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Booking a flight, securing your travel documents, packing, and planning your additional travel are some the most exciting parts of planning for an education abroad experience, but it can all be a little intimidating at the same time. UW-Platteville Education Abroad offers some resources and suggestions to make planning a little easier:
Apply for a U.S. Passport
A U.S. Passport is required to apply for any education abroad program and, more importantly, to leave the country and enter another. Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website for more information on applying for a U.S. Passport: http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/get_4855.html
Apply for a Visa
Many countries require that students obtain a visa prior to their arrival in that country, and it is the student’s responsibility to secure their own visa. A visa is an official document affixed in an U.S. Passport by the country’s consulate, granting the student permission to live and study in that country for the duration that the visa is valid. If necessary, students will be given additional visa information and application instructions upon application. For the most up to date information on visa requirements, students can also visit the U.S. Department of State’s website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html
Most education abroad programs will not require a “group flight” but will rather allow students to book their flight independently as long as certain arrival and departure requirements are met. Students have the flexibility to book through a travel agent or through any number of online travel search engines or agencies. Some tips from UW-Platteville Education Abroad include:
- Flights are usually cheaper during mid-week travel.
- Check alternative itineraries by altering the leave and return dates, departing on a few days earlier can save students money.
Online Search Engines and Agencies
- Use an online search engine or agency to find the cheapest departure date/time and then go to the airline’s website to book the ticket. Airlines may match or beat the price listed on the online search engine.
- AirfareWatchdog.com offers additional tips on finding the cheapest flights
A suggested packing list will be provided to students upon acceptance. However, it is also important to keep in mind that students often purchase additional items (local fashion, souvenirs, etc.) while abroad, so students should leave extra space in their luggage or bring an extra bag in their luggage for the return flight. Most basic items (toiletries, school supplies, etc.) can be purchased worldwide, so students can bring a small supply to get them started and buy more in-country as needed.
In most cases, setting up a bank account abroad is not advantageous or permitted for study abroad students. Instead:
- Take a small amount of U.S. Dollars to exchange into the local currency upon arrival. Exchanging money in the host country will get students a better exchange rate and will give them enough cash to get them started as they are orientating themselves in the new location.
- Use a U.S. debit card to withdraw local currency. Withdrawing local currency through an ATM will often offer the best exchange rate and is very easy in most locations. Students should confirm their U.S. bank’s international transaction fee and alert the bank that they will be traveling, so the card does not get cut off. In addition, swiping debit cards at shops, cafes, grocery stores, etc. is not as common or accepted abroad, so it is important to have cash on hand.
- Get a credit card just in case. Having a credit card in case of emergency offers piece of mind for students and their parents.
Xe.com lists up-to-the-minute currency exchange rates for currencies worldwide.
Online Travel Resources
It is important for students to learn a little about their host country’s culture, history, and current events prior to departure, and some recommended resources include:
- CountryReports.org: Country-specific cultural, historical, and statistical information.
- ISEP Country Handbooks: Country-specific education, visa and residency, culture, daily life, money matters, health and safety, and packing information.
- ThePaperBoy.com: Newspaper links from around the globe.
- U.S. Department of State Country Specific Information: Country-specific safety and security, visas and residency, country facts sheets, and travel information.
- U.S. Department of State Students Abroad: Information on everything from health to smart travel and from news and alerts to voting abroad.
Researching accommodations and must-see sites prior to traveling can save students a lot of time, money, and headaches. Some recommended resources include:
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