The Office of International Education will host pre-departure meetings required for all students during the semester prior to going abroad. Students will be notified about the meetings upon their acceptance into a study abroad program.
Pre-departure meetings will include everything from packing and visas to credit transfer and student conduct expectations.
- Make copies of your passport and keep them on you in person
- Scan a copy of your passport and upload it to a free cloud service (such as Dropbox or iCloud) so it is accessible from anywhere
- If you do not currently have a passport, apply for one ASAP. New passports typically take 6-8 weeks to process. Check out instructions for how to apply for a passport here: https://www.usps.com/international/passports.htm
- Research if you country requires a visa and apply in advance to make sure you have enough time to get yours!
- Vaccinations are often required before spending extended time in another country. Look up which vaccinations you might need and make sure to get them in time
- Print out all itinerary information before you leave (air travel, bus tickets, accommodation, etc.) so you have a physical copy
- If you’re going to a country with an unfamiliar language, learn at least a few key phrases before you go. There are many websites and apps you can use to learn some of the everyday language that will be useful as soon as you arrive. Knowing even just “hello” “please” “thank you” and “where is the bathroom?” can go a long way when you first arrive.
- Make sure you know how to turn off data on your phone so that you don’t get roaming charges
- Research international phone plans, SIM cards, and other phone options to decide which would be the best for you
Electronics and Adapters
- Check the electricity voltage in your destination country because many countries use voltage levels different than the U.S. Many electronics can use dual voltage so read the owner’s manual to see if yours is specified. Many small appliances (e.g., hairdryers or straighteners) cannot handle the voltage change. We recommend not bringing them, buying them there so they fit the voltage correctly, or getting a voltage converter. You don’t want to blow a fuse!
- Find out what kind of plugs your new country uses and buy an adapter for your electronics. If you are going to travel a lot, consider getting multiple or a universal adapter depending on your desired locations. Remember, an adapter is different than a converter: an adapter changes the plug so that you can plug your American chargers into foreign wall outlets, and voltage converters change the voltage level going through the foreign outlet.
- While the maximum weight for a suitcase is usually 50 pounds, make sure to check the luggage requirements for your airline. Also, do not forget that you might have to drag your luggage around on your way to your living arrangements.
- Make sure to also check the numbers of checked bags allowed by your airline.
- Bring a good quality backpack for an airplane carry-on or a weekend bag that is easy to carry and can hold a lot.
- Research what the weather will be like in your destination country so you know what to pack. Layering is a great way to stay warm while being extremely versatile.
- Do not overpack! Make sure to leave room in your suitcase for things to bring back with you.
- Try to include some disposable items that you will need while you are there but you won’t want to take home with you (i.e. shampoo, conditioner, other toiletries, a cheap towel, an old pair of sneakers). Often the same brands of toiletries you are used to either aren’t available in your destination country, are very hard to find, or are expensive. By bringing them you will ensure the familiarity and dependability of what you’re used to, and by leaving them behind you leave extra room in your suitcase for the way home.
- If you are checking bags, make sure that you can identify them quickly and easily. Try to pack using colored luggage, or tie a ribbon or easily-spotted tag to your bags to mark them as yours so there is no confusion at the airport.
- If you’re doing some traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to bring a pair of flip flops for hostel showers.
- Make sure to call your banks to put a travel notice on your cards. This will prevent the bank from flagging foreign activity as suspicious, and interrupting your ATM or credit card access. Do not forget to do this if you leave for a trip to another country as well, even if it’s just for a few days.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Budgets can be daily, weekly, or even category-based, depending on what works best for you. Prioritize what is most important for you and try not to spend money on things that aren’t necessary, so that you have extra money for your most important things.
- Keep up to date on the exchange rate; it changes daily. This will ensure you know how much money you’re spending, and you can get the most out of your money by trying to use the ATM on days with a good exchange rate.
- Set up online banking before you leave so that it’s easy to keep track of your money while abroad
- In many countries, ATMs will charge any foreign bank card a hefty fee every time you use it. Since most American banks charge their own ATM fees as well, that’s two ATM charges each time you withdraw money. Also, watch out for transaction fees! That’s a percentage fee of your purchase every time it’s used abroad. ATM and transaction fees rack up quickly and can eat up your budget.
- Consider taking out a larger sum of money from the ATM and then paying with cash so that you only have to deal with the fees occasionally
- Check if your bank has any partnerships with other banks abroad. You might have the opportunity to get the ATM fee waived if you use ATMs at specific bank branches in your destination city
- Research banks and credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees
- Get involved! Join clubs or participate in activities, and make friends with some of the local students or people in your area. They will be able to show you the best spots to hang out and give you expertise about the best way to experience your destination location.
- Keeping up with your friends and family will probably help you adjust to your new surroundings and keep you from getting overwhelmed by so many new things. Plus, your loved ones want to hear from you! Try Skype for free overseas video chats or calls through the internet. Text messaging is convenient overseas and there are many free services you can use such as Whatsapp, iMessage, and Google Voice (which is available online if you don’t have a smartphone!). Also, consider getting a local phone so that you can communicate with people in your new country and, if the rates are favorable, to call home
- If you want to keep lots of people updated on your adventures without telling the same stories over and over, consider writing a blog. It’s also a great way to keep a journal to reflect on your experiences
- Take lots of pictures! They are snapshots of your experiences and time abroad. You can post them and show them to others, and look back on them later to remember all the amazing things you did and saw.
- If you can, take public transportation to get to places that are too far to walk. It’s cheap and, with just a little effort, can be very efficient.
- Step outside your comfort zone! Be open to new experiences while you’re abroad, do things that will challenge yourself and your world view.
- Don’t forget the ‘study’ in study abroad. At SMCM, you must have at least a C- or better for your credits to transfer. Your grades earned abroad will not be included in your cumulative GPA, but they will still appear on your transcript.
- Always allow extra time for delays in your travel plans. You never know what’s going to come up, so you need to be flexible – just go with the flow.
- Plan ahead. As a general rule, the further in advance you plan, the cheaper travel cost will be. Bus companies (such as National Express or Eurolines), trains, and even air travel (such as Ryanair, EasyJet, and AirAsia) can offer incredibly cheap prices if you book far in advance. Prices rise and options diminish the closer your purchase is to your departure date.
- Bring your student ID or get an ISIC card to get student discounts across the world. Lots of places have reduced rates for students, such as museums, tourist attractions, and even accommodations. It never hurts to ask if there’s a student discount wherever you go.
- Finding cheap accommodation can be easier than you think. Hostels are a great option for students to stay cheaply in a dorm-style situation, and can also be a great place to meet other travelers. Try Hostelworld.com and Hostelbookers.com to book hostels for your trips.
- To get the most authentic experience, you don’t want to stick out as a tourist. Try to avoid these telltale signs of being an American tourist.
- The ability to travel to other countries while abroad is an amazing opportunity to see other places and experience new things. Just remember to take time to explore everything your host city has to offer – take advantage of your time living there to find all the amazing things where you are.