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Pre-Departure Tips

Pre-Departure Tips

Once you have been accepted into your off-campus program, you should start preparing for your time overseas.

All students will receive pre-departure booklets at their respective orientations or can download copies:


If you haven't already, you should apply for a passport.  All students studying outside of the United States are required to have a valid passport. Your passport should be valid for a period of six months beyond your return to the United States at the end of your program (i.e. if you are returning in June, your passport should be valid through December).

If your passport expires within six months beyond the end of your program, you should renew as soon as possible. It can take up to eight weeks to receive your passport.

Information on obtaining or renewing your passport can be found on the U.S. Department of State web site.


Many countries require students to have either a tourist visa or a student visa to enter the country. Your program will notify you if you need to obtain a passport. In all cases, you are required to have a valid passport before applying for a visa. In most cases, you will need to mail your passport (yes, your actual passport) to an embassy or consulate with your visa application.

Each country has different requirements, and requirements can change with little or no advance notice. It is very important for students to follow all visa application instructions very carefully and not to wait until the last minute to apply. It can take up to six weeks to receive your visa.

Contact your Study Abroad Advisor, or your program directly, with questions about your visa.


Once you are accepted into a study abroad program, it is strongly encouraged that you start monitoring the exchange rate for the currency of your host country. Exchange rates fluctuate daily and can greatly impact your study abroad budget.

The International Education Center staff recommends that you carry at least one major credit card (Visa or  Mastercard) and at least one ATM card with you while you travel. An ATM is often the most convenient way to access cash , and most locations will have ATM machines readily available.

A credit card is recommended for use in emergencies, when you might need access to funds and do not have the cash available (i.e. visit to a local clinic or hospital). Most big cities and tourist destinations will accept credit cards, with Visa being the most widely accepted.

For both your credit card and your ATM card, you should check with your banks to find out what fees are associated with international transactions. Typically both a currency conversion fee, in addition to an international fee, will apply. You should also notify your banks that you plan to use your cards overseas. Many times, banks will consider an international transaction "suspicious" if there is no travel notification on the account and a hold will be placed on the card.

You may also consider exchanging a small amount of money in the United States prior to your departure. Arriving with local currency will allow you some flexibility upon arrival as you will not need to find an ATM or bank immediately.

It is not recommended to bring large amounts of U.S. dollars or travelers cheques to exchange overseas. Typically, the exchange rate for cash/travelers cheques exchanges are not as good as those with an ATM or credit card.

What to Pack

A common piece of advice for travelers is to "pack what you think you will need, then take out half". In general, travelers pack more than they need. You will be responsible for carrying your luggage.  In preparation, you  should practice carrying your bags six blocks to ensure that you can, indeed, carry your luggage.

While there is no standard packing list for every study abroad program, all students will want to consider the following:

  1. Use a passport belt. This is essential for your passport and other "cannot lose" items. More information about passport belts can be found under Health and Safety.
  2. Pack clothes that you can "mix and match." Bring clothes that are versatile and appropriate for your destination (i.e. do not bring a winter coat to Hawaii).
  3. Dress to blend into your host culture. Darker colors are appropriate in most locations, and solid colors are preferable to big logos or words on shirts and jackets.
  4. Dress conservatively. For example, women should bring skirts that cover their knees and shirts that cover their shoulders. In general, shorts are not worn frequently outside of the United Sates so plan to bring longer pants or capris.
  5. Bring comfortable shoes. Regardless of your destination, you will walk A LOT. A good pair of comfortable, all-purpose shoes is invaluable.
  6. Plan for changes in electricity. You will most likely need either a converter or adapter (or both) for your electronic devices.
  7. Leave at home anything that you would not want to lose (i.e. expensive jewelry).  
  8. You will probably be purchasing gifts and momentos. Be sure to leave room in your luggage for anything you might purchase and want to bring home.
  9. If you are particularly attached a specific brand of contact solution, shampoo or other everyday item, then pack enough for the duration of your program. Otherwise, most destinations will have toiletries and other items for your to purchase.

A detailed list of packing considerations can be found in the pre-departure booklets.