Getting Settled

In addition to getting ready for classes, there are important things you need to know as you begin to make San Diego your new home:



Cuyamaca College does not have any housing facilities on campus; however, we are surrounded by many apartment complexes.

  • www.apartmentguide.comhas hundreds of listings on local San Diego area apartments. Information is provided for FREE.
  • www.homestayservices.comprovides international students with "home away from home" accommodations with American host families in Southern California.
  • Five bulletin boards are located across campus with ads for roommates by fellow students. Check them out!


One of the first challenges in your new community is finding a suitable place to live. The choices of housing in San Diego include: residence halls (located usually near four year universities), apartments, houses, and rooms in private homes. 

Almost every rental situation requires you to sign a contract. This contract specifies the rental amount, the rental conditions, and your responsibilities as a tenant, be sure to read everything in the contract BEFORE signing it!


Many rental agreements include the cost of water usage. If you need to arrange for gas and/or electricity, contact San Diego Gas and Electric (SDGandE) at 1-800-411-SDGE (7343). A security deposit may be required. Utilities are billed to you on a monthly basis, and are payable upon receipt.


Telephone service is usually




included in your rental agreement. Contact Southern Broadcasting Company (ATandT)


at 1-800-310-2355 for telephone service information. Be aware of the various fees: installation charges, security deposit, long distance, and monthly charges.



It is not a good idea to carry large amounts of cash with you or hide your money at home. Instead, establish a savings and/or checking account at a facility that is convenient for you. You will need identification to open your account - usually your passport and/or driver's license.


Choosing the right financial institution is important because it can save you money depending on checking account fees and the interest earnings on any savings account you may have. Visit several banks and compare their services, types of checking and savings accounts, and costs before making your decision. Available types of checking accounts include:

  • Minimum Balance Accounts:This type of account is well suited for those who write more than ten checks per month. There is no charge for writing checks provided you maintain certain minimum monthly balance. If you should fall below the minimum balance, you are charged a processing fee for the checks that you write.

  • Package Accounts:There is usually a monthly fee for services which include unlimited check writing, overdraft privileges (automatic loans charged to your bank credit card which permit you to write checks for more than the amount in your account), personalized checks, safety deposit box, check guarantee card, and traveler's or cashier's checks. Although this type of account is beneficial if you write a large number of checks each month and do not maintain a minimum monthly balance, the monthly fees do add up.

  • Interest Checking Accounts:


    These accounts pay interest on the balance compounded daily. A minimum balance is usually required and there is a charge for each check you write, which can often consume the interest earned on this type of account.

  • Savings Overdraft Coverage:


    This is a form of protection from overdraft charges which is provided by some banks. If you write a check and do not have sufficient funds in your account. Although there is a transfer fee, it is usually less than the overdraft charges in a regular checking account.


As you know by now, higher education in the U.S. is expensive. The greatest problem international students' face after arriving here is maintaining adequate finances for meeting the costs of personal and educational expenses. Since sources of financial aid are very difficult for international students to obtain, an essential skill for your college success is the ability to become an effective manager of your money. It is an important skill which you will need throughout your life. The best way to manage money is to develop a monthly budget plan. Here are some suggestions for making a budget: 

  • Determine your monthly "fixed expenses." This will usually include rent, utilities, laundry, insurance premiums, toiletries, etc.

  • Estimate your "variable expenses" for a given month. These will include food, entertainment, clothing, books, supplies, and travel.

  • Keep track of all your expenses in a notebook and analyze them regularly to identify unnecessary or wasteful expenditures.

  • Avoid becoming dependent on credit cards. The fasted way to bankruptcy is spending money you do not have. The "buy now-pay later" approach to budgeting rarely succeeds.

  • It is important to note that your budget represents only an estimate of monthly expenses. Set aside some money every month for the "unexpected."


You may be asking yourself, "Should I purchase an automobile?" This is an important decision, requiring careful thought and consideration. There are several responsibilities and requirements in driving and owning a motor vehicle. The costs are always more than they appear at first. Please remember the following: 

The Driver's License You must obtain a valid driver's license in order to operate a motor vehicle - car and/or motorcycle in California. To obtain a California license, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at 1450 Graves Avenue, El Cajon. To qualify, you must pass an eye examination, a written test, and a driving test. The CALIFORNIA DRIVER'S HANDBOOK is available at no cost from the DMV.


Having valid vehicle insurance is required by law in California. This means you cannot legally drive a car without such coverage. Consult the telephone YELLOW PAGES under "Insurance" for a list of companies. Insurance rates vary based on your gender, grade point average and even whether or not you are a smoker.


Vehicle Registration If you own a motorcycle or an automobile, you need to register it with the DMV. Fees vary based upon price, size, and the age of the vehicle.


You must have a valid permit to park on campus. Permits and fee information may be obtained from the Cashier's Office in the One Stop Center.


VehiclePurchase You have evaluated your need, financial resources, and ownership responsibilities, and you have decided to buy a car. Purchasing the right one for you requires careful shopping. Before you buy a used car, seek the advice of someone with knowledge about automobiles, and the used car market. It is also recommended that you take the car to a certified auto mechanic and obtain an evaluation. It is also recommended that you read magazines on how to "Buy a Used Car." The library should have several magazines in this field.


The San Diego community has a large number of ethnic organizations which cultivate the cultural interests and activities of a specific country or region. The House of Pacific Relations at Balboa park has almost thirty nations represented which present traditional festivals at various times throughout the year. For information about these programs, call (619) 293-0739. In addition, San Diego State University's International Student Office schedules informal student "get-togethers" every Friday. Information about these events is available on-line at


There are several post offices located in each area of San Diego county. Check the telephone YELLOW PAGES under "Post Offices" for a complete listing.