Help me prepare for my internship in the US
November 7, 2017 3:30 AM   Subscribe

(Asking for a friend) I'm moving to Silicon Valley for three months to intern at a big tech company there, and I'm looking for some advice to help get everything set up. I'll be moving from Australia in a few weeks, so I'm looking for a) cheap short term accommodation in the area b) a bank to open an account at and c) a phone provider.

I'll be working in Sunnyvale from the start of December to the end of February, where are the best (cheapest & safest) places to live in or around there? My budget is (hopefully) under $2,500 USD / month. It would be a bonus if there was interesting stuff to do in the area. Also, does anyone have tips on where to look for accommodation online? Or if anyone knows someone who has a room / flat to rent out in the area you can MeMail this account.

I'll need an American bank account for my paychecks, but plan to transfer it back to AUD when I finish, so I'm looking for a bank with good service and low currency conversion fees.

For the phone I plan to use mostly data and not that many minutes or texts, so are there any US providers with reasonable service that have cheapish plans with a lot of data?

If there's anything else I should be aware of, or if anyone has done something similar and has advice, please let me know. If it's relevant, I'm a 20 y/o woman.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Panthalassa to Grab Bag (8 answers total)
Check with the company which will be your employer. Many have specific intern housing available for the duration of your employment. Craigslist is the most common way to find housing, or you can look at Reddit's SFBayHousing. You want to live close to Sunnyvale, or spend a large amount of time stuck in traffic.

Sunnyvale and the surrounding cities are relatively safe. It's a suburban atmosphere. The primary crime is property theft, from folks leaving expensive computers on the front seat of their automobiles. You'll have a fair number of restaurants available, but little nightlife. Try any of the Indian restaurants. Try the Mexican food. Both are excellent in general.

Instead of a bank, consider a credit union. These are non-profit and owned by the customers, which usually translates to lower fees.

The Wirecutter has the best recommendations for cellphone plans. For a limited time stay, I would consider a pay as you go plan.
posted by blob at 4:48 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

If your employer doesn't offer help finding housing, Airbnb would be a safer option than Craigslist. The number of scam listings on Craigslist seems to have grown exponentially lately. It's definitely possible to find a sublet on there, but if you can't have someone check it out in person first, it's not really safe to rent something remotely.
posted by pinochiette at 6:32 AM on November 7, 2017

If your employer provides housing, just take it - it might seem overpriced, but it will save you a huge headache.

Renting sight-unseen on Craigslist is usually not a great idea because there are scams and you won't quite know what you're getting. Instead, you can try renting from a large management company like Prometheus, which won't be a great deal but also will ensure that your worst case scenario isn't too bad. You can also try renting something for a week on AirBnb and then looking at Craigslist/longer term AirBnb options in person.
posted by asphericalcow at 7:10 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am not familiar with Bay area tech internships, but I have had my fair share at another large tech company.

1. I am on the t mobile $30 "Walmart" plan. It's like, 100 minutes and 5G of data.

2. Have you asked for tips from other people at your school who may gone on similar internships for their advice on banking?

3. Is your employer offering a subsidized rental car program? This might affect where you choose to live.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2017

Ask your recruiter/internship organizer about help setting up a bank account - it can be a long process and they might have a local credit union or bank branch where they send new foreign employees. Don't worry too much about transfer fees, you can use other services like TransferWise too.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:46 AM on November 7, 2017

For 3-months Airbnb or VRBO might be a better option than Craigslist.
Head over to Reddit ( for info on MVNO plans. For about $50 you should be able to get unlimited everything, pre-paid. Make sure you unlock your phone before leaving Australia.
I'll second the advice of using a Credit Union, versus a bank.
posted by WizKid at 2:28 PM on November 7, 2017

If you're interning with a big company and they regularly hire interns, they should have resources to help get you set up. Reach out to your internship contact for suggestions if you haven't already, because this is exactly the sort of thing that they should be able to help you deal with.
posted by Aleyn at 10:58 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

From previous experience with this:

- Assuming you want to use your Australian phone, you're limited to AT&T or T-Mobile networks for a phone plan (GSM) - most plans that people suggest are CDMA and won't be useable for your hardware.

Bank account:
- Use a local credit union, there's plenty of options. You'll have plenty of time when you get here to open it.

Currency conversion:
- Avoid doing the currency transfer directly from the bank - they will take a cut, regardless of if they call it fees. has suggestions and details.

- Luckily, Dec-Feb is a very quiet time around here for rentals, so you shouldn't have too much of an issue setting something up. You can get a 2BR apartment in Sunnyvale for under $2500 on a year's lease, so you should easily be able to find something in that pricerange, even at the premium you'd pay for a shorter lease.

Other things to know:
- Expect it to take several weeks before you get paid, depending on the company (For some it's 3-4 weeks), and have the cash accessible in USD to cover expenses for that timeframe, including a deposit for a rental.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:10 PM on November 11, 2017

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