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Study Abroad Research Guide: Pre-Departure

A one stop resource for current and prospective study abroad students.

Stereotypes of Americans Abroad

Pre-Departure Tips and Tricks

  • Call your credit card company and tell them when you will be abroad (exact dates) so your card is not frozen. See what your CC and your bank's policy is on exchange rates (Do they charge a fee? Can you use their ATMs abroad?).
  • A month or so before you leave, order some of the local currency (euros, pounds, etc) from your bank, so you are not stuck with exorbitant airport exchange rates.
  • Determine how much money you will need/are taking, make a budget, and STICK TO IT.  It's okay to treat yourself, but don't go broke!
  • Don't pack more than you can carry by yourself. Toiletries, towels, etc. can be bought abroad.
  • Pack efficiently.
  • Weigh your luggage before going to the airport. Airlines generally charge penalty fees for luggage that is too heavy and may even make you repack your bags.
  • Consider packing into a smaller piece of luggage inside a bigger piece of luggage.  That way you can leave with one bag, but when you are ready to come back to the states, you will have two suitcases to fit all of your new souvenirs!
  • Bring a gift for your host family.  Try for something uniquely American (regional delicacy, sports memorabelia, souveniers from your home city, etc.).
  • Either bring a phone that can exchange SIM cards or buy a cheap phone and SIM card there.
  • Laptops can (and will) be stolen. Consider regularly backing up your photos and other important documents either to an external hard drive or the cloud.
  • Be prepared to represent the US to other countries. Have some knowledge of current events and politics. It might be useful to form your opinion on them as well.

More Packing Tips

Research your destination!

Links to help you pick a program:

Helpful Hints

Health Precautions:


The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers take various precautions prior to traveling to certain regions of the globe, including obtaining vaccinations and booster shots. Visit the Travelers' Health section of the CDC website to learn about long and short term health concerns in particular regions, and also about precautions you can take to protect your health while away.  For additional information, consult the International Travel and Health resources of the World Health Organization.


Electronic Compatibility and Conversion:


Electronic devices may be incompatible with the electrical standards of different countries, either due to the shape of the plug or the voltage. Though the United States has a 110 volt standard, the electric grids of other countries operate at 220 volts or more. To avoid shorting out your electronics, you will need to lower this voltage. This blog post discusses power adapters and plug converters and makes recommendations.


What are the exceptions?  Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Japan all employ electric standards that are compatible with those of the United States in most instances.  Students heading to these areas should find that their electronics are compatible with local standards. For more information, check out this New York Times article on electronic compatibility and conversion.


Cell Phone Compatibility:


Though your cell phone may work in your destination country, it may not be advisable to use it without some modifications.  Most cell phone companies charge roaming fees on phones operating outside of their countries of origin, often topping $5/minute.  To avoid these charges, students can obtain a temporary SIM (subscriber identity module) card for their phone for their time abroad.  If your phone's SIM card cannot be romved, you can also temporarily subscribe to a phone service operating in a host country, or to arrange phone conversations using internet based services such as Skype, ooVoo, VoxOx, Google Voice, or Yahoo! Voice.


Need more information?  Here is a helpful New York Times article on cell phone compatibility.


Calling the United States from Abroad:


In order to call the United States from abroad, you will usually need to dial two numbers in addition to the area code and number of the call's recipient.  The first number that you will need to know is the number used by callers in your host country to access international phone networks.  This number is known as an international call prefix, or an international access code.  The most common international call prefix is "00," though there are others as well.  Here is a complete list of international call prefixes.  The second number that you will need is a country code.  The country code for the United States is "1."  If you were in the United Kingdom, and wanted to call the United States, you would dial "00," which is the international call prefix for calls originating in the United Kingdom, followed by "1," which is the country code of the United States, followed by the area code and number of the call's recipient.


Be Safe:


Know the laws of the country you are going to and how they apply to you. It is also helpful to know local emergency numbers. Here is a list of emergency telephone numbers.

Technology FAQ

More Useful Links

Fun Fact!

Netflix varies its streaming library selection based on country. That means that if you subscribe to Netflix, you might have access to different TV shows and movies abroad. What better way to sample local customs than by having a movie night?

For more information, check out this map of countries where Netflix is available. You can also Google "Netflix abroad" for more tips on how to access Netflix from another country.


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