Tales of a French Intern Part 2

Mon, Jan 10, 2011

Internship Information

In my previous post I shared how to begin the administrative procedures for finding an international internship in the U.S.A. I talked about the documents required and how to find housing and a roomate. In this post, I will cover details such as the bank account, the social security number and other miscellaneous details.

Miscellaneous Internship Details

If somebody has to pick you up at the airport, you will need to phone him once you arrive. Forget your French mobile if you haven’t secured an international fixed package. It is no fun  making calls from a  a phone booth: exaggerated price, random functioning, and it is especially difficult to use when you first arrive as you will have only little or even no coins at all. The solution that I used, and that I recommend to you is called: “prepaid card.” You can order it on the Internet, by looking up “phone card” or “calling card” in Google.

These cards allow you to make international calls for a moderate cost. They are equivalent to the classic phone cards, but are international: cards supply a list of numbers, by country, which we can call free of charge in a phone booth. It is much cheaper than using your international mobile phone. American electronic outlets are different from European; do not make the same error as me. Buy a converter before your departure, it could be useful to reload your laptop and give news to your family!

Your arrival for your internship

Social Security Number

The most important and most complicated thing that I had to deal with since I arrived is the SSN. This is an indispensable piece of paper, without it you cannot do anything in the USA. You have to make your request in person, at any Social Security Office. Bring all your documents with you. Look for the complete list on the Website.  I didn’t needed to book an appointment but the waiting time was endless. Once the documents are filled, verify scrupulously the receipt before signing. The Social Security office employee was barely able to spell my name and she made a mistake writing the correct date of my birthday. This required me to ask for a new card after having waited for 15 days. True story!

Bank account

To open a bank account, a Social Security Number is usually required. Funny dead-end is this step, isn’t it? However, certain banks, such as Bank of America, which I recommend strongly for interns, provide accounts to people who do not have an SSN. I was very surprised to see that to remove cash from a different bank, the ATM charges around $3 every time. Try to open a bank account close to your home. In case of emergency, you will appreciate this.


I opted for a no-engaging plan because it is cheaper and you are able to stop it when you want. It is by far the best solution for an intern.

Stores, Restaurants

Since I arrived, the thing, which most intrigued me, is that in the United States, everything is big. Coke bottles are at least 2 liters, the water is sold by gallons, soaps by 8, restaurants serve too much to eat, stores are huge, most of the motorists drive huge cars compared to those driven in France. A big disorientation for me!

I also ignored the fact that the prices posted in stores do not always correspond to what I pay at the cash desk. Every state has its own taxes. These taxes depend on products and are not counted in the prices of labels, pay attention if you have a tight budget! Plan on paying between 6 and 8 % for taxes.

Finally, don’t forget to tip. In restaurants, hairdresser, taxi driver… It is advised to pay a higher tip than in Europe, ranging from 15 to 20 % of the bill. Thus if you thought of paying  $4.60 for a drink, expect to pay at least $6!

So far, these are my first thoughts since I arrived in the U.S., If you have any questions of a French intern living in the U.S., please feel free to contact me at erden.celebi@gmail.com.

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