With more than 80,000 college students studying abroad during each academic year, it is clearly an opportunity that some students find hard to pass. A majority of students who participate in study abroad programs do so in Europe; however, Asia, Australasia, and Latin America are also growing in popularity. These programs open up a new world of experiences for students such as exploring new locales, different cultures, and learning new languages. Studying abroad can also help students to develop a sense of independence. Once the decision to study abroad has been made, it is important to take the right steps in order to make the best of their experience. The right steps will ensure that the student is prepared for his or her time spent traveling to, studying in and exploring the host country.
The wisest thing that a student can do prior to leaving for a foreign country is to do his or her research. Researching the host country will prepare the student for what to expect in terms of laws, local customs and culture, transportation options, and will even alert the student of any current travel warnings. The study abroad program that is sending the student will likely provide some of this information; however, the Internet is a valuable resource and students can further their research by reviewing country-specific information through the U.S. Department of State website or the Embassy in that country. In addition to researching the host country, students will also want to look into the limit on their credit cards, and check whether their health and personal property insurance policies offer coverage when traveling abroad.
As crucial as research is, it is equally important to pack properly before leaving. Packing light is best to ensure ease of movement through airports, and to minimize the risk of lost luggage. If taking medications, it is important to verify that they can be carried legally into the country, particularly if the medication is a narcotic. A doctor’s letter and copies of prescriptions should also be packed in the event that questions arise. When packing, a converter and a plug adapter may also be necessary for laptops and other electronics to operate safely, as many countries outside of the U.S. use 220 volt electricity, whereas the U.S. uses 110 volt electricity. Students will want to avoid cash and bring traveler’s checks and major credit cards instead. The traveling student will want to carry two copies of the airline tickets, his or her driver’s license, passport identification page, and credit cards in the event that any of these items are lost.
While studying abroad, blending in is critical to one’s safety. To do this, students will want to avoid bringing unwanted attention to themselves or to the fact that they are American citizens. Ideally they should avoid wearing excess jewelry, fanny packs, handbags or anything that may attract the attention of thieves or other criminals. One of the many reasons that students find studying abroad so appealing is the opportunity to meet new people and to take in the sites. While meeting new people can be fun, it is important to exercise caution as a new acquaintance can turn into a deadly encounter. Students should never drink or eat anything that is given to them by people that they do not know. They should also avoid going off alone or to secluded areas with new acquaintances. It is critical that students refuse to carry or deliver any package or item for any person that they might have met during their time abroad. Packages could carry illegal items such as drugs or weapons that will if found in the student’s possession, result in their arrest. Even if the student is not aware of the package’s contents, he or she will likely still be in serious legal trouble.
Students are often advised against driving, and most universities recommend taking local means of transportation. In most countries, local transportation includes taxis, buses and trains. In some places bicycles may also be a viable option. Driving laws are different in other countries and can be confusing for students. In addition, students who plan to drive will need to be appropriately licensed and insured before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Studying abroad is a great way for students to experience the world while in college. The exposure to a foreign culture and language could prove useful in their future career or may even influence a student’s choices of a career. While studying abroad, students will get the maximum benefit and enjoyment from their time by being both prepared and safe. With proper research a student’s time spent abroad can result in not only greater knowledge about the world outside of the U.S., but also a greater sense of confidence, independence, and memories that last a lifetime.
Please read the following links for further information on studying abroad.
- Top Ten Reasons to Study Abroad
- U.S. Study Abroad Programs
- Exploring Your Options When Choosing a Travel Abroad Program
- CDC Advice for Safe and Healthy Travel for Students
- Study Abroad Program – Why Study Abroad?
- A Safe Trip Abroad
- Pre-Departure Tips
- How to Pack Your Bags and Yourself Before You Study Abroad
- Promoting Safety in Study Abroad
- Tips on Packing and Traveling – Study Abroad Programs (PDF)
- Packing Tips – A Packing Checklist
- Types of Study Abroad Programs
- Study Abroad – Best Time and Best Courses (PDF)
- Culture Shock/ Adjustment
- Students Abroad – Academics, Culture Adjustment, Travel
- Reasons to Study Abroad
- Tips for Studying Abroad
- Your Emotional Health While Studying Abroad
- Making Friends Abroad (PDF)
- Socializing Safely When Studying Abroad
- Twenty Most Popular Study Abroad Destinations
- Factbox: Five Top Host Countries for Americans Studying Abroad
- Study Abroad Accepted Students – Health and Safety
- Health, Safety and Security Concerns in Study Abroad
- Safety Guidelines
- Education Abroad Center – Tips for the First Time Traveler
- International Connections: Four Ways to Meet Friends Abroad
- Trends in U.S. Study Abroad
- Health Safety and Security While Studying Abroad
- Staying Healthy Abroad
- Being an American Abroad (PDF)
- Looking Beyond Europe for Education, Adventure
- Teens Health: Studying Abroad
- Cultural Adjustment
- Benefits of Study Abroad
- Language Courses, Lodging, Summer Jobs, and Internships in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia