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Arriving at WCU

We're excited for you to join us here at Western Carolina University. Below you will find information about how to get to campus, what to bring and basics to get you started as a new student.

In your first few days at Western, there are many things you need to prepare to ensure that you are properly housed, registered for the appropriate classes, have paid your bill, and will be able to access the resources you'll need as a student. You'll also find in the information below details on things you need to do and know as a new student from meal plans and insurance to driving and transportation tips. These things will help you ease in to life at Western Carolina University.

Those of us here at the Office of Global Engagement are here to help and should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Traveling to WCU:
Since Western Carolina University is located in the Appalachian mountains, there is no direct way of traveling to Cullowhee. The public transportation system is not well developed in the mountains, so you need to travel by air or Greyhound Bus to Asheville, NC. You can take a taxi or Shuttle to Western Carolina University. Cost is approximate $28 per person for Jackson County transit shuttle. The cost for Taxi is $100-150.

Asheville Regional Airport:

The closest airport to Cullowhee is the Asheville Regional Airport in Asheville, North Carolina. From this airport, Western Carolina University is 45 miles (70 km) away. There is no ground transportation to the university from here. You can take a taxi or shuttle from the airport to Cullowhee. Be sure to contact the Office with your expected date of arrival.

You can also rent a car at the airport and drive to Cullowhee.

Make your travel plans well in advance to find a cheap connection to the Asheville Airport. Both Delta Airlines and U.S. Airways travel into Asheville from Atlanta. For new students, we will pick you up. Please refer to our International Student Orientation website for the date.

Local Transportation in/around Cullowhee:

Learn more about CAT-TRAN, the WCU campus shuttle service.

Learn more about Jackson County’s Transit Shuttle service

Check out Western's Campus Map

Other Resources:

What to Bring:

Although Cullowhee is located in the Great Smoky Mountains, the region fully enjoys all fours seasons - spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Therefore, you need to be sure to bring appropriate clothing to suit the weather conditions. Spring and summer alter between warm and sunny to cool and rainy. With the changing of the leaves in autumn comes the cooler temperatures. By Winter, which lasts usually from late November until early March, you will need to have a heavy coat to endure a few weeks when there may be periods of below freezing temperatures.

Also, remember that casual dress is common place at WCU. Students attend class in whatever they decide. Therefore, it is not necessary to bring "professional" attire to attend classes. Just remember casual!!

Attend International Student Orientation:

All newly arrived international students must attend the International Orientation coordinated by the Office of Global Engagement for the Fall and Spring Semesters.

Immigration regulations require students to register their presence in the US within 30 days of the program start date listed on their immigration document (I-20/DS-2019). Registration takes place during orientation programs. If your program has an irregular start date and begins during the academic year, you may not be able to participate in the WCU Global orientation program. In that case, you must visit WCU Global in person before the 30-day deadline to register your immigration documents with our office.

The WCU Global Orientation was designed to provide new international students and exchange visitors with important information about immigration and visa regulations; to help international students acquaint themselves to the academic and cultural atmosphere at Western Carolina University (WCU) and the surrounding communities/Asheville; to provide an opportunity to meet other new international students.

Visit International Student Advisor:

The International Student Advisor Office address: 109 Cordelia Camp Bldg.

Visit the WCU Global:

You may contact our office at or (828) 227-7494. We are your contact person for questions concerning F-1 or J-1 visa requirements.

On-Campus Housing:

Housing should have sent you your room assignment prior to your arrival. Most rooms are double occupancy. Make sure you know the name of the residence hall and your assigned room number when you arrive on campus.

If you do not have bedding, we will take you to a store to purchase sheets and pillowcase for a “Twin” bed when we pick you up. You may need a 'Standard' pillow, a blanket, and a spread or comforter. Each room has two Internet portals, at no additional cost. Laundromats are in each residence hall and are coin operated.

A head resident is assigned to each residence hall to assist residents and plan programs.

Off-Campus Housing:

If you would like to live off campus, the best time to search for an apartment is before you arrive at WCU. Generally, the rent of an apartment starts at about $600+ per month, which may or may not include electricity and water. You will pay extra for telephone and Internet connections. If you wish, you might be able to arrange to live together with others in your cohort, so that you will be able to split the cost.

Be aware that little or no public transportation is available and you will have to arrange private means of transportation (car or bicycle) if you choose to live off campus. Very few off-campus facilities are within walking distance.

Off-Campus Housing Website in Cullowhee

Guide for Housing Arrangements in Asheville

  • Students who wish to live near the Biltmore campus, need to arrange in advance before orientation starts to find an apartment if needed. Transportation to International Student Orientation and back by International Programs and Services is offered only during the week of orientation.
  • Near Biltmore Park there are four complexes: Biltmore Park itself, Cranbrook, Aventine, and The Forrest, but availability is typically very tight.

Dining Options:

There are a number of meal plan options to choose from at WCU. Please click here for more information.

This is your campus identification (ID) card. If you live on campus, it enables you to eat in the cafeterias on campus, including food services in the University Center (UC), take books out of the library, use the gym (Reid), and get in all the athletic events. You pay a reduced fee for some concerts and plays, and student concerts are usually for free.

WCU prefers that you pay tuition and fees (exchange students are exceptions). However, for international students, this is not always possible. If you need an extension, you will need to inquire about this at the ONE STOP Office. You can still get your Cat Card to eat in the cafeterias. Yet, you are well advised to bring some extra cash, so that you can buy food before your Cat Card can be fully activated. If you live off-campus, you will not have to buy a meal plan, but you still need your Cat Card.


Learn more about Cat Card (send passport style photo with application for ID card)

All international students will be enrolled into the WCU health insurance program. Services will be available to all international students at the Health Services Center at the Bird Building.

Information about the Insurance Program

WCU Global strives to facilitate the best care possible to each person who comes to WCU and to do so in a manner that is welcoming and respectful of everyone. In addition to providing high-quality health care, counseling, and prevention services, the WCU Health Center and WCU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provide their services in ways that are culturally competent and appropriate to the diversity at the Western Carolina University. CAPS also offers an international student discussion group if you need a safe space to discuss your expereinces as an internaional student at WCU. If you would like to join, please contact Mike Unger at

Video about Discussion Group

If you have not submitted your immunization form in advance of your arrival, you must take it to Health Services in the Bird Building. You must also show them proof of medical insurance for the time you will be attending WCU before you can register for classes, or apply for the WCU Health Insurance Policy. Please note that you must also either waive out or agree to the policy.

If you do not have health insurance, you can purchase it through Health Services. Remember that your health fee entitles you to use the Health Services and the free ambulance service any time you need it. 
For minor problems, such as flu, colds, etc. you can get a free examination and medication if necessary. 
DO NOT go to the hospital for medical care unless referred by Health Services.                                                      

Additional Health Information:

As for reading your schedule you may encounter certain codes...

M = Monday; T= Tuesday; W= Wednesday; R=Thursday; F=Friday TBA=To Be Announced

Building Codes:

NS=Natural Science 
RD=Reid Gym
UO=University Outreach Center 
UA=University in Asheville

See Your Academic Advisor:

If you are a degree-seeking student, you need to visit your academic advisor who will assist you in designing your program of study. Consult your acceptance letter or go to the department on campus that is responsible for your program. If you are unsure about this, contact the International Student Advisor in HFR Administration Building or the Exchange Student Advisor in WCU Global.

What is vital to your success at WCU? Always consult your advisor concerning your classes, change of classes, and program. Likewise, if you drop below a full course of study or change program, you must see the SEVIS Coordinator in the WCU Global.


Make an appointment to take a tour of Hunter Library. Go to the Reference Desk and request the tour. You will be informed about library holdings and made aware of all of the databases you can use for your research.

Computer Connections:

There is a regulation requiring students to have a computer. It is not a requirement that exchange students have a computer, due to the temporary nature of their study, but many find it more convenient to bring laptops. Computer labs are available.

When traveling to and from the airport, you will need to make arrangements for airport pick-up and departure at the beginning and end of each semester. There may be a charge for other travel to and from the airport during the academic year. 

A number of international students purchase used cars while at WCU. You can get more information on this from students, friends and campus employees you know. Also, try the classified section of local newspapers and the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper. 
The license plate for your car can be purchased at the License Plate Agency, 238 E. Main St., Sylva, NC. The telephone is (828) 586-3886.

Driving In The U.S.:

If you purchase a car, you must have a valid driving license from your country or an international driver’s license. You must also purchase car insurance. You can do this with any insurance company, but prices can differ dramatically from one company to another so you need to shop around.

All international students have to provide proof of physical address (no PO Box) to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

You will need to inform yourself about the North Carolina and U.S. driving regulations and laws. You can get a book from the Drivers License Office (DMV) in Sylva, NC at 876 Skyland Drive, Ste.2, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Monday-Friday.

North Carolina Online Practice Tests

Social Security Number (Not to be confused with your 920-Digit Banner ID)

You can receive a 9-digit student identification number from the university when you apply that typically begins with the digits: 920. This is not a legal social security number. You need to remember this number because all offices on campus use it to identify you.

To Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN):

You need a Social Security Number to work on campus. You need to apply, in person, for a Social Security Number with the Social Security Office in Franklin, NC, telephone: 828-369-2684. If you are on a F-1 visa, you will need a letter from your employer on campus stating that you have a job, your I-94, I-20, and your passport.

To get a letter from your employer, you will have to go to the payroll office, HFR 310. If you are on a J-1 visa, you need a letter of approval from Dana Moore, SEVIS & Exchange Student Coordinator, your I-94, and your passport.

Once you apply in person, you can find out your Social Security Number by calling the office the next day after 9 a.m. You will receive the card within two weeks to a month. You need to have your Social Security Number before Payroll Office can process your paperwork (before you can get paid). Memorize this number and give your new number to the WCU Admissions Office (if you are an undergraduate) or to the Graduate School (if you are a graduate student) and the Cashiers Office. Your Social Security Number will not replace your 920 number.

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