommend you buy a laptop. Moreover, Internet is the cheapest and the best way to communicate with your parents back home once you are here. This will make your life a lot easier. For students from Nigeria, you will find a better deal on new computers here if you have enough money ($500-$2000.) otherwise buy used computers in Nigeria and be sure they work ok. When bringing your electrical appliances from Nigeria be sure to bring along an adaptor/extension/converter because the sockets here are a different shape from the ones back home in Nigeria. Microsoft Simulator X is a very useful resource, if you can lay your hand on it, start practicing already!
On Campus JobsUnfortunately, even with an F1 visa you will not be able to get a job on campus because the only jobs available on campus is the instructor job and you will need about
18 m0nths of training to qualify for that. Sorry I didn't mean to burst your bubble. You may still be able to squeeze out water from a desert plant. (If you know what I mean!)
Bank AccountsI recommend you open up a student checking account to start with and a savings account if you wish. A debit card works almost everywhere and there is no need to get a credit card. Though if you have international credit card, it will be easier to purchase commodities in the first few weeks here till you get your debit card. Recommended banks here are Bank of America and Wachovia Bank.
It is also a good idea to get travelers checks for initial expenditures here (books, computers, etc). You can also pay your tuition using travelers checks but its cheaper to pay by credit card or international wire transfer. You can deposit the money into your new bank account here and then can pay tuition from your bank easily. It is not necessary to carry cash here since everything can be done using your debit and credit cards.
Packing Your Bags
Presented below is a comprehensive list of things you should bring to Daytona Beach from Nigeria. Please note that almost all the items mentioned below are readily available in Daytona Beach- i.e. this is not a list of 'must haves'. However, the list is prepared with a view of minimizing your initial expenditure upon arriving in the US, and to provide a checklist to help students who might be leaving home for the first time.
Remember to carry all important documents in a neatly arranged folder. Make 3 copies of the documents. Leave 1 copy at home in Nigeria and carry 2 copies with you. Preferably carry the originals (especially PASSPORT, I-20 LETTER etc.) on person (or in your cabin baggage) during travel as checked-in luggage is liable to get lost.
- Passport (with stamped VISA)
- Form I-20 (Note: American citizens/Green card holders do not need I-20)
- Correspondence regarding your admission to Phoenix East Aviation.
- Letter of Financial Aid (if present)
- Any other bona-fide certificates / documents
- 3 pairs Jeans
- 3 shorts
- 7 light T-shirts (summer wear)
- 1 cap
- 1 pair sports shoes (sneakers)
- 2 formal shirts & trousers / dresses / 1 formal blazer or suit include at least one black trouser (for church or official functions)
- 1 pair formal leather shoes (carry shoe-polish too)
- 2-3 Neck-ties especially black as this will be part of your uniform.
- 2-3 Belts (formal and informal)
- 1 Light jacket for Spring(winter jackets are best bought in the US)
- 1 Sweater (its warm here except from December - February. Temperature hardly goes below zero degrees.)
- 2-3 Night dresses
- 14 (!) pairs underwear (note: laundry normally done once in 2 weeks. Ladies might want to bring more)
- 4 pairs socks
- 1 pair sandals (Sandals and Flip flops are not allowed in the School premises)
- 1 or 2 leather wallets (preferably with pockets for lots of plastic cards)
- 1 or 2 Traditional outfits as you so wish.
- 2 toothbrushes
- 1 toothpaste
- 1 talcum powder
- 1 or 2 razor blades
- 1 shaving cream
- 1 shampoo
- 2 soaps
- 1 deodorant/perfume
- 1 bottle hair-oil
- 1 comb
- 1 nail cutter
- 1 Umbrella (it rains often here especially in the summer)
- 1 Bag / backpack (very important)
- 1 Stationery set (pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, staplers, cello-tape, etc.)
- 2 Towels
- 3 Napkins
- 1 Sewing Kit (needles, thread, buttons, safety-pins, scissors, etc.)
- 1 Screwdriver
- 1 Watch
- 1 Alarm clock
- 2 Bed-sheets (large - beds here are slightly wider). Pillows beddings and blankets can be easily bought here, save space in your bag for better things.
- 1 International Calling Card (OPTIONAL: Better calling cards are available here, but may be useful for making a few initial calls, especially if you call from a public place).
- Photos, CDs, cassettes, walkman, swimming trunks, Badminton/tennis/table-tennis racquets, musical instruments, etc. (you will have ample opportunity to pursue your hobbies here.)
Medical KitPlease carry prescriptions from your doctor for any chronic illness or medical condition. If you use spectacles/lenses, do carry an extra pair (a new pair of glasses is very costly). It is also advisable to have an eye and dental check-up prior to coming to the US. Plus get all the required vaccinations from Nigeria and the proof that you have taken these vaccinations. These vaccinations are very expensive here. In addition to your prescription medicines, you might want to carry:
- Fever reducers
- Pain Relievers (e.g. Paracetamol)
- Anti-allergy, cough and cold medicines (e.g. Actifed, Septrin)
- Band-aids (cotton and bandages)
- Ointments for burns, cuts, etc.
- Medicine for diarrhea, stomach ache (e.g. Flagil)
- Pain relieving sprays/ointments (e.g. Heatol)
- Moisturizing cream
Medical InsuranceYou are not required to have medical insurance to go through with the course, but if you are prone to illness it is a good idea to get one from Nigeria. Health insurance here is very expensive and treatment is VERY VERY expensive.
UtensilsYou can buy a good set of utensils from Wal-Mart once you are here. It will be very heavy to carry utensils in baggage. Do carry a few recipe books if you are not familiar with cooking.
Some Items you can buy in Wal-mart for your kitchen include
- 1 Tea strainer
- 3 Kitchen knives (different sizes are useful)
- 1 Peeler
- 1 Holder (to move warm vessels)
- 1 Egg beater
- Small PET bottles for salt, spices, etc.
- 4 Dinner plates (preferably microwaveable)
- 2 Plastic bowls
- 4 Eating spoons (teaspoons)
Food ItemsWARNING! The U.S. immigration and agriculture department strictly prohibits carrying food, meat, vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc. into the United States. Your baggage might be subject to a security check and inspection by sniffer-dogs at airport. However, our experience is that you are normally allowed to bring in food articles as long as they are carried in adequately sealed packets. At your risk and discretion, you may carry sealed packets of food (garri, ground cray fish, dry pepper, palm oil [you wont find palm oil anywhere in the US] etc.). Please note that some of these items (and more) can be easily purchased at nearby traditional grocery store, though at a more expensive rate.
Try to get as much as sleep as possible. This will help you a lot to overcome your jetlag. The first airport within the continental US will be your port of entry. Even though this may not be your final destination, you will have to check out your bags here. You will first clear immigration. Here they will stamp check your passport and visa. They may ask you for acceptance letter, I-20, etc. So keep such documents in your carry-on luggage. They may ask a few questions, take your fingerprints, photo and stamp your passport. Sometimes, they may take your passport and ask you to sit in a “special room”. Don’t get tensed, as they are just verifying your information and sometimes this can take time.
Once you have cleared immigration, you will be required to pick up your luggage. You will then proceed to customs once you have your entire luggage. They will check your bags for any illegal items. The Sniffer-dogs are very smart and will sniff any open food containers. So pack food containers in plastic bags that are sealed, so that they won't smell. Once you have cleared customs you will have to check in your bags again for your connecting flight. It is important to pick up your bag and check it in because a lot of people lose their luggage during flights. If in any doubt please ask the airport security or anyone in uniform.
Welcome to the United States of America
After Getting AdmissionQ) Can you tell me something about getting a visa?
A) If you have not received any by now, you will soon receive loads of advice regarding DOs and DON'Ts for visa applications from The Vice President Admissions of Phoenix East Aviation Mr Andre Maye, a very nice man. Tip: Apply for the instructor course so you may be granted an F1 visa. It helps sometimes with getting a social security number and finding a possible off-campus job!
I cannot provide any definite guidelines towards successfully obtaining a visa. However, you can feel free to contact me personally for any specific question you may have.
Q) When should I arrive in Daytona Beach?
A) Your I-20 specifies the date by which you are expected to arrive at the school. We suggest that you arrive before that date. Coming earlier could be helpful since you can settle down register with the TSA and even start taking classes with your school assigned Instructor before ground school begins!
If you want to arrive later than the date specified on your I-20, please confirm with your admission officer if it would be alright to do so.
Money MattersIf you have applied for the Basic and Multi-Engine Course, you have probably been told that your training will be completed with about $35,000. I can confidently assure you that the best of students will spend at least $50,000 before the commercial course is completed. As a general rule please budget to spend an additional 40% of the amount stated in your admission and I-20. This will cover fuel surcharges, school supplied
equipments, internet access, extra flight tutorials etc. Please note that Scholarships are not available for International students and no job can pay you enough to cover your tuition. You should also expect to spend approximately:
- $350 per month, house rent
- $100 per month, food and supplies
- $70 per month, electricity and heat
- $100 per month, miscellaneous expenses
- $50 per month car fuel depending on usage
You may have to purchase a bicycle for commuting from one place to another until you can buy a car this is because buses and taxi service is very poor in Daytona Beach and we simply do not use it. (taxis cost $15 without even moving). Please come along with your Nigerian driver's licence and if possible get the international version.
After all said, I want to assure you its a good experience and I wish a safe trip.