Students accepted into off-campus programs are required to attend all scheduled orientation sessions. Orientation provides practical information about the cultures and countries where you will study. It’s also a valuable opportunity to learn information that will keep you safe as you navigate new, potentially dangerous experiences like traffic and public transportation.
Passport: Apply for a passport right away if you do not already have one. Processing time can take up to eight weeks, so start today. If you need information on how to obtain a passport or how to renew one, you can find that information in the State Department’s website.
You will need a passport that is valid for at least six months after your program officially ends. Be sure to make a copy of your passport and leave it at home.
Students will need to purchase their own insurance. You might also want to purchase trip cancellation / interruption insurance. Click here for more information.
Check with the airline you are flying with for baggage size and number restrictions. The best advice about packing is to take only what you will need. No matter how much clothing you take, you will be tired of it after few weeks, so pack basic wardrobe items that can be mixed and matched, layered, and worn again and again. Casual clothes are appropriate for classes, but you will need at least one dressy outfit for special occasions.
Please do NOT take extremely valuable jewelry or watches with you when you travel. It is difficult to keep track of them while you are away, and you will have less to worry about if you leave them home.
DO NOT PACK your passport or your plane ticket in a bag that you intend to check.
The best way to manage your money is to use your account at home. Your ATM card should work in most banks abroad and you will be able to access your U.S account and withdraw the local currency. If you don’t wish to take a lot of traveler’s checks, you can arrange for your family to deposit money to your U.S. account on an agreed-upon basis. Keep in mind that traveler’s checks will be useful during the break and after the term when you may be out of reach of ATMs. Your bank will assess a fee for every ATM withdrawal, usually $3 or more per transaction. Certain banks will reimburse these ATM fees or international charges.
Another easy way to obtain money while abroad is to use a major credit card such as Visa or MasterCard. You can get cash advances on one of these cards in an emergency, and your family can pay into the account to take care of the money you have withdrawn. This enables you to make use of the worldwide communication network of these major credit cards and saves you the expense of sending money by wire transfer.
You should take a small amount of local currency ($25 – $50 can be withdrawn at banks or the airport) until you can either withdraw money abroad from an ATM or establish your own bank account and cash your traveler’s checks.
It is important to have a comparative perspective of the United States and the world. The United States is known around the world as a comparatively dangerous country.
Our street crime statistics back up this view. No country has as many guns or gun-related injuries and deaths. The abuse of drugs and alcohol in the U.S. is among the highest in the world.
Yet, the perception is often that life at home is safer than life “over there.” U.S media coverage of events overseas often focuses on political upheavals, violent strife and natural disasters and overlooks the positive social developments and cultural advancements. Students who study abroad often comment how “normal” life seems abroad, in spite of cultural differences. This discovery comes when you can look past the stereotypes and misperceptions and see people and cultures with your own eyes.
Health & Safety Abroad
To avoid some of the problems of jet lag (adjusting to the difference in time at the new location), there are a few simple rules to follow on the airplane.
- Drink liquids to avoid dehydration. Water and fruit juices are the best drink. Alcohol will further dehydrate you during the flight and it intoxicates you stronger and faster on a plane. It can also cause joint swelling and make it harder to adjust to time changes.
- Exercise: Stretch during your flight. If possible, sit in a bulkhead or aisle seat to stretch your legs. Some planes have extra legroom in the emergency exit seat over the wing.
- Sleep: If at all possible, sleep on the flight. If you can find an empty row, lift the armrests and stretch out. This will help you be awake when you arrive at your destination.
- Set your watch: Change your watch to the new time when your flight departs. Attempt to eat meals on the “new” time. This will help your body adjustment to the new time zone.
- Don’t sleep upon arrival: When you arrive at your destination, it is important to adjust to the local time. If you arrive in the morning, attempt to stay awake until a usual bedtime (or at least until 8 or 9 pm). If you arrive later in the evening, force yourself to go to sleep. It will help you wake up at the normal time the next morning and function normally. Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern as soon as possible.
Assess Your Health
Traveling overseas is an exhilarating experience, and it should also be a healthy one.
Going abroad is not a magic “geographic cure” for concerns and problems at home. Both physical and emotional health issues will follow you wherever you go. In particular, if you are concerned about your emotional health, you should address it honestly before making plans to travel. Contrary to many people’s expectations, travel does not minimize these problems; in fact, it often brings them to crisis stage while you are away from home.
Be clear about your health needs when applying for a program and making housing arrangements. Describe allergies, disabilities, psychological treatments, dietary requirements and medical needs so adequate arrangements can be made.
Resources and services for people with disabilities vary widely by country and region; if you have a disability or special need, identify it and understand ahead of time exactly what accommodations can and will be made.
Hospitalization or Emergency Care
Many places you will go have no special health concerns; healthcare facilities in many overseas locations are quite similar to what we have in the United States. But this is not always the case. You will need to take appropriate health measures depending on your overseas location. The International Student Services Office can give you recommendations, but ultimately it is up to students and faculty to educate themselves on health issues.
Returning faculty members and students are a great source for the most up-to-date information about medical facilities in your country.
It is to your advantage to provide information about current or past medical problems to the International Student Services Office. When group members fall ill, the program director or faculty member will consult with local medical authorities regarding hospitalization and treatment. In emergency situations, the program director or a faculty member will authorize required surgery, but non-emergency surgeries will only be authorized with parental consent.
The program director will make the necessary arrangements for a student to return home if medical staff determines it is best.
Diet & Routine
Food overseas may be quite different from what are used to at home. It may be healthier in some instances (more vegetables and fruits) or less healthy in others (more fried foods than you may usually eat). But most often it will just be different from what you are used to. Make arrangements in advance to accommodate special dietary needs.
Despite the change in your environment, you can still keep some of your daily routines from home. Get plenty of exercise to keep your mind and body working. Don’t isolate yourself. You will probably have to make the first move in developing friendships, but they are an essential part of any overseas experience and, more importantly, your emotional wellbeing.
All students should have their tetanus immunizations updated. Specifics guidelines from the center for disease control can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov.
Students should update their health records, eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions, and prescriptions for any medications you routinely take. Carry your prescription medications in their original containers and carry written prescriptions using generic names to facilitate getting them filled overseas, should this be necessary. It may also be helpful to have a letter from your physician, which includes a description of the problem, the dosage prescribed and the generic name of the medicine.
If you are allergic to anything, it is important to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace and carry an identification card to inform overseas health care personnel in the event of an accident or injury.
Medical kits are beneficial for individuals and groups. This could contain such items as: Band-Aids, ace bandages, thermometer, adhesive tape, gauze, sterile cleansers, antibacterial ointment and antiseptic cream, sunscreen, sunburn ointment, aspirin or other painkillers, and anti-diarrhea medicine. Depending on the region, it may be helpful to take antihistamines for allergy relief, salt tablets, skin moisturizers and insect repellents.
HIV / AIDS / Hepatitis B and C
The World Health Organization states “AIDS and Hepatitis are not spread by daily and routine activities such a sitting next to someone or shaking hands, or working with people. Nor is it spread by insects or insect bites. AIDS and Hepatitis are not spread by swimming pools, public transportation, food, cups, glasses, plates, toilets, water, air, touch or hugging, coughing or sneezing.”
Many developing nations do not have resources for mandatory blood screening, so avoid or postpone any blood transfusion unless absolutely necessary. If you do need blood, try to ensure that screened blood is used.
Many foreign countries reuse syringes, even disposable ones. It is best to avoid injections unless absolutely necessary. If an injection is required, verify that the needles and syringes come directly from the package or are properly sterilized. If the situation arises that you need extensive treatment or surgery, medical evacuation should be carefully considered.
If you are HIV or Hepatitis B/C positive, contact the consulate of the embassy of the country(ies) you plan to visit. Each country may have specific entry requirements, or requirements regarding carrying medicines, that you should know about before leaving.
Tuberculosis (TB) Testing
It is now recommended that you have a TB test 30 days after your return from any program abroad.
Check Health Advisories
It is important to be aware of health issues in the country(ies) where you will travel. Remember to ask the following questions to your program director or faculty member or check on the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ and the US State Department website at http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html:
- What illness, if any, are specific or endemic to the region?
- What medications should be brought to prevent these illnesses?
- What precautions are recommended for sexual or health practices?
- What kind of insurance do you need and how much coverage?
- What are the customs, beliefs and laws in the host country concerning sexual behavior and the use of alcohol and drugs?
- What is the water quality in the host country/ countries?
- What are the laws governing the import of medications, medical supplies and contraceptives?
Illness Upon Return
If you become sick when you return from your study abroad experience, it is important to contact your doctor. Sometimes illnesses first appear weeks after your initial exposure. Also inform medical personnel what countries you have been to. There are many diseases indigenous to foreign countries that U.S. doctors may not be familiar with.
Swimming carries a high level of risk unless you are in a well-chlorinated pool. Those in tropical or developing areas can be at risk of disease from contaminated water, which can cause a variety of skin, eye, ear and intestinal infections. Tides and undertows can be deadly to the uniformed swimmers. Beaches and coastlines marked with the international code for no swimming should be avoided.