Preparing to Go | Frequently Asked Questions
Health and Safety Abroad
What happens if there is an emergency?
In an emergency situation at our specialty program sites, the USAC staff abroad will contact all students and meet with them either at the USAC program site office or at an announced location and, if possible, make the office telephones and fax machines available to facilitate communication between students and their families. Each program site is registered at the appropriate US Embassy and Consulates, ensuring that the Resident Director is aware of current conditions and can be contacted if necessary. Students attending a Partnership Program will follow the emergency procedures set forth by the host university.
Where can I get information about any warnings or advisories for students and travelers abroad?
You can access the travel warnings website of the State Department or the Center for Disease Control's travel website.
How can I enjoy the nightlife safely?
We recognize that many students will want to experience the host country culture by joining in the nightlife. However, the same rules for your behavior in your home country should govern your activities abroad. Never do anything that puts you or others at risk or makes you uncomfortable. Going out and experiencing your city or town can be one of the best parts of your experience as long as you do it maturely and responsibly. Research which types of transportation will be running late at night, always make a plan for getting home safely, and be sure to travel in pairs.
What are the drinking norms while abroad?
Research and be sensitive to your host country’s cultural expectations regarding drinking. The drinking age abroad tends to be lower than 21. Sometimes alcoholic beverages, like other food and drinks, may be considered an integral part of the meal or are an important part of a country’s culture and heritage. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Attitudes towards alcohol may seem more casual and social. Typically, going out at night is not based around drinking: it’s based around conversation and company. Drinking and parties in housing abroad is prohibited and can be interpreted as rude or inappropriate behavior by your hosts. Landlords and host families have the right to evict students for noise or behavior problems.
Use of illegal drugs while on USAC programs is prohibited.
The use or possession of illegal drugs can result in fines, imprisonment, expulsion, suspension of your visa, deportation, exile from that country, or other serious consequences. Drug use abroad may also violate your home university’s student code of conduct, resulting in disciplinary action. In addition, drug use can put you in potentially dangerous situations over which you have no control. Visit the US Department of State’s website for more information.
What about dating abroad?
Dating customs vary widely depending on the country and local culture. For example, asking someone to coffee may be interpreted as something more serious abroad. In many cultures, men and women do not spend time alone together unless they are related or in a very serious relationship. Research and be sensitive to your host country’s cultural values of socializing and dating. Exercise caution when making new friends or dating. Meet in public places and do not give out your contact information until you have clearly determined the intentions of your new acquaintance. Attitudes about sex vary greatly in different cultures, but remember the same risks are involved (sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and pregnancy) so take the necessary precautions as you would at home. If you are traveling abroad with a significant other, recognize that public displays of affection and attitudes towards unmarried couples may be different than in your home country. Remember that overnight guests are not allowed in USAC housing.
Do I get insurance?
All US students are covered under a USAC insurance policy unless otherwise noted in your Program Agreement. More information on USAC Insurance can be found in the Health Insurance section of our website and on your USAC Student Gateway Account. If you are not a US student, please speak to your home university international office about whether or not you are covered under USAC insurance.
How do I extend insurance?
If you are going to leave before your program’s official start date and/or continue your stay after the program ends, you may want to purchase additional insurance coverage. Contact your USAC Program Advisor for details on how you can do this.
Does my insurance cover my personal belongings?
The USAC insurance policy does not cover any of your personal belongings. We recommend you talk to a private insurance company to insure your valuables, such as a computer or camera, before leaving home. USAC is not responsible for the loss or theft of any personal property or money, either from your person, in your apartment or residence, at the university or anywhere else.
What if I am attending two consecutive programs? Do I have insurance coverage during the time in between my consecutive programs?
If you are attending two programs back to back (i.e.: fall then spring or two summer sessions), you will be covered by USAC insurance during the time between your two programs. This coverage only extends to time spent abroad. If you return home in between your consecutive programs you will not be covered during the time in your home country. Note: If you are doing a spring term and then a fall term, with no summer sessions in between, you are not covered for the break. For Australia and New Zealand contact the USAC Central Office.
What is a Power of Attorney and where do I get one?
A “Power of Attorney” is a legal document that gives a person of your choice (a parent, sibling, spouse, etc.) the power to act on your behalf regarding legal or official business while you are abroad. This will be useful while you are not able to personally deal with your bank, university registrar or any financial aid offices. You can find this form at your local post office, office supply store or even online. It must be notarized to be effective. You might consider leaving a copy with your home university's Records or Financial Aid Department.
Can I get a list of students who are going on the same program?
Yes, the USAC Central Office posts a list of students participating in your program who have agreed to disclose their information on your USAC Student Gateway account.
Can I get a list of students who have participated in previous programs?
Yes. The USAC Central Office also provides lists of students who have agreed to disclose their information and who have participated in your program in past semesters. If you would like a copy of this list, please email the USAC Central Office.
Where can I get an International Student Identity Card?
You can obtain an ISIC from their website. You must have a passport size photo and be able to prove you are a student (by submitting a valid student ID, a current class schedule, or a tuition receipt). You can also purchase these at most sites abroad. Some discount airfares may require proof of an ISIC card.
What/How should I pack?
A more detailed list about what to pack will be included in your Student Handbook that came with your Welcome Packet and is posted to your USAC Student Gateway account. Additional information can also be found in the Packing and Luggage portion of this website.
Do I need any immunizations before I go?
Depending on the country you will be studying in and/or traveling to, you may need immunizations. These immunization requirements may vary based on health conditions in a particular country. For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control's website and click on the “Traveler's Health” button.
Can I store my luggage once abroad?
If you plan on traveling before or after your program and need a place to store your luggage, there are several places where you can store luggage for a fee. Some good places to check are airports, bus or train stations, youth hostels or hotels. Due to limited space and security considerations, you will not be able to leave your luggage with the USAC office at your program site.
Can I take my younger children with me?
In general, yes, it is possible for students to take their children abroad, and it has been done in the past. This decision, however, requires preparation on your part in obtaining the appropriate conditions/requirements from the desired USAC program site. It is important for you to inquire about this option well in advance of the start of the program in order to plan childcare and to find housing. You must fully understand the situation and the arrangements for which you will be responsible on behalf of your child(ren). The USAC staff abroad must be aware of and prepared for a student with a child(ren). Children are not allowed on program field trips, optional tours or in the classrooms. You are fully responsible for arranging the child's care and schooling and for all costs regarding that child (housing, food, child care, translators and schooling). Be aware that this option can be very expensive. If you have questions, please contact the USAC Central Office.
Is the USAC Central Office open during the summer and winter break?
Yes, the USAC Central Office will be open during both the summer and winter breaks (with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year's Day). Many of our host universities abroad are closed during the holiday and this does slow down our communication. For this reason, we prefer to have all students documents turned into USAC before the holiday break in order to confirm you place in the program.
Should LGBTQ+ individuals be concerned about traveling abroad?
Laws, social norms, attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other LGBTQ+ persons will vary in countries abroad, just as they may vary between places and communities in your home country. Most LGBTQIA travelers will not encounter problems while overseas. However, foreign governments may or may not provide the same protection of civil liberties that you are used to in your home country. Careful research on your host country should be completed before departing so that you can decide for yourself how open you can be regarding your sexuality and gender identify at your program site or while traveling. You may also want to research the types of support organizations, student groups, or LGBTQA resources that exist at your host university. This can be done by visiting the website for your host university, or by talking to your Program Advisor. The following websites are helpful resources for LGBTQA travelers:
Is my flight included in my program fees?
No, you must purchase your own flight to and from your program site.
What are my options concerning flights?
If a group flight is available for your program, the flight information is available on your USAC Student Gateway account. USAC works with a travel agency which organizes an optional round-trip group flight to and from the program site. However, you can also book your own flight independently. For details and pricing of the optional group flight, please see the contact information below:
Frosch Student Travel
If I don’t have a group flight option, what do I do?
You are responsible for your own transportation to the program site. Your USAC Student Gateway account contains information that will help you book a flight. The Flight Guide and the Arrival Guide will give specific details about transportation. Sometimes you will need your flight information in order to receive a visa. Do I send my group flight reservation form to USAC? No, you must send the reservation form for the optional group flight directly to Frosch Student Travel. USAC cannot book the flight for you.
Is there an orientation at the program site?
Yes, all programs have an extensive new student orientation. Attendance is mandatory for USAC students.
When should I arrive?
Please refer to the USAC website for the most current dates for your USAC program. Be sure to schedule your flight to arrive in time for the mandatory on-site orientation. How can I be found at the airport if I am on the group flight? Once you leave the baggage claim and customs area, look for someone holding USAC signs. While it is not our intent to dictate fashion, it is immensely helpful for you to wear your USAC t-shirt on the trip abroad and to adorn your suitcase/backpack with the USAC luggage tags (both included in the Welcome Packet). The USAC t-shirt and luggage tags are helpful when locating fellow students, Resident Director and luggage in congested international airports.
What happens if I miss the group flight because of delays?
If you are scheduled for the group flight, but you do not arrive with the group because of cancellations or delays of connecting flights, you will be responsible for your own transportation from the airport to the group location. Detailed arrival information and travel options will be included in your USAC Arrival Update.
What do I do if I am not on the group flight?
If you are not on the group flight, you will be responsible for your own transportation to the program site. Detailed transportation options will be listed in your Arrival Update. On some Partnership programs, you will need to complete a specific form in order to be picked up by University Staff.
What precautions should I take upon arrival at the airport?
When you arrive, you may be tired after a long trip and feeling the effects of jet lag, and, you will be in an unfamiliar setting. Be careful not to set down your backpack, purse or other belongings. USAC is not responsible for the loss or theft of any personal property or money.
What are the rules and regulations regarding Customs Clearance?
Residents of the US leaving the country should be aware of the rules concerning what they can bring back into the US. The booklet "Know Before You Go" is available at many passport application locations, or online, and can be very helpful for these purposes. Citizens of all countries should make sure that they are aware of any rules and regulations before leaving.
How should I let my family/friends know I have arrived?
Please remember that your friends and family are just as concerned, if not more concerned about you and your safety while traveling abroad. It can be hectic during the first few days at your program site, but do not forget to contact your friends and family upon arrival so they know you have arrived safely. You can do so by finding an internet café or using a phone card to contact them. It is also a good idea to leave all contact information for international staff abroad that will be available in the Arrival Update with your family at home.
How do I make and receive phone calls abroad?
For making long distance telephone calls, calling cards, cell phones or internet calling are affordable and convenient options. See the Communication Abroad section of this website for details on various methods/options.
Will I have access to the internet while I am abroad?
Internet access varies for each program site. Specific information regarding internet availability at the program site will be available in the FAQ Update on your Student Gateway account. Internet cafés are also widely available internationally for public use.
Should I bring a laptop abroad?
Many students prefer to have their laptops; however it isn’t guaranteed that you will have Wi-Fi access everywhere. Computer labs with limited free internet access are usually available on the study abroad campuses. Many of our program sites have internet cafés around town that charge very reasonable fees. If you do bring a laptop, you may consider buying traveler's insurance that covers your computer, as USAC is not responsible for any loss or damage to your personal belongings.
Can I vote if I miss an election while I am abroad?
Yes, you must obtain an absentee ballot before you leave. For information on the candidates and other relevant information, visit this website
What day do I have to move out of housing?
You are generally expected to vacate the accommodation the day after final exams are over. Refer to the USAC calendar on the website for the program end date and move out of housing date.
Can I bring pets?
Pets are not allowed in any of the USAC arranged housing. Students who bring pets are responsible for their own housing.
When will I find out about where I will be living?
Students and their families are asked to be patient because housing arrangements must often be finalized at the last minute in order to prevent you from paying extra costs. Information about housing assignments is not typically given out until you arrive.
Will I have access to a telephone or an internet connection where I live?
Most likely you will not have a phone or an internet connection within your residence. Plan on using a cell phone or public pay phone to make calls once abroad. WiFi might be available (see your Housing Guide).
Can I have visitors?
We encourage family and friends to visit. However, remember that you cannot miss class or exams while you have visitors. Many programs have holiday periods when classes are not in session, which would be the perfect time to visit. Visits after the end of your term allow more time and flexibility in travel plans. Visitors will not be allowed to stay in USAC student housing.
What is a Eurail Pass? Where can I find information about it?
The Eurail Pass is a popular student travel pass that allows for train travel throughout most of Europe on a fixed rate. The Eurail pass is designed for continual travel instead of just small weekend trips. To find out more information about how the pass works and all of the payment plans and types available please see these websites: www.eurail.com or www.ricksteves.com. More information on the Eurail pass and other Rail Passes can be found in the Transportation Section of this website.
Will I have time to travel during my study abroad program?
You may travel but must restrict your travels to weekends or holidays, as class attendance is mandatory. USAC Specialty programs also include field trips and optional tours to help acquaint students with the areas around their program site. These trips are led by staff and/or faculty members. We remind you to check any travel advisories before you make travel plans away from your program site on the Department of State's website. You should inform your family and friends of any changes in your travel plans.
When should I apply for a passport?
If you do not have a passport, apply as soon as possible. You may need to expedite the application depending on how much time you have before your study abroad program.
Can I expedite my US passport application? If so, how?
Yes, you can pay more to have your passport expedited and processed in a shorter period of time. It costs an extra fee and should take only 2-3 weeks to process. Just notify your chosen agent to expedite your passport.
Where can I get my passport photo(s) taken?
Passport photos can be obtained at a location able to produce standard passport photos. We generally do not recommend the photo booth approach, as they often are not passport quality and may be rejected by the National Passport Agency.
What if my passport is expired or expires during my time abroad?
To study abroad you will need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after you plan on returning to your home country. You can renew your passport by mail if you already have an undamaged passport; you received it within the past 15 years; you were at least 16 when you received it; and you still have the same name as in the passport.
What should I do if my passport takes too long to process and I need to apply for a student visa?
You should contact the consulate in your jurisdiction to find out what you will need to apply for a student visa. In most cases you can fill out your application and gather all necessary documents for your student visa without your passport. You should make an appointment and be prepared to apply for your visa as soon as your passport arrives.
Will I need a student visa to study abroad?
Most students are required to obtain a student visa in order to legally study abroad. It is your responsibility to complete the student visa process. For more information on students visas see the Passports & Visas section of this website.
How long does the visa application process take?
The visa application is difficult to predict and not within our control. You may also need to appear in person at a consulate, and this could require some planning ahead. Please see your Visa Update posted in your USAC Student Gateway account a few months prior to departure for more information.
Are there Group Visa Submissions available?
The USAC Central Office offers a group visa submission for certain consulate jurisdictions for Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain. This is a free service, included as part of your program fees, in which your USAC Program Advisor will assist to gather, review, and submit visa applications and supporting documents to the consulate on your behalf.
What are some recommended travel guides?
Some popular travel guide publishers are: Let’s Go, Culture Shock, Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, Footprints, and Rough Guide. These guides are widely available at libraries, book stores or online.
Where can I find out more information about the country and city in which I am studying?
Below you will find some good websites to help you start planning your trip. Do as much research as you can before you go:
General Travel Information