Helpful things for you to know before you arrive.

When will my classes start? 
Academic Calendar generally runs from early September through mid-December (fall semester), then mid-January through early May (spring semester). Summer programs may vary in length. 

Is it easy to make friends at BHSU?
Residence life provides the opportunity to meet both American and other International students. There are many campus-wide activities and each department sponsors social and academic activities. You can also join the International Student Organization (ISO) and participate in their activities. Most departments have student organizations organized around the academic interests of the students.

How do I get to Spearfish? 
Students are responsible for their own transportation to the United States. The closest major airport is located 50 miles away in Rapid City, South Dakota (airport code RAP). If you need assistance arranging transportation from Rapid City to Spearfish, please contact the Office of International Studies.

Is it possible to get an American driver's license? 
Yes. If you wish to learn to drive, instruction is available at a nominal cost.  A South Dakota driver's license is valid for four years.  If you want a license, you will be required to take both a written and a driving test.

What is the weather like? 
The weather can be quite hot in the summer.  July is usually the hottest month and the temperature can reach over 100 degrees F.  Summer temperatures average about 85 degrees F.  Fall and Spring are usually mild, but can be cool and rainy or snowy. Winter can be cold and is rather snowy in the Black Hills.

Will I be able to get involved in any cultural events? 
BHSU and surrounding communities in the Black Hills offer a multitude of cultural activities.  Many of these events are free and open to all students. 

Can I drink and go out to nightclubs? 
Alcoholic beverages are not allowed on Black Hills State University except for special occasions approved by the Board of Regents. The legal drinking age in South Dakota is 21 years. In restaurants and bars, you must show your ID to prove that you are of legal drinking age. More information concerning our alcohol/drug policy can be found in the Black Hills State University Student Code of Conduct Handbook

What type of people live in South Dakota? South Dakota is an agricultural state. The Black Hills Region is primarily tourism-based. People are conservative and mostly middle class. Many BHSU students come from small towns in South Dakota and have little experience or contact with international students, however they are friendly to newcomers.

Is it safe to live in Spearfish? 
Living in Spearfish is very safe. There is very little crime and people walk the streets without fear.

What kind of transportation is available in Spearfish? 
As Spearfish is a small city, there is no major public transportation. There is however, a public transit system that provides transportation within Spearfish and to surrounding areas

What if I want to travel? 
You will have the opportunity to travel during Christmas vacation, Spring Break and in the Summer. Students in the past have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. The most frequently used means of transportation are automobile and airplane.

What is there to see and do in the region? 
Spearfish is located within a very short drive from Mount Rushmore (60 miles), Devil's Tower (50 miles), Crazy Horse (60 miles), Deadwood (17 miles), and various scenic locations within the Black Hills.

  • Packing Information
  • Arrival Information
  • Orientation

*Special Note: In Your Carry-On!
We would recommend including items in your carry-on that you would need for a few days after your arrival (extra clothing, toiletries, etc.), in case your checked luggage is delayed upon arrival.

General Packing
Do not bring too many items from home that can easily be bought in the U.S. Be sure to bring enough toiletries with you to last several days upon arrival. You do not know how soon you may be able to go to a store to buy the basic necessities. Spearfish has grocery stores, a Farmers Market (where you can buy local, fresh vegetables/fruits) in the summer and a large department store.

Check with your department regarding specific dress code. A good raincoat or umbrella is necessary. You will also need a coat for heavy winter weather. It snows often in Spearfish.

Electrical Items
The U.S. uses 110v electrical current. Many small electrical items like hair dryers and electric razors are inexpensive in the U.S. and you may wish to purchase those items when you arrive. If you bring a computer, or other electrical items, you may buy a simple plug adaptor in the U.S.

Linens and Towels
Student living on campus are provided with Bed linens, pillows, blankets and towels. Additional items can be purchased inexpensively in Spearfish.

Medical Items
Make sure that any prescription medications you bring with you are labeled and are in their original containers. Make sure the name on the containers matches the name on your passport to avoid any problems when you are entering the U. S. Please bring a copy of any prescriptions you will need using the generic name of the medication in English.

Make sure your ATM card will work in the U.S. before you leave! The Cirrus, Plus, MasterCard and Visa systems are the most widely accepted. We recommend you have access to enough funds to cover immediate expenses. We recommend you have at least $1,000 in hard currency, traveler’s checks or pre-paid cards in case you need quick access to cash when you first arrive. You can change your money at a local bank. There may be a conversion fee, but it will probably be less than the fee at the airport.

The Office of International Relations & Global Engagement answers frequently asked questions by international students.

How much luggage should I pack? 
You should bring one large suitcase and one small one. Remember that you have to carry what you bring. You are less likely to lose luggage if you follow the baggage limitations of the airlines. On international flights, the maximum weight per bag must not exceed 20 Kg (US 44 lbs.). If you need to purchase additional items once you arrive, there are many shops and stores in the Spearfish area that offer a large assortment of various items.

What should I bring with me?

  • Warm clothing for winter
  • Personal items (you can purchase toiletries and other necessities once you arrive)
  • Alarm clock
  • Your favorite music, pictures of your family and friends. You may find that bringing certain items from home will help you to feel more comfortable in your new surroundings.
  • Enough money for your immediate journey to Spearfish.  Do not travel with a large amount of cash! Traveler’s checks and credit cards are a safer way to carry money. However, plan for emergencies, such as an extra night’s lodging and meals.

How much money will I need for my monthly personal expenses? 
This depends on your lifestyle. Most students are able to get by on about $25-$50 per week. Once on campus, your expenses will likely include:

  • Tuition and fees for the first term
  • Books and supplies
  • Housing deposits and rent
  • Health-insurance premiums
  • Clothing appropriate for the South Dakota climate
  • Household and personal care items
  • Entertainment and/or dining out
  • Bicycle (Spearfish has limited public transportation. You may want to consider purchasing a bicycle for local transportation around campus and the community.)

What kind of documentation should I carry with me?  
Obtain English translations of all personal documents that you will need during your stay in the U.S. Have the translations certified by a U.S. educational advising center or a U.S. consulate or embassy. Retain photocopies of all original documents for your records. If possible, bring one document of identification that is at least one year old.

Do NOT check the following documents in your baggage!
If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States.

  1. Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay;
  2. SEVIS Form I-20/DS-2019. (This document will be mailed to you, with original signatures from the PDSO/RO or DSO/ARO of Black Hills State University)
  3. Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797, and
  4. Name and contact information for your “Designated School Official” (PDSO/RO or DSO/ARO), including a 24-hour emergency contact number.  
  5. Evidence of financial resources;
  6. Evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts;
  7. Bring with you to the United States any important documents that relate to your academic, medical, or legal history.
  8. ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO BRING HEALTH AND IMMUNIZATION RECORDS, INCLUDING:  Medical & dental records, including certificates of immunizations / vaccinations, information on any medical conditions or treatments, prescriptions for medication, eyeglasses, and a copy of your health Insurance policy if you already have one.   
  9. Official transcripts from secondary schools, colleges or universities if they have not already been sent to the BHSU Office of International Studies.  “Official” means that they must have a stamp, seal, and/or signature.
    10.  Marriage certificate (if applicable)
    11.  Birth certificates for children traveling with you (if applicable)

Arrange for your flight as soon as you know your report date.  The nearest major airport is the Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) in Rapid City, SD.   Please contact the Office of International Relations & Global Engagement with your flight information once you obtain your tickets.

You can expect to experience fatigue and other physical symptoms due to long-distance travel and time changes.

Be well rested at the start of your trip and take care of details in advance. East lightly and drink plenty of water the day before you travel. Prepare for changes in temperature by wearing several layers of clothing that can be removed or added as needed. Keep your passport, travel documents, and money with you at all times. Keep important papers in your carry-on luggage, with photocopies in your other luggage. Label your baggage inside and out with your name and both your home and U.S. addresses and telephone numbers. Use the address and phone numbers of BHSU, if necessary:

Office of International Relations & Global Engagement
1200 University Street, Unit 9519
Spearfish, SD USA 57799-9519

To prevent inconveniences in the case of lost luggage, keep in your carry-on luggage all of the items you may need for a possible overnight emergency stay in a hotel.

Toward the end of your flight, the airline personnel will give you several forms to complete for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs.

I-94 Goes Electronic: 

Foreign visitors to the U.S. arriving via air or sea no longer need to complete paper Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 or I-94W. Those who need to prove their legal-visitor status—to employers, schools/universities or government agencies—can access their CBP arrival/departure record information online.  Get your I-94 Now

Present your passport, visa, I-20 or DS-2019, and evidence of financial support to the U.S. immigration officer at the airport.

After questioning you about your plans in the United States, the immigration officer will decide how long you will be allowed to stay (F-1 visa’s are marked with a D/S, which means “Duration of Status”). After this, you will be directed to the Customs Service for inspection of your baggage.

What to expect when you arrive in Spearfish:
The Office of International Relations & Global Engagement will communicate with you regarding your arrival on campus. Please update them with your travel itinerary and flight schedule so they will know when you are scheduled to arrive in the US. 

Once you reach BHSU, visit the Office of International Relations & Global Engagement as soon as possible.

Upon your arrival, we will set up a time for you to meet with a representative of the Office of International Relations & Global Engagement so we can help you get started here at BHSU! The Office of International Relations & Global Engagement and most other BHSU offices are open Monday through Friday with office hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Plan ahead, so that you know where to go if you arrive at night or on the weekend.

These FAQ’s may not answer all the questions you might have, although it will give you some information to help you with your arrangements. If you have further questions, please contact the Office of International Studies directly:

BHSU Office of International Relations & Global Engagement
1200 University St. Unit 9519
Spearfish, SD 57799-9519 
Phone: 1 (605) 642-6942

Dr. James Fleming is the Director of International Relations & Global Engagement, and is also the Primary Designated School Official (PDSO) & Responsible Officer (RO). If you have specific questions you would like to ask please email them to: or