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As an international student in the U.S., specifically at Dartmouth, how do you go about getting a driving license?

A: Adrian Chimboza '25

The journey to obtain a U.S. driver's license as an international student can initially seem daunting. However, it becomes a straightforward process with the right approach and resources. In this blog post, I provide a detailed breakdown of my experience, aiming to shed light on the path for others. 

Understanding the DMV Requirements

The process kicks off with a deep dive into the documentation requirements by the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Crucial documents include a valid passport with a valid F-1 visa, Form I-20, Form I-94, a Social Security Number (if applicable), and proof of New Hampshire residency. Reviewing the DMV's official website for an updated list of requirements is paramount to ensure you gather all the necessary documentation beforehand. This proactive approach will streamline the initial phase of your application.

Tackling the Written Test

The written knowledge exam is your first concrete step towards attaining a license. It assesses your understanding of U.S. road signs, traffic laws, and safe driving principles. To prepare, I immersed myself in studying the New Hampshire Driver's Manual, complemented by numerous online practice tests available. This dual approach is highly effective in familiarizing oneself with the test format and the type of questions asked, significantly boosting your confidence and readiness.

Navigating the Road Test 

The road test presents a unique set of challenges. There is an absence of readily accessible driving schools in Hanover, coupled with the nearest alternatives in West Lebanon, which necessitates a more inventive approach. Leveraging the Dartmouth community for support, I arranged practice sessions with friends who were kind enough to share both their time and vehicles. This hands-on experience proved invaluable, not just for passing the road test but for gaining practical driving experience in the United States. 

Securing a Vehicle for the Road Test

One of the logistical hurdles is ensuring access to a car for the day of the road test. Given that owning a car is not common among international students, this can initially seem like a significant challenge. Through the supportive network at Dartmouth, I managed to borrow a car from a friend for the test. This generosity and community spirit is a hallmark of the Dartmouth experience and highlights the importance of reaching out for assistance when needed!

Insights and Tips for Success

Reflecting on the process, it's clear that obtaining a U.S. driving license as an international student in New Hampshire involves thorough preparation and engagement with the community. Starting the process early, meticulously preparing for both exams and leveraging the support of the Dartmouth network are crucial steps to success. Furthermore, it's important to familiarize yourself with the DMV's scheduling system for both the written and road tests to ensure timely progression through the licensing process. Additionally, practicing driving under various conditions and becoming comfortable with the vehicle you will use for the road test cannot be understated.

PS: Securing your U.S. driving license is a significant achievement that symbolizes more than the ability to drive legally; it reflects your adaptability, perseverance, and the strength of community ties forged during your time at Dartmouth. This license not only facilitates personal mobility but also marks a milestone in your journey as an international student, embodying the independence and resourcefulness you've developed far from home.

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