Now that you are in the final stages of preparing for your time in Madison, we wanted to remind you about some of the most important information to pay attention to before you arrive.
Review the orientation topics on this page and consult relevant links for additional information. Your on-site orientation will build on this information, and we expect that you will have read these pages and watched the videos prior to your arrival.
Course Load: As an exchange student, you will be required to be enrolled full-time. Full-time enrollment depends on whether you were nominated as and applied as an undergraduate exchange or graduate exchange student. J-1 exchange students must take traditional on-campus courses. You may take one online course per semester and have it count towards your full-time enrollment.
Undergraduate: 12-18 credits
Graduate/Postgraduate: 8-15 credits
Dates & Deadlines: Consult this link to confirm add/drop course deadlines and other important dates during your semester(s) at UW-Madison.
Attendance & Final Exams: You need to attend all of your classes- do not take two classes that overlap. Class participation may also be a part of your grade. Confirm that you do not have two final exams that overlap.
Homework: In general, we hear that students are surprised at the amount of work that is necessary to complete during the semester. You will probably have a variety of assignments and exams throughout the semester.
Disability Support: If you have a documented disability from your home institution, you are eligible to receive accommodations through McBurney Disability Resource Center. You are strongly encouraged to contact McBurney as early as possible in order to arrange services.
Health Insurance: You are required to enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) or file a qualifying waiver by the deadline listed on the SHIP website.
When working on class assignments or taking exams, it is important that students maintain a high level of academic integrity. It is the student’s responsibility to understand what is considered academic misconduct, how to avoid it, and the consequences of such behavior.
The Writing Center can help you understand assignments, cite your sources, and meet the standards of academic integrity.
You may find that some aspects of the classroom in the United States are quite similar to how things are back home. Other things might be very different.
Instructors & Teaching Assistants (TA)s: Instructors lead classes at UW-Madison. In addition to your instructors, some larger classes will also have teaching assistants (TAs). Teaching assistants often guide discussion or lab sections, and sometimes assist the instructor with grading.
Each week, your instructors and teaching assistants will hold office hours to help answer questions outside of class. These office hours will be listed on your course syllabus. We recommend visiting office hours if you have questions.
Course Components: These are common components of courses in a US university. Your individual classes may vary, so see the course description for more information:
Lecture – A lecture is usually lead by the instructor of the class. Some classes only have a lecture section, and others have additional mandatory components as well. In larger classes, the lecture section is usually time for the professor/instructor to provide broad course content. Exams are often also scheduled during the lecture section.
Discussion – In classes with more students, you might have separate discussion sections where the course material can be discussed in a smaller break out group. These sections are often taught by teaching assistants, and are meant to further understanding and discuss key issues covered in the lecture.
Laboratory – Most often included in science or engineering classes, labs serve much like discussion sections and allow for hands-on practice of the content covered in the lecture.
Textbooks: Check your Student Center, Canvas account, course description, or syllabus for textbook information. You can purchase your textbooks online, from the University Bookstore, or from other local bookstores in Madison. Some classes have printed course packets instead of textbooks, which you can find at local print shops.
Syllabus: You should receive your syllabus for each class on the first day or beforehand from your instructor. Your syllabus will include the course meeting times, professor office hours, homework, grading information, final exam time, and other very important information.
Be sure to keep copies of all syllabus to give to your home university after you return. It may be difficult to obtain a new copy of lost syllabi after the fact.
Homework: In the US university setting, you will likely have a large amount of homework and projects to do outside of class. You should plan on spending several hours each week per class to complete these course requirements. All homework and exams should be listed in the course syllabus, which you should receive the first day of class.
Attendance: Unlike in some other academic systems, course attendance is very important during your time at UW-Madison. It is a visa requirement to attend classes regularly. Attendance is also sometimes factored into your course grade. Some professors allow excused absences with doctor’s notes or other proof, and others do not.
Refer to your course syllabus for more information about your specific course requirements, and ask your professor what they prefer you do if you need to be absent due to illness or other urgent matters.
Final Exam Schedule: The final exam information (if any) should be included in the course description. Before your classes begin, be sure that you do not have overlapping final exams or other scheduling issues. It can be difficult if not impossible to reschedule final exams. You may have to change classes if you have two final exams scheduled at the same time.
You’ve already started accessing some components of your electronic campus access.
Your MyUW is your campus portal home. Accessible via https://my.wisc.edu, your MyUW portal can be customized based on your preferences. We recommend having the following tiles near the top of your MyUW for easy access:
Canvas – Access to online components of many classes Email – Access to your @wisc.edu email address Wiscard Balance – Keep track of your Wiscard balance for meal purchases on-campus and more. Course Search & Enroll – As you finalize your course schedule, it may be helpful to keep this tile in your account. MyUHS – All enrolled students have access to University Health Service (UHS), the student clinic. Through this app you can make and see upcoming appointments and more. Student Center – Update your personal information, see course details, and more.
After your arrival in Madison, your first step to gaining access to campus is obtaining your Wiscard photo ID. Your Wiscard is used for all sorts of things around campus including:
Access to gyms, libraries, student unions, computer labs, and your residence hall (if living on campus).
Use as payment in on-campus dining locations as well as at the student unions.
The UW-Madison campus is spread out over 3.75 square kilometers so you could have a large distance between classes. Several options for getting around campus make it easier for you to get to your destination.
NAVIGATING AROUND CAMPUS
Students can download the Wisconsin App on a smartphone to find helpful tools including a campus map, bus trip planner, and more.
Madison is a bicycle-friendly city and the UW-Madison campus is no exception, so biking is a great way to get around. It is easy to park a bike on campus and you will find racks next to almost all buildings. Read about campus bike information from Transportation Services.
In Wisconsin, bicycles are considered vehicles and have the same rights and responsibilities as cars. Learn more about bike registration, routes, laws, and more at the City of Madison Bike Madison webpage.
B-cycle is a short-term bike rental program. You will see several B-cycle stations throughout campus and the city. Join for a year for a nominal fee and ride free for trips under 30 minutes.
Red Bike Project is a long-term bike rental program. The Red Bike program offers reconditioned bikes (painted red, of course) that can be used on campus and around the community for free!
Walking is an ideal way to get around campus and experience all its beauty. There are many miles of sidewalks and pedestrian paths including the scenic Lakeshore Path.
At night, use the Lightway Walking Path. In case of emergency, there are over 60 emergency phones are located throughout campus. Most emergency phones have a blue light above them and are labeled “911-Emergency.” You can also utilize SAFEwalk when traveling in the campus area at night.
Safety on Campus
The city of Madison and the UW-Madison campus community are strongly committed safety. Recently the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ranked Madison the fourth safest city in the United States.
Although campus and the city of Madison are quite safe, UW-Madison offers a number of resources to further protect students on and around campus. Learn about these resources by viewing the following video from the recently retired University of Wisconsin Police Department Chief of Police, Susan Riseling.
In the United States, you can dial 911 from any phone to be connected to the closest emergency operator.
UW-Madison does not mandate any specific vaccinations, but several are recommended. Arrange to be immunized before you come to campus. If you are unable to before arrival, it is possible to get vaccinations at UHS. Though most UHS services are provided free of charge to students, vaccinations are an additional fee.
Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP)
UW-Madison and immigration requirements mandate adequate health insurance for all international students and their dependents. The Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) provides comprehensive health coverage for medical issues, mental health counseling, and prescriptions beyond the services provided by UHS. SHIP enrollees have access to a network of hospitals across the United States to provide coverage in case of travel during your time at UW-Madison. All international students, including exchange applicants, are required to purchase the UW-Madison Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).
Learn more about the importance of SHIP and how to enroll by watching the video below.