Before You Go
Once you have registered to study abroad, you will be excited and wanting to start planning for your journey! There are a number of steps that you must start once your registration for the programs is completed. Early planning can save you a lot of stress later on in the semester once finals and other commitments start to arise. Consider moving forward with some of these actions to save time and stress as your program approaches.
Prepare for Your Trip
Money and Banking
When you travel internationally, the most important thing students must do before departure is alert their banks and credit cards of impending travel. Most banks and card systems allow submission of travel notices online. Inform them of all your upcoming travel dates and locations where you will be visiting during your time abroad. Failure to notify banks and credit card companies in advance could result in your cards being deactivated since they may view these charges as fraudulent. If any cards are shut off, it can take three days to a week for a replacement to arrive.
- Do not plan to carry a large amount of American currency with you to the location. When exchanging at an airport or tourist exchange kiosk, you will lose a significant amount due to the weighted exchange rate
- Many banks now have easy access to foreign currency so students should also check with their banks ahead of departure to see if you can withdraw a small amount of the host country’s currency to bring along.
- Otherwise, plan to withdraw cash from an ATM as soon as you arrive (most airport baggage terminals have ATMs inside).
- Plan to pay with cash at most restaurants and bars since they do not split checks.
Debit and Credit Cards
- Try to obtain a travel credit card before you leave. These cards typically will not have foreign transactions fees and may have additional resources available for travelers while abroad.
- Make sure that debit/credit cards can be used abroad by checking with your bank ahead of time.
- Place travel alerts on all cards before you go so they are not cancelled due to suspicious activity.
- Make sure that a four or six-digit PIN is set for all your cards so they can be used abroad at ATMs.
- Check any withdrawal or service fees that may be applied when using your cards overseas so you can budget accordingly.
- Never keep all you credit cards and money together in one spot. Only carry what you need for the day on you and one card. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will still have another card and the rest of your cash.
- Consider a travel wallet that you can wear around your waist or neck.
- Use ATMs inside of banks or vestibules where there are security cameras.
- Add a family member or guardian that you can easily get in touch with to your bank account before leaving. In the event that your card is lost or stolen, this person can contact the bank for a replacement or help solve any banking issues for you while abroad.
Be Familiar with Foreign Currency
- Monitor the currency exhanges rates while abroad on websites like XE.com or Oanda.com
- Double check which types of currency are used in the country you are visiting. Even within Europe, the Euro is not the only currency. If you travel on the weekends, see if you will need Euros, pounds, krona, or anything else!
Passports and Visas
Before you leave for any study abroad program, you will have to have a passport. This small booklet allows you to travel freely throughout the world, and most importantly allows you access back into the United States once you have completed your program!
Passports MUST be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end dates of your time abroad. If you already have a passport, make sure that the dates will align with your program period to ensure that you do not need to renew before leaving the United States.
If you have not already applied for your passport, you will need to do so immediately. When running smoothly, passport applications can still take up to two months to process. The MU International Center actually serves as a passport processing center so you don’t even have to leave campus to submit your application.
Steps to Apply for a Passport
- Make an appointment with the MU International Center to process your application and review all required documentation. (Call 573-882-6007 to reserve a time.)
- Complete the DS-11 form.
- Have your passport photos taken. (This can be done during your appointment at the International Center or beforehand –at either the International Center or an approved passport photo location, like Walgreens.)
- Bring along proof of citizenship (one of the following):
- Certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state (photocopies not accepted)
- Naturalization certificate
- Certificate of citizenship
- Previous, undamaged U.S. passport
- Bring a valid, government-issued ID (driver’s license, prior U.S. passport, official military or government employee ID, or certificate of naturalization or citizenship).
- Secondary identification: If your government-issued ID was issued by a state other than Missouri, you must also present secondary identification. This can be a student ID, state-issued non-driver ID, selective service card, voter registration card, medical or health insurance card, Social Security card, learner’s or temporary driver’s permit, credit card or membership card.
- Bring checks or money orders made payable to the U.S. Department of State for the appropriate fee (currently $110), plus the $35 execution fee payable to the MU International Center.
Some program locations may require additional documentation for entering the country. In the event that you need a special tourist or educational visa to enter the country, the College of Engineering Study Abroad Programs will work with you in advance to ensure that all proper documentation is prepared and submitted before you depart for your program abroad. This process typically requires you to submit your passport to the issuing embassy or consulate so you MUST have your passport well in advance in these circumstances as the visa issuing process may also take several weeks.
If you are an international student, you need to make an appointment with your International Student Advisor at the MU International Center to discuss the student visa implications of studying abroad and check to see if any additional travel visas are required for your entry into the host country. You will have to get your I-20 visa signatures completed before you depart the United States.
If you are planning to travel on free weekends or during your semester program abroad, you will also need to check all entry regulations for those countries you may be visiting. For specific visa entry requirements, you can check the country’s consular or embassy websites.
As part of your program, you will be enrolled in mandatory health insurance coverage through GeoBlue. Your GeoBlue coverage provides a wide array of coverage internationally whether you are ill or in an accident. You are provided more than $250,000 in coverage while abroad, and the coverage will typically cover 100% of reasonable medical expenses should you have to visit a physician or hospital while abroad.
You will be automatically enrolled by the College of Engineering for this insurance once the registration deadlines have passed. If your travel dates are different from the official dates set by the study abroad office, you need to let your study abroad adviser know as soon as possible. If you do not provide the most accurate dates for travel, you will be responsible for purchasing additional travel insurance for the remainder of your time abroad.
Registering your Health Insurance
Once your enrollment in GeoBlue has been processed by your study abroad office, you will receive an e-mail from email@example.com outlining the next steps you must take to complete your registration. It is very important that you complete these steps before you depart to ensure that you will receive rapid service in any doctor’s office or hospital that you may have to visit while abroad.
- Follow the link to log in or register your insurance. You will need to enter the Certificate Number (supplied in the confirmation e-mail), your DOB, and first/last name.
- Once you have completed your registration you will be able to access your My Plan site. The My Plan sites have information regarding coverage and benefit details, translation guides, help with finding an international provider while abroad, or filing a claim.
Pre-Departure Health Care
Before departing, you should meet with your health care practitioner to have standard physical, eye, and dental exams to ensure that you are healthy for international travel. You should work with your physician to create your full medical record, which should include all current medications needed, any chronic medical conditions, or allergies, and contact information for your primary care physician. Store this record in a secure place or e-mail it to yourself so you always have a secure copy, if needed.
Prescriptions and Other Medication
If you have a prescription that you know you will be taking while abroad, please consultant with your physicians in advance regarding any monitoring that may need to take place while abroad. You are responsible for confirming that any medications you bring with you are legal in your host country before departure. It would also be helpful to bring along documentation for your prescription (such as the original prescription script or physician’s letter). It is critical that you discuss any limitations with your primary care physician before leaving the United States.
You should plan to bring enough of the prescriptions along to your host country to last the entire duration of your time abroad. It is typically not legal to ship medications overseas, so you will need to bring along enough supply to last the full duration of your program, if possible.
All medications should be properly labeled, along with the physician letter or prescription list in case you are asked to step aside at Customs and provide proof of need.
Disclosing On-Going Health Care
Any existing physical or mental health issues do not preclude you from participating in our study abroad programs. If you do have on-going health concerns or need on-going care while abroad, work with your primary care physicians, in advance, to ensure that you have appropriate medications or arrangements for treatment abroad. Some pharmaceuticals are forbidden in other countries so it is vital to work with your health care practitioners in advance to ensure that you have all necessary care while abroad.
During the application process, you are asked to disclose any on-going health conditions on the confidential health information form in your MyStudyAbroad account or through the Engineering Study Abroad Office. Each form is reviewed by the International Center’s consultant at the MU Student Health Center, and the consultant will provide best guidance on how to manage any health concerns while abroad. This information is kept confidential from all on-site faculty and staff, unless in an emergency. For this reason, you are encouraged to make any program manager or faculty leader aware of your health care conditions so they will know how to best assist you, but you are not required to do so if you are not comfortable with sharing this information.
In the event that you participate in a program that requires (or strongly suggests) immunizations before departure, the Study Abroad Office will arrange a pre-departure meeting with a representative from the MU Student Health Center. The health care practitioner will explain which immunizations are recommended and what you can expect throughout the process. You can arrange a travel health check appointment with the MU Student Health Center after this presentation at a reduced rate, and while there receive all available recommended vaccinations,* and discuss other medications and precautions you can take while abroad, specific to your destination.
*In the event that a vaccination or immunization is not available through the MU Student Health Center, the health care practitioner may be able to assist you with locating a facility where the medication is available.
Registering Your Trip Abroad
Why register my trip? Sometimes incidents can happen while studying abroad. Registering your travel dates, locations, etc. will allow you to receive important safety and security alerts in the event of an emergency and can help you make informed decisions regarding your travel.
Registering for these programs will also provide you with some instant check-in options during crises that will report your status back to MU and allow them to alert your family regarding your status in the event that disaster strikes.
Please register for both of these tools well in advance of your travel so you can be familiar with the tools and features.
- Download the AlertTraveler App on your phone.
- Log into your MyStudyAbroad portal on that same phone and complete the AlertTraveler Registration in the panel at the bottom of the page.
- Enter your current phone number to generate you password.
- Activate the app on your phone and click the “Login to AlertTraveler” button.
- Enter your e-mail address and the generated password.
- Register your travel dates and locations for alerts to be sent to your phone while abroad.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
- Go to the Smart Travel Enrollment site and click on the Traveling? panel on the home page.
- Register your travel dates and locations that will allow the closest US Embassy/Consulate to access your information if necessary.
There are many options for students regarding phone usage abroad. All apartments and hotels students will be staying in during their official program dates will have access to wi-fi (unless otherwise stated in advance) so calls and texting can be done through apps like Skype, What’s App, or FaceTime in order to cut costs.
However, it is still highly recommended that all students sign up for an international cell phone plan or plan ahead to have phone service while in-country since there may be instances when service is needed outside of wi-fi areas. Most large national cell phone companies offer international plans at reduced rates that students may sign up for and use only if needed. Companies like AT&T and Verizon have plans ranging from $10/day for unlimited phone and data usage to $40/month for reduced rates and charges while in international territories.
Other options include purchasing a local SIM card once you arrive in country that can replace your U.S. SIM card or renting a cell phone with an enabled international plan already activated from companies like travelcell.com or cellhire.com.
Weekend Travel Planning
Most of your technical classes will take place Mondays – Thursdays during the week, leaving you with a long three-day weekend to be able to travel throughout your adopted country or even continent! Here are some of the best tips and strategies for how to get the most out of your weekends and how you can plan in advance so you can save money on bookings.
- Try to book at least one weekend trip in advance. You won’t always have the time to plan your weekends while also trying to do homework and study, so planning ahead will help.
- Having said that, do not plan ahead for an excursion every weekend. There may be something that you discover or that appeals to you while you are abroad and having at least one free weekend will give you the opportunity to explore!
- When booking trains, make sure you are aware of the station that you need to depart from and arrive at since some cities have many train stations that can be outside the city center, and the names of cities may be different in the native country than what we are used to in English (i.e. Rome – Roma or Florence – Firenze)
- When booking through low-cost airlines, make sure you check the fine print to avoid additional charges at check-in, and be aware that many low-cost airline airports are outside of city centers and may require an additional bus or short train ride to get to and from your accommodations.
Less is more when it comes to packing for study abroad. Typically, you are sharing an apartment (and closet) space with other students on the program and are dealing with smaller living spaces than you are used to in America. Also, yYou’ll want to keep your bags as light as possible, since there won’t be anyone but you to carry them throughout your host country.
Try to bring along clothing that is comfortable and versatile. You will have access to laundry facilities while abroad, but those machines are usually smaller and slower than what we are used to in the United States and dryers may not be available. Research the climate and weather conditions for the locations you will be visiting in advance to know what is absolutely essential to bring along and what can be left behind.
Consider what you are intending to do while abroad. Business visits and guest lectures could require more formal attire, while working on service projects abroad may necessitate more flexible and comfortable clothing. These types of issues will be discussed in detail during the pre-departure course, but a suggested packing list to consider is also available.
Remember that you will also want to bring home lots of souvenirs and gifts. Make sure you leave room in your suitcase or pack along a collapsible bag that you can check on your flight home. International shipping is often expensive and slow.
- Scan your passport, driver’s license, and any other important legal documents, in the event that you need to replace your passport.
- Keep your health insurance card on you at all times. Also, consider taking a picture of it on your phone to have in case your wallet is misplaced or stolen.
- Keep your credit cards/debit cards in multiple safe locations (large amounts of cash, as well). If one of your cards or some cash is stolen, you will still have backups handy!
- Keep your valuables (passports, credit cards, jewelry, etc.) in your carry-on or overhead bags at all times. You should never pack your passport in your check-in luggage.
- Keep your emergency contact card on you at all times. This card will be provided to you during the health and safety seminar provided by the Engineering Study Abroad Office. Take a picture and keep it on your phone so it is not just in your wallet.
- Be culturally aware. Do research ahead of time about unsafe locations in the cities you may be visiting.
- Know basic questions and responses in the native language if it is not English.
- Consider developing contingency plan if you are in an emergency and review those plans already developed by the Study Abroad Office.
- Be mindful of your wallets and bags when you are in a crowd. Men should keep your wallet in your front pocket with your hand covering it, and women should consider wearing cross-body bags that you can hold onto the strap and are not easy to pull off.
- Consider wearing a money belt when traveling through high-traffic tourist areas.
- If you suspect someone is a pickpocket, do not engage with them or make eye contact.
- Do not give money or change to children or persons on the street. They may follow and harass for more if they see you have cash on-hand and now they know where your wallet is when you put it back away. You may be making yourself a target by doing a good deed.
Health and Wellness Safety
- Take enough of your prescriptions overseas and plan ahead with your doctor and insurance on how to obtain more, if necessary, when abroad.
- If you have a serious ongoing medical condition, consider informing your program director so they can be aware and assist quickly in case of an emergency.