For the international arriving in the U.S. for the first time, it can be an overwhelming experience – from feeling happy, excited, and independent, to nervous, fearful, and isolated. We hope that some of what we explain in this section will help to give you a more comfortable start in your new life here in DeKalb.

When you arrive in the U.S.

Most of you will arrive at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. O’Hare is one of the busiest airports in the world. When you arrive you will need to go through immigration and then retrieve your baggage. Once you retrieve your baggage, you will need to go through customs. After customs, you are all set to see the U.S.

If you have signed up for airport pickup, you will be welcomed by a Network of Nations volunteer. After so much travel, we are told that the Network of Nations volunteer is a welcome sight. It takes approximately an hour and a half to go from the airport to your destination in DeKalb, IL.

The weather in northern Illinois may be far different than your home country. Most internationals find the winters here to be the most challenging – very cold and lasting approx. 4 months out of the year. In the fall, Network of Nations offers day trips with American volunteers to a large coat store where you can find a big selection of appropriate winter coats, hats, and gloves/mittens to purchase.

Many internationals observe that the U.S. can be a friendly, communicative, ‘smiling culture’ – especially in “the Midwest”. This can be especially true in smaller U.S. towns like DeKalb and Sycamore where you are often greeted with a smile, and a “Hi, how are you?” greeting (which often just means ‘hello’ in the U.S.).

But additionally, internationals also observe that Americans tend to be very busy with work (sometimes more than one job), family, faith/church, volunteer work, and other events. Because of this, the ‘pace’ of life here can be very fast and is highly ‘scheduled’ and planned out.

When you arrive in DeKalb

DeKalb is a small community situated quite a distance away from Chicago. It is adjacent to another small town called Sycamore. When you arrive, you will realize that getting around town is not too difficult if you use the NIU bus system or city buses. You will want to familiarize yourselves with these as soon as possible. Almost everything you might need can be found here in a variety of small and large stores and restaurants.

Network of Nations offers a limited number of “New International Student Orientation Tours” usually one to two weeks prior to the Northern Illinois University student orientation. Volunteers take you on a three-hour tour around DeKalb showing you places and things that will be very helpful for you to know as someone new to the area.”

In our local stores, workers will often offer to help you find something, and as you are adjusting to life here don’t hesitate to ask them for help if you need it! This may not happen as often when you go to a major city like Chicago.

One thing you will realize after not too long is that getting out of town is not that easy. Because of this, you will want to take advantage of outings provided by Network of Nations or by Northern Illinois University.

When you get to Northern Illinois University

If you are attending Northern Illinois University, you will find a great deal of resources available through the university. These resources will be thoroughly explained to you at the international student fair and during orientation week.

The University also has an office that is equipped to handle most of your needs. The International Student and Faculty Office are available to handle most things that arise during your time at the University.

When you arrive at Intercultural Café

One of the many things that Network of Nations does for Internationals is provide a safe place where you can meet others. Our weekly Café is actually a dinner provided by volunteers who love serving people of other cultures.

The Network of Nations Intercultural Café is on most Friday nights of the school year and is a great place to get to know people from other cultures and Americans as well.

Café is a fun place to be and at times specific countries are highlighted with music, food and every once in a while, even cultural dances.

The Intercultural Café is only a three-minute walk from the Northern Illinois University’s Holmes Student Center.

Culture Shock

When you arrive in a new place with people of a different culture, it is normal to have culture shock. Though there are many similarities between people of different cultures, there are also many differences. Those differences are often accentuated in our minds when we arrive in a foreign environment.

Not only is the food and climate different, but the people often act differently than what you are accustomed to. Greetings are different, personal space is different, the sense of community is different, social values may be different and you may even need to speak a different language.

All of these differences create stress that wears on our bodies and minds. Sometimes we are so busy that we do not even realize the affect the new culture is having on us until a great deal of time has passed.

Some common signs and symptoms of culture shock are:

  • Loneliness/sadness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Anger, irritability
  • Feeling lost
  • Lack of confidence

Good ways to cope with Culture Shock:

  • Understand that what you are feeling is normal
  • Exercise and eat well
  • Talk through your feelings with others
  • Keep in contact with family and friends back home
  • Work on making new friendships
  • Have items with you that remind you of your own culture, family and friends
  • Find places that sell foods that you are familiar with. Try cooking foods that you enjoy from your own culture.

You may have come here with a view of the U.S. and Americans from your home countries and families that will probably grow and change after some time here. It is our hope that we can help answer your questions, and adjust well to your new life here!



Being new to the DeKalb area, it is almost certain that you will be wanting to find certain things that are either necessities or that will make like more enjoyable. Below you will find some helpful information on some of the things you will want to find.  

Shopping and Restaurants

The DeKalb area has many different restaurants that you may enjoy visiting. Some of these are located very near to the campus, others in Downtown Dekalb and others are a short distance away by car near the major retail establishments. There is a limited selection of restaurants with international foods.

Almost anything you need to shop for is available locally, and if it is not available here, you can most likely have it shipped to your place of residence in very little time. Walmart and Target are the two biggest retail stores in the area and carry anything from food to clothing to medicine. Another place you will want to get familiar with is Aldi food store. This store has a reasonably good selection of food and the prices are generally the best in the area for food. These stores along with many others and a variety of restaurants are accessible by taking the NIU Husky bus # 7.

International Groceries

We have found that spices are very important to internationals. If you want the food you make to taste like it does in your home country, you will definitely be wanting to purchase spices that are not normally found in U.S. grocery stores.

There are some great stores with international groceries and spices that are located a half hour away from campus, but there are some good options for purchasing spices locally as well. We recommend the following:

Gurukrupa Indian Grocery is the best one-stop shop for Indian international students and has almost all the items required for Indian cuisine. It is located at 1005 W Lincoln Hwy in Dekalb very close to the campus. The International Grocery Store located about a 7-minute walk from the NIU Holmes student center.  It is a small store with a good selection of difficult to find spices. We are told that if they get enough requests for special spices, they will add it to their selection. The store is located at 817 W Lincoln Highway, right next door to McDonald’s.

Ruby’s Asian Market is a small Asian food store located on 1406 Sycamore Rd. just beyond the Jewel food store. Their web address is http://rubysasianmarket.com If you don’t find what you are looking for, they may be willing to order it for you.

If neither one of these places has the groceries you are looking for, we recommend purchasing them online and having them shipped to your residence. A good option for doing this is Penzeys. You might want to do a search for spices from your region by using words like “Indian”, “Asian”, etc… Their web address is https://www.penzeys.com/shop/spices/

Transportation around DeKalb

Getting around the Dekalb area is fairly easy with the Northern Illinois Husky bus system or the DeKalb County TransVac buses that service both DeKalb and Sycamore. Students will mostly use the Husky buses which are free to university students. TransVac prices are very inexpensive. Below are the links needed for more information:

Husky Bus – Operations Schedule

Husky Bus Routes – Route Maps

TransVac DeKalb Greenline

Transvac Sycamore Blueline

Map of DeKalb

Northern Illinois University Information

University main website

University Health Center

Calendar 2016-2017

International Student and Faculty Office

Northern Illinois University Student Job Search

Norther Illinois University police and public safety

Campus Map

Transportation to Chicago

Transportation to and from Chicago from DeKalb is not very easily accomplished. Because of this, we recommend that you take advantage of Network of Nations outings. Network of Nations usually has one outing to Chicago per year. Below are possible options for getting there.


The closest train station to get to Chicago is approximately 30 minutes away in the town of Elburn, and there is no simple way to get a ride there. Husky Bus Service does offer a shuttle to the Elburn Metra station, but the shuttle is only available later in the day, and it’s only available on Fridays and Sundays. This works fine if you plan on staying in Chicago Friday through Sunday, but it is otherwise very limited in its usefulness. After taking the Husky Bus shuttle to Elburn, tickets much be purchased to Chicago. The service you will be using is called the Westline.

Husky Elburn Shuttle

Metra Train Service

Metra Schedule Elburn to Chicago

Metra Schedule Chicago to Elburn

Greyhound Bus Service

Greyhound bus service from DeKalb to Chicago is possible but not very convenient. Greyhound takes 2 hours to travel to Chicago, and a return trip from Chicago is not really possible on the same day. Current departure times from DeKalb are 9:20 AM and 3:05 PM. Return trips from Chicago are only available at 6:25 AM and 3:30 PM.

The cost for one way tickets are between $11 and $20 depending on the time of the year and the day of travel. This means a round trip will cost between $22 and $40. Tickets can be purchased online or at the NIU Holmes Student Center. Hours of operation at the student center vary, so purchasing online would be simplest.

Car Rental

Renting a car may be the best option for getting out of town. Hertz Rent a Car does a great job working with internationals. You will need a driver’s license from your own country and a credit card. (The debit cards issued by TCF Bank are not accepted.) If you are age 20 to 24 years of age, there is an additional daily fee for rental. It is possible to have this fee waived by becoming a member of the AAA Auto Club. You should contact Hertz to confirm this.

Hertz 2020 Sycamore Rd. DeKalb, IL  (815) 787-7501

Hertz Rent a Car

AAA Motor Club

Hertz and AAA Joint Program

Transportation to O’Hare

A possible option for travel to O’Hare airport is the Van Galder bus line in Rockford. You would need to find transportation to Rockford, IL to take advantage of this option. Rockford is about a 45-minute drive from NIU.

Van Galder Bus – Rockford to O’Hare

Van Galder Bus – O’Hare to Rockford

We at Network of Nations hope you find everything you need!