Frequently Ask Questions About Studying Abroad

How much will Study Abroad cost?
Will all grades/credits be accepted by the home university?
How long is a study abroad program?
Why does one need study abroad insurance?
How much spending money is needed?
Where can the student exchange money?
What are Travelers Checks and where can they be obtained/used?
What are the housing options?
Who is responsible for making travel arrangements?
What are the common means of transportation while abroad?
What documents are needed to travel abroad?
Will the student be able to communicate without having a firm grasp of the language?
What will the food be like?
How can we keep in touch with the student while they are abroad?


How much will Study Abroad cost?
The cost depends on the type of program that is chosen, the length of stay, the sponsoring school, etc. If the program is through your student's home university, fees will be about the same as current tuition rates, but can vary depending on the program. The other fees, which are often due prior to departure, may include costs such as airfare, meals, additional travel, etc. In order to evaluate the overall cost of the program, it will be necessary to contact the program department of the sponsoring institution to find out exactly what is included.

Will all grades/credits be accepted by the home university?
Prior to the acceptance of a study abroad program, be sure to have all the information regarding the credit/grade approval process requirements from the home institution. Generally, the courses/classes the student plans to take abroad must be pre-approved by their study abroad advisor, the registrar, faculty advisor, dean or admissions officer, to ensure the maximum amount of credit for the courses taken will be received. If the course information is not available until arrival at the study abroad location, be sure to find out what specific information is needed upon return to make sure the courses are accepted by the home institution.

"It is essential to get approval in advance - and in writing." - Quote from the 'It's Your World' handbook. Questions for the student's advisor should include:

  • Will all of the classes my child plans to take fulfill his/her graduation requirements and count towards his/her academic major/minor where applicable?
  • Does my child's current institution require that he/she enroll in a defined number of courses/credits in order for transfer credits to be accepted?
  • What is the minimum course grade that will be accepted for credit transfer?
  • Is it required that course related information such as a syllabus, notes, exams, papers, fieldwork, etc. be furnished upon return?
  • Will the grade points from classes taken abroad be included in the GPA at his/her home institution, or will only the credits be accepted?
  • Will my child need to "withdraw" from his/her current institution if the chosen program is through another school, and then reapply in order to return the following semester/session? If so, what paperwork will need to complete prior to departure to make sure he/she is correctly reinstated upon return? Do course selection forms for the next semester/session need to be completed prior to departure?

How long is a study abroad program?
The program duration depends on the program chosen. Study abroad programs generally range from two weeks to three months for summer sessions and three months to one year for school year programs. The amount of time the student is able to spend abroad and the time of year he/she chooses to go abroad can be determined by answering a few simple questions:

  • How much time will the home institution approve for travel abroad and still accept the credits?
  • Will he/she be focused enough to fulfill a specific curriculum and still fully experience the culture if the stay is only a few weeks? Will there be enough time for independent travel within this timeframe?
  • Will he/she be disciplined enough to follow through on my courses if too much time is spent abroad? Will he/she have enough spending money to stay for a long period of time and still be able to eat, travel independently, etc?
  • Will the weather be comfortable enough in the country of choice at this time of the year?

NOTE: Be sure your student knows if his/her home institution requires that a certain number of credits be fulfilled at the home campus, immediately prior to graduation or he/she may need to spend an extra semester or two on campus after returning from the study abroad location!

Why does one need study abroad insurance?
Most Universities and Exchange organizations require that all students have a good health insurance plan while studying outside of their home country. During an international educational experience or exchange program, the student may need to see a doctor, have a prescription filled, receive care at a hospital, or deal with an unexpected medical emergency. The Medical Benefits provided under the Global Student Health plan can help protect your child against these unforeseeable circumstances.

Global student health insurance plans include a worldwide travel assistance service offering emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of mortal remains.

How much spending money is needed?
The amount of money that will be needed for the trip depends on the expenses that the student may be required to pay while abroad. It is a good idea to create a budget prior to departure that separates any known living and school expenses such as food, housing, transportation and text books from general spending money that can be used for independent travel, tourist attraction entrance fees and souvenirs. Keep in mind that having a budget does not mean that the student needs to have to carry cash around for each of these expenses - just know about how much is allotted to each so money for meals is not spent carelessly on souvenirs!

Always remember:

"Traveling with large amounts of cash is not recommended." - 'It's Your World' handbook.
The student should consider using several different forms of payment for expenses. Traveler's checks, credit cards, ATM cards and cash are accepted almost everywhere. Although U.S. dollars are also widely accepted throughout the world, the student should make every attempt to use the local currency.

Where can the student exchange money?
To obtain foreign currency, any of the following can be used:

AIRPORT EXCHANGE BUREAU - Currency exchange offices are available at almost all international airports. Although the rates may not be the lowest, it is probably the most convenient location to exchange money when the student first arrives. Note: because the destination airport is certain to have a large supply of the local currency, its rates for exchange may be lower than the rates at the student's home airport, which may only have a limited supply of the foreign currency.

BANKS/ATM/CREDIT CARDS - After the student has had a chance to get accustomed to his/her new surroundings, a national bank or an ATM machine can be found, which are known to offer the lowest exchange rates. Using a credit card can also secure a decent exchange rate and is often safer than carrying around a lot of cash. American Express, Visa and Master Card are all widely accepted around the world. Keep in mind, however, that using an ATM/debit card may incur additional bank/commission charges.

LOCAL STORES/RESTAURANTS - Travelers checks can be used for payment at a variety of stores or restaurants. If U.S. dollar travelers checks are being used instead of foreign currency travelers checks, make sure the student knows the merchant's exchange rate and is aware of how much change should be returned to them.
With all the money changing options available, the best thing the student can do is to be an educated traveler. Know what the current exchange rate is and be able to calculate how much should be receive in return for each transaction. Also, be safe when carrying money and do not carry all of it at once. See the tips below from the 'It's Your World' guide:

"To keep your money as safe as possible, take the following precautions: Exchange money only in banks or other authorized exchange bureaus. Never exchange it on the black market. Carry only as much money as you need for a day. Use the same precautions when using ATMs (automated teller machines) as you would at home. The safest units to use are those inside banks or other buildings. Don't leave your purse unattended, even for a moment. Tuck it firmly under your arm; if it has a long strap, wear it across your chest rather than let it dangle off your shoulder. In some areas, a waist pouch or money belt may be the safest way to carry money, especially if it is worn under your clothing."

What are Travelers Checks and where can they be obtained/used?
Travelers checks can be purchased at a bank or local travel agency (American Express, AAA, etc.) in a variety of denominations and currencies. They can be used for payment at many local establishments or can be exchanged for cash at any bank or exchange agency. Travelers checks come in both US Dollars and in many foreign currencies and can be replaced if lost or stolen. Make sure to keep a list of the serial numbers from each check in a safe place so it can be given to the bank representative for replacement! More information about travelers checks can be found on the American Express website by clicking here.

What are the housing options?
The housing options depend entirely upon the program that is being offered. Many students are expected to live on campus in either single or double occupancy dorm rooms. Others may have the option to live off campus in apartments or participate in a home stay and live in the home of a nearby family. If the student is expected to arrange his/her own housing, ask for recommendations from the sponsoring institution because student housing in foreign countries is not always easy to come by and may be expensive. It is also a good idea to find out what is included in the housing package (meals, linens, etc.) so your child will not be caught off guard with any unexpected expenses.

Who is responsible for making travel arrangements?
Some study abroad program fees include air and land transportation if the travel falls within specified program dates. This may include transfers to and from the airport and even local transportation if the students housing is not near the host campus. If airfare is not part of the program fee, still check with the program sponsors because some schools can secure a group rate if several students will be departing from the same location. It is also a good idea to make flight arrangements well in advance, especially during busy travel months.

Any additional travel plans that the student chooses to make are generally not included in the program fee, however there may be optional tours that are available for an additional cost through the sponsoring institution. If the student plans to travel between different countries while abroad, be sure he/she applies for the appropriate visas and clearances in advance.

Below are some tips for purchasing airline tickets from the 'It's Your World' handbook:

"Many countries list a round-trip ticket as one of their entry requirements. Even though you may not know when you want to return home and you may have to pay a surcharge to change your return ticket, it is still cheaper to buy the round-trip ticket instead of buying two one-way tickets. Shop carefully to find a flight that best suits your needs. Compare the price of open-ended tickets, in which you return at any point within a specified length of time, with the price of a ticket bearing a stated return date. If you are planning to travel on your own after your program ends, you might want to investigate "open jaw" fares, which let you return from a different location from your point of arrival. STA Travel is an excellent source of information about student travel. With your International Student Identity Card, you can sometimes get up to 50% off of commercial airfares through STA Travel. More information about STA Travel and its travel services is available on-line at www.statravel.com."

What are the common means of transportation while abroad?
The chosen program may have an orientation package or session, which will explain the various means of transportation available in that particular location. In Europe, train or subway are popular options. In other countries, taxis or mopeds may be the cheapest and most direct choice. Wherever the student goes it is a good idea to know the local taxi rates and to negotiate a fair deal prior to departing. Also, make sure the student is informed about local driving laws for car and moped rentals and check to see if his/her current car insurance will cover international rentals. For independent travel in Europe, check out the Rail Europe for information on rail passes and car rentals. Website: http://www.raileurope.com. All information about travel and transportation can also be found at your travel agency.

What documents are needed to travel abroad?
Please note: This is only a sample list of documents that may be required for International travel. The actual documents your student will need vary depending on the location of the program. Be sure to contact the hosting institution for official pre-departure information. In all cases, fill out any applications and make all necessary appointments for each document well in advance as it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete the process.

PASSPORT - The most widely used form of identification used for international travel is a passport. Almost all foreign countries require that visitors have a passport. For more information regarding the application/renewal process, check out the following website: www.travel.state.gov/, or call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

VISA - A visa is a permit from an international country that allows visitors to enter and leave their borders and may be required for the chosen program or by any countries that the student plans to visit while traveling independently. Visas often list planned travel dates and do expire, so be sure to have these dates available when applying. For more information about visas and how to apply, look on-line at www.travel.state.gov/.
Please note: a visa must be obtained prior to departure, so check with the hosting institution as soon as possible to verify if one is needed.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IDENTITY CARD (ISIC) - Although not usually required, the ISIC may be a valuable document for which to apply. In addition to identifying your child as a student, it may help him/her qualify for discounts on airfare, travel insurance, medical and health assistance, and entrance fees to museums and other cultural sites around the world. This card can be purchased through various Web sites, travel agencies or from many US colleges and universities. Search the following Web site for more information about how to obtain a card: www.internationalstudentidcard.com.

INTERNATIONAL CERTIFICATE OF VACCINATIONS - The student may be required to obtain a number of different vaccinations prior to entering a foreign country. The list of required vaccinations and facilities that can provide these vaccinations should be obtained from the study abroad department of the hosting university. When traveling to developing countries, the following vaccinations are usually required: typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, cholera and yellow fever. Anti-malarial medication may also be recommended. It is also suggested that a list of childhood immunizations be obtained from your family physician (these may include: tetanus, polio, diphtheria, etc.) and update these immunizations if needed.

Will the student be able to communicate without having a firm grasp of the language?
It is possible that wherever the student goes, he/she will be able to find someone that speaks even a little English, but it is always beneficial for the student to make every effort to learn the local language, or at least some key phrases, as it will enable him/her to make the most out of the study abroad experience. If your child is not comfortable with the language, a program should be selected where the courses are taught in English. Another option is to enroll in an intensive language class prior to departure.

What will the food be like?
Chances are, the food in the country abroad is not going to be like the food many of us are used to eating at home. Although this can be a wonderful part of the experience, it may be difficult or even painful for some. Be sure to follow the host school or host family's guidelines about what precautions to take when sampling local foods and drinks. (Note: in areas where it is not safe to drink the water, remember that ice, fruit juices and even vegetables and fruits washed in the water should be avoided if at all possible.) Your student will be surprised, however, to find that many popular fast food chain restaurants from the United States can also be found all over the world! Visit www.cdc.gov/travel/foodwater.htm for more information about food and water precautions.

How can we keep in touch with the student while they are abroad?
Postal mail, telephone, fax and email are all available means by which to communicate with students abroad. While rates may be higher to connect overseas, the services work very similar to those here in the United States. A popular option U.S.ed by many students is to obtain a phone card/calling card from your current long-distance carrier. Be sure to find out the appropriate access numbers for the United States as they vary from country to country. Here is another tip from the 'It's Your World' handbook:

"Remember to remind the people at home that you may not have a phone immediately available. As a result you may not be able to phone them as soon as you arrive. Agree on a time by which you definitely will have called home."


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