The information that follows is a collection of advice from our office staff, other universities and former participants. All information is accurate to the best of our knowledge. If you have updated information upon your return from study abroad, please let us know.
Ultimately, no written materials or suggestions are going to fully prepare you for what lies ahead. Remember to expect the unexpected. The best that you can do is to commit yourself to keeping an open mind, remaining flexible, and being patient as you adjust to your new environment. Most importantly, remember to have fun!
Review the U.S. Department of State's website for international travel and the Pre-Departure Handbook.
Please do not make flight arrangements until you receive your official acceptance from your host university.
You should refer to the required arrival date and the final exam schedule of your host university when securing an airline ticket.
- We recommend buying a discounted or student fare, round-trip ticket with a set return date, and flying into the airport closest to your final destination.
- Use websites like kayak.com or expedia.com to find good tickets. Keep in mind that "open-ended" or "flexible" air tickets are usually more expensive than a ticket with a fixed return date.
One of the most exciting things about studying abroad is the opportunity to explore your host country and other surrounding areas while you are overseas.
- If you are interested in learning more about traveling during weekend and school breaks, the best resources will be the people in your host country.
- You may find helpful information in country-specific guidebooks (Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, etc.). These resources can provide helpful information about discounts, flights, and train/bus passes, as well as historical and cultural information about locations around the world.
- Because you may not know your specific travel plans before leaving the U.S., some students suggest waiting to purchase items, such as inter Europe flight tickets, until after you arrive overseas.
Don’t take more luggage than you can carry. You should be able to maneuver comfortably through airports and train stations with your bags. Check with the airline (of your originating flight and any connecting flights) to find restrictions on size, weight, and number of bags permitted. It is also a good idea to learn about the customs and security procedures of the airports where you will be traveling. Remember to be respectful; it is not unusual for customs and immigration officers to ask detailed questions or search luggage.
Packing is going to vary for every individual. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
- Do not take more than you are willing and able to carry on your own.
- Consider leaving valuable or sentimental items (such as expensive jewelry or electronics) at home.
- Pack all of your important documents (passport, tickets, prescriptions, contact information, etc.) in your carry-on bag. You might also want to pack some basics (change of clothes, toothbrush and toiletries) in your carry-on in case your luggage is delayed or lost.
- Consider taking clothes that can be layered for warmth, and pack clothes that can be mixed and matched, instead of bringing several individual outfits.
- Make sure you understand your host country’s standards of modesty and/or neatness in dress.
- Electrical currents and sockets are not the same around the world. You may want to purchase a plug adapter(s) or consider getting an electronic converter.
- Most universities abroad will provide computer access for their students. While some students take their laptop computers abroad for convenience, others choose to leave theirs at home to avoid the chances of damage/loss, or the extra weight it adds to their luggage.
- Allow room for the personal purchases, gifts, and other things you may acquire while abroad. Barring any baggage restrictions, consider packing a small, empty duffle bag in your luggage or buying a small bag overseas to allow for extra items on your return.
Many students arrange a calling schedule with family and friends, setting a time each week when they will be available. There are several options if you plan to use phone services:
- U.S. long-distance carriers offer a wide variety of calling options. Call around to compare prices or check with the carrier your parents use. You may need to get international dialing access to call from the U.S. and/or to call from overseas to the U.S.
- Your host institution may send you information about international calling cards and rates from overseas. If not, ask a representative from your host university if they can make recommendations. Some calling cards purchased overseas are more economical than calling cards purchased in the U.S.
- Students typically use cell phones overseas only for calling others within the host country. Most cell phones purchased in the U.S. will not work abroad, and GSM (global) cell phones are expensive, so it is often cheaper to lease or buy a cell phone once you arrive overseas. Check with your host institution or fellow students after you arrive for options available in your city.
- You can talk for free through an internet phone service such as www.skype.com. You can also use Skype to call from your computer to phone numbers in the US at very reasonable rates.
EMAIL & INTERNET
- Because you will still be enrolled at UNCP while abroad, you will continue to have access to your UNCP email account. IP is required to send correspondence to your UNCP email account, so please make sure you check this address frequently or have it forwarded to the account you are using. You are also required to email IP every month to ‘check-in’ so that we know if you have any questions or concerns.
- The majority of universities overseas will give students access to email and internet services, which is typically the least expensive way to keep in touch and access the web. If you choose to take a laptop, have it insured and check the technological requirements and facilities of the host university.
- Many cities have internet cafes, where you can pay for internet access on a minute or hourly basis. Prices will vary.
- Keeping in touch around the world can be difficult, so more and more students are choosing to create their own websites or blogs. There are several free sites where you can write about your experience and post photos for friends and family to view, such as www.tripod.com, www.wordpress.com and www.blogspot.com.
- From the U.S., international mail can take up to 2-6 weeks for delivery. Postal services from abroad will vary, and could take longer. Generally, cards and letters are easy and inexpensive to send. However, if you or a family member wants to send a gift or care package, check with the customs agency of your host country to find rules and regulations about what can be mailed to/from the country.
Before you leave, be sure to plan how you will access money while abroad. You should have more than one means of payment available.
You should have a small amount of foreign currency with you in cash when you arrive abroad. Most major banks can obtain foreign currency, but you should verify this in advance. Currency exchange services are also available at most international airports (in the U.S. and abroad). Make sure you have enough cash to cover bus/taxi fares, snacks, and a phone call for the first couple of days. We recommend taking about US$100 or the equivalent in foreign currency. Be sure to get small denominations—the equivalents of $10 or $20 bills. You can look up current exchange rates on websites such as www.oanda.com.
- It is virtually impossible to cash personal checks abroad. Do not plan to use this method of payment
- Traveler’s checks offer a convenient and safe way to carry money overseas. They are widely accepted around the world, and easily replaced if lost or stolen. However, this may not be a convenient option for accessing money if you are in a remote or rural area.
- Automatic Teller Machines are widely available overseas. ATMs tend to give you a good exchange rate, charge no exchange commission, and have 24-hour access. However, your bank may charge extra fees for using an ATM abroad, or have limits on daily withdrawals.
- Contact your credit card company to ensure your card can be used in the country(ies) you will be studying in and/or visiting. Credit cards can be easily used abroad and tend to offer a good exchange rate on purchases. Some credit cards, such as Visa, are widely accepted, while others may not work world-wide. Check with your credit card company to find out if they charge fees for international use. Some companies may charge per transaction; others may have a monthly fee.
- In emergencies, money can also be wired overseas. While this is theoretically the fastest way to transfer money, caution is advised since it may take several weeks in practice.
POWER OF ATTORNEY
- Consider arranging to give a family member or friend “Power of Attorney” to handle some of your financial affairs in your absence (i.e. to deposit checks made out to you into your bank account, sign official documents on your behalf, file your taxes, sign apartment leases, etc.) This is especially important if you will be receiving financial aid checks or other payments while you are abroad which would normally require your signature for deposit. You may also want to check with your bank to see what additional paperwork they may require in order to allow someone to access your account.
Housing options at your host university will vary. Some may require all study abroad students to live in a certain area, while others may offer choices such as residence halls/dorms, apartments/flats, or homestay. Be aware that the accommodations in your host country may not be as luxurious as you are accustomed to at home, so keep an open mind. You will find more in-depth information from your host university. It is up to you to research your options and make the decision that is best for you.
Homestay: If you have the option of homestay, you will have a great opportunity to expand your cultural experience beyond the university. However, living with a family can also pose special challenges. While host families are typically interested in interaction with international students, they are also being paid for their hosting duties, and in some cases consider it an income supplement. While you should expect your family to provide a safe, clean living environment, adequate meals, and a polite and respectful atmosphere, the amount of personal interaction may vary from family to family. If your family is truly unreasonable or if you are uncomfortable with your family, you should consult with your host university coordinator. Be sure your reasons for wanting to move are more serious than small inconveniences (phone use, curfews, etc.), or culturally-based issues that are likely to be the same from family to family.