Getting Settled


Once you arrive in Milwaukee, you may need to purchase various items for your living space, school supplies and groceries.  There are many shopping malls, grocery stores, small shops and superstores near UWM.  It is possible to walk to some and others are accessible through the Milwaukee County Transit System buses.

Sign up here for the shopping trip on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. 

Here are a few nearby shopping destinations:

Grocery Stores

You can buy everything from bed sheets to groceries to electronics at these stores:

Shopping Malls
Pharmacies/Drug Stores

All students are also able to make use of the UWM Food Pantry.

Students craving the flavors of home can check our guide to local restaurants and markets catering a variety of regional cuisines and tastes.

Buying Books

There is no requirement for students to buy their textbooks at a specific bookstore.  Students may look for text books online, and a textbook vendor is near campus on Downer Ave (

Note: When buying books make sure that you keep all receipts and invoices in case you need to return any items.

Online Stores:



At UWM, your main means of contact with your advisor and professors will be your UWM PantherLink e-mail.  You can also set up a calendar through your email to keep track of your class schedule and appointments.

After you have been admitted to UWM, you can set up your UWM e-mail account by visiting the Indentiy & Access Management webpage.  Type in your UWM student ID number (99X-XX-XXX) and your date of birth (mm/dd/yyyy).  Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

If you have any questions about your e-mail address or account, please contact the help desk at or 414-229-4040.

Cell Phone

We recommend all students have a cell phone while at UWM.  You can either bring a phone with a plan from home or arrange to have services here in the U.S.  Although international students sometimes encounter problems enrolling in a cell phone plan without a social security number, some providers are willing to offer services without it.  Explain your situation with an employee at one of the provider stores and they should be able to work something out.

Information on cell phone provider stores that are located near campus is below:


On-Campus Jobs

Many international students seek on-campus employment.  International students who hold F-1 visas are generally allowed to work on campus. Certain visa restrictions apply and these will be explained at international student orientation.

You can search and apply for on-campus jobs at Panther Jobs.

If you apply for a job, consider the following:

  • On-campus employers are most interested in your availability for entry level positions. When you apply for a job, you need to indicate when you have classes or other obligations on the application.  If you submit an application without completing the availability section, the employer may not contact you.
  • Most employers ask you to list a reference.  Write the name of a former boss, coach or teacher and their email address. If you don’t have prior work experience or a reference available, you can still apply.
  • Most student job openings happen at the beginning of semesters and during breaks between semesters.  You may be able to work full time during the vacation months.
  • If you apply for a job and do not hear back in a week’s time, you are welcome to contact the person in charge of hiring and express that you are still interested in the position.  If the hiring manager tells you that you were not selected, it is acceptable to politely ask him or her why.

Social Security Number

The U.S. government assigns Social Security numbers to people who are authorized to work in the United States and who have employment.  A Social Security number is only required if you work in the U.S. and can be obtained with proof of legal employment.   F-1 visa status allows students to work while in the U.S., under certain restrictions.  Thus, many international students are eligible for social security numbers. There will be no trip to the SSN office for Spring 2020.

How to Apply for a Social Security Number
  • Pick up the form “Letter of Offer for On Campus Employment” from the ISSS office in Garland 138. Give it to your on-campus employer and have them complete it (If you have an assistantship, ISSS will complete this form. You do not need to take it to your department).
  • Return the form to the ISSS Office. We will then issue you a second letter to verify your visa status and employment eligibility.
  • Take both letters, your passport, visa and UWM I-20 to the Social Security Administration office. Although there are several offices in the Milwaukee area, we suggest you visit the one located at 310 W Wisconsin Ave. in Downtown Milwaukee.
  • IMPORTANT: You must have ALL of the required letters and documents in order to get a Social Security number. If you are missing any required documentation, you will not be eligible to apply.
  • When you apply for the Social Security number you will be required to complete and submit an application, Form SS-5.  This form is available at the Social Security office and online.
  • Be sure to ask for a “Receipt of Application” from the Social Security Officer. If you are applying prior to the start date of your job, the this will be mailed to you.
After you have applied for a Social Security Number
  • Take your receipt to the payroll office in Engelmann Hall, Room 170.
  • When you receive your original Social Security card in the mail, take it to the payroll office in Engelmann Hall Room 170, so they can make a photo copy.
  • Note: It can take up to 2 months to receive your original card in the mail, so the receipt is very important!

Wisconsin Driver’s License and State ID

It is a good idea to have a driver’s license or state issued ID while living in the United States, regardless of whether you will be driving.  You will likely need one for activities like cashing checks, enrolling in a cellphone plan and opening a bank account.

Driving in the U.S

You are legally allowed to drive in the United States with your driver’s license issued in your home country for a period not exceeding one year from the date of your arrival.  You may drive a personal or rental car.

We recommend you obtain an international driver’s permit from your home country before arriving in the United States or attach an English translation to your national driver’s license.

You may apply for a Wisconsin driver’s license at any time, either right away or after driving on your international license for one year.  Please keep in mind you will likely need to take a driving test to obtain this license.

Obtaining a Wisconsin State ID or Driver's License

Wisconsin state ID’s and driver’s licenses are obtained at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  In order to obtain an ID, you must go to the DMV in person.  Be sure to give yourself plenty of time, as there may be a long wait.

The DMV office nearest to the UWM campus is located downtown:

  • 819 N. 6th St #190, Milwaukee, WI 53203
  • 414-266-1000
  • Hours of Operation: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8:15am-4:15pm, Wednesday 8:30am-4:15pm

In order to obtain a Wisconsin State ID, be sure to bring the following documents to the DMV:

  • Proof of name and date of birth: an unexpired foreign passport will suffice.
  • Proof of identity: UWM Student ID and passport.
  • Proof of Wisconsin residency: a piece of mail with your current name and Wisconsin address.
  • Your U.S. Social Security card (if you have one).

For information on obtaining a Wisconsin Driver’s license please visit the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles Website.