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Pepperdine | Graduate School of Education and Psychology


International Student Basics

 Customs and Culture

Customs and culture may be very different in the United States from your own. Prepare yourself for these differences, but keep in mind that understanding Americans can be complicated since we are often a mixture of many cultures, and one of the things Americans value most is their sense of independence. You may benefit from talking with people in your home country who have studied here or by purchasing a travel guide book.


You should come prepared for sunny days and little temperature variation; mild winters, warmer summers, and pleasant days in between.

The temperature frequently drops to 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) in winter and rises to 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) in the summer. Plan to wear warmer clothing during the winter months (November-March). A jacket or coat will be necessary. Clothing for rainy weather might be needed but rain is rare.

Keep in mind that the U.S. uses the Fahrenheit scale when referring to temperatures: 1.00 degrees C = 33.80 degrees F.


On campus and in the classroom, casual and informal attire such as t-shirts, polo shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, shorts, khakis, sneakers, and sandals are acceptable for women as well as men. When deciding which kind of clothing to pack for your move to the U.S., you may also find it helpful to bring national costumes to wear to special events and international celebrations or to speaking engagements around the city, but this is a matter of personal choice.
Bring formal attire (suit, tie, dress shoes, button-down shirt of conservative color, conservative blouse (for women) is a MUST for class presentations, special and formal occasions, job interviews, and any events that indicate that "business attire" is required for your attendance!

 Cell Phones

There are four major providers of cell phone service available in the United States: AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint.
However, due to the mountainous landscape of the Malibu, certain cell phone carriers do not provide very good reception, which can be an inconvenience especially if you choose to live on-campus. It is recommended that students enroll in a Verizon Wireless or AT&T Wireless cell phone plan. Other cell phone carriers, such as T-Mobile and Sprint are less expensive compared to Verizon and AT&T but service on the Malibu Campus is limited.
Though Wi-Fi is available throughout the Graziadio School, incoming calls and texts may be limited with Sprint and T-Mobile service due to poor reception.

Bringing Your Phone from Your Home Country
Most phones brought from your home country will work with U.S. cell phone carriers provided that the phone is an unlocked version. If your phone is compatible with one of the U.S. cell phone carriers, in most cases, you will just need to buy their SIM card, and sign up for one of their plans to have your phone activated.

Contract Plans vs. Pre-paid Plans
Below is a general summary of the differences, so you should contact your chosen cell phone company for details. Each company has different offerings for contract and pre-paid plans. You should find the company that best fits your needs. GSEP and its staff and faculty are not responsible for assisting students with obtaining a cell phone in the U.S.


Wireless Internet service is available throughout Pepperdine. You will be able to access the Pepperdine wireless Internet network on campus through your Pepperdine University WaveNet account, which will be assigned to you once you are enrolled. Off-campus, it is your responsibility to enroll in network provider plan so you will have access to the Internet.

 Bank Accounts

It is recommended that you do not bring large amounts of cash with you to the United States. In addition to cash, you can also bring travelers checks to exchange when you arrive in Los Angeles. You should bring cash (and travelers checks) for your immediate needs when you arrive; such as transportation from the airport, meals and if necessary, the security deposit for where you decide to live. Once you open a bank account, you can send money to it by wire transfer, so you can avoid bringing all your money with you. Be advised that there may be a charge by the bank per wire transfer.

There are many choices to open a bank account in California; however, the nearest bank to Pepperdine is Bank of America, which is located within the Malibu Colony Plaza shopping area. It's about a five minute drive from Pepperdine's campus and there are multiple branches in the area. You can open a bank account at any bank convenient to where you're living, but be advised only Bank of America ATMs are located on Pepperdine's campus. If you don't have a Bank of America account and you use the Bank of America ATMs on campus, there will be at least a $2 convenience fee per transaction. The Graziadio School and its staff and faculty are not responsible for assisting students with opening a bank account in the U.S.
Below is what is required to open an account at Bank of America, but expect to have similar requirements at other banks. Please contact the bank of your choice to see what documents are necessary. At Bank of America, you need to bring TWO of the following documents:

  • Foreign Passport
  • Foreign Drivers License
  • U.S. Government issued TIN Number
  • Alien I.D. Card and country of issuance of any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residency (document must include picture).


Your basic shopping needs, such as grocery shopping, can be done at the Malibu Colony Plaza shopping area and the Malibu Country Mart shopping area, both within a five minute drive from campus. While classes are in session for Seaver College undergraduate students, there are free shuttle buses that can take you to both shopping areas. More information on the Malibu Shopping Shuttle can be found here. All your shopping needs can be met in Santa Monica, and most of your household necessities (i.e., linens, tableware, electrical appliances, basic furniture) can be purchased at Target in Woodland Hills; however, keep in mind that you will need to drive to the Target in Woodland Hills as there are no bus lines that go there. Santa Monica is accessible by bus.

 Social Security Number and Card

A social security number and card becomes necessary and can be issued to you only if you find paid employment in the U.S. "Paid employment" includes all on-campus student employment, graduate/research assistantships, paid internships, and any full-time employment. More information on how to obtain a Social Security Number and Card can be found here.


Unless special permission is granted by GSEP and proper work authorization is issued by Pepperdine University, international students are not permitted to partake in an internship or any off-campus employment while they are a student at Pepperdine University. However, students can be employed in on-campus student worker positions. There are some requirements and a process that a student must go through with the Office of International Students.