Information and Resources for International Graduate Students

1. Orientation for international students

Newly admitted international students have a special August orientation meeting.

2. Host-student program

The host-student program pairs current students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) with incoming international students.

From the home page:

Every year, Dudley House and GSAS sponsor the annual Host Student Program to welcome incoming international students. Hosts students are continuing GSAS students who provide friendship to incoming international GSAS students as they make the transition to life in the United States and to graduate studies at Harvard.

Host students are available to answer general questions and to share their Harvard experiences. While not intended to serve as a counselor or academic advisor, a host student is someone to whom a new international student can turn for support and informal advice.

For the many current GSAS students who may have benefited from this program, becoming a host is a chance to give something back. For incoming international students this is an opportunity to make contact with fellow students before they arrive at Harvard. After being matched with an incoming student, the host student will contact his or her "match" over the summer and then meet the student in person August.


3. GSAS resources

There's an extensive list of resources for international graduate students on the GSAS web site. This page is referenced in some of the items below, but it's worth visiting the page directly for more useful information.

4. FAQ for GSAS international students

GSAS also has a FAQ page for international students.

5. The Harvard International Office

From the GSAS handbook:

The Harvard International Office serves the international community at Harvard by providing services for international students and scholars. These services include advice on immigration and visa regulations, orientation meetings, the Host Program for new graduate students, a tax software program, and information to help newcomers settle into life in Cambridge and Boston.

The Office also acts as a liaison between Harvard and various public and private agencies in matters affecting the University’s international students and scholars. The office supports the activities of various international clubs whose members include graduate and undergraduate students.

All newly admitted international students are required to check in with the HIO before registering in their schools. They should bring their passports and visa documents or other evidence of their immigration status to the HIO upon arrival at Harvard.

From the HIO web site:

The HIO is part of the University’s Central Administration and offers services to international students and scholars at Harvard College, the graduate and professional schools, as well as the numerous research centers and affiliated teaching hospitals, to minimize the difficulties they may experience both upon arrival and later during their stay at Harvard. It provides information on a wide range of topics, including immigration issues (work permits, travel), financial questions, social and cultural differences, and resources at Harvard and in the community. International students are given the opportunity to participate in Harvard's International Student Host Program, which connects them with Americans living in the Cambridge and Boston areas.


6. Language requirements

From "Services and Resources for International Graduate Students":

GSAS has implemented a program that requires Ph.D. students entering GSAS whose native language is not English and did not attend an English speaking undergraduate institution to demonstrate a level of oral proficiency in the English language sufficient to participate successfully in all the various activities that comprise a graduate education, including class work, research, and teaching. Students will be screened for oral proficiency. Those who are not deemed proficient will be required to take an ESL course sometime during their first or second year in GSAS. All GSAS international students may improve their English language skills by taking courses at the Institute of English Language (IEL). Certified English language instructors teach these classes. Another option for international students seeking to improve their language skills is the ESL Peer Consulting Program at the Bureau of Study Counsel. The Bureau has established a group of undergraduate peer consultants who are trained to work with international students to help them with their oral language skills. GSAS will provide funding for these options and graduate students may take advantage of both options any time during their years in GSAS.

For more information, please see "Resources for Non-Native English Speakers."

The Physics Department does not itself administer any tests for English proficiency. As explained in the physics degree-requirements page in the GSAS handbook, "There is no formal language requirement for the PhD in physics. Students are nonetheless advised that a knowledge of certain foreign languages is extremely useful in many fields of physics."

7. Advising for international graduate students

Each school at Harvard has a dedicated international advisor. The full list is available at the HIO's home page, and the advisor for GSAS is Darryl Zeigler ( For exigent, routine services, there's also an advisor-on-call.