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Office of International Studies and Programs

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Central Washington University
Office of International Studies and Programs
Hebeler Hall 102
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7408

Arrival & Orientation

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Pre-Arrival Orientation for International Students

OISP has created a “class” in Canvas, the University’s learning management system, to serve as a pre-arrival complement to International Student Orientation. Like these pages and the Incoming Exchange Student Handbook, Pre-Arrival Orientation for International Students contains information and instructions for the steps students need to take between admission to CWU and arrival on campus, such as selecting accommodation, course registration, immigration, insurance and more.

Students will be placed into the class upon admission to CWU and should locate materials for “Bilateral Exchange Students” once they gain access.

Arriving in Ellensburg

Date of Arrival:

While the exact date will vary each year, the official date by which students need to arrive in Ellensburg will be the day before orientation. The Letter of Admission in students’ Welcome Packet should inform them of the date of arrival. If not, we will inform students as soon as it is set. It will also be posted in Pre-Arrival Orientation for International Students and on the International Student Orientation website. This will be the first day in which students are permitted to move into university residence halls; students who arrive earlier must organize accommodation in a local hotel or motel.

In the fall particularly, the date of arrival for exchange and other international students occurs before University Housing’s official move-in day for students and, so, OISP obtains special permission for our students to move in early. However, in order to reduce conflict with Housing staff’s other start-of-term duties, they typically set a specific window of time in the afternoon. While subject to change, this window usually is between 13:00-16:00; students will be informed of the precise window when informed of their date of arrival.

As much as possible, students should aim to arrive in Ellensburg during this window. Space will be available for students to wait comfortably should they arrive earlier in the day. If available flight connections will force students to arrive later in the day, they should arrange to arrive in Washington the day prior and book temporary accommodation near the airport or in Ellensburg.

In the winter, weather can be unpredictable and spoil even the best-laid plans. Therefore, during that season, we are prepared to be as flexible we can in helping students manage arrival. Students are encouraged to communicate with our staff as openly and in as timely a fashion as possible when issues arise.

30 Day Window:

Some students may wish to travel around Washington or elsewhere in the United States prior to arriving in Ellensburg. The terms of the J visa permit entry to the United States no earlier than 30 days prior to program start date printed on the DS-2019. Students arriving more than 30 days before the program start date must first enter on a visitor’s visa. Prior to travelling to Ellensburg to begin classes, they then would be required to exit the US and reenter on the J visa.

Pre-Arrival Travel in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean:

Should students wish to travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean prior to the start of their program, we recommend they travel there directly from the home country and then enter the US after completing that travel. If for any reason they must travel to the US first, they should first enter as a visitor and then, upon returning from the third country, re-enter on the J visa. They may encounter difficulties re-entering the US if they enter on the J visa and cross the border again before ever arriving in Ellensburg.


Most students arrive in Washington through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA Code: SEA), known colloquially as “Sea-Tac” and approximately 100 miles west of Ellensburg. Yakima (IATA: YKM) and Spokane (IATA: GEG) have smaller airports with mostly domestic connections, though these may be more suitable for travel within the US once one’s program has started.

Travelling to Ellensburg:

Unfortunately, OISP does not have the ability to meet students at the airport. However, the Bellair Airporter Shuttle provides transportation directly from Sea-Tac to Ellensburg, making it the most convenient and popular way for students to make their way from the airport upon arrival. During the winter, the shuttle usually is the safest and least stressful transport across the mountains, as well. Prior reservations are required for the needed stop.

For those students arriving on the official date, OISP staff will meet them at the “CWU-Starbucks” shuttle stop and transport them to their university residence. OISP staff may be able to assist students who arrive earlier. This, however, will be determined on a case-by-case basis; students should inform the Exchange Coordinator as soon as possible.

Some students who travel a bit before arriving in Ellensburg opt to arrive via Greyhound Bus Lines, the stop for which is located on the outskirts of Ellensburg. By special arrangement, OISP will also meet students at that station and bring them to campus.

Arrival Form:

Once students have finalized their travel arrangements, they should inform us by completing the Arrival Form found on this page:


Before the start of each term, OISP will organize a mandatory orientation for international students, covering a variety of topics, such as academic culture, employment, immigration issues and more, all geared specifically toward international students. Depending on the term, orientation lasts either one (1) or two (2) days and, in the fall, it will be scheduled so as to allow students to take part in the University’s main Welcome Week activities for new students.

Students should bring the following items to the first day of Orientation:

  • Pen
  • Passport & Visa
  • DS-2019

This page contains links to websites outside of The views and opinions expressed on unofficial pages of Central Washington University faculty, staff or students are strictly those of the page authors. The content of such pages has not been reviewed or approved by Central Washington University.

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