Closer Look

Find Your Way: Study Abroad Tips and Tricks

Courtesy of Breana Drozd
Courtesy of Breana Drozd

Don’t graduate regretting you never studied abroad. Loyola makes studying abroad an option for all students. With three international campuses and more than 100 international programs in 66 countries, students have a world of choices – literally. Whether students choose to study abroad for a few weeks, a semester or the full academic year, Loyola offers programs that cater to every interest and need. But with so many programs offered, how do students decide what to do?

The Phoenix compiled a list of tips, information and advice from fellow Ramblers about the possibilities and considerations of studying abroad.

TRAVEL SMART

Proper documentation is required for international travel. These documents include passports, student visas, flight itineraries and international health insurance. These documents can be pricey, but the last thing anybody wants is to be stopped at security or have unforeseen expenses.

Obtaining a passport requires an application through the United States Postal Service and a $135 fee for the first time or a $110 renewal fee for adults 16 and older. Passports generally take 4-6 weeks to process and are valid for up to 10 years. More information on passports can be found on the Department of State website.

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Courtesy of Layne Hillesland

Student visas must also be obtained through an application process, depending on the destination, reason for traveling and duration of the trip. Some visas are free, while others carry fees. Visas can be applied for at a consulate based on the destination and current address of the student applying.

Loyola offers the World Class Coverage Plan specifically designed for study abroad students. This is a full-coverage health insurance plan for the semester through Cultural Insurance Services International.

Unfortunately, prices for international flights are sky high (pun intended). Flights range anywhere from $600 to a few thousand dollars depending on location, time and date of the flight and the airline.

Courtesty of Chandni Patel
Courtesty of Chandni Patel

Websites such as Travelocity, Expedia and Kayak offer travelers international and domestic flights at discounted rates. The best time to buy international flights is Tuesday at 3 p.m. EST, between 155 and 225 days before departure, according to Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation. Some popular international airlines include Aer Lingus (Europe), KLM (Europe), Air China and Vietnam Airlines (Asia).

Once overseas, domestic flights across Europe and Asia are relatively cheap, costing about the same or less than domestic flights in the U.S.

APPLY THE “WHEN IN ROME” RULE

Be aware of any travel alerts or warnings issued. The State Department issues warnings to inform travelers of civil unrest, dangerous conditions, terrorism or lack of U.S. diplomatic relations in that country. The State Department also offers a program called Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan that updates travelers with security and safety updates around the world. Also keep up to date with local, national and international news as much as possible.

“[Students] should not expect to replicate their day-to-day lives in America,” said professor Emilio Iodice, vice president and director of the John Felice Rome Center.

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Courtesy of Emma Westfall

Learn about local laws and customs. Even as a U.S. citizen, students are subject to foreign laws and legal systems, and it’s important to know what is legal and what isn’t. If foreign laws are broken, even by accident, a U.S. passport will not prevent arrest or prosecution, and there is nothing the U.S. Embassy can do to help.

“When traveling, it is always best to remember that you are no longer in the United States. Acknowledging cultural changes and norms will immediately give you a leg up in understanding your new surroundings,” said Robert Schwenker, a John Felice Rome Center alumnus.

DON’T FORGET THESE ITEMS

Packing is never easy and depends on several factors, including location, duration of the trip and personal needs. Add a one-bag, 50-pound limit and it becomes a real struggle. Be sure to check airline restrictions and regulations regarding luggage. Bringing additional bags for a small fee might be an option.

Loyola hands out suggested packing lists at the mandatory pre-departure meetings for students to get a better idea of what to bring.

Before packing, check the weather of the region and plan accordingly. Be sure to look into specific dress codes and etiquette; not everyone dresses like Chicagoans. Plan to pack for three seasons because the weather will likely change throughout the year, depending on location. Most importantly, bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes, as there tends to be a lot more walking abroad than in the U.S.

Courtesy of Mary Byrne
Courtesy of Mary Byrne

If taking prescription medications, note the strength of each dosage and the chemical composition. Foreign medicines are sometimes calibrated differently, may not be available or may not be permitted in other countries. Over-the-counter medicines may also be unavailable, and most medications cannot be shipped overseas. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs recommends bringing a personal supply to last the duration of the trip.

Toiletries, cosmetics, linens and towels are also items to consider bringing.

Be sure to contact cellular carriers to discuss international rates for phone calls, text messages and data usage. Check the Wi-Fi availability in other countries for accessibility and usability of a computer to Skype home.

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Courtesy of Layne Hillesland

Don’t be caught unaware of the type of currency used in each country and the currency exchange rate. There are ATMs throughout most study abroad destinations, but remember that some banks charge fees for transactions made through foreign ATMs. Be sure to inform banks and credit card companies of travel to avoid hidden fees and declined transactions.

In addition to items listed above, bring a journal to document experiences while abroad. This will serve as a great keepsake and reference to share stories upon returning.

“The most important thing to bring, without a shred of doubt, is an open mind,” said Schwenker. “It may sound cliché, but it’s surprising how many people seem to forget it.”

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