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International Students and Scholars

O'Dowd Hall 328
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-3358
Fax: (248) 370-3351
[email protected]
Monday - Friday: 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

International Students and Scholars

O'Dowd Hall 328
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-3358
Fax: (248) 370-3351
[email protected]
Monday - Friday: 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

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A table with Chinese accessories and a sign that says "China Club".

Student Life

Looking to get more involved at OU or in the local community? Check out these opportunities to get more engaged on campus and help the surrounding community. Volunteering is a great way to give back while engaging others and building your resume. You can also check out our Facebook page which is updated with events going on in the area.

Getting Your License or Michigan ID Card

All international students, and dependents over the age of 16, who will be in Michigan for more than four months are eligible to apply for a Michigan driver’s license. If you will be in Michigan for more than four months and plan to drive, you must obtain a Michigan driver’s license.

If you do not plan to drive but still want official photo ID from the State of Michigan, you can get a State ID Card. Your OU student ID card is not accepted as official photo ID in most circumstances off-campus.

If you are applying for an ID Card rather than a driver’s license, you only need to follow Steps 1, 2, and 4 below.

  • Step 1: To apply for a driver’s license, you must have either a US Social Security Number or a Letter of Ineligibility from the Social Security Administration. If you do not have a Social Security Number, get your social security letter of ineligibility by collecting the necessary documents and calling the Social Security Administration Office at 1-866-299-3777.
  • Step 2: Gather all of your required documents.
  • Step 3: Before you apply for your driver’s license, study the book “What Every Driver Must Know,” published by Michigan’s Secretary of State. This book contains all the information you will need to pass your driving tests and become a proficient Michigan driver.
  • Step 4: Bring all of your documents to the Secretary of State Office in Rochester Hills:

    Crooks Corner Plaza
    2250 Crooks Road
    Rochester Hills MI 48309

    Hours: Mon-Fri: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 
    You can book an appointment online at the Secretary of State Office
    At the office, you will fill out an application form, take a vision test and a written test, and pay the fee ($25 for a driver’s license or $10 for a state ID card). You will receive a Temporary Instruction Permit.
  • Step 5: With your Temporary Instruction Permit, you can gain experience driving. Practice driving on Michigan roads to become familiar with lights, signs, right-of-way rules, road markings, and traffic patterns. You may only drive with a Temporary Instruction Permit if a licensed Michigan driver accompanies you. Many companies in the area offer private driving lessons. If you already have a driver’s license from your home country in English, or a translation of your driver’s license from your home country, you may schedule your driving skills test whenever you feel ready. (You may not translate your national driver’s license yourself. You can get it translated by one of the services recommended by the state by visiting Michigan.gov website.) If you do not have a driver’s license or a translation, you must wait for at least 30 days before scheduling your driving skills test.
  • Step 6: Contact one of the driver's education companies registered with the Secretary of State to schedule your driving skills test. If you pass the test, your instructor will give you a Driving Skills Certificate.
  • Step 7: Go back to the Secretary of State office for your second appointment. Book your appointment at the Secretary of State Office Bring all of your required documents, along with your Temporary Instruction Permit and your Driving Skills Certificate. At this appointment, your picture will be taken, and you will be given a temporary paper driver’s license. Your official license will arrive in the mail within a few weeks.

Owning a car in the United States has certain responsibilities that every driver must follow. The car must have valid auto insurance, and proof of car registration. Both the vehicle insurance and vehicle registration must be with the automobile at all times, and make a copy of these papers to keep in a safe place at home.  All drivers of the car must have a valid driver's license, and any children under the age of eight need to have a safety seat (car seat or booster seat depending on age). If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer, and fail to produce a valid driver's license, car registration, or auto insurance card, you may be fined (given a ticket), or your driver's license may be suspended. 

International Oasis, a local nonprofit, offers a car buying guide on their website that our international students often use. They also have volunteers that are willing to go with you to inspect vehicles, either from private sellers, or an authorized dealership.

Get Involved at OU

Oakland University offers a wealth of events, activities and student organizations in which you can get involved and find community outside of class. If you take advantage of the opportunities on this page, you will never be bored during your time at OU.


New Student Orientation

  • The orientation provides information you will need to become acquainted with your new
    academic environment, immigration regulations and life in the Rochester, MI area. Attendance is mandatory for both days in the fall.

International Welcome Reception (IWR)

  • Annual event Friday, September 8 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. Gold Rooms, OC
  • IWR provides an early opportunity for newly arrived international students, scholars and faculty to integrate with the university community and leadership. 
  • Please RSVP here

Coffee Hours

  • Friday, September 22, October 27, February 9, March 15 from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. outside of the Oakland Center and the Elliott Tower
  • Come and join us to enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, and pastries, while chatting and engaging casually with other Oakland University students and GEO staff in a drop-in format. Your family members are welcome.

ISSO Shares

  • Every Thursday from 1:00 PM - 200 PM except holidays
  • All international students and scholars are invited to a weekly virtual meeting with the
    international office staff. ISSO will provide updates, discuss timely topics, share resources, and answer commonly asked questions. Join with Google Meet: meet.google.com/ien-ibvk-ftw

CAIR Program (Creating American International Relationships)

  • Ongoing throughout the year
  • This program offers Oakland University international students hospitality and resources to
    encourage and enable their integration into American culture. Students are paired with a host family to have ongoing contact and develop meaningful and supportive relationships. CAIR will have free monthly events. To sign up please fill out the CAIR Program Form
  • First Welcome meeting Friday September, 29 4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. at St. Lukes United Methodist Church at 3980 Walton Blvd, Rochester Hills, MI 48309
  • First Winter Welcome meeting Friday January, 26 4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. in the Gold Rooms of the Oakland Center

J-1 Training for OU Faculty and Staff

  • Semi-annual event on Thursday October 26 9:00-11:00 a.m. Oakland Center Rooms 128-130
  • This is a departmental information seminar to enable continuing communication and
    improvements to the J-1 student and scholar process. 


  • Annual event in November 16 3:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Oakland Center
  • Please sign up for the event and bring a can or more of goods for pantry.
  • A Global Engagement Office campus event to bring together international students and scholars. OU faculty and staff share the American holiday and its traditions, which provides a sense of community, and focuses on delicious traditional American food to sample and share what we are thankful for.

T-shirt Contest

  • Semi-annual contest that opens in February 2024 
  • The annual GEO T-shirt design contest is for the GEO students to create a T-shirt design that reflects their international point of view and is distributed to campus.  

International Student Conference: Fall Into Success: Unlocking Employment Opportunities in the US  

  • Semi-annual event on October 20 at banquet Room B 10:00a.m.-4:00 p.m.
  • The conference will focus on you: an international student who has been studying in the United States over the past few years. This conference will focus on providing tools, techniques, and ideas to support their dreams of employment in the US - from developing goals, to strengthening their elevator speech, to providing networking opportunities, and much more.

GEO Annual Update

  • Annual event in March – TBA
  • This is an annual update from the Executive Director for OU faculty and staff. It focuses on
    current GEO students and scholars, trends and timely issues.   

Academic Excellence Luncheon

  • Annual event in April – TBA
  • This GEO event provides a recognition and celebration of our J-1 exchange students, scholars and our scholarship recipients for their academic and professional achievement. This event is by invitation only.

If you have questions about ISSO events/programs please contact Petra Knoche, International Adviser at [email protected]. Also be sure to check back on this page for upcoming events sponsored by ISSO and the Global Engagement Office. Check the Oakland University calendar regularly to learn about concerts, theatre and dance, sporting events, art openings, public lectures, and other events taking place on campus. Attendance at most events is free, and at others, students are entitled to discounted tickets.


The Creating American-International Relationships (CAIR) program at OU offers an opportunity for international students to be matched with local students and their families for friendship, conversation and cultural exchange. Many students are matched through CAIR and enjoy family meals and celebrations with their CAIR partner, go ice skating or bowling, visit nearby restaurants and museums, or venture out to attractions such as Eastern Market, Belle Isle, or the Detroit Zoo. Watch the CAIR video for an introduction to the CAIR program and fill out the CAIR Form if you would like to be matched with a partner.

International Allies

The International Allies Organization (IAO) is a multicultural group that promotes friendship and understanding among students form different countries around the world. Through IAO, students can practice languages, learn about new cultures and share their own culture, and enjoy free food and good conversation at our regular events. If you are an international student who would like to get involved with IAO, please contact them through the IAO homepage. If you are an American student who would like to get involved, you may fill out the International Allies form.

Other Student Organizations

OU is home to nearly 300 student organizations. GrizzOrgs is the central source of information for all of their meetings and events. Whatever your interest, you will find an organization for you at GrizzOrgs.

Volunteer at an ISSO Event

Event volunteers help OU staff in all aspects of international events. If you are interested in helping out at an event, please fill out the ISSO Volunteer Form.

Sports and Recreation

The OU Recreation Center, Aquatic Center, and other sporting facilities enable you to stay fit, healthy, and active during your time at OU. Work-out spaces with weights and exercise machines, exercise and yoga classes, a running track and Olympic-size swimming pool, soccer and baseball fields and courts for tennis, basketball, and racquetball are all available for OU students to enjoy. You can even join an intramural or club sport, or try out for an intercollegiate team.

If You Need Help

In addition to ISSO, many resources are available to students who find themselves in need of assistance during their time with us. The Graham Health Center and Counseling Center are available to help with all of your physical and mental health needs.

If events in your personal life are distracting you from your studies, the Dean of Students Office can help you find a path forward.

The Gender and Sexuality Center, the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, and the Disability Support Services Office all offer assistance to OU students, as well as cultural events and opportunities to connect with others.

OU’s Academic Advising offices are an excellent resource for students navigating academic life, choosing which classes to take, or needing a little extra help in a particular subject. The Academic Success Center and the Writing Center offer supplemental instruction and academic coaching, and the Library Services Office can help you with your research and technology needs and introduce you to OU’s extensive library holdings. Campus life page is a one-stop-shop to get information about events/ services on campus.

In the event of an emergency, you can contact the OU Police Department by phone 24/7 at (248) 370-3331.

ON-Campus and OFF Campus Resources.

Get Involved in the Community

The City of Rochester, Oakland County, and Southeast Michigan as a whole are diverse, vibrant communities with numerous opportunities for recreation and activities to keep you occupied. Calendars of events for Oakland County and Michigan will inform you of upcoming concerts, festivals, art openings, parades and other festivities. Attractions in the local area include world-class museums, nature reserves, beaches, ski resorts, shopping outlets, and sporting venues.

Oakland County is home to people of more than 150 nationalities and you will find a wide variety of restaurants and markets serving food from every corner of the world, as well as places of worship representing every major faith community.

While public transportation in Oakland County is limited, OU is served by SmartBus route 756. Ride-share services Uber and Lyft are very active in the area, and many students without cars use them regularly. If you wish to volunteer in the local community, OU’s Office of Student Involvement will help connect you to an organization or service opportunity that matches your interests and abilities.

Study Abroad

OU students, including international students, have the opportunity to study abroad on over 300 programs in 45 countries as part of their degree program. If you are interested in studying abroad, you will work with both ISSO and the International Education Office, which both share an office suite and work together closely as parts of the Global Engagement Office. Students can study abroad for as short a time as 10 days and as long as a full academic year, and programs are available for nearly every major and degree OU offers. Many scholarships for study abroad are available.

First, meet with the International Education Office to identify a program that will work for you and discuss the application process, costs, and available scholarships. When you have a program you are interested in, meet with ISSO to discuss how to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status while you are abroad, determine whether you will need to apply for a new visa as you prepare to return to the United States, and discuss how your employment eligibility will be affected when you return.

It is important for you to maintain paper and electronic copies of your important documents that can demonstrate your visa status or be used to apply for a new visa if necessary. These documents include:

Be aware that you may need to obtain a student or visitor visa for your destination country, even if American students do not require visas. Various private visa service companies such as Travisa can assist you with getting a visa to the country where you will study abroad.

While you are away, check your OU email address regularly and keep in touch with both ISSO and the International Education Office. To maintain your visa status while you are abroad, you will need to have a valid address and phone number in the United States on file at all times, remain fully enrolled at OU for all terms you are studying abroad, and get travel signatures from ISSO on your I-20 or DS-2019 prior to travel. If you are studying abroad for a semester or more, please email [email protected] at least two months before you return to let us know the date you will be back.

Check your F-1 or J-1 entry visa to ensure it will still be valid when you plan to return, or you will need to apply for a new visa. When you return, present your immigration documents to ISSO as you did the first time you arrived on campus.

All F-1 and J-1 students must maintain valid health insurance coverage through United Healthcare, including while you are studying abroad. You will also be covered by OU’s Mercer International Travel Policy, which will cover health care costs incurred outside of the United States.

Research Abroad

If you wish to perform independent research abroad, begin by obtaining a letter of support from your academic adviser or your director of graduate studies. This letter should include:

  • The timeframe you will be outside of the United States, including the date you are expected to return to OU
  • The purpose of your research
  • That you will pursue research on a full-time basis while you are away
  • What you will have remaining to do at OU upon your return
  • Your expected completion date in your degree program at OU

Bring your letter of support to ISSO and meet with us to discuss further steps.