Getting Settled/Getting Around
Arriving in Knoxville
When you first arrive to campus, you will want to first get to your housing assignment in Clement Hall. During the week of international student orientation, limited shuttles will be provided for transportation from the airport to campus. More information will be provided regarding shuttle dates and times once you have registered for one of the mandatory check-in (see the Orientation page for more details about check-in). You will get an email prompting you to register after you receive your official acceptance package.
If you arrive in Knoxville at a time when shuttles are not being offered, we recommend you take a taxi to the university. You may have to call for one if you do not see one outside the airport or bus station. For the Yellow Cab Company, call 865-523-5151; for the AAA Airport Taxi Service, call 865-531-1930. Making a telephone call from a public telephone will cost 35 or 50 cents, and the taxi fare will be around $20–25. Ask the taxi driver to take you directly to your housing assignment.
NOTE: You will live in Clement Hall, 1629 West Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37916. You must complete all immunization requirements to be able to move into campus housing. If you do not complete these records with the student health clinic, you will be turned away from housing.
Linens and pillows are not provided. Students can move into the residence hall immediately upon arrival as the check-in desk is open 24 hours a day.
There is no need to contact CGE staff when you arrive, but you are welcome to stop by and say hello! Simply come to orientation as described in your acceptance letter.
Getting Settled/Getting Around
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The University of Tennessee is a large but friendly campus. It has existed a long time by American standards, since 1794. However, it is a very modern campus with excellent libraries, superb wireless and internet facilities, and excellent sports facilities. Bring a good pair of walking shoes and be ready to walk once you arrive. You can also use the free bus service, the T, that runs all over campus.
The UT website provides general information about the university as well as numerous maps and directions on how to get here. Once you are here, do not be shy about asking directions or questions. People are generally very friendly and willing to help if you approach them in a polite manner.
The City of Knoxville
Knoxville is a medium-sized city that still retains the friendliness of a smaller town, yet has plenty for college students to do and see. Downtown and the adjoining Old City offer live music, coffee shops, and a host of unique shops. All of this is located one mile from campus—great to walk to or you can take the KAT Trolley for free if you prefer.
Knoxville hosted the 1982 World’s Fair, so it is no stranger to folks from out of town. Perhaps more impressively, Knoxville is the home for many significant blues and country artists. Today you will still find a thriving music scene.
There are the usual assortments of shopping malls and suburban sprawl for those who want to see those sorts of things up close. Knoxville is one of the cheapest cities of its size in the United States. Even things like movies and restaurants are usually cheaper than in Atlanta, Charleston, etc.
For more information, check out Visit Knoxville. For local news, you can read the daily newspaper, the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Don’t forget to check out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As for the people, like most places, you will find all types. We think it is a good idea to get to know and appreciate as many different types of people as possible as opposed to just looking for people who are similar to you. Knoxvillians tend to be more conservative and religious than people from other parts of the country. However, it is probably not wise to automatically assume what this means or how true it really is for each individual you meet. Overall, people are usually friendly, but might take a while to get to know, as is the case around the globe.
If you get bored with Knoxville, you can take comfort in the fact that the city is within a day’s drive of Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, Florida, Charleston, and New Orleans. There are eight states that border Tennessee, so you can easily explore different states and cities on weekends with the appropriate transportation.
You will be living on campus, around which, there are many places you can walk. The Knoxville Area Transport (KAT) system connects you from campus to different points of Knoxville, including the malls and grocery stores. You can purchase a semester pass from the Central Ticket Office on campus or pay (in cash) single-ride tickets at $1.50 each directly on the bus. In addition to the buses, KAT also offers a free trolley service for transportation in the campus, downtown and Old City areas.
If you want to get out of Knoxville to see what else the United States has to offer, an affordable option might be taking a Greyhound bus.
You can rent a bike, helmet & lock for a semester ($50) from the University of Tennessee Outdoor Program (UTOP) Bike Shop.
Knoxville was recently voted one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States. With an extensive network of greenways and bike lanes, there is a lively culture of both road and mountain bikers in the area. Plus, KAT buses are equip for bikes! Learn more about biking in Knoxville.
Driving in Knoxville
Knoxville is a car lovers’ town—people love to drive around here. If you are lucky, one of your roommates will have a car, and they may offer to drive you to the grocery store or the movies.
One option for transportation is to buy your own car. Many students buy cars to give them the freedom to travel around town and well beyond. Prices are reasonable, and one can buy a working used car for around $1,500. However, the state of Tennessee has imposed strict new laws regarding driver’s licenses. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents now qualify for a driver’s license. All others may apply for a temporary driver’s license. You should bring to the Department of Motorized Vehicles the following paperwork: passport, original I-94, DS-2019, and at least two documents showing residence in Tennessee, such as your UT housing contract, bank statement, etc. Legal issues surrounding a driver’s license in Tennessee can change. Check the Department of Safety and Homeland Security website for updates.
Cars are great for freedom but hard on the budget. Insurance is required (at least $400 per year or more), and taxes, gasoline, etc., all add to your costs. If your car breaks down, be prepared to spend more money to have it repaired. If you are thinking of getting a car, there will be an orientation session just for you called GET MOVING. Finally, do not forget that you will make friends with Americans who have cars who will probably be happy to give you a ride from time to time.
Do not be surprised if the academic structure at UT is completely different from what you are used to. Please refer to our academic calendar.
You may find that it is very helpful when signing up for classes to have a copy of your academic record or transcript from your home university. Some classes have prerequisites, and you may have to show proof that you have taken the necessary prerequisites before being allowed to take the course at UT.
As a student at the University of Tennessee, you are required by the US Immigration Service to take a full course load, which is defined for undergraduates as a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester, which typically equates to four courses.
Lectures are one form of undergraduate instruction. There may be as many as 300 students or as few as 20 in a lecture class.
You must attend the first day of class. Professors usually discuss their attendance policies and other expectations in the first meeting of each course. If you are not there, you will probably be dropped from the class, and it will be very difficult to convince the professor to add you to the roster again. Regular attendance throughout the semester is often counted as part of your grade, and in some cases, you will be dropped from the class if you have more than three unexcused absences.
The typical undergraduate class, depending on subject, may involve three hours of lectures per week, an additional lab or discussion section, reading assignments, quizzes and tests, a mid-term exam, a final exam, and one or more research papers or projects. Be prepared for continuous testing throughout the semester and homework assignments for each class.
In discussion-based classes, the material presented in a lecture is reviewed and discussed. Discussion is often an important element of American education and may be factored into your grade, so you will be expected to speak up in class and may be called on to share your views. Do not be shy about speaking out. Your instructor and classmates will be very excited to hear an international perspective. If you are worried or shy about your language skills, please speak to your instructors after class so they can give you advice on how to make contributions in class.
Most UT instructors will not accept handwritten assignments except for in-class exams and tests. You will be expected to complete all other assignments on a computer. If you have a laptop or computer, you should bring it with you. More and more departments are requiring laptop use in class.
UT professors do have office hours that are posted and provided on the first day of classes. UT instructors are very approachable and are more than happy to offer advice on how you can achieve success in their course.
Plagiarism is the use of another’s words or ideas without acknowledging the source. Americans take plagiarism very seriously, so do not even think about doing it. If you are having difficulty or are unsure what constitutes plagiarism, see your instructor and/or read about other plagiarism resources available on campus.
Students typically must make a grade of C or better for courses to count towards the major or minor at UT. Your official academic transcript will have letter grades. If you receive percentage grades in class and are not sure what your letter grade will be, make sure to talk with your professor before leaving campus. More information about the grading scale can be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website. You must discuss credit and grade transfer with your home institution.
You will be required to purchase textbooks for your classes. With a student body of 26,000, the university cannot provide all of the books that students need, so you are expected to buy them yourself. This, unfortunately, can be a very expensive endeavor.
The estimate the university uses for textbooks is about $500 per semester. The best way to save as much money as possible is to buy used books from the campus bookstore or other shops as this will be considerably cheaper than buying new books. At the end of the semester, you may be able to sell your books back but only for a fraction of the price that you paid for them; the bookstore only purchases books they know will be used for a course again.
Another option is to check out a textbook for free at the Black Cultural Center on Melrose Avenue. Inquire about the proper date to check out books because their supplies are limited.
Campus Services and Support
Eating On Campus
You can use UT’s dining facilities. UT has a range of meal plan options. To review the options, go to the UT Dining website.
For students on some exchanges, the unlimited access plan is included as part of the exchange. You do have the option of selecting another plan or not participating and receiving the money instead. Once you have made a commitment to the plan, you must stay with it; you cannot drop out. We will discuss the options at orientation, so you can decide what to do after arriving at UT.
NOTE: If you are here for the entire academic year and you purchase the meal plan during fall semester, you are obliged to buy it for spring semester, too. You will not be able to change your choice in the middle of the year.
If you do not choose a meal plan, a Flex Meals plan will automatically be added to your account. As of May 7, 2018 the flex meal amount for a semester was $300.
Eating Off Campus
It has been said that there are more restaurants per person in Knoxville than New York City, and that might not be too far from the truth. Knoxville has a fantastic array of places to eat, from fast food places to gourmet restaurants. We have all kinds of international cuisine to choose from including Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern—you name it, Knoxville probably has it. There are several great local restaurants within walking distance of campus that you should take the time to visit, such as Sunspot and Tomato Head. More information will be made available when you get here.
One of the great things you will find at UT is the International House, which is located directly across the street from the Center for Global Engagement on Melrose Avenue. Consider this as your home away from home. The I-House, as it is called, is a comfortable place to relax, study or meet other interesting people. The I-House serves free coffee and tea several times a day. It also has several study rooms, a large kitchen, free newspapers, musical instruments, and best of all, lots of friendly folks from around the world, including the United States. Numerous cultural events, seminars and even free cooking/tasting demonstrations are offered each semester. Check out the International House website for more information.
Other Important Information
Here is some information about topics that previous international students wished they had known before they arrived at UT.
Exchange Students’ Home Countries
Each semester, UT hosts about 50 exchange students who come from many countries including, but not limited to: Australia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Hong Kong, China, UK, Poland, Japan, and Italy.
Downtown Knoxville has lots of boutiques and shops that sell locally made goods. Also located downtown is a movie theater (that offers students discounts), a bowling alley, an escape room restaurants and bars.
Knoxville is also home to two malls, West Town Mall and Knoxville Center Mall. West Town Mall is about eight miles from campus going west on Kingston Pike, and Knoxville Center Mall is 10–11 miles northeast of campus. There are movie theaters and food courts in both places. Besides the malls, there are plenty of stores for all tastes—new and used books, music, sports, crafts and anything else you can think of—as well as Walmart and Target superstores. Turkey Creek shopping center offers movies, restaurants, shops, and bars, but it is 15 miles from campus.
Sports at UT
Sports are important at UT. They are not only a significant part of the campus culture, but also the culture of the entire country, especially in the South. Have no fear if you do not understand American football. You will soon realize many people attend the games for the atmosphere as well as the actual game. When the stadium is full, it becomes the fourth largest “city” in the state of Tennessee! Tickets to all UT sporting events (except football) are free for students. In the case of a really important game, be prepared to wait in line. The Lady Vols women’s basketball team is especially good and usually plays in the national championship series. Information about the athletic teams, schedules, and tickets can be found on the UT Sports website.
You can see or participate in volleyball, soccer, rugby, golf, tennis, swimming, horseshoes, badminton, rock climbing, hiking, camping, skiing, and more. You can join a campus team or take a class in many sports and activities. Whatever you do, be sure to visit the student recreation center, TRECS. For more information about sports and recreation facilities and opportunities, please visit the RecSports website.
And what is a Vol? Vol is an abbreviation for “Volunteer.” Tennessee is nicknamed the Volunteer State, and orange is the color choice for Vol fans.
Tobacco & Alcohol
As of Fall 2018, UT is a smoke-free campus. This includes the inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette (including an electronic cigarette or similar device), pipe, or other lighted tobacco product, in any manner or in any form. Smoking is prohibited in and on all University Property. This prohibition includes smoking in private vehicles when parked or operated on University Property. To ensure you are not fined, please use the map of designated smoking areas as reference if you wish to know where you can smoke.
You cannot legally consume alcohol in Tennessee or any other US state unless you are over 21—no exceptions. Be prepared to show a photo ID if you order alcohol at a bar or restaurant or try to buy it at a store. Your student identification card, either UT or ISIC, is very rarely accepted as a valid form of ID, even if you are 21. The preferred ID is your passport or a temporary Tennessee driver’s license. In order to avoid problems (and so you do not have to carry your passport everywhere), you may wish to purchase a state ID card from the local government offices when you get to Knoxville. Please note that UT is a dry campus. This means that no alcohol under any circumstances is allowed on UT property even if you are over 21. If you are caught violating this alcohol policy, you will be reported to Student Judicial Affairs and will receive any consequences which they determine.
Please note also that no drugs are permitted, on campus or in general, and serious penalties result if you are found in possession of narcotics.
Tennessee has a 9.25 percent sales tax on most items including clothes, food (both at the store and at restaurants), and medicines. Unlike many countries, this is not always included in the actual price, so if you want to buy a candy bar for 99 cents, it will actually cost you $1.08. Exceptions to sales tax tend to be at the gas pumps and at the movie theaters where the tax has already been included in the price. When you travel, you will notice that different states have different sales tax rates.
Great Smoky Mountains
During the semester, the Center for Global Engagement may offer inexpensive or free excursions to the surrounding area. Previous trips have included hiking and camping activities in the glorious Appalachian Mountains. Be sure to check for more details once you arrive. You could also join a hiking club at UT that regularly goes to the mountains or participate in one of the trips offered by the UT Outdoor Program (UTOP). Visit the UTOP website to view their trip and event offerings.
Traveling Around the United States
If you want to travel around the United States while at UT, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. If you are here for a full year, you will have almost a month between semesters to explore the country. If you are only here for the fall semester, you will have a few long weekends. In spring, you will have a week without classes for spring break. Of course, many students choose to travel after they finish their studies and before they go back home (your DS-2019 form is valid for up to 30 days after the last day of class).
In previous years, many international students have rented cars to travel around the United States. However, the new driver’s license laws may impact your ability to obtain a rental car. Since many rental agencies require a valid US driver’s license as proof of ID, you may wish to investigate alternative means of transportation.
The Metric System
The United States does not use the metric system; instead we follow more similar to the British Imperial system – i.e. miles, pounds, gallons, ounces, inches, and feet.
Working While on an Exchange
Students on the UT exchange may apply for on-campus work by obtaining work permission from the Center for Global Engagement (CGE). Some exchange students have worked up to 20 hours per week in the library, recreation center, as a tutor, or in one of the student cafeterias to make extra money to help with expenses such as books or personal travel. You can apply for academic training (internship) for four to eight months (on or off campus) as long as the position is directly to your field of study. The internship is normally completed after the end of your courses.
Degree from UT
Generally, the length of an exchange is for one or two semesters. While you are at UT you are considered a special non-degree seeking student. It is the intention of the exchange program that you will return to your home country and university where you will obtain your degree. You might want to consider returning to UT later to pursue a graduate degree.