/ Center for Global Engagement

Off-Campus Study Handbook

Hope College Contact List

You can contact the Fried Center for Global Engagement with any questions or concerns you have while overseas and we will get a message back to you. Write, call, or email: 

Hope College
257 Columbia Ave
Holland, MI 49423, USA

Phone: 616.395.7605
Email: offcampusstudy@hope.edu   

Or you may contact the people/offices listed below: 

Academic concerns:

Your academic advisor 

Registration Information

Liz Steenwyk, Registrar's Office
phone: 616.395.7760

MEDICAL Concerns

Consult your physician and/or the Hope Health Center
Cindy Sabo, RN
phone: 616.395.7585

title ix coordinator

Sara Dorer
phone: .616.395.6816

counseling and psychological services

Bill Russner, Ph.D., LP
phone: 616.395.7945
24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line
phone: 616.395.7998

housing for when you return to Hope

Student Development
phone: 616.395.7800

Sharing stories/Submitting editorials

Anchor Office
phone: 616.395.7877

The Anchor requests that you limit your writing to 600 words (400 is ideal).  Also, sending a photo of yourself along with your article is appreciated–even a passport or ID photo is better than nothing. If you anticipate wanting to write for The Anchor while abroad, please talk to them before you leave for some additional pointers. Some students in the past have been disappointed when their pieces didn't make it into The Anchor; knowing what they expect ahead of time may save some frustration. 

Table of Contents

I. Hope College Off-Campus Study Policies and Information

II. Health, safety, Risk and Responsibility

III. Preparing for Departure

IV. Additional Resources for International Study

Off-Campus Study Pre-Departure Checklist


All Off-Campus Study

  • Attend the Off-Campus Study Orientation! Your attendance is mandatory and you must attend for the entire session, so please plan your day accordingly. Failure to attend may result in your permission to study off-campus being withdrawn.
  • Complete all risk management forms in your online account at travel.hope.edu.
  • Meet with your academic advisor to determine which classes you will take during your semester off-campus. Remember that your academic department must approve all classes counting back to your major/minor. The Registrar’s Office approves all classes that will meet general education requirements.
  • If you are participating in a French, German or Spanish-speaking program, you must contact the Department of World Languages and Cultures and sign up to take a language proficiency computer test.
  • Read the pre-departure material provided by the Center for Global Engagement and the particular information provided by your program. The latter will give specific details and advice on everything listed below and other matters.

You ARE Strongly encouraged to Think About

All-Off Campus Study

  • Insurance for health and accident, baggage and trip cancellation. Check your family coverage to see if you are included while overseas and what process(es) to follow. Some programs may require you to purchase a specific type of insurance, so please check with them as well.
  • Money: cash (some), ATM card and/or credit card. Plan how you will access your money.
  • Find a guidebook geared to your own travel style and itinerary. You can find bargain prices on outdated guidebooks. Prices are already out of date even in the new ones; use them only as approximations.
  • Background Reading
    • About the countries and people you will see
    • About contemporary American issues and politics as students overseas will ask you about such things and you don’t want to appear ignorant

Things to Consider

All Off-Campus Study

  • Health precautions such as prescriptions, spare glasses or contact lenses, etc. Keep in mind that you will have to complete a medical form for your program and will likely have to make an appointment with your health care provider. Review the Health, Safety, Risk and Responsibility of this handbook for other things to consider regarding your well-being.
  • Hotel Reservations: especially for the first night if you arrive prior to your housing being available.

Student responsibilities

  • Read and carefully consider all materials provided by the Center for Global Engagement and the host program that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural and religious conditions in the host country of the program in which you have chosen to participate.
  • Conduct your own research on the country in which you will be studying and living, as well as those you will visit, with particular emphasis on health and safety concerns, social and cultural norms, and customs and political situations.
  • Assume responsibility for all the elements necessary for your personal preparation for the program and participate fully in all orientations.
  • Inform your family and any others who may need to know about your participation in an off-campus study program, provide them with emergency contact information and keep them informed of your whereabouts and activities.
  • Consider your physical and mental health and other personal circumstances when applying for or accepting a place in a program. Make available to the program provider accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data that is necessary in planning for a safe and healthy off-campus experience.
  • In consultation with a reputable travel clinic, obtain all necessary immunizations, prescriptions and health information for the country in which you will live.
  • Obtain and maintain insurance coverage and abide by any conditions imposed by the carrier.
  • Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health of safety risks when making daily choices and decisions. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to the program staff or other appropriate individuals before and/or during the program.
  • Understand that in the case of serious illness, accident, injury, or significant violation of policies or regulations, the college will inform your parent(s).
  • Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and law enforcement services at the site of your off-campus program.
  • Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of conduct and emergency procedures of the program and obey host country laws.
  • Be sensitive to local customs and cultural norms in the host country, especially in your host family’s home or your residence hall.
  • Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others. Encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
  • Avoid all illegal drugs and excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Accept responsibility for your own decisions and actions.

Parent, Guardian and Family Responsibilities

  • Be involved in the decision of your student to enroll in a particular program.
  • Obtain (paper or web copy) and carefully evaluate program materials as well as health and safety information, as provided by the sponsor and as available from other sources.
  • Engage your student in a thorough discussion of safety and behavior issues, insurance needs, and emergency procedures related to living and studying abroad.
  • Be responsive to requests from Hope College and the program sponsor for information regarding your student.
  • Keep in touch with your student. But keep in mind that local conditions may prevent your student from immediately responding. If your student is constantly sending texts, emails or calling you and others, he/she is likely missing many opportunities to engage with the people and local culture where he/she is living and studying.
  • Remember the time difference when phoning your student.
  • Discuss with your student any travel plans and activities that may be independent of the off-campus study program.
  • Questions about the program? Be sure to talk with your student about the program details such as forms, housing, etc. Programs generally communicate directly with the students.
  • Always encourage your student to speak with the program director should a problem arise. The on-site directors and staff are often the best resources for a student to access while on the program; they are "on the ground folks" who are equipped to work with the students in that particular cultural context.
  • Please understand that if you call us about your student, we will contact the program and the student; however, FERPA may prohibit us from responding directly to you.


Hope College Transcripts

The credits and grades you earn while on an official Hope College off-campus study program will be recorded on your official academic record at Hope. Meaning, the grades you receive overseas will be figured into your GPA. Here is an example of how a program transcript translates onto a Hope transcript. Note: Non-Hope students participating on the program with you will be from schools that have different policies regarding credit and grade transfer; do not let them convince you the Hope process is different than detailed here.

Note: It may take several months for the program provider to send us your official transcript. You will be notified by the Registrar’s Office once your grades are received. At that time, you will be asked to submit the “Off-campus Study Course Approval Form” if you have not already done so. On this form you will indicate how you wish to have your classes from your off-campus study program applied to your student degree.

CIEE Rennes Transcript

Sample transcript from CIEE Rennes

Hope College Transcript

Sample transcript from Hope College

Grades and Credit Transfer Forms

The credits and grades you earn on an official Hope College off-campus study program are Hope College credits and grades and they appear on your transcript and count in your GPA.

You will need to determine how you want that credit applied:

  • General education credit
  • Major/minor credit
  • Elective credit

In order to ensure your off-campus credits are applied appropriately, you need to complete and submit the Off-Campus Study Program Course Approval Request form as referenced in the previous section. You may do this before departing for the program if you know what courses you will be enrolled in, or upon your return from off-campus study.

Be sure to talk with your academic advisor about how the courses you take overseas meet the requirements for your major, minor, or general education. The Registrar will approve all courses that meet the general education requirements; department chairs will approve all courses meeting requirements in your major or minor.

If you have questions on how to complete this form, please contact Liz Steenwyk (steenwyk@hope.edu) in the Registrar’s Office.

Financial Aid and Billing Procedures

As you will soon discover there are a number of off-campus study issues about which you will no doubt have questions. Those surrounding program deposits, billing procedures and financial aid packages will surely surface sooner or later. The following is designed to walk you through some of the details in this area. Please share this information with your parent(s)/guardian.

Program Deposit

Now that you have been admitted to your program, you will receive a letter of confirmation from your program along with an acceptance package of program material. To confirm your place on the program you will be requested to send a non-refundable deposit directly to the program. This is your responsibility. You will have a period of two to three weeks in which to do this. If you have applied to the program provider for additional scholarship aid and your participation in the program is only possible with such an award, then we suggest you contact the program provider and work out an arrangement with them to delay paying your deposit.


You can expect to receive your bill for off-campus study from Hope College at the same time as you would normally receive a bill if you were continuing to study on campus.

Tuition: Hope College will charge its own tuition to students rather than an off-campus program’s fee (unless the tuition for the student’s program is greater than Hope’s tuition, in which case Hope College will charge the higher tuition).

Other: Program sponsors will bill the student directly for all other costs associated with your participation in their program(s), e.g. room, meals, insurance, etc.


Hope College will apply one semester of any eligible financial aid you may have (except for the work/study component since you clearly cannot work for Hope College overseas) towards your Hope tuition invoice, and bill you for the remainder. You will then need to pay this amount to Hope College by the indicated payment date. If your overseas study program is for the entire year, this same process will be repeated for the second semester.

If you receive additional financial support from your program in the form of a scholarship, Hope College will be notified of this amount. It may result in an adjustment in your financial aid package from Hope College since you now have additional support from another source. However, if this happens, be sure to contact us and we will send an accounting of your expected expenses on your program to the Office of Financial Aid. Since the total cost of your program will generally exceed the cost of your attending Hope, the Office of Financial Aid will usually reinstate the amount by which they decreased your Hope aid. This is a decision that they make based on formulas. This may sound confusing, but it is the procedure the Office of Financial Aid must follow; we will work to get you through it as unscathed as possible.

If you or your parent(s)/guardian have any questions about money, please call:


This form is for your use in estimating the costs for your term(s) abroad and the financial resources available to fund them. Consider things like the length of your stay (one month, one semester, or the full year), the location, and the cultural and geographic opportunities you would like to take advantage of while you are off campus. Financial aid typically travels with you during your time abroad, but check with the Financial Aid Office on campus to be sure of that.

Download budget worksheet (PDF) 

Class Registration for Following Semester

The Registrar’s Office will contact you prior to the registration period. You should follow the normal registration process, just as you would if you were on campus.  This includes checking the class schedule, checking your account for registration holds, meeting with your academic advisor to receive your registration PIN and registering online at your assigned time. 

If you require accommodations for schedule conflicts/internet access/time differences during your assigned registration time, please contact the Registrar's Office as they will be able to assist you and will register you at your assigned time.


Do I need my own computer?

Maybe not. If you're studying at another college or university, you may be able to use their computer facilities. Your internship may afford the ability to use a computer. Public computers can also be found at local libraries and internet cafés. 

However, many find it useful to own a computer at some point. There are recommendations for the type of computer to purchase available on the CIT website.  

Can I still access my email? 

Students using 1HOPE will easily be able to access their Hope College email while studying off-campus. 1HOPE is accessible from any computer connected to the Internet by opening a web browser and navigating to https://1.hope.edu.

Students using other email programs on their personal computers (e.g., Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) may need to change some of their program settings to work with a different, local ISP. Your ISP will be able to help with this modification.

Will I be able to access inHope? 

inHope (https://in.hope.edu) is available while you're away from the Hope College campus, although you'll need to use your Hope College email username and password to gain access. When prompted, enter the following: 

Username: [1HOPE username]

Password: [1HOPE password]

A great deal of information that is linked on inHope is also linked from the Hope College News (https://hope.edu/news) without a password. For example, you can find course listings on Registrar's Office website and sports information on the Hope Athletics website.

What about Wi-Fi, cable and phone services? 

Students studying off-campus are responsible for locating their own Wi-Fi, cable and phone services in their areas. 

If you have any other questions or concerns, you may contact the CIT help desk (cit@hope.edu, 616.395.7670) for further assistance. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Even though you may be far from Hope College, the library wants to support your academic ventures. Here are several resources we hope you find useful. 

Accessing Library Databases from Off-cAMPUS

To access library databases from anywhere in the world, you can utilize the database A–Z guide. You can further narrow your search by subject, database type and vendors/providers. You will be asked to provide your 1HOPE account username and password at the beginning of each session. 


You can access over 100,000 ebooks while you are away from campus. Like our printed books, these can be found by searching books + media in the library catalog search bar

Ask a Librarian

If you need help finding resources, navigating through databases, accessing fulltext articles or more, you can email, call, text or chat with a librarian. 

Library research help 



Health-related problems can affect the quality of your experience abroad. The risk of encountering serious problems is usually not greater abroad than in the U.S., but it is important to bear in mind that the changes in diet, water and climate may produce sore throats, gastrointestinal disorders and colds. You should take basic precautions to ensure your good health while abroad.

General Information

Experts recommend the following steps before your departure:

  1. See your physician for a physical and the necessary immunizations (if any). This must be done at least one month in advance of departure to allow time for immunizations.
  2. Make copies of all important records (immunizations, prescriptions, etc.) and take them with you. Make sure the prescriptions are written in generic as well as brand names.
  3. Take a medical kit along with you (band-aids, pain reliever, gauze, sterile cleaners, a small tube of antibiotic cream, Pepto-Bismol, etc.)
  4. See your dentist and complete all needed work before departure.

If you need medical help abroad, check with the on-site program director(s) for reliable doctors. If you are traveling and need a doctor, contact an American embassy or consulate. Before departure, you can contact IAMAT (The International Association of Medical Assistants to Travelers) at www.iamat.org or 716.754.4883 for a list of English-speaking doctors abroad.

Additional Health Tips

  • If you are suffering from a health condition that is not easily detected or quickly recognizable, you should secure a medic alert emblem to wear. Contact the Medic Alert Foundation at www.medicalert.org or 888.633.4298.
  • If you have special medical needs, conditions or allergies, be sure to inform your program director.
  • A good guide on handling health problems while traveling is Travelers' Health: How to Stay Healthy Abroad by Dr Richard M. Dawood.
  • Be sure to read the additional brochures provided at the mandatory orientation.


As already noted, you should check with the Hope Health Center or your physician to see what shots or precautions are recommended in your case. Check early (no later than one month in advance of departure) to allow time for vaccinations. In addition, check out the Centers for Disease Control’s website specifically for travelers: www.cdc.gov/travel.

You may also call the International Traveler's Hotline, developed by the Centers for Disease Control at 877.394.8747 for more detailed information on vaccinations, food and water and diseases of specific areas of the world, etc. Every other year, the CDC publishes the Yellow Book, "Health Information for International Travelers," an update on vaccinations and health risks for travelers. You can access the Yellow Book from the cdc.gov/travel.

Jet Lag

Jet lag can produce conditions such as exhaustion, irritability and difficulty in making decisions. Here are some suggestions for fighting jet lag:

  • When traveling eastbound, sleep on the plane until your destination's breakfast time. Take a sleeping pill if necessary.
  • When you wake up, eat a high-protein breakfast and try to stay awake and active during the daylight hours. If you take naps every time you feel tired, it will take longer to overcome jet lag, so try to stay awake until at least 9 or 10 p.m.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages until your body has had time to adjust to the new schedule.
  • Melatonin is useful in falling asleep for the first three nights when traveling east.

A highly recommended anti-jet lag diet has been developed by the Argonne National Laboratory to help travelers adjust their bodies’ internal condition to new time zones. Go to the officially licensed website for more information:https://maphappy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/The-Argonne-Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet-Guide.pdf.

Travel Health Websites

(Adapted from The Baltimore Sun)

The Web is a useful tool for those looking for travel medicine information. Here are a few of the many sites available: 

Medical Emergencies

Hopefully you will not have medical problems while abroad, but it is a good idea to be aware of insurance coverage and emergency travel assistance.

Bank Cards 

Issuers of bank cards see travel assistance and insurance as a natural complement to their traditional business. For example, American Express offers all green-card holders a worldwide 24-hour hotline to refer them to doctors and lawyers, as well as provide information on visa and inoculation requirements, for no charge. The program, called Global Assist, will also transmit urgent messages and advance funds up to $5,000 for hospital admissions and bail and charge them to the American Express Card. Call (800) 333-AMEX for more information. (BankAmerica and Citicorp offer programs similar to Global Assist.) Platinum cardholders also get full coverage by Travel Assistance International (TAI) (see explanation below), including free evacuation to the U.S., if necessary. Some MasterCard banks now offer Master Assist, a travel-assistance program provided by Access America. Visa also offers travel and emergency assistance services with select cards.

The policies cost from $15 to $75 a week and many companies cover any travel 100 miles or more from home. Most travelers enroll on a per-trip basis, although programs also offer annual memberships. Companies tend to offer the same basic services. Most have 24-hour hotlines to help members locate an English-speaking physician. If the member isn't satisfied, the company will move the patient to a better hospital or fly him/her home. Most packages offer only a limited amount of medical insurance, since a victim must pay for care in cash, often in advance, and then ask her/his insurer for reimbursement. Blue Cross and most other insurance plans cover emergency care abroad, but few foreign hospitals recognize American health insurance. Medicare does not cover treatment abroad.

Travel Assistance Companies

  • International SOS
    215.942.8000 or 713.521.7611
    The oldest U.S. assistance company, with over twenty years of experience, SOS offers its service any place at least 100 miles from home. SOS used to deal only with referrals and not offer insurance; however, it does now offer insurance through Signa. SOS refers members not only to medical personnel, but also to lawyers and advances up to $1,000 to pay legal fees or fines. It provides $250 in local currency for personal medical emergencies and advances $1,000 to pay hospital admittance bills. Signa may refuse a person coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions, but SOS will not. Check with SOS for the most current rates to cover students studying abroad.

  • Travel Assistance International
    TAI has the best price on insurance and assistance outside the U.S., but there's no coverage for domestic trips. TAI refers clients to medical centers and its insurance pays up to $5,000 in medical costs and unlimited transportation expenses. TAI also helps track down lost or stolen documents and luggage. Refer to their website for an online quote.

  • Various off-campus study programs will require and/or provide their own medical insurance. For instance, CIEE participants are given coverage through the iNext card. iNext offers a complete network of insurance coverage — accident, sickness, hospital, transport, repatriation, baggage and document — fulfilled through a partnership with AIG Travel Guard, the world’s leading travel insurer. For further information, please visit: www.inext.com (800) 407-8839

NOTE: Most students are covered by their parents'/guardians' insurance policies for a semester or year abroad. Be sure to check with your insurance company for your eligibility and for the type of insurance forms you might need as well as check with your program provider about the type of insurance they require and offer.

See Emergencies Abroad for more information. 

General Advice: Common sense goes a long way in ensuring that your stay abroad is a safe and pleasant one.

  1. Obey the laws and respect the customs of the host country.
  2. Remember that clothing is a reflection of who you are and may send signals you do not intend to convey. You may want to choose more modest clothing when in a new location.
  3. Bear in mind that in other parts of the world, just as in the United States, major cities have unsafe districts. When arriving in a city with which you are unfamiliar, ask the hotel desk or the information bureau in the train station or at the airport what areas to avoid.
  4. Don't forget that you are a foreigner in the host country and, as such, should be wary of the opportunities otherwise available to a national. For instance, it is unwise for you to get involved in political demonstrations. Also, stay clear of black market situations such as illegal currency transactions, people offering to purchase your personal items or trying to sell you bargain airline tickets. Regarding airline tickets, be aware that the airlines will prosecute not only the sellers but also the buyers. Be wary of strangers selling merchandise at discount prices; they may be selling stolen goods.
  5. Hitchhiking and the use of motorized vehicles are not recommended. Be sure to talk to your program director and ask what their recommendation is for local travel. Don't take unnecessary risks. Use existing forms of public transportation.

For Female Students

Please read the following observations from Kenyon College's Off-Campus Study Handbook:

“At the risk of sounding alarmist and at the risk of perpetuating unfair stereotypes, we urge [women] to be more careful about where you go, when you go and with whom you go… This is not to say that you shouldn't go out with men and establish relationships of various kinds with them. It is to warn you about casual encounters, possible misreading of non-verbal cues, potential real misunderstandings owing to language difficulties and inaccurate notions about American women in the minds of many… [non-American] men. One common assumption is that American women are ‘easy.’ Some men will harass American women though the same man wouldn't dream of treating ‘their own’ women in similar ways. (Italy is particularly problematic in this regard.) For the most part, such harassment is relatively harmless although extremely annoying. In many countries if you are out alone — even during the day visiting a museum, for example — your solitude may be construed as an invitation for company. You will have to be very firm if you do not wish such company. ‘Please leave me alone or I'll report you to the police’ is a handy phrase to know… You should also be wary of going to unfamiliar places, like beaches or parks, with men whom you don't know well. Invitations will not be lacking and rape, especially date rape, is as much a reality abroad as in the U.S.”

Alcohol Use and Misuse

(adapted from MSU Office of Off-campus study)

Many of the injuries sustained by off-campus study students are related to drunkenness and an associated lapse in judgement.

Although alcohol misuse may not carry the same legal penalties as the use of illegal drugs, it can create dire circumstances for you, your participation in the program, your safety on site, and the future of the program. Remember that you are serving as an ambassador of Hope College, Michigan, and the United States.

Although there may be no minimum or a lower drinking age in your host country, the customs regarding alcohol use may be very different from those in the U.S. You may be tempted to slip into — or to maintain — patterns of alcohol misuse while abroad. Such use may occur for a variety of reasons: a mistaken impression of how alcohol is used in your new surroundings; cheaper costs in some countries; a lower minimum drinking age; more lenient laws against drunkenness; or a desire to experiment or fit in. Alcohol abuse and misuse are not tolerated globally and will not be tolerated on off-campus study programs. Violation of local laws and/or program regulations or policies may result in (a) immediate dismissal from the program; (b) academic withdrawal from the program for the semester in progress; and (c) disciplinary action upon return to campus.

Your program orientation will provide information on program requirements and host country laws regarding alcohol consumption and the consequences of misuse. Most countries, with the exception of those with religious prohibitions, tolerate social drinking. Intoxication, public drunkenness and inebriate behavior, however, are seldom allowed under any circumstances. If you attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings in the United States, check the AA website for information about meetings abroad.

Note that combining some medications with alcohol can be dangerous to your health. Review the PDF on mixing alcohol and medications by the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Alcohol misuse is defined as any use that is harmful or potentially harmful to oneself or to others.

Alcohol abuse is planned, systematic misuse of alcohol.

What is "alcohol misuse?" Alcohol misuse is present when:

  • A student misses any scheduled event because of the effects of alcohol consumption
  • A student becomes ill due to the effects of alcohol consumption
  • A student is disrespectful of others sharing the same or neighboring housing, due to the effects of alcohol consumption
  • A student engages in inappropriate behavior toward other individuals that is the result of alcohol consumption
  • A student becomes so intoxicated that he/she cannot walk unassisted
  • A student engages in destructive behavior toward property that is the result of alcohol consumption
  • A student does not abide by the laws of the country in which he or she is staying
  • A student engages in behavior that causes embarrassment to the other members of the group, the program leader(s), or the in-country host(s) as a result of alcohol consumption
  • A student engages in behavior that causes his/her companions concern for the safety of the individual or the group
  • Students in a group encourage or ignore a fellow student who is misusing or abusing alcohol
  • Students transport significant quantities of alcohol with the intent of sharing the alcohol with members of the group

Students are encouraged to use good judgment if consuming alcohol at private homes or other accommodations during non-program hours. Student groups are encouraged to discuss with the program leaders(s) or resident director issues related to alcohol abuse by other members of their group. Peers should look out for each other and keep each other safe.

If a student becomes incapacitated due to alcohol overuse, or if he/she is in need of medical attention, others are strongly encouraged to contact a local emergency medical service, program leader, or resident director immediately in order to protect the health and well-being of the affected student. Peers are encouraged to make the responsible choice to notify program or emergency personnel quickly. The person (or persons) making the call will not be subject to disciplinary action.

If you plan to drink — do it moderately. Do not endanger yourself, others, property, or the future viability of the program. Know when to say "no," stay with your friends, and look out for each other!


According to U.S. State Department reports, more than 1,000 U.S. citizens are arrested abroad each year on charges related to the use or possession of drugs. It reminds Americans that:

“The global war on drugs has stimulated many countries to stiffen their penalties for drug violation. Penalties may include lengthy prison sentences without parole. Sentences for possession or trafficking can range from 2 to 25 years. In some countries, such as Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia and Thailand, conviction may lead to a life sentence or even the death penalty.

Many Americans assume that they are immune from prosecution under foreign laws. In fact, once an American leaves the United States, constitutional rights no longer apply… 

DO NOT, under any circumstances, use or possess illegal substances (marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, etc.). DO NOT associate with people who are involved in drug-related activities. The State Department warns travelers "to be particularly wary of anyone who asks them to carry a package or drive a car across a border."

A note about prescribed medication: Those who have to take medication containing a narcotic are advised to keep the medication in its original container and to carry a certificate from their doctor explaining their need to take the medication. Discuss this with your healthcare provider in advance as a medication license can be pricey and it may not be possible for the medication to be sent to you overseas.

III. Preparing for Departure

Passport Information

It is best to apply several months in advance for your passport. Allow additional time if you need a visa. Make at least one copy of the first two pages of your passport. If you should lose it, a copy will facilitate faster replacement.

Please visit travel.state.gov to access the passport application and instructions for completing the form.


  • For first time adult applicants, $145 for a passport book ($110 application fee, $35 acceptance fee) or $175 for passport book and card ($140 application fee, $35 acceptance fee)
  • For passport renewal applicants there are no acceptance fees


You will need two recent “passport” photos. Size requirements are very stringent. Snapshots are not acceptable. Photographs must be in color.  Current prices in Holland are as follows:

  • $14.99 for 2 at the Walgreens (494 Butternut Dr, Holland, MI 49424)

When applying for your passport, bring:

  • Completed application
  • 2-passport photos
  • Birth certificate. To be acceptable, the certificate must carry the raised, impressed, embossed or multicolored seal of the office where your birth is registered.
  • Proof of identity. A driver’s license is acceptable, if it contains your signature AND photograph.

In Holland, applications are processed at the Post Office, 190 E 8th St. (616.396.5201)
or the County Clerk’s Office, 12251 James Street.

Visa Information

  1. Visas are stamped notarizations placed in your passport by a foreign embassy or consulate, which authorizes your entry into that country for a stated purpose and time. Information about specific visas can be obtained by contacting the consulates or embassies of the countries you plan to visit. (Embassies are always in the capital and consulates are found in major cities like Detroit and Chicago.) Normally your program will provide you with the needed details.
  2. Visas must typically be obtained from a consulate or embassy before you arrive in the country requiring them. This process should be started well in advance of your departure date since some visas can take up to six weeks to process. Usually it is quickest to apply in person, although this normally requires dropping your passport off on one day and collecting it the next day. Some consulates require FBI background checks, so be sure to follow all directions by the program provider and respond in a timely manner. Be prepared to furnish extra passport photos of yourself with visa applications. Fees are sometimes required, as is return postage (for transactions done by mail). Always use Certified Mail for your passport.
  3. Traveling to many countries for which you need visas? It is sometimes possible to apply only for the first visa before starting your trip. The rest you may be able to pick up in the capital of the first country, assuming you will be there for a number of days.

Don't wait!  Take care of it and don't risk not getting it back on time!

Don't rely on second-hand information — follow all visa instructions that are given by your program.

The following is an email excerpt we recently received from one of our program providers…

Just an FYI. Our Santiago program just started on Sunday and one of your students has not joined the program yet. We received a call from her father on Friday explaining that she did not procure a student visa and he asked what they should do. Although she had all the materials she needed (police clearance, AIDS test, our letters) she ran out of time to apply for one and since she knew a friend who studied on another program who just had a tourist visa she thought she could enter as a tourist too. We let her know she definitely needed a student visa (as many of our pre-departure communications stated) and asked her to contact the consulate today about this. We confirmed that she did apply for one this morning. The consulate told her it could take up to four weeks…


Before Departure

Register any items of foreign origin which you intend to take with you (especially expensive items such as cameras, laptops, etc) with a U.S. Customs office. Keep the registration with you while abroad; be ready to present it to customs officials upon re-entry to avoid paying a customs tax.

Arrival at a Foreign Airport

Upon arrival at your foreign destination, you have to show your passport and any required visas and/or proof of immunizations. This usually occurs just after you have left the plane and entered the airport but before you have your luggage. Remember that admission to the country is entirely at the discretion of the immigration officer. Be polite and answer any questions about the purpose of your visit and the length of your stay. All of this can be unnerving at times, but it is nevertheless generally routine and always required.

After your passport has been stamped and you have collected your luggage, you must pass through a customs inspection. You will probably receive a customs declaration form to be filled out on your plane (or train). This will be examined by customs officials when they look at your luggage. Your bags may be very carefully examined and you may be detained or asked to pay duties if there are any irregularities or violations of customs regulations. You may also be waved through with no special attention whatsoever.

When Returning to the U.S.

When you come back, you will need to declare everything you brought back that you did not take with you when you left the United States. If you are traveling by air (or sea), you may be asked to fill out a CBP declaration form. This form is almost always provided by the airline (or cruise ship). You will probably find it easier to fill out your declaration form and clear customs if you do the following:

  • Keep your sales slips.
  • Try to pack the things you’ll need to declare separately.
  • Read the signs in the arrival area. They have information about how to clear customs.

Be aware that under U.S. law, CBP officers are authorized to examine luggage, cargo and travelers. Under the search authority granted by the U.S. Congress, every person who crosses a U.S. border may be searched and questioned about his/her travel. To stop the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband into the country, your cooperation is appreciated. If you are one of the very few travelers selected for a search, you will be treated in a courteous, professional and dignified manner.

For more information about returning to the U.S., go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website's travel section.

International Student I.D. Card

Numerous changes, many precipitated by the Pandemic, have come into play over
the last two years regarding the International Student identity Card (ISIC).

The plastic ID Cards are no longer available in the United States. Students in the
USA that wish to reap the benefits of the ISIC Card should visit the website and
complete the application, uploading the required items. There is a $20 fee. Once
everything is processed a digital card will be delivered by email with a link to
download the ISIC app. This process will take a minimum of 48 hours!

Visit the ISIC site and learn about the many benefits and discounts available to
card holders!


To make a purchase select GET YOUR CARD in the banner at the top of the page,
be prepared with:

  • Your digital photo in jpg or jpeg format with a white background.
  • A scanned copy of your proof of full-time student status clearly showing the
    date of issue in jpeg, jpg or pdf format (Email the Hope Registrar for
    documentation: registrar@hope.edu).
  • A scanned copy of your proof of identity in jpg, jpeg or pdf format (for
    example your passport, national identity card or driver’s license).
  • Your method of payment (credit or debit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay).


  • Download the ISIC app onto your phone or mobile device and follow the instructions.

Travel Finance

How Much to Take

It's more and more difficult to travel cheaply. The 1960s promise of Europe on $5 a day will never be seen again. You will be forced to spend time in order to save money. A higher budget allows more freedom and choice in accommodations, restaurants and entertainment. Once you have determined your travel budget, plan to live within it and take some additional money for an emergency fund or a credit card. You may not spend this money, but it's good to have it should you need it. Cutting costs also depends on where you go. Travel in Asia, Africa and Latin America can sometimes be more economical than Western Europe, with the exception of the more expensive countries like Japan, Korea, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.

Forms of Money


If you feel you must carry some U.S. cash, take only a small amount of it; once lost or stolen, it cannot be replaced. It is a good idea to obtain a small amount of foreign currency ($40–60) before departure to use for immediate situations such as buses, phone calls, etc. once you arrive overseas. Local banks carry some foreign currencies or will order it for you. It usually takes three to five days. You can also convert money at the airport before departure or after arrival although airports usually charge higher exchange fees and are therefore more expensive.

Keep in mind that it is always a good habit to keep some of your country's currency on you at all times in case your debit or credit card is declined or not accepted.

Credit Cards

Some U.S. credit cards can be used worldwide. Some permit you to cash personal checks or obtain cash advances at their overseas offices. Check with the credit card company before you go and ask if they are able to waive international transaction fees since you'll be living abroad. Guard your credit cards as securely as your cash.  


For easy access to cash, ATMs are a good choice. They provide the country’s currency for a small charge (possibly from both the local bank and your home bank). Check with your bank about the availability of ATMs in the country to which you will be going, what the cost is for using the ATM, and whether or not a four or five digit pin is needed. Also, remember not to carry too much cash with you and to always beware of your surroundings while withdrawing cash at any ATM.

How to Exchange Money

The key to successful money exchange is advance planning. Try to anticipate how much money you will need for a particular country. It is costly to convert to a new currency because each time you convert, you pay a service charge. Also remember that it is not possible to exchange coins once you move into another country. You can exchange money at banks, American Express offices (if you have American Express traveler’s checks), airports, railroad stations, large hotels and some tourist information centers and travel agencies. Banks, airports and train stations may offer the best rates. Avoid changing money at tourist shops; you'll often get a poor exchange rate. Remember to bring your passport as identification whenever you exchange money.

Rates of Exchange

Fluctuation is the key word in currency exchange rates today, so rely on information that is current. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune and other such newspapers carry a daily list of exchange rates. Also check www.xe.com for instant conversion for any currency — their app may be helpful to download. Use these resources for approximating your initial budget. Once abroad, rates are generally posted in bank windows and at exchange counters in airports (note the ‘buying' rate). You may choose to carry a money converter table (available in some guidebooks) to use in computing the dollar cost of a major purchase or for handling currency when the rate of exchange is too difficult to calculate mentally.

Sending Money Overseas

It takes time to send cash overseas. U.S. banks will mail drafts in U.S. or foreign currency for you, cashable at specific banks in specific locations for a service charge. Major traveler's check companies will also transfer sums, but they take several days and have a service charge. Having money cabled through Western Union can be even more expensive. If you find yourself stranded abroad with no money, contact an American embassy or consulate for suggestions, but not dollars. The embassy personnel are officially prohibited from furnishing cash or loaning money. However, they can suggest possible sources for financial assistance and they call someone back home to send money, deducting the cost of the call when your cash arrives.

To Do

Be sure to contact your bank and credit card companies to inform them of your upcoming semester/year overseas. Some credit card companies and banks have been known to put a hold on accounts when there is financial activity from overseas.

Remember: It is highly recommended to use an under-the-garment pouch or money belt for wallet and passport.

NOTE: Check with banks for “fee-free” ATMS abroad. (i.e. Bank of America has ties with Banque Parabas, France) and students can withdraw cash with no fees.


On some programs, students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the program site, while on others, the program may offer group transportation. Most programs offer to arrange transportation for the group, but as an optional service. Check with your program early to find out the particulars of your situation.

If you are arranging your own transportation, shop carefully. Check the major airlines and with several travel agencies. Give them the lowest fare you have and ask if they can do better. Check the restrictions and read the fine print.

Some travel agents will try to sell you cancellation insurance which entitles you to a refund if you cancel your flight because of sickness or calamity. The cost is typically $5 for each $100. Before you commit yourself, check your ticket's cancellation conditions. Bear in mind that some tickets, even the "nonrefundable" ones, may be refunded if the cancellation occurs because of illness or a death in the family. Check your coverage carefully; some policies do not cover you if you cancel in the last 24 or 72 hours before departure.


How to Find the Cheapest and Best Airfare

There is no single best or cheapest airfare to Europe, Africa, Australia, or anywhere else in the world. What might be the best fare for you depends upon many factors. There are ten things you should consider in your search for the least expensive airfare:

  1. Cities involved in air travel. Flights from some cities are more expensive than from others. If you will have to transfer at a major gateway airport, costs may be higher. Also, if the city of your final destination is different than the gateway city, you should consider the cost of getting from the gateway city to your final destination. It can cost more if your return trip will be initiated in a city different from the one at which you arrived.
  2. Season of the year. Prices go up during the heavy traffic season, such as summer, just before major holidays, etc. Seasons are designated as "peak," "shoulder," or "low."  Keep in mind that these may be different than U.S. holidays or peak seasons in the U.S.
  3. Day of the week for travel. It may be cheaper to travel on a weekday than on a weekend.
  4. Round trip vs. one way. Depending on how the airline sets its fares, round trips may be cheaper. Because of the dollar's decline and because fares overseas are not regulated in the same way as those in the U.S., it is especially unwise to presume that one-way fares will be cheaper than round-trip.
  5. Length of stay at your destination. Your fare may depend on how long you stay at your destination.
  6. Advance purchase requirements. There are often discounts for tickets bought considerably in advance of the flight date. In some instances, it may also be possible to buy a last minute ticket from a discount shop (see Discounted Tickets).
  7. Daily price fluctuations. Almost every day, some airline changes its prices. There are also specials which are offered on a sporadic basis. Consolidations of flights and other changes make fares vary daily.
  8. Comfort. Airlines with consistently lower prices may have fewer aisle or window seats, narrower individual seats, less space between seats, minimal service by cabin attendants and more people on the plane.
  9. Restrictions. In general, the less expensive the flight, the more restrictions there are. These may include availability of refunds if your plans change, days of the week you may (or must) fly at a given fare, number of seats in a plane which are available at a given fare, length of stay at your destination necessary for a given fare, ability to change plans after ticket purchase, whether your trip must be one way or round trip, amount of luggage without extra charge, possibility of making advance seating requests, etc.
  10. Convenience. Different airlines and different fares both affect the convenience of the flight for any given traveler. Factors to be considered are initial cities of departure, gateway cities used, possibility of cancellations and consolidations to put all passengers on one flight, handling of lost luggage, change of airports, courtesies such as meals and hotels when held over, availability of non-stop flights as contrasted to direct flights or transfer, locations of airports (distance from city, cost and availability of buses and taxis, etc.) Also, security from potential terrorists is better on some airlines than on others.

Low-Fare Options


APEX fares are the most commonly used type of ticket. They are for round-trips and generally have a limited period in which travel must be completed. For the cheapest flight, use the APEX fare as a ceiling and see how much lower you can get using the following alternatives, keeping in mind the ten factors mentioned previously.

The most common cheap flight categories

The following airlines are considered to be low-fare airlines: Icelandair, Virgin Atlantic, RyanAir, JetBlue, EasyJet.

Disadvantages: Tickets may not be transferable to other airlines. Seats are less roomy, service is limited and there may be extra charges for drinks, meals, etc. Some travel agents may not want to sell tickets on these airlines.

Charter Flights

Travel wholesalers purchase seats from an airline and then sells these seats to customers at lower than retail prices. Seats on charters are the responsibility of the travel company, not the airlines.

Disadvantages: Penalties, often severe, are assessed for a cancellation or date change requested by the passenger. There is a possibility of late departures, change of cities of arrival and departure, consolidation with other charters on different days, etc. Financial risk exists if the charter company goes bankrupt or otherwise does not honor its commitments. Charters may be packaged with land arrangements that you do not want or need. Not all travel agents sell all charters, so the best one for you may not be available through your local travel agent.

Status Fares

These fares are based on the traveler's status or who the traveler is. Currently the following people can claim special travel status with some airlines: young children, senior citizens, military personnel, students and youth under 26.

The following methods of obtaining reduced fares also exist, but are less common:

Economy Class, Promotional or Reduced Fares on Major Airlines

These may take the form of standby, weekend excursions, seasonal specials, one time promotions, around-the-world fares or "fare-war" prices.

Disadvantages: These fares are not easy to locate. They are often advertised in large city Sunday newspaper travel supplements. Once these fares have been purchased, there is very little flexibility in changes, refunds, etc.

Discounted Tickets

These are excess capacity tickets, sold at a discount shortly before the flight date to fill a plane that would otherwise not be full. These tickets are available through travel clubs and "bucket shops," often at the last minute.

Disadvantages: Travel clubs require a membership fee of $25-$50 per year. Advance reservations may not be possible. Not all destinations are always available. You may have to fly to a second choice city. When a ticket is purchased, the airline, stopovers, seating arrangements, etc. may be unknown. Travel agents do not handle these "distressed merchandise" tickets. The buyer may telephone the club and get information via a (lengthy) recorded message, through a computer network affiliation or a (sometimes too late) newsletter.

Because there are so many considerations and options to be explored in selecting the cheapest or best flight, the task is not at all easy. Each traveler should consult a licensed travel agent. For a further discussion of the options above and for addresses of travel clubs, discount businesses, etc. consult the following two books: Money Saving Secrets of Smart Airline Travelers by Richard Bodner or Consumer's Reports Fly/Ride Europe.

Low-Cost Accommodations

The accommodations you plan to use overseas should fit more than your budget. They should also match your mode of transportation, your goals in meeting people and your time limitations. Booking all your hotels prior to your trip is one possibility, but it leaves you quite inflexible. Finding accommodations as you travel is the method most favored since it allows you to be more spontaneous in letting things happen. A disadvantage is that you spend time seeking low-cost or suitable lodgings--time that you might otherwise spend sightseeing. However, it adds to your experience by increasing your travel expertise in efficiently fending for yourself.

Keep in mind that you don't have to be locked into one particular travel style. You may very well want to use the cheapest form of accommodations on a regular basis (be it youth hostels, student dorms, inexpensive hotels, camping or whatever) and splurge on a country inn or a renovated castle once or twice. A special overnight can be a pleasant change from the frequently austere accommodations provided by the cheaper options.

Youth Hostels

There are more than five thousand youth hostels in sixty-two countries around the globe. These hostels provide inexpensive lodging for the budget traveler. Up until a decade ago hostels offered a unique form of accommodation where rooms were dormitory style with bunk beds and shared bathroom facilities. However, hostels have evolved for the better as they have grown in popularity. Today, many hostels are not unlike budget hotels where the only significant difference is the price. For example, many hostels offer private rooms with en suite facilities, smaller dorms for groups of between two and eight or larger dorms where you could share with up to twenty others. Hostels may also offer bars and restaurants, 24-hour opening, self-catering kitchens, Internet cafes and many more added facilities. Despite this, many hostels have remained old school and you do need to maintain an open mind when choosing this form of accommodation. Don’t expect luxury because in all but a few cases, you won’t get it.

Youth hostels provide blankets and pillows, but sometimes you must rent (for approximately $1–2 extra per night) or bring your own regulation sleep sheet. The sleep sheet is a white cotton or nylon sheet sewn along the edges to form a bag and sewn at the top to make a pocket for a pillow. These can be purchased for around fifteen dollars when applying for a Youth Hostel Pass. Most hostels do not allow the use of sleeping bags as a substitute for the white sleep sheet.

The age mix is generally 13 to 30 years old. With few exceptions, members of any age are welcome. Student status is not at all a prerequisite to buying a Youth Hostel Pass. It is common for an entire European family to spend its winter ski holiday or summer hiking vacation at hostels. (Some hostels, though, do impose a three or five night maximum stay on their guests.) Hostels are often chosen by school or youth organizations as field trip accommodations for their junior high age students. The norm, though, is 20 to 30 year old independent travelers from Europe, America and Australia.

Check-in time is generally between 4 and 7pm. You can call ahead to make a reservation although reservations are probably not needed except during the busiest tourist months (July, August, late December and early January) or during national holidays. Some hostels close during off-seasons, so be sure to verify the hostel’s dates of operation. Be aware that some hostels impose a curfew of 10 or 11pm, but many hostels extend the curfew much later, rent outside entrance keys or have no curfew at all.

Breakfast is often included in the price of an overnight stay, but dinners cost extra. (Remember that breakfast in all of Europe except Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia will be a continental breakfast consisting of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and bread, butter and jam.) Cooking facilities are usually available, but it is a good idea to bring a mess kit, perhaps with a small bottle of dish soap, towel, some eating utensils, as well as a lock to secure your belongings in a locker. Some hostels require that you do a small chore (e.g. wiping the kitchen counters, sweeping the dormitory floor, etc.) before you leave each morning. Most hostels are closed for cleaning between 10am and 4pm, but you may leave your belongings there during the day. Often there are lounges and game rooms that stay open throughout the day, even when the dormitories are locked.

Some youth hostels require a pass showing that you have joined some country's youth hostelling association. Though it would be safest for people intending to use hostels abroad to have obtained their pass before departing, a pass is frequently able to be purchased at a hostel overseas. For hostels that do not require a pass, you may receive a discount for having a hostel pass.

To obtain your youth hostel pass

Go to hiusa.org for information about becoming a member of Hostelling International USA. Membership is $18 per year and entitles you to stay at hostels that require a pass and gives you discounts for travel, restaurants, stores and attractions as well as free basic travel insurance. Your membership also entitles you to the American Youth Hostels Handbook which lists all the hostels in the U.S., including 29 in Michigan. Be sure to request the book if you want a copy.

One year memberships purchased before September 1 expire on December 1 of the year printed on the pass sticker. Passes are not transferable or refundable.


Student Hotels, Residence Halls and Student Hostels

These are all names for the same concept: inexpensive lodgings for young people. Centrally located in big cities and university towns, student hotels attract a college-aged crowd and offer easy access to university and urban entertainments. Prices range from $40-50 per night in northern Europe and from $35–45 per night in southern Europe. The price usually includes breakfast and other meals are often available.

Because student hotels are privately owned, they vary enormously in type and quality. Rooms are often in dormitories or converted flats or hotels, usually with 1 to 4 people per room. Bed linens are provided, showers are available and a few rooms have private baths. Because they are so diverse, it is advisable to shop around when choosing a hotel of this type. Lists of student hotels are available at local tourist offices and at the accommodations services at train stations. Some are mentioned in guidebooks such as the Let's Go series.

Inexpensive Hotels, Pensions and Guest Houses

Generally clustered around railroad stations, inexpensive hotels are a great alternative if none of the above options are available or if you want more than the austere accommodations they provide. If you don't have reservations, look for a room early (around noon) in the day. The best source for information on budget accommodations is a list from a national tourist information office or hotel booking service at a train station. Again, the Let's Go guidebooks are an excellent source for listings for inexpensive hotels. Rooms without baths are considerably cheaper. It's worth it, monetarily, to share a bathroom and/or forgo daily showers, which usually cost extra.

A pension, also known as Bed and Breakfast in Britain or Zimmer Frei in German-speaking countries, is a small guest home. Often your room will just be an extra bedroom in the owner's house. For the foreign traveler, this type of accommodation can be very friendly and personal. Generally you will share facilities with other guests and have the opportunity to take meals with the family. This is a great way to learn local customs and to find out what is available in a city!

Prices are similar to those of small hostels. Addresses of local pensions can be found at railway stations or by contacting national tourist offices.

You might also explore your options through Airbnb.com.


This is Europe’s favorite type of accommodation. Therefore, there are thousands of sites scattered around Europe. You can stay at the organized sites or sometimes simply pitch camp in the rural, off-the-beaten-track countryside (for the latter option, make sure that there are no regulations prohibiting it and that you are not on private property). The organized sites vary greatly. Some urban sites are badly situated, poorly kept up and reminiscent of American trailer parks. Others are in scenic areas, well-maintained and well-equipped with facilities. The cost is quite low. Sometimes a 50% reduction is given to holders of the International Student I.D. Card.

Making Reservations

Reserving ahead for travel during the peak season (summer, in most parts of the world) is advisable if you want to plan your trip in advance. If you can't or don't want to plan an exact itinerary, consider reserving accommodations only for the highlights of your trip. Also consider reserving a place to stay for the first night because you might be too disoriented or fatigued from the plane ride, the time change and the unfamiliar surroundings to find a place to stay very quickly.

One more note

Increasingly, students are securing short-term reservations through airbnb, couch-surfing, etc. Please exercise caution when using these sites and be sure to check references prior to committing to such a stay.

Packing: general information and advice

Many airlines allow you to check in two pieces of luggage and carry a bag that is small enough to fit under the seat. Be sure to verify the weight and size restrictions of your airline and know that some airlines will charge for the second checked bag. TRAVEL LIGHT! As a rule, you should not pack more than you can easily carry for half an hour. The following hints may prove useful:

  • The more you plan to travel, the less you should bring. If you are going to be moving about frequently, a frame backpack is probably your best bet. If you know that you will be staying in one place for an extended period, then you may be able to bring two suitcases and a small backpack for short outings. Avoid designer luggage.
  • Bring nothing with you that you cannot leave behind (aside from your travel documents, of course). This means clothes, jewelry, alarm clock, etc. While you will probably be able to bring most things back, chances are that they will not be in the same condition as when you first arrived. Your host family's washing machine, hotel and hostel thefts and the normal wear and tear of travel can all take their toll on your cherished possessions. Avoid bringing items with sentimental value.
  • In addition to essentials, such as medicines, eyeglasses or contact lenses, documents (passport, I.D. cards, extra photos, rail passes), money and credit cards, you may want to take items such as batteries or extra memory cards that are easy to pack and tend to be more expensive abroad.
  • While overseas, you may need to layer or wear warm loungewear because of lower inside temperatures than those to which you are accustomed. Bringing clothes that you can layer is key! Central heating is not as common overseas as it is in the U.S. Even if you are studying in a warm climate, be sure to bring some warm clothes. Note: If you find yourself in a room with a gas heater, make sure there is adequate ventilation.
  • Take clothing that is permanent press, hand washable and/or drip-dry. Dry cleaning is expensive overseas. Bring comfortable shoes. In some countries, it is inappropriate to walk around in your bare feet or in socks. Bring a pair of house shoes or slippers.
  • The voltage in Europe and some parts of Asia is different from that in the U.S.; you may need a converter/adapter for electrical equipment. Try to keep electrical appliances to an absolute minimum.
  • Check to see what the linen policy is for your program. If you have to supply your own, take worn linen, the kind you can leave behind.
  • Put labels both inside and outside your bags. Keep two or more copies of your I.D. cards, the first page of your passport and your credit cards in a place separate from the originals. Take a copy with you and leave a copy at home.
  • Never agree to take a package or gift for anyone without first examining the contents yourself. Customs officials will not believe your innocence should illegal substances be found in your bag!!

CIEE recommends that students consider packing the following items: 


  • 1 pair of walking shoes/tennis shoes
  • 1 pair of flip flops or sandals
  • 5–7 pairs of socks
  • 5–7 sets of underwear
  • 1–2 pairs of shorts
  • 2–3 pairs of trousers or skirts
  • 3–4 shirts
  • 1 sweater/sweatshirt
  • 1 poncho/raincoat
  • 1 light jacket
  • 1 light towel
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 hat (for sun)

Medicine and toiletries

  • prescription medicine
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • soap and shampoo (small containers)
  • comb/brush
  • makeup
  • deodorant
  • first aid kit and pain relievers
  • tissues and feminine products
  • sunscreen
  • razor blades
  • eyeglasses/contact lenses
  • saline solution (this is expensive overseas!)


  • sunglasses and case
  • camera and memory cards
  • guidebooks / maps
  • journal
  • day pack
  • Ziploc storage bags (very handy!!!)
  • laundry soap and clothes line
  • sewing kit
  • hostel sleep sheet
  • change purse
  • umbrella
  • luggage locks and keys
  • batteries

You will want to add to or subtract from this list, according to your own specific needs and preferences. Be sure to check with your own individual program before going for any particular suggestions.

Some more hints:

  • When packing, remember that you will probably want to bring back souvenirs, even if they are only subway maps! Plan accordingly. For example, if you bring all of your toiletries with you (toothpaste, soap, etc.), you can leave them behind to make room on the way back.
  • You can get the most clothing into a suitcase or backpack by rolling your clothes instead of folding them.
  • If you pack anything that could spill, put them in sealed bags so your belongings don't arrive at your destination covered in shampoo. Also, remember to check flight regulations on traveling with liquids. Finally, remember that you can buy your toiletries overseas!!
  • Don't wait until the day before you leave to pack up. Load what you think you'll need into your luggage and take a trip around the block. If it is too heavy or unwieldy, unpack and weed out the luxury items.
  • Remember to pack gifts (lightweight, unbreakable items) for friends and hosts abroad! Consider paper products, Hope souvenirs, etc. Take into account any language differences.

Cultural Adjustment and Exploration

Living and learning overseas successfully usually means adjustment to a different lifestyle, food, climate and time zone, often accompanied by the necessity of learning to communicate in a foreign language. This process is never easy and can include mood swings alternating between exhilaration and mild depression. In the early weeks, you will probably feel excited about your new experiences and environment. Soon, you may find the excitement of new surroundings and sensations increasingly replaced by frustration with things that are different.

Culture Shock

This frustration and confusion is usually called 'culture shock.' Variations of culture shock can affect even experienced travelers and is considered a natural (and perhaps even essential) part of adjusting to a foreign culture. Symptoms can include depression, sleeping difficulties, homesickness, trouble concentrating, an urge to isolate yourself and irritation with your host culture.

Even if you are used to being away from your family, you may still have problems. After all, you are now away from everything that's familiar. There are numerous ways to combat your feelings of disorientation until they pass (as they usually do):

  • Learn as much as possible from local residents about their culture.
  • Keep in touch with other American students. If you are directly enrolled in a foreign university, find out if there is a local hangout for American students. It can sometimes be helpful to meet with them and share experiences. Avoid letting these become gripe sessions, however.
  • Keep yourself busy doing things you enjoy. When you have free time, visit museums, go to movies and tour local sites of interest.
  • Keep in touch with your family and friends at home. Letters, phone calls, emails or text contact will make you feel less isolated.
  • Try to keep your long-range goals in mind. Experiencing a new culture will inevitably involve some frustration and feelings of loneliness as you leave the familiar and incorporate the new, but they don't last forever.
  • Don't overdo any of the preceding suggestions or you risk never making the adjustments to your new environment, which are requisite to your purposes for being overseas.

In sum, since there is almost no way to avoid culture shock completely, you should try to accept it as something everyone goes through. Keep in mind that students returning from off-campus study often describe working their way through culture shock as a necessary maturing experience, something that provided insight into their own cultural assumptions. You can ease your transition by recognizing the factors that cause culture shock and taking steps to minimize them.

For most students, the symptoms of culture shock wane after the first few weeks or months, as they begin to understand their host culture better. However, if you find that feelings of irritability and depression linger, you may need help from a doctor or counselor. Your program director or the international student office at your host university should be able to direct you to counseling or support organizations.

Fitting In and Being Accepted

Your off-campus study experience will be heightened if you try as much as possible to become part of the local social environment. In the beginning, it is perhaps wise to behave like a guest, as indeed you are. For a while you may even be accorded a special status, that of a well-meaning (but not-quite-with-it!) outsider. But as time goes on, you will want to be able to behave in ways similar to those of the local students and citizens; others will begin to expect such behavior of you. This means learning what behavior is and isn't appropriate in this new setting and acting accordingly. Observe local students in your dormitory, on campus and on the street. If you live with a host family, see how family members dress and interact with one another and others. It's fine to ask questions about local customs and ways of behaving. In fact, people will appreciate that you are trying to learn about their culture and lifestyle and are likely to help you adjust.

In some countries more than others, there is an unflattering stereotype of an American tourist, one who throws money around, drinks too much, is loud and rude, expects all foreigners to speak English, thinks the United States is better than any other country and is always in a hurry. There are other countries in which all Americans are seen as happy, cheerful, carefree and above all rich. Locals in your host country may assume parts or all of this to be true about you, simply because you are from the United States. Remember that their images of what 'Americans' are like are based on the other Americans they have seen, if not in person, then indirectly through our movies and media. Such is the nature of stereotyping. The challenge is to go beyond misleading images and false impressions, so that you and they can be yourself and mutual understanding can deepen over time.

Reverse Culture Shock

As odd as it may sound, you should prepare yourself for a period of cultural adjustment -- or reverse culture shock -- when you come back to the United States. Returning travelers experience the same physical and emotional upheavals as in the early stages of life abroad. This includes jet lag, as your body adjusts to the change in time zones.

In fact, many returning students are surprised to find that adjusting to life back home is more difficult than the adjustment they made to life in a foreign country. Why is this? While students understand that off-campus study is a life-changing experience, many of them are not immediately aware of how they changed or how their experience abroad has caused them to look at life in the United States through different lenses. You may also experience a sense of loss after leaving your new friends and the life that you led while abroad.

Upon returning, you may feel out of sync with friends and family, who may express only a polite interest in the experiences that you found fascinating. You might experience boredom and a lack of direction. You may also return to find that problems that were on hold while you were abroad–personal issues or career questions–are still waiting for you.

Helpful books and websites

In both the pre-departure stage and as you are traveling, travel books are essential.  You can find information on overnight accommodations, restaurants, cultural tidbits, maps and much more.  Most of the books are found at any bookstore or library.  Take time to discover those that best fit your needs.

Helpful Books and Travel Guides

Off-campus study: How to Get the Most Out of Your Experience
Michele-Marie Dowell, Kelly P. Mirsky (2002)
Self-directed workbook to help students transition from a conventional tourist to an explorer who truly immerses himself into a culture.

Off-campus study 101
Wendy Williamson (2004)
A down-to-earth, practical, easy to use guide about off-campus study, from before you apply to after you return home.

Let's Go Travel Guides
-Guidebooks written for the budget student traveler by fellow young adults. Offers regional, country and city guides.

Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit Series
-Offers a variety of guidebooks for all kinds of travel: regional, country, city as well as shoestring guides exclusively for backpackers.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides 
-Full color guides to popular attractions in every corner of the globe.

Useful Websites
Keeping in Touch
  • www.skype.com
  • Google Voice
  • WhatsApp, Line and Messenger (these days there are a ton of communication apps that will let you stay in touch!)
Travel Websites

Students Abroad

Visas/Immunizations and Entry requirements

Traveler's Health

Airports, Security and Customs

Destination Information

IV. Additional Resources for International Study

Ten Commandments for Participating in Off-Campus Study

  1. You shall not expect to find things as you have them at home…for you have left your home to find things different.
  2. You shall not take anything too seriously…for an open mind is the beginning of a fine off-campus study experience.
  3. You shall not let others get on your nerves…for you have come a long way to be a good ambassador for your country, to learn as much as you can and to enjoy the experience.
  4. You shall carefully read the checklists and information in the handbook…for those who have gone before you have good advice to share.
  5. You shall remember your passport so you know where it is at all times…for a person without a passport is a person without a country.
  6. You shall remember that if we were expected to stay in one place, we would have been created with roots.
  7. You shall not worry…for one who worries has no pleasure.
  8. You shall not judge the people of a country by the one person with whom you have had trouble…for this is unfair to the people as a whole.
  9. You shall not make yourself too obviously the foreigner…when in another country, do somewhat as the people there do.
  10. You shall remember that you are a guest in every land…for one who treats a host with respect will be treated as an honored guest.

Helpful Links