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Guidebook for
New International Students in Blacksburg



Welcome to Blacksburg ...
Home of Virginia Tech!

Dear International Students and Families,

Welcome! We are pleased that you have chosen Blacksburg, Virginia to continue your education and/or make your home, and we hope that your experience here will be rewarding. We hope you will use this "guidebook" as a resource to help you feel at home in Blacksburg. Again, we extend you a warm welcome and hope to meet you sometime!

Best Regards,
Jay Lester
HIS International
Serving International Students & Scholars

About this Guidebook

This guidebook has been prepared to assist international students and families in getting acquainted with the Blacksburg area. Please note that this guidebook serves as a link to more specific information from various sources. We have listed phone numbers and web page addresses to help you find the information that you need. If you see anything that needs correction or updating, let us know.  


The town of Blacksburg is located in Montgomery County.
  • Town Population: approximately 45,000
  • Elevation: roughly 610 meters above sea level
  • Annual Rainfall: 102 cm; Annual Snowfall: 70 cm 
  • Average temperature: 11 deg. C (51 deg. F); 0 deg. C (32 deg. F) in the winter, with lows of -12 deg. C (10 deg. F); 21 deg. C (69 deg. F) in the summer, with highs of 35 deg. C (95 deg. F).

    Sources of Information on the Blacksburg Area:
  • Blacksburg Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce (http://www.montgomerycc.org)
  • Blacksburg/Christiansburg Visitors Center (103 Professional Park Drive, Blacksburg; 552-2636). Maps, brochures, etc.
  • Blacksburg Electronic Village (http://www.bev.net)
  • Blacksburg Home Page (http://www.blacksburg.gov)
      EMERGENCIES (Ambulance, Fire, Police) - 911
      Poison Center - (toll free) 1-800-222-1222
      Student Health Services - ­231-6444

      HOUSING: A PLACE TO LIVE   [Top of Page]

      Housing options include on-campus housing (dormitories) and off-campus housing (apartments, rented rooms, houses). On-campus housing is arranged through Virginia Tech. For off-campus housing, contact the Off-Campus Housing Center (
      https://www.techoffcampus.com/), Johnston Student Center, 3rd Floor. The off-Campus Housing website has many helpful links. You can search for rentals and post messages (looking for roommates, subleases).

      How do I find housing?
    • The Off-Campus Housing Center (see above) is very helpful, and has links to other resources.
    • Check bulletin boards and search for apartments online.
    • Check the local Apartment Guide (http://www.apt-guide.com/).
        Things to consider when renting an apartment or room
      • Read the lease (rental agreement) carefully before signing. It is a legal, binding contract. A deposit is required in most cases, and rent must be paid by the due date every month.
      • If you have questions or concerns about your lease, contact the Student Legal Services Office, Squires Student Center (231-4720; http://www.legal.sga.vt.edu/)
      • What utilities are included in the rent?
      • What is the location relative to campus and bus routes?
      • How long are you required to pay rent? (Typically, leases last one year.) How many days notice must you give before moving out?
      • What rules and regulations must you follow?
      • Carefully inspect the apartment or room before beginning the lease, because you will be held responsible for damage.
          Things to consider concerning Roommates
        • How will you divide the rent, utilities, household chores, food purchases, cooking, etc.? (Conflicts concerning payments for telephone service are common.)
        • What rules of courtesy will you observe?
        • The Off-Campus Housing Center offers helpful information.
            Furniture & Other Household Goods
            If you need furniture, used furniture and other used household goods can be obtained from various sources.
          • Thrift Shops : YMCA Thrift Shop (1000 North Main St.), Humane Society Second Time Around Store (107 Ellett Road), Goodwill (Market Place, Christiansburg).
          • Yard Sales in residential neighborhoods and at churches. Check "Yard Sales" in the newspaper classified ads.
          • Search online for "furniture" and "used furniture" in Blacksburg.
              See "Shopping" below for more information.

              TELEPHONE & UTILITIES   [Top of Page]

              You will need to arrange and pay for the utilities not included in the rent.

              Cell Phone/Mobile Phone  
              1.  Verizon Wireless: https://www.verizonwireless.com/. Best coverage.
              2.  AT&T:
              3.  Sprint:
              4.  U.S. Cellular:
              5.  Repbulic Wireless:
              https://republicwireless.com/. A less expensive option.
              6.  Prepaid cell phone.   For example, Tracfone, Straight Talk, Net10. You can buy at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other places. Generally less expensive but phone choices are limited.

            • Land Line Telephone (Optional)
            • Local land line phone service is provided by Verizon and several other companies. For Verizon residential service, see http://www.verizon.com.
            • VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a less expensive alternative. Ooma is bascially free (http://www.ooma.com/).
                Electricity in Blacksburg is provided by either AEP/Appalachian Power (1-800-956-4237) or Virginia Tech Electric Service (540-231-6437). Check with your landlord to determine which company services your residence. You will probably have to pay a deposit to establish service.  

                Internet Service  
                The Internet Service Provider (ISP) is dependent on location. In some places, you may have a choice, including the following:
                1.  Verizon:
                2.  Comcast XFINITY:
                3.  All Points Broadband:

                Televison Service  
                A limited number of channels can be received with an outdoor or indoor antenna. The availability of cable or satellite TV is dependent on location. Where available, cable TV is provided by Comcast XFINITY (above) and satellite TV is provided by DIRECTV and DISH.
                  For residences using gas(for heating and/or appliances), service is provided by Atmos Energy(1-888-286-6700).
                    Water, Sewer, and Refuse Service
                    Service is provided by the Town of Blacksburg (

                      TRANSPORTATION  [Top of Page]

                      Air Transportation
                      The Roanoke Regional Airport ( http://www.roanokeairport.com; 540-362-1999) is located in Roanoke, approximately 64 km (40 miles) from Blacksburg. Transportation between Blacksburg and the airport is provided by the Smart Way Commuter Bus ( http://www.smartwaybus.com/) for only $4 (exact cash) each way.
                        Transportation Within Blacksburg
                      • Public transportation within the Town of Blacksburg is provided by the Blacksburg Transit System (BT). For routes, schedules, and fares, contact BT (http://www.btransit.org; 961-1185). Fares are prepaid for Virginia Tech students. Just show your "Hokie Passport." Transportation to Christiansburg, including Market Place and New River Valley Mall, is available through the Two Town Trolley, which is part of the BT system.
                      • There are also taxis available through private companies. For example, Hooptie Ride: Tel: 540-449-3748(DRIV), http://hooptieride.com/.
                          Transportation Outside Blacksburg
                        • Smart Way Bus ( link) provides transportation between Blacksburg and Roanoke (stops at airport)
                        • Home Ride of Virginia (http://www.homeride.com/, 953-2266) provides weekend and holiday bus service between Blacksburg and various parts of Virginia. Also,there are taxi cabs available through private companies listed in the yellow pages.
                        • Greyhound Bus Lines (http://locations.greyhound.com/bus-stations/us/virginia/roanoke/bus-station-330980 ) has a local terminal in Roanoke. For Greyhound fare and scheduleinformation, call 1-800-231-2222. To find a ride or offer rides.
                            Buying a Car - Things to Consider
                          • Consider all of the costs,including purchase price, maintenance, registration, license, and insurance.
                          • Look at "blue books," which list suggested prices for used cars ( http://www.kbb.com). Consider mileage and repair history.
                          • Look at Consumer Reports, a magazine (in the library) that provides information on the reliability of various used cars.
                          • Test drive the car under various driving conditions.
                          • Have the car inspected by a professional mechanic (other than the car dealer's mechanic) prior to purchasing.
                          • Bargaining is normal when purchasing a car.
                              Car (Automobile) Insurance
                              A minimum amount of insurance is required by DMV (see DMV web page). Contact insurance agents (see "Insurance" in the yellow pages) to help determine the coverage you need. Prices will vary, so shop around. "Liability insurance" is required. "Collision insurance" is optional but is recommended if your car is valuable.
                                Vehicle Registration &Driver's License
                              • See http://www.dmv.state.va.us for information. Contact the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), 385 Arbor Drive, Christiansburg (381-7171). You will need "proof of identity" and "proof of residency" to apply for a license (see web page for details). You will also need to take a knowledge exam (based on the Driver's Manual), road skills test, and vision screening. Driver's Manuals are available from DMV and the Cranwell Center.
                              • See International Support Services http://www.iss.vt.edu/ for helpful information.
                                  Automobile Decal
                                  The Town or County in which you live may require purchase of a decal to put on your windshield. In the Town of Blacksburg, go to the Town Municipal Building on S. Main Street.

                                    MAILING LETTERS & PACKAGES  [Top of Page]

                                    United States Postal Service

                                    You can buy stamps and mail letters & packages at the following Post Office locations.
                                  • 909 University City Blvd.(beside Kroger)
                                  • Main Street, downtown Blacksburg
                                  • 350 Arbor Drive, Market Place, Christiansburg
                                    The Postal Service also has public mailboxes at various places.

                                    Shipping Service Companies
                                    In mailing packages, it may be better to use independent delivery services, like United Parcel Service (UPS), DHL, and Federal Express, available at Shipping Service Companies. See "Shipping Services" in the yellow pages.

                                    HEALTH CARE / Hospitals  [Top of Page]

                                    Student Health Services
                                    The Schiffert Health Center in McComas Hall offers medical care, clinical and pharmacy services and health education (231-6444; http://www.healthcenter.vt.edu).
                                    • Lewis Gale Hospital Montgomery ( http://www.mrhospital.com). 3700 South Main Street, Blacksburg. Phone: 951-1111
                                    • Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, Radford ( http://www.carilion.com/ ). Near I-81 Exit 109. Phone: 731-2000. 
                                      • Carilion Family Medicine, 901 Plantation Dr. (951-0352).
                                      • See http://www.bev.net under "Village Mall, Health Professionals"
                                          Montgomery County Health Department 
                                          Phone: 381-7100.
                                          Provides immunizations. Comes to the Cranwell Center on occasion. See http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/LHD/newriver/services.htm.
                                            Medical Insurance
                                          • Aetna Student Health with University https://www.aetnastudenthealth.com/students/student-connection.aspx?GroupID=474968 . You will get subsidy if you are TA/RA.
                                          • PSI, http://www.psiservice.com.
                                          • ICS, http://icsweb.org/.
                                          • Study USA-Health Care, http://www.travelinsure.com/what/susahigh.asp.

                                            Cook Counseling Center

                                            The Cook Counseling Center in 240 McComas Hall provides individual (personal), couple, and group counseling for Virginia Tech students who experience personal, academic, and/or relationship difficulties (231-6557; http://www.ucc.vt.edu).

                                              RESTAURANTS  [Top of Page]

                                              The Blacksburg/Christiansburg area offers a wide variety of restaurants. Fast food restaurants (like Wendys,Burger King and McDonalds), serve sandwiches, burgers, fries, etc. for relatively low cost, and are available on and near campus (Johnson Student Center, Turner Street). For on-campus dining options, see http://www.visit.vt.edu/planning/dining.html

                                              Generally, a tip (a cash gratuity left on the table for the server) is expected at any restaurant where a waiter or waitress serves you. The acceptable standard is 15% to 20% of the total bill. For large groups, the restaurant may automatically add the gratuity to your bill.

                                              SHOPPING  [Top of Page]

                                              Grocery stores sell a wide variety of foods and other products. The major grocery stores include Food Lion, Kroger, and Wal-Mart. Most of the grocery stores are on the bus route.
                                                International Food
                                              • Oasis World Market. http://oasisworldmarket.com/ , 1411 South Main Street, Blacksburg Square Shopping Center , Blacksburg (953-3950)
                                                  Department Stores
                                                  Department stores (like Belk and Kohl's) offer a wide variety of products, including clothing, appliances, household items, and many other products. Discount department stores (like Wal-Mart and Target) offer generally lower prices.
                                                    Used Items
                                                  • Thrift shops sell used clothing, furniture, and household items at much lower prices. Thrift shops include YMCA Thrift Shop (1000 North Main Street), Humane Society Second Time Around Store (Ellett Road), and Goodwill (Market Place, Christiansburg).
                                                  • American families often sell unneeded items at "Yard Sales ." Yard sales are more common during the Spring and Summer, when the weather is warmer. See the classified ads of the newspaper.
                                                      Is it Acceptable to Bargain?
                                                      Most prices in the U.S. are fixed and cannot be changed through bargaining. Generally, bargaining only takes places when buying a car or house, or used items from an individual, like at a yard sale.

                                                      Sales Tax
                                                      Sales tax is an extra charge added to the price of an item (generally 5.3% in Virginia), though it may be more for some items, like food at a restaurant.

                                                      MONEY  [Top of Page]


                                                    • Coins: penny (1 cent); nickel (5 cents); dime (10 cents); quarter (25 cents).
                                                    • Bills: $1; $5; $10; $20; $50; $100. Most people use $20 bills or less, and some places will not accept bills larger than $20.
                                                        Exchanging, Keeping, and Using Money
                                                      • See "Banks" and "Credit Unions" online. Different banks offer different services and interest rates.
                                                      • Checking Accounts allow payment with checks (instead of cash). A checking account also allows you to keep better track of how much you have and where it goes.
                                                      • Savings Accounts are used for keeping larger amounts of money, and earn more interest than checking accounts.
                                                      • Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) allow you to make transactions without going to the bank by using a special card. There may be charges for this service.
                                                      • Debit Cards allow payment (without cash) from a bank account.
                                                      • Credit Cards (like VISA and MasterCard) are widely accepted and allow payment without cash. Credit cards have very high interest on unpaid balances. Significant credit card debt should be avoided.

                                                          THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA  [Top of Page]

                                                          For More Information
                                                        • See "Sources of Information" above for information on parks, recreation areas, hiking trails, campgrounds, museums, art galleries, special events, fun things to do with children, etc.
                                                        • See the Cranwell Center site https://international.vt.edu/index.html
                                                        • See Virginia's home page ( http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/index.shtml) for information on state parks.
                                                            Blacksburg Aquatic Center
                                                            Indoor swimming pool located beside the Recreation Center on Patrick Henry Drive. Swimming lessons and splash pool for children are available. For information, see the Blacksburg website.

                                                            Blue Ridge Parkway
                                                            A very popular attraction in southwestern Virginia. The Parkway follows the Appalachian Mountain chain for 355 miles, and features many kinds of wildlife, magnificent scenic views, and brilliant fall foliage. For information, go to

                                                            Cascades Recreation Area
                                                            Two different trails lead up to the picturesque 68-foot(21 meter) Cascades waterfall (4 mile/6.4 km round trip hike). Located off US 460 near Pembroke, about 30 minutes west of Blacksburg. Facilities include restrooms and picnic area. There is a small parking fee. See http://ghs.gilesk12.org/public/cascades/cascades.html.

                                                            Claytor Lake State Park
                                                            Situated on a 4,500 acre lake, the park features camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and picnic grounds. Located off I-81, exit 101, near Dublin, about 35 minutes from Blacksburg. There are fees for parking, swimming and camping. See http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/claytor-lake#general_information.

                                                            Hand In Hand Playground
                                                            This is a popular place with children, located in the Municipal Park, off Patrick Henry Drive in Blacksburg. Facilities also include picnic shelters, skateboard park, ball fields, and restrooms.

                                                            Huckleberry Trail

                                                            This trail extends from Draper Road in Blacksburg to the New River Valley Mall. The trail is used by bicyclists, walkers, runners, and skaters. See http://www.huckleberrytrail.org/.

                                                            Pandapas Pond
                                                            This is an 8-acre man-made pond in the Jefferson National Forest. The area features trails and fishing. Located off US 460, about 15 to 20 minutes west of Blacksburg. Day use only.

                                                            PROGRAMS, ACTIVITIES & SERVICES FOR INTERNATIONALS        [Top of Page]

                                                            Cranwell International Center

                                                            The Cranwell International Center is an office within the Virginia Tech Department of Student Affairs. The Center staff provides many services, including
                                                          • Immigration services to international undergraduate students and to spouses and children of all students.
                                                          • Information and support for students and families as they adjust to cultural and educational differences.
                                                          • Social events and cultural opportunities.
                                                          • Crisis support for students, spouses, & families.
                                                          • Opportunities for interaction with residents of nearby communities and schools.
                                                          • Information on community resources.
                                                            See their home page (http://www.international.vt.edu/) for information and helpful links.

                                                            Across Fridays
                                                            Most Fridays, Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) Building (307 Washington St SW), beginning in mid-August.  Come relax, have fun, play, practice English, enjoy conversations with other students and families. For more information, contact Jay

                                                            YMCA International Programs
                                                            "Mornings" is a program for all international and American women. An opportunity to learn about life in America and make new friends. Different programs every week. For details and schedule, call 231-6962. Free child care. Check their Web Page (http://www.vtymca.org/International.html) for other programs.

                                                            International Student Organizations
                                                            See Virginia Tech GobblerConnect (https://gobblerconnect.vt.edu/organizations) for all student organization listings.

                                                            Council of International Student Organizations (CISO)
                                                            Umbrella organization for the international student organizations at Virginia Tech. Helps organize various events and activities. See http://www.ciso.org.vt.edu/index.html.

                                                            CHURCHES, BIBLE STUDIES & ACTIVITIES FOR INTERNATIONALS [Top of Page]

                                                            The following activities are sponsored by Christian organizations.

                                                            International Christian Fellowship (ICF)
                                                          • Fellowship and Bible study for both Christians and those wanting to learn more about Christianity.
                                                          • Meets at Blacksburg Christian Fellowship (BCF) on Sundays, 9:35-10:50 A.M. BCF is located at 2300 North Main Street.
                                                          • For more information, contact Jay & Michele.
                                                          • Web Page: http://www.bcfworld.org/
                                                              Across Fridays
                                                            • Most Fridays, Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) Building (307 Washington St, SW)
                                                            • Social & Recreational Activities.  Good for meeting new friends and improving English.
                                                            • Optional Bible studies. For both Christians and those wanting to learn more about Christianity. Questions & discussion welcomed. For more information, contact Jay
                                                                International Students, Inc.
                                                              • International Bible studies, dinners, and other activities.
                                                              • For more information, contact Sandra Jackson or Bob Jackson.
                                                              • Web Page: http://isivt.com/
                                                                  Fred & Mary Kay
                                                                • Ocassional day and overnight trips, tutoring in conversational English.
                                                                • For information see www.fredandmarykay.org
                                                                    Bridges International
                                                                  • Social & Recreational Activities
                                                                  • English language conversation classes and partners
                                                                  • Web Page: http://vtbridgesinternational.wordpress.com/
                                                                      Chinese Bible Study Group
                                                                    • Bible studies in Mandarin and English at Blacksburg Baptist Church (550 N. Main St.) on Fridays, 7:45-10:00 PM (Worship 7:45-8:15 PM; Bible studies 8:15-9:30 PM; Fellowship time 9:30-10:00 PM).
                                                                    • Various practical helps for arriving and new students.
                                                                    • Special dinners during holidays.
                                                                    • Special guest speakers and presentations.
                                                                        Korean Campus Crusade for Christ (Student Organization)
                                                                        Check student organizations in Virginia Tech web page.
                                                                          Blacksburg Chinese Church
                                                                        • Worship & preaching service in Mandarin at Blacksburg Christian Fellowship chapel, Sundays 11:15-12:30 AM. BCF is located at 2300 N. Main St.
                                                                        • Small house groups and Bible studies are also available. For information, contact Caisy & Sonya Ho (552-2271), Peter & Alice Lo (552-0935), or Johnny Yu (552-0602).
                                                                            Blacksburg Christian Fellowship
                                                                          • Web page: http://www.blacksburgchristianfellowship.org/
                                                                          • Home of International Christian Fellowship and Blacksburg Chinese Church
                                                                          • Sundays, worship services at 9:45 AM and 11:15 AM at 2300 North Main Street
                                                                              Northstar Church
                                                                            • Sundays, 9 AM & 11 AM, at Blacksburg High School, 2109 Prices Fork Rd
                                                                            • Internationals from several countries attend Northstar
                                                                            • For information, see northstarfamily.org or call 540-443-0099.

                                                                                FREE ENGLISH LANGUAGE HELP  [Top of Page]

                                                                                English Conversation Partner Program
                                                                              • Sponsored by Bridges International.
                                                                              • Web Page: http://vtbridgesinternational.wordpress.com/

                                                                                International Bible Reading Group
                                                                              • An VT organization that connects native speakers with internationals for the purposes of English language practice, development and comprehension.
                                                                              • See: https://www.facebook.com/ibreadvt/ or https://gobblerconnect.vt.edu/organization/ibread (Use your VT id to login).
                                                                                  YMCA English Language Classes
                                                                                • English as a Second Language (ESL) classes held at various locations. Free classes and free child care.
                                                                                • See the YMCA website (http://www.vtymca.org/International.html) or call 231-6962 for schedule and locations.
                                                                                    English Conversation Groups, Cranwell International Center
                                                                                  • Meets weekly to help improve English skills and make friends. 
                                                                                  • Contact the Cranwell Center for schedule and details.
                                                                                      Office of Transitional Programs at New River Community College
                                                                                    • Free academically-oriented English classes for non-native speakers. 
                                                                                    • Call(540)674-3600 extension 4110 for more information.

                                                                                        HOLIDAYS IN AMERICA  [Top of Page]

                                                                                        The following are the most popular holidays.
                                                                                      • New Year's Day (January 1 ) - Many people celebrate the beginning of the year with a party for family and friends.
                                                                                      • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (2nd Monday in January ) - Celebrating the birthday of this famous civil rights leader.
                                                                                      • Valentine's Day (February 14 ) - A day for friends and lovers to give cards and gifts to one another.
                                                                                      • Presidents' Day (3rd Monday in February ) - A day honoring presidents of the U.S., especially George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who were born in February.
                                                                                      • Saint Patrick's Day (March 17 ) - Holiday named after Saint Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland. Many people wear green on this day to represent Ireland.
                                                                                      • Good Friday (in March or April , based on lunar calendar) - On this day, Christians remember the death of Jesus Christ.
                                                                                      • Easter (Sunday after Good Friday ) - On this special day, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
                                                                                      • Memorial Day (last Monday in May ) - A day to honor Americans who have died, especially those killed in war.
                                                                                      • Independence Day (July 4 ) - Also called the Fourth of July, celebrates the beginning of the United States as a nation.
                                                                                      • Labor Day (1st Monday in September ) - Honors working people.
                                                                                      • Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October ) - Honors Christopher Columbus, credited with discovering the Americas in 1492.
                                                                                      • Halloween (October 31 ) - A day when people emphasize scary things, wear costumes, and have parties. Children wear costumes and collect candy from neighbors. Many Christians have alternative celebrations to Halloween.
                                                                                      • Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November ) - A day for families to gather for a big feast (usually including turkey). For Christians, it is a special day of thanksgiving to God.
                                                                                      • Christmas (December 25 ) - On this day, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Most people celebrate this day by giving gifts to one another.

                                                                                          HIS International is a Christian organization that serves international students and scholars.
                                                                                          Our desire is to be a blessing to you! HIS International provides various services, activities and opportunities for international students and scholars, regardless of religion or nationality.

                                                                                          [Top of Page]