International Studies & Programs

Participant Resources

Participant Handbook

The participant handbook explains many important things you will need to know once you have decided to attend VIPP programs at Michigan State University. Information includes academics, housing information, health insurance, packing suggestions, transportation and many others related to settlement and enjoyable stay. 

VIPP Handbook 2017 ENG (PDF)

VIPP Handbook 2016-2017 中文版 (PDF)



Visa Type and Requirements

We process either J-1 or F-1 non-degree student visa for you and any accompanying family members (restricted to your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) as legal dependents. To be eligible J-1 non-degree student visa, at least 51% of total cost of your study (including VIPP program fee, living expenses, and health insurance premium) should be supported by your sponsor (your company, government, or other external agency) and a sponsor's official letter of support will be needed to process DS 2019 for yourself and any accompanying family members. 

If your study is solely supported by yourself or your family, or your sponsor supports less than 51% of your cost, you are eligible for an F-1 non-degree student visa and VIPP will process I-20 for yourself and any accompanying family.  

Being on J-1 student visa means you are required to conduct a minimum of 18 hours of academic activities each week throughout your stay at VIPP, including the summer semester. We typically arrange 9 hours of classroom study each week, which is likely to be 3 courses (if semester-long, 9 credits) for all the participants during fall, spring and summer semesters. The remaining 9 hours of the required 18 hours can be used for independent research and other academic activities such as attending other campus lectures, seminars, conferences, workshops, etc. VIPP informs participants of various academic events going on at MSU and also provides our own additional academic programs such as academic forums, field trips, and a seminar series.

Financial Responsibility

All VIPP programs are fee-based. We cannot provide any financial aid to applicants at this stage. When you apply for admission to a VIPP program, you need to provide a financial document to prove your source of funding: funding from yourself, employer, government or scholarship council. The funding (which may be from different financial resources) needs to be sufficient to pay for VIPP program fees, health insurance premiums, and other living expenses for yourself and your accompanying family.

VIPP Academic Policy

As a J-1 student, all VIPP participants must engage in academic activities at least 18 hours per week to maintain a visa status and complete certification. Your visa may be revoked if you do not comply with this regulation. Normally, VIPP students take 2-3 VIPP classes, engage in supplementary instructions (attending seminars taking place at MSU, etc.) and conduct independent study (reading, writing, researching at library, etc.) It is important you record your academic activities via weekly time log. 

Once you are accepted to our program, more detailed information about the weekly time log will be provided by your program coordinator. 

Summer Vacation Eligibility

If you are on a J-1 student visa, you are required to conduct a minimum of 18 hours of academic activities each week throughout your stay at VIPP to make your visa status valid. Your visa may be revoked if you do not comply with this regulation. If you’d like to take a summer vacation, your plan has to be approved in advance when applying for a visa. Please consult with your VIPP program coordinator about your eligibility when you apply for a VIPP program.

To be eligible for summer vacation, you have to meet two requirements. 1) A summer semester should be the participant’s middle semester of the one-year program, not the first or final semester. For example, if your programs begins in January and ends in June, you are not eligible for summer time off because the summer semester is your end semester. 2) Also, a summer vacation is only allowed if participant’s program start date on the DS2019 form starts within 30 days into the spring semester (1/19/2016 – 4/29/2016) and ends less than 30 days prior to the end of the fall semester (9/7/2016 – 12/9/2016). For example, a summer vacation is not allowed if your starting date is on or after February 19 this year or your ending date is on or before November 9. When you apply for the VIPP program, our coordinators will explain whether you’re eligible for summer vacation and discuss specific academic plans with you.

Conference Travel Support

VIPP is pleased to provide a conference travel grant worth up to $600 for VIPP participants. 12 month GPEP and SGPEP program participants are eligible to apply if they plan to attend academic or professional conferences, workshops or other relevant events related to professional development during their program stay. The travel should be within the domestic U.S. For details of eligibility and application process, download a conference travel grant application form (PDF).

Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) Documents

OISS provides support to Michigan State University’s international students, scholars and families. Their services include advising on compliance with U.S. immigration regulations and conducting orientations and other programming that help international students and scholars adjust to the academic, cultural and social life of MSU. Following documents illustrate the important immigration information, regulations and compliance that VIPP participants should know.    

Health Insurance

Federal law requires all J-1 and F-1 visa holders to carry health insurance. When your MSU student ID is activated upon your arrival, you will be automatically enrolled in Blue Care Network (BCN) of Michigan ( and the insurance premium cost will be charged to your Student Account. With this coverage, you’ll have access to quality health care through hospitals, physicians and affiliated health care professionals in the Blue Care Network of Michigan provider network. Providers can be located on the BCN website at BCN health insurance premium charges for a year or a semester can be found at MSU Human Resources Page. For VIPP participants, international tuition-billed students charges will apply. 

If you'd like to choose another health care option and remove the BCN Health premium charges, your own insurance policy must meet MSU's waiver criteria. Each year waiver criteria changes; download 2016-2017 MSU health insurance waiver criteria (PDF). 

Unless staying for a whole year, purchasing daily MSU Blue Care Network insurance is the most convenient option for VIPP participants. Costs vary depending on how many people are covered and the length of your stay. You can download a BCN health insurance daily enrollment form here. The following figures are from MSU BCN insurance's day-by-day rate. 

Monthly (31 days) MSU Blue Care Network Health Insurance Cost (based on $6 daily rate per person)

1. Participant only: about $ 186
2. Participant + Spouse/Domestic Partner: about $ 372
3. Participant + Spouse/Domestic Partner + One Child: about $ 558
4.Scholar + Spouse/Dom. Partner + Two or More Children: about $744

For more information on health insurance such as a member guide book and summary of benefits, visit MSU Human Resources Page or consult with your program coordinator. 

Please note that before you arrive in US you must make a decision on your health insurance choice, sign this form and send it to us: 

This video below teaches international students how to prepare for their arrival in the US, how the US healthcare system works and how students should seek medical care appropriately if they become sick or injured:

Living Costs

Living costs vary depending on family size, the housing you choose, your transportation decision (whether you decide to buy a car or use public transportation), and your general lifestyle during your stay. However, a minimum of $19,410 per year is recommended for a participant alone as a living cost, excluding the health insurance premium. Add an additional $5,000 per spouse and $3,000 for each accompanying child for your total living cost. This means that approximate monthly living cost will begin from minimum $2,284, excluding a health insurance. Every family has a different lifestyle. So plan accordingly.  

The following figures are an approximate estimation in each category for your reference and should not be an absolute guideline to determine your living cost. Travel and leisure cost are not considered here.

Housing Costs

The cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the area ranges from $700 - $900 monthly depending on location, quality, and apartment amenities. Two-bedroom apartments range from $800 - $1,300 monthly depending on location, quality (including number of bathrooms), and apartment amenities.


If you plan to purchase a car, you'll need to set aside the price of the car as well as registration fees. You should anticipate paying monthly auto insurance premiums, which would range from $50-$150 depending on the coverage you select, the type of car, your driving experience, and other factors.

Other living costs

Expect that you will have to pay for utilities and other services: electricity, gas, water, cable, garbage and phone. Some apartments cover utilities or cable. Groceries are relatively cheap in our community.

TB Awareness

When you first register as an international student at MSU, you will be automatically enrolled in a short “course” called TB Awareness on It’s required that all international students complete the course and survey. Failing to do so will result in a hold on your student account and you will not be able to register until the hold is lifted.

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

Community Resources

Free Language Courses

In addition to VIPP's language courses, there are several opportunities in the East Lansing area for you to improve your English language skills.

On campus, you can use the Volunteer English Tutoring Program.

Off-campus and community resources include:

East Lansing Public Library 
Friendship House 
• Spartan Village Community Center, 

Other, volunteer English programs can be found at local churches such as Trinity Church and University Lutheran Church.


Lending Center

We understand that many international visitors are only at VIPP and MSU for a few months or a year. It makes sense, sometimes, to borrow or buy secondhand household stuff like a small desk, a lamp, some cooking pans, etc. 

The Lending Center makes is easy to acquire these items for your stay. The CVIP International Student Lending Center is based in Spartan Village and loans household items in good condition to MSU international students and scholars. Borrowing items, instead of purchasing new items, cuts back on waste.

The CVIP International Student Lending Center is based in Spartan Village and loans household items in good condition to MSU international students and scholars. Borrowing items, instead of purchasing new items, cuts back on waste.

We also encourage you to donate anything you may not want to take back home by the end of your program in MSU to places such as the Lending Center so future participants can benefit, too.


Surplus Store and Secondhand Stores

Shopping at the MSU Surplus store is one way to find affordable items. Some items are sold new ("surplus" items offered at a discount) while other items are secondhand. The store is open two days a week, Tuesdays and Fridays.

Another way to acquire secondhand (used) items is to shop at places like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Purchases at these stores support charitable efforts.

The nearest Salvation Army thrift store is at 2655 E. Grand River Ave in Meridian Township. It is open Monday-Saturday.

There are several Goodwill sites in Lansing. Visit the Goodwill website to find a location near you.


Michigan State University has been advancing the common good with uncommon will for more than 150 years. MSU now offers free online courses through a website called “Coursera.”

All of the courses found on this site are non-degree, completely online, and free! These courses act as supplemental material for a class you may already be taking or as a trial run for a subject or field you may be interested in.

The goal of this website is to encourage students and young professionals to step out of their comfort zone and try something new at no extra cost. Here’s a small list of some of the courses offered by MSU through Coursera:

  • Business of Games and Entrepreneurship
  • Principles of Game Design
  • Photography Techniques: Light, Content, and Sharing
  • Music Theory
  • Script Writing

All of the courses offered on this website have a start and end date, but users are welcome to work through material at their own pace. Once you enroll, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun.

If you need additional time to complete a course – not a problem. Course schedules are flexible and you will be provided 180 days of full course access and Certificate eligibility (see terms and conditions for each course). Self-paced courses have suggested deadlines, but you won’t be penalized for missing deadlines as long as you earn Certificate within 180 days.

If you complete a course successfully, your electronic Certificate will be added to your “Accomplishments” page – from there you can print your certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. Note that the Course Certificate does not represent official academic credit from the university.

There are already more than 20 courses offered through this site taught by professors in the Communication Arts and Sciences College, the MSU College of Music, the MSU School of Journalism, the Broad College of Business, as well as the MSU Innovation Hub. If you would like to enroll in classes of if you'd like to learn more make sure to visit for more information.

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