I’ve been studying in the United States for nearly three years, but I am still using my passport to prove my identity. I didn’t want to get my very first driver’s license in Boston, but then I found out it is so stupid to bring my passport everywhere, especially if it’s just to buy drinks. The thought of getting a driver’s license stayed in my mind for a semester, and I finally decided to finish this mission during my summer session in Boston.
For international students, there are more documents needed and more processes we need to go through to get an official driver’s ID from the U.S. government. It is not hard but it takes some time.
- Prepare documents
Before going to take the permit test, there are few documents we need to prepare. For the international student who doesn’t have a social security number, we need to get approval from the Social Security Administration, which is located at 10 Causeway St. in Boston. Also, we need to get a Proof of Enrollment letter from the Office of the Registrar, because you will need this letter to fulfill the “Birthday” section in the license document list.
Here’s the website to go to.
- Get your permit
The internet is such a great thing because we can get all the information from there for FREE! To study the permit tests, the RMV posted the “Massachusetts Driver’s Manual” online, and I spent three hours reading and learning this manual. It was not very hard, but there were a lot of details that took a long time to memorize.
Some people have translated the manual into different languages, too, so I used the Chinese version to study sometimes. You can also choose to take the permit test in your native language, which is very convenient. The only issue is that some of the Chinese versions I found were not translated well. Also, the most updated version of the manual will always be the English version, anyway. The RMV website also has practice tests that I found very helpful.
When you go to the office to actually take the test, make sure to bring your I-20 form, passport, proof of address (such as a bank statement), proof of signature (such as a lease contract), birthday (my proof of enrollment letter) and the approval from the Social Security Administration. Then you just have to pay the fee and you’re good to go.
- Take the road test
I don’t have family here, and none of my close friends own cars. So, I went to Chinatown and found the driving school. It’s the one-to-one class, $36 per class. Going to the driving school is more secure since all the cars are learner-driven vehicles that have two brakes — one for the learner and one for the teacher. If an emergency happens when the new driver is driving the car, the teacher is still able to stop the car in the co-pilot seat. For me, going to the driving school was the most efficient way to learn how to drive in Boston, and I learned all the required techniques in eight classes. Of course, I need more practice before really taking the road test because I want to be as responsible as possible for myself as well as for others.