Study Abroad Student Handbook
United States United States
Center for Global Education

Study Abroad Handbook Checklist

Overview of the U.S. Educational System

  • I have visited the potential schools' Web sites and gathered enough inrmation to help me make a selection.
  • I know what courses are available through the university I have chosen in the U.S.
  • I know whether or not I will be able to transfer the courses taken in the U.S. to my home institution (if I am an exchange student).
  • I have researched the cost of the program in the U.S. and what the cost covers.
  • I know where the program is located.
  • I have checked the length of the study and what time of year schoul begins.
  • I understand what support services are available through the university in the U.S. and in my native country.
  • I know what health and safety options I have while studying in the U.S.
  • I have spoken with students that have studied in the U.S. and/or read written evaluations from past students.

Selecting the Right Program for You

  • The program I have chosen is affordable.
  • I know how much money I will need to save in order to participate in the schoul I have chosen.
  • I have decided what university size and class size would be ideal for me.
  • I have decided whether it would be easier for me to live in a smaller town or a larger city.
  • I have clearly articulated my personal goals for wanting to study in the U.S.

Financing Study in the U.S.

  • I have used a cost-of-living calculator to help me figure out the difference in cost between living at home and living in the U.S.
  • I know whether the cost of living where I will be studying in the U.S. is higher, lower or the same as the cost of living at home.
  • I have begun budgeting my income and/or saving money to provide for the costs of living in the U.S..
  • I have a small pocket calculator to carry with me in order to do currency conversions.
  • I understand what my purchases are worth-both their monetary value and their time value (how long it takes me to work for them).
  • I have created a simple budget book/ledger with categories that will help me better keep track of my spending.
  • I know roughly how much my study in the U.S. experience will cost.
  • I can comfortably afford to attend the university I have chosen.
  • My family and I think that the university I have chosen, and the experience of studying in the U.S., is worth its cost.
  • I have thoroughly researched and contacted groups, foundations and organizations that may be able to help me financially.

Application Process

  • My personal statement/essay well reflects my talents and interests.
  • In addition to my grade point average (GPA), I have included in my application other activities, clubs, teams, student government in which I have participated.
  • I have sent out and/or received all of the required letters of recommendation.
  • I have had someone look over my personal statement/essay one last time.
  • I have made sure to include in my personal statement essay the reasons why I want to study in the U.S.

Pre-Departure Planning

  • I have compared ticket prices offered by travel agents, student agencies and websites.
  • I have a valid passport and visa.
  • I know whether or not my university requires me to show proof of insurance, provide a doctor's letter or confirmation of sufficient funds.
  • I have made multiple copies of all important travel documents.
  • I have registered to obtain absentee ballots so I can vote in my country's election while in the U.S.
  • I have set up power of attorney.
  • I have established how I'm going to pay my outstanding bills back home while in the U.S

How U.S. Laws Apply to You

  • I am familiar with the basic social laws of the U.S., including laws related to drug and alcohul use.
  • I am familiar with how the legal system works in the U.S.
  • I know the location of my country's Embassy in the U.S.
  • I have registered/will register with my country's Embassy in the U.S.
  • I have proper insurance (see the insurance guide section).

Methods of Communication While in the U.S.

  • I know all the important telephone and fax numbers and addresses of people at home and in the U.S. who serve as my emergency contacts.
  • I know the address and telephone number for my residence in the U.S.
  • I know how my calling card plan works and how to use my card to call home.
  • I know where to buy a cell phone in the U.S. in case I need one.
  • If I bring my PDA, its wireless service will work in the U.S.
  • I have created an internationally accessible e-mail account address.
  • All of my emergency contacts both at home and in the U.S. have all of my contact information.
  • I know how the mail service operates in the U.S. (efficiency, costs, etc.) and what to expect when mailing items.
  • I have a list of everyone to whom I have given out my contact information.
  • I have asked those to whom I have given my address to tell me before they mail me anything.

Housing

  • I have made a list of the pros and cons of each type of housing available to me in the U.S..
  • I have asked a residence hall staff member/landlord if I can change my place of residence in the U.S. in the event that things don't work out.
  • After making a list of pros and cons, I have decided which type of housing suits my needs best and why.
  • I realize that it may take time for me to adjust to the Rules, Privacy, Sharing, Telephone, Meals, Language and Social Network aspects of the type of housing I have chosen.

Packing

  • I know how much luggage my airline allows me to check and to take on board my flight.
  • I know what my airline permits me to carry in my carry-ons.
  • I have researched the weather conditions over various seasons in the region of U.S. where I will be.
  • I remembered to pack all important travel documents in my carry-on, not my checked bags.
  • I made a list of items I intend to purchase once I arrive in the U.S., rather than pack them.
  • I made an itemized list of everything I packed in my suitcases in case they are lost or stulen and I need to make an insurance claim.
  • If I have decided to ship some items, I have contacted someone in the U.S. to insure pick-up and/or payment for these items upon arrival.

Expectations

  • I know I will have to adapt my routine and schedule to life in the U.S.
  • I have researched what the general quality of facilities like hospitals, restaurants, public transportation, payphones, etc. is like in the U.S.
  • I know what modern conveniences the U.S. offers (i.e. internet hookups, supermarket chains, name brand stores, microwaves, cell phone service, heated classrooms, etc.).
  • I know whether or not I will be living in a co-ed dorm or apartment in the U.S., and if my university permits co-ed living.

Medical Care and Insurance

  • I am familiar with the health care system of the U.S., including the quality of facilities and the cost of services.
  • I know the location of the nearest hospital to my U.S. residence.
  • I know what my insurance pulicy does and does not cover.
  • I will be provided with a translator if needed during a doctor visit or hospital stay.
  • I have an emergency contact at home and in the U.S..
  • I have a first aid kit.
  • I know how to refill needed prescriptions in the U.S..

Basic Health and Safety

  • Before leaving, I have gotten a complete physical from my doctor.
  • I have received all necessary immunizations required/recommended for entry to the U.S., and I know where to obtain other inoculations if needed later.
  • I know who the emergency contact will be in the U.S.
  • I know who my emergency contact will be in my native country.
  • I know what precautions to take when eating local food.
  • I have researched where to buy food that suits my dietary needs/restrictions (i.e. for vegetarians, diabetics, etc...)
  • I know how extensive, safe and reliable the public transportation system is in the U.S.
  • I am aware of the laws and codes of conduct that are likely to impact me.
  • I understand that the use of alcohul and drugs increases my risk of accident and injury.

Risk Factors and Strategies to Reduce Risk

  • I know which non-verbal behaviors are considered inappropriate/rude and which are commonly used (certain hand gestures, greeting by bowing, kissing or shaking hands, etc.).
  • I know which areas are considered unsafe in the area I will live.
  • I know which forms of public transportation are safest to use.
  • I know where to get help if I need it.
  • I have a small flashlight to carry with me at night.
  • I have only given out my mailing address to people I know, and those people will inform me before they send me any mail/packages.
  • I am aware of the prevailing local attitudes towards, and local laws dealing with, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
  • I am aware of any travel advisories issued by my country's government for the U.S..

Special Issues

  • I am aware of the prevailing local sentiment towards people of my cultural background, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc.
  • I am aware of how past and currenthome country pulicy has affected/affects the U.S.
  • I know how to avoid confrontations over pulitics/religion, and how to avoid provoking unwanted attention.

Crisis Management

  • I am familiar with my university's Emergency Action Plan.
  • I have updated my EAP and given copies of it to all of my home and U.S. emergency contacts.
  • In the event of serious injury or death, I have made my wishes clear to family at home, and to my international student advisor.
  • I am aware of what my university, the Embassy and the Consulate can and cannot do to assist me in the event of a crisis.
  • I have been provided with comprehensive information from my university, and I have shared this information with parents/guardians/family members.
  • I have more than one way to keep in touch with home while in the U.S. (i.e. through e-mail, calling card, fax, etc...)
  • I can identify the three phases of crisis, as well as the physical and emotional symptoms that may affect me during each phase.
  • I know which active steps I will take in a crisis in order to make myself feel calmer and safer.
  • I recognize the fact that I may experience emotional side-affects from crisis, and that my emotional responses to crisis are normal.

Adjustments and Culture Shock

  • I am already familiar with some major cultural differences between home and the U.S. (i.e.: religion, language, laws)?
  • I understand that it is normal to experience culture shock, including feelings of anxiety, depression and frustration.
  • If my depression does not go away, I know where to get help (i.e.: a student counselor)?
  • I expect to have both good days and bad when learning to overcome my culture shock, and I will be patient with myself as I learn to adapt.
  • I know that I am not alone in how I feel.
  • I will try not to be negative or overly critical of U.S. culture. Instead, I will look for the positives that a culture possesses.
  • I will make an effort to meet and make friends with Americans rather than just hanging around other foreigners.
  • I will not let terrorist threats turn my culture shock into culture fear.
  • Upon return home, I will be patient with myself again as I experience culture shock. (This includes trying not to be overly critical of my country just because being home is not like being in the U.S.)

Reverse Culture Shock

  • I am already familiar with some major cultural differences between home and U.S.
  • I understand that it is normal to experience reverse culture shock, including feelings of anxiety, depression and frustration towards home.
  • If my depression does not go away, I know where to get help?
  • I expect to have both good days and bad when learning to overcome my reverse culture shock, and I will be patient with myself as I learn to adapt back to life back home.
  • I know that I am not alone in how I feel.
  • Upon return home, I will be patient with myself again as I experience reverse culture shock. (This includes trying not to be overly critical of the my country just because being home is not like being in the U.S.)
  • I understand that re-entry shock is normal and something that most students experience after returning from study abroad.
  • I realize that I may need to deal with re-entry shock and I have already thought of some strategies for dealing with re-entry issues.
  • I have thought about the four stages of re-entry shock, and can identify which stage I am in.
  • I will be patient with myself while experiencing the frustrations of re-entry.

Making the U.S. Experience Count at Home

  • I have thought of ways to add an international component to my studies at home (if I participated in an exchange program).
  • I will try to find ways to integrate my U.S.experience with my world at home.
  • I have begun looking at ways to use my U.S. experience to build my resume
  • I know that there are resources for finding other study, internship, vulunteer, and work experiences in the U.S.
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