A few days ago I attended a lecture at the Bechtel International Center, where new international students were given advice on how to keep their admission to the USA valid during the course of their studies. All packed together: make sure that you make all deadlines for submission of documents, do not commit any kind of crime, and make sure that if you do anything that is not directly related to study (like working or starting a business), pass by the Bechtel center for advice. That advice will most often be negative: it is not allowed to do anything else than studying while on a student visa in the USA, a fact that clearly got some of the IT students really upset.
Some practical advice was also given on medical insurance (bottom line: don't get sick and whatever you do, don't get pregnant in the US if you cannot afford it), travelling abroad (make sure you have all the necessary stamps and authorizations if you want back in), and driving.
Whether or not you're able to drive in the US with a foreign license depends on whether you are resident or not. A resident is someone with an official residence in the US. In fact, most foreigners are not official residents, since they keep a main residency in their home country. Thus, foreigners are allowed to drive with a foreign license. But someone who stays for a long time, like a student, has met all requirements that define a resident, and thus needs a Californian license.
This leads to a situation where foreign students in the US are at the same time allowed and forbidden to drive with a foreign license. It really depends on the goodwill of any officer that stops you whether he'll regard you as 'tourist' or 'resident'. Since the average police officer is not really up to date with the dark corners of the US immigration law, the Bechtel center urged us all to get a Californian drivers license anyway. Just to avoid discussions.
Now here comes the catch: I have to present myself to the Department of Motor Vehicles office, that hands out licenses, to apply for one. I will be asked for a Social Security Number (SSN). I do not have one, since I won't be earning any money in the USA. If I do not want to be sent back home without anything, I have to insist that the man or woman behind the counter looks up "internal memo DMV-DL-2003-37 dated dec. 3, 2003, effective jan. 1, 2004" that states that if you're not eligible for a SSN you don't need one.
To be continued...
The CCRMA is located in a building called The Knoll . The campus has the size of a city, with a very typical architecture. The Quad is the central entrance. Worth seeing are also the stadium , the Hoover tower , or why not, just the driveway . Sports infrastructure is top notch .
One of the newest additions to the campus is the the Bio-X building . The Gates building is across the road - this houses the Computer Science department, and is where amongst others Google started. For the physicists among us, they have their own partice accelerator, the SLAC ( aerial view ).
I'll be spending a few months as 'visiting researcher' at Stanford University (official website here, Wikipedia page here ). Visiting Research roughly means that I will not go for a degree or diploma over there, but I will stay enrolled at Antwerp and just do a part of my research at Stanford - as an asset, it saves me a few tenthousand dollars in tuition fees.
With the CCRMA (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics) , they have one of the world's most famous interdisciplinary labs about music technology. Musicians, composers, scientists and engineers meet there to work on new technologies, software and ideas that change the way people handle music.
Some amazing software comes out of this lab (take a look at ChucK ) and some major standard texts on digital audio were written there. But also after hours, there's room for getting out of the lab and enjoying music technology in practice: the Stanford Laptop Orchestra is unique.
Test 1,2,3 ... On this page, I'll try to give every now and then an account of my adventures in the US, as soon as I'm there.