Home Away From Home: An International Student Guide to Reno-Tahoe

University of Nevada, Reno
advice for students
culture shock
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By Matt Killorin
Last updated on January 29, 2024

Learn more about the neighborhoods and areas of interest around the University of Nevada, Reno.

University of Nevada, Reno

A pedestrian and biking walkway on the shores of Lake Tahoe with the Sierra mountains in the background and evergreen trees in the foreground

Reno was given the nickname of “Biggest Little City in the World” in the 1920s to celebrate the completion of America’s first transcontinental highway. Today, Reno is a welcoming community with a rich culture and plenty of things to do, from outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and whitewater kayaking to chic shopping, dining, and nightlife options. Situated on the border of Nevada and California, Reno is also just a short drive from the scenic vistas, pristine waters, and vibrant culture of Lake Tahoe. 

The University of Nevada, Reno is a nationally ranked public research university with a growing international student population. Recently, the university launched Nevada Global, which offers application and enrollment support, visa preparation, academic and English-language assistance, and social support services to help international students acclimate to campus life. We’ve put together a “home away from home” guide to the Reno-Tahoe area just for international students, so they can more easily explore the neighborhoods and surrounding region. 

Where Is Reno?

Reno is a picturesque city located on the northwest side of Nevada, near the border with California. The local geography is characterized by the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains and the uniquely beautiful high desert landscape. Today, the city features an eclectic mix of culture, education, and opportunity. The University of Nevada, Reno’s beautiful campus features a mix of modern buildings outfitted with the latest technology alongside picturesque architecture, worthy of the US National Register of Historic Places, and is within walking distance of many of the city’s most popular neighborhoods.  

Reno Neighborhoods


The newly renovated Riverwalk District, situated along the Truckee River in downtown Reno, is excellent for shopping, eating, and sightseeing. Check out downtown’s art and automobile museums, theaters, and vibrant outdoor markets. Catch a minor league baseball game at Greater Nevada Field or check out the whitewater park — that’s right, a whitewater kayak and rafting course, complete with more than 10 drop pools, located right in downtown Reno. 


Midtown represents Reno’s growth as an independent town with a thriving culture. Plenty of nightclubs, restaurants, and bars populate the stretch of South Virginia Street and Center Street from Liberty Street to Mt. Rose Street, which also hosts dozens of trendy stores and businesses. Here you’ll find tattoo parlors, record stores, vintage clothing boutiques, and yoga studios

Midtown is known for its character and soul, with many businesses populating mid-century modern houses vintage signage, and beautiful murals everywhere you look. There’s also a can’t-miss tasty Korean restaurant. International students in Reno can find on-trend styles in Midtown and plenty of things to do, including a music festival in October and a local business tailgate party to celebrate homecoming at the University of Nevada

Dickerson Road 

A true sign of an established city is finding pockets of culture and activity off the beaten path. Dickerson Road is an excellent example of one of Reno’s less-traveled treasures. Full of locally owned stores, art studios, and nature areas that are sure to inspire, Dickerson Road is a great place to take a calligraphy class at the Atelier in Reno extension or put your hands in some clay at The Wedge Ceramics, which regularly offers workshops. College students looking for a chance to convene with nature can take a break from the books at the Oxbow Nature Study Area

Wells Avenue District 

The historic Wells Avenue district is the most neighborhood-like of all the areas mentioned thus far — and one that is experiencing the most change with the opening of new apartment complexes and shops, such as the Reno Public Market. The result is an exciting (and mostly affordable) mix of Reno old and new, which attracts many post-grads to the area. 

Reno is proud of its Hispanic and Latinx roots and Wells Avenue is home to many businesses and restaurants that represent the culture. If you come through the Wells District, make sure to stop for an aqua fresca or street tacos. You can also enjoy many other food, dessert, and locally brewed coffee options in the Wells area. 


Sparks is an old railroad town located just east of Reno with great shopping and restaurants, public parks, and the Sparks Marina Park — where you can swim, paddleboard, boat, and find dozens of other ways to cool off from the heat. Sparks is also home to Nevada’s only waterpark and many other outdoor activities, from mountain biking to whitewater rafting to hiking to public baseball and softball leagues. If you swing through the Sparks area, stop by the Outlets at Legends for great bargain shopping featuring major US and international brand outlets. 

Lake Tahoe and Beyond

Lake Tahoe

Located less than an hour’s drive from Reno, Lake Tahoe features 255 sunshine-filled days a year for hiking, swimming, boating, mountain biking, alpine and Nordic skiing, and more. Lake Tahoe’s pristine water is considered more than 99% pure and its 116 kilometers of shoreline make it one of the most picturesque places on the planet. Here are just a few features of Lake Tahoe that add to its splendor: 

  • Lake Tahoe’s beautiful blue, pure — and refreshingly cold — waters stem from its sheer depth. The lake is more than 500 meters deep!

  • There are 23 ski areas in the Lake Tahoe region — 12 downhill resorts in the area offer more than 480 miles of trails. 

  • Lake Tahoe is situated at 1,898 meters in elevation in the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains. 

If you enjoy outdoor fun, Lake Tahoe is the perfect place. Neither too hot or too cold, the average summer high is 32.2 Celsius, and the winter low is -3.8 Celsius. Soak up the splendor on a gondola trip up Heavenly Mountain in the warmer months and shred through more than 500 inches of snow in the winter. There’s more to Lake Tahoe than just outdoor activities, as the area surrounding the largest alpine lake in the United States also offers high-end shops, restaurants, and plenty of nightlife options. 

Culture and Community at the University of Nevada, Reno & Beyond

The University of Nevada, Reno has a growing multicultural and international student population. It is committed to increasing the opportunities available to students of color and international students, and supporting their success. For example, the University of Nevada, Reno Multicultural Center is creating a “better-integrated” university and hosts several events throughout the academic calendar year to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

  • API Night Market, hosted by Asian Pacific Islander Student Services, takes place in April and features food and performances that highlight Asian and Pacific Islander culture. 

  • The University of Nevada, Reno Día de los Muertos Celebration is hosted by Latinx Student Services and the Latino Research Center and features arts, crafts, food, and cultural demonstrations and performances. 

  • As part of the annual Black History Month festivities each February at University of Nevada, Reno, Black Student Services and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. cohost a day of fun, friends, and a celebration of Black culture at Roller Kingdom

  • Every spring, the Indigenous Student Services department collaborates with local native communities to host the campus Powwow. Featuring food, dance, and the crowning of Mr. and Miss University of Nevada, Reno, the Powwow brings together people from all cultures to celebrate the art, history, and contributions of the Paiute, Shoshone, Washoe, and other indigenous peoples of the Reno area. 

The University of Nevada, Reno Multicultural Center also supports the LGBTQIA+ community with events, clubs, organizations, and more

Other events around the Reno area that celebrate culture and diversity include the regional Basque Festival in June, celebrating a slice of the region’s European roots, which date back to the Gold Rush days. 

The area casinos host celebrations of the Lunar New Year for Reno’s Chinese community, most notably The Row Reno, which features music and Lion Dancing demonstrations as part of its festivities. University of Nevada, Reno hosts a yearly Diwali festival on campus, and Holi is celebrated each spring in town at Rancho San Rafael Park, located adjacent to campus.

Get the Support You Need to Succeed at University of Nevada, Reno

The University of Nevada, Reno is a major public research and engagement university, recognized as a Carnegie Engaged University with a Very High Research Carnegie Classification at the Doctoral level. Since 2009, the University of Nevada, Reno has invested $925 million in advanced labs, residence halls, and other facilities

International undergraduate and graduate students attending University of Nevada, Reno will have the support services of Nevada Global and the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) to help them achieve success. From visa and application assistance before arriving in Reno to English language and academic support on campus, the Nevada Global team develops relationships with each international student as they pursue their educational goals, ensuring they have everything they need to thrive during their study-abroad experience. Working closely with Nevada Global, the OISS team has extensive knowledge and experience in supporting international education at the university, working with students, scholars, and community members to help enrich their study and research experiences while on the campus of University of Nevada, Reno.

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