Study AbroadBefore You Go
Planning for a Successful Trip
Studying abroad can be one of the most exciting, interesting, and life-changing experiences of a student’s college career.
Proper planning will help make the experience safer, richer, and more enjoyable. Below are some tools to assist both students and parents in the planning process before embarking on the journey of a lifetime.
Opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences
- To provide opportunities that will help students develop into internationally aware citizens that understand, value, and contribute to our rapidly changing world.
- To provide experiences that help students grow personally by developing personal responsibility, becoming more open-minded and tolerant of differences, developing greater self-awareness, and gaining insight into one’s own culture.
- To provide opportunities for students to learn about the history, politics, culture, geography, and the arts of the country they visit.
- To provide experiences for students to gain different skill sets and explore different interests that may influence the direction of their career path.
Information on obtaining and renewing your passport
It is recommended to apply for your passport at least three months before you plan on studying abroad, especially if you also need to apply for a visa. It can take four to 12 weeks to get your passport after you apply.
Winona: Winona Post Office, 67 W. 5th Street
Minneapolis: Hennepin County Service Center, 300 S. Sixth Street
St. Paul: Ramsey County, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd., Room 110
St. Paul: Health Department, Vital Records, 555 Cedar Street
Chicago: Chicago City Clerks Office, 121 N. LaSalle Street, Room 100
For several more locations, go to the U.S. Department of State website.
You can pick up a Passport Application in the Study Abroad Office located in the International Center, the Heights, or you may download an application from the U.S. Department of State website. The application can either be completed online and printed, or a blank application can be printed and filled out by hand. The application must be printed on one-sided pages in black ink. DO NOT sign the application until you are in the presence of a passport agent. Failure to provide information requested on the form, including your social security number may result in significant processing delays and/or the denial of your application.
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship
You need one of the following: a certified birth certificate, previous passport, consular report of birth abroad or certification abroad, naturalization certification or certificate of citizenship. To secure an official copy of your birth certificate, contact the Office of Vital Statistics of your birthplace. For information on offices in all 50 states, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Proof of Identification (one of the following)
- Previously issued, undamaged U.S. passport
- Naturalization certificate
- Valid driver’s license
- Current government ID (city, state of federal)
- Current military ID
Submit a Photocopy of the Identification Document(s) used from the list above. Photocopy must be on plain white, 8 1/2 x 11″ standard paper stock, showing the front and back of your ID.
- One Passport Sized Photo
Photograph can be professionally done or digitized. If digitized, they must meet the same requirements of all passport photographs. It needs to be:
- 2 x 2 inches in size
- With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
- Taken within six months, showing current appearance
- In color on photo quality paper
- Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background
- 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
- Taken in normal street attire
In Winona, photos can be taken at Walgreens, Walmart and the Post Office.
The application fee is $110.00, and the execution fee is $35. Two separate checks or money orders are required for the passport, exact cash may be accepted at some locations (verify with the Acceptance Facility.) Credit Cards and Debit/Check Cards are also accepted.
$110.00 to the U.S. Department of State
$35.00 to the particular office where the passport application is processed
For an additional fee ($60.00, plus two-way overnight delivery costs), the processing of your passport application can be expedited, taking only two weeks.
Passports are good for 10 years.
To renew a passport, see U.S. Department of State website.
A health insurance plan is required to participate in one of the study abroad programs. You need to make sure that your current plan covers you outside of the United States. If the present plan does not provide coverage, you must purchase a plan that does. A few companies that provide health insurance overseas are listed below. Please note that the study abroad office does not endorse any particular one. You should research the plans thoroughly and pick the one that best fits your particular needs.
- All Aboard Benefits
- CMI Insurance Specialists
- E-student Insurance
- HTH Travel Insurance
- International Student
- International Student Insurance
- Wallach & Company, Inc.
International Student Identification Card (ISIC)
It is a Saint Mary’s University policy that all study abroad participants obtain an International Student Identification Card (ISIC). The ISIC provides some basic health and travel insurance, as well as student discounts. However, the ISIC covers only a small portion of expenses for illness or major accidents. Therefore, it is only supplemental insurance.
ISIC coverage includes:
- $250,000 Emergency Medical Evacuation and Medically Necessary Repatriation
- $50,000 Repatriation of Remains
- $25,000 Emergency Accident and Emergency Sickness Medical Expense (Dental only $500)
- $5,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment – Common Carrier (Air only)
- $1,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment
- $100 per day – Trip Delay, Maximum of $250
- $100 Baggage Delay, Minimum 12 hours delay, Maximum of $100
In case of an emergency call 1-855-743-6739 in the U.S.A or when calling from abroad, call collect worldwide 1-305-455-1571.
Visit www.myisic.com/isic-card/ to purchase the card and read about the other benefits the card offers. Cost $25 + shipping for Basic plan.
Information on staying healthy while you’re abroad
Prior to departure
- If you have an ongoing health issue, you are encouraged to discuss it with on-site staff of your study abroad program.
- If necessary, take appropriate health records with you.
- Take an ample supply of prescription medications with you.
- At least one week before departure, begin to adjust your schedule to accommodate the new time zone.
- Avoid consuming alcohol for several days prior to departure.
- Research any medical concerns related to the country or countries you are traveling to. Information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- After arrival, eat and drink lightly until your system has had a chance to adjust to changes in climate and food. Adjusting to new foods often cause mild intestinal upsets or diarrhea.
- If you have a medical condition that is not easily identified (diabetes, epilepsy, severe allergies), wear a medic alert bracelet while you are abroad. You may also want to alert your roommates and on-site staff so that they can be prepared in case of an emergency.
- Stay on a regular schedule as much as possible.
- Avoid skipping meals and maintain a sound nutritional diet.
- Know how you normally react to stress and how you best manage it.
- If you wear contacts or glasses, take at least one extra pair. If this is not possible, take a written prescription along with you in case your glasses or contacts need to be replaced.
Studying abroad will not fix problems you are having at home or at school. Instead of escaping your issues, they may be amplified, especially since you are likely to experience culture shock. If you have a history of depression, you are encouraged to notify on-site staff. If issues arise, on-site staff may be able to help alleviate some of your concerns and/or direct you to a local English-speaking counselor.
Pack prescription medications in their original bottle(s) marked with the name of medication, dosage, and your name. Bring enough to last you the duration of your trip plus extra. Pack at least part of your medicine in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is lost. Take a written prescription in case you need refills. If you are taking medications on a regular basis or have a chronic condition (i.e. asthma, diabetes), have your physician provide a brief typed letter explaining your condition and treatment on office letterhead. The letter should also include allergies you may have. Carry one copy of the letter in your luggage and one in your carry-on bag in case of an inspection at the airport, which will explain why you are transporting medications.
Pack over-the-counter medications in their original containers. You may want to take the following: Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, anti-histamines, anti-diarrheal medicine, cough drops and cough syrup.
When going abroad, you should be current on all standard immunizations and vaccinations given in the US. Additional consideration should be given to the following:
- Hepatitis A – This vaccine is recommended if you are traveling to countries with intermediate to high rates of infection from the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV).
- Hepatitis B – This vaccine is recommended if you will be residing in an area with high levels of the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), especially if you will have close contact with the local population.
- MMR – Consider receiving a second MMR if you have not already had one, especially if you will be visiting underdeveloped countries.
- Tetanus/Diphtheria (TD) – It is recommended to get a booster if it has been longer than five years since your last one.
Traveling to certain areas of the world may require specific vaccinations or immunizations. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Culture shock is a term used to describe the anxiety and feelings felt when you encounter an entirely different cultural or social environment, such as a different country or a different state than where you live. Severe culture shock often consists of distinct phases. Not everyone experiences all phases. The phases are:
- The Honeymoon Phase – During this period the differences between the old and new culture are seen as wonderful and new. For example, you might love the new foods, the pace of life, etc.
- The “Everything is Awful” phase – After a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, minor differences between the old and new culture become tiresome and annoying. You may long for food the way it is prepared “back home,” or find the people’s habits annoying, etc.
- The “Everything is OK” phase – After a few days, weeks or months, you become accustomed to the new culture’s differences and develop a routine. It no longer feels like a new culture.
- Reverse Culture Shock – Returning to your home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above.
Consider the following ways to cope with culture shock:
- Read up about the country and its culture before you leave. This will help you to be aware of any differences in the new country and you will be more prepared to deal with them.
- Familiarize yourself with the local customs and language.
- Be open-minded.
- Take ‘time out’ or rest.
For More Information
Tips for safe travel
Safety Precautions for Living and Traveling Abroad
Your personal safety is very important. Most issues that arise can be addressed by heightened awareness and common sense. When traveling and living overseas, there are a number of precautions you should follow to reduce your risks:
- If in uncomfortable surroundings, try to act calm and confident.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times and use common sense.
- Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present safety risks when making daily choices and decisions.
- Act in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others and encourage others to do the same.
- Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and law enforcement services in your host country.
- Exercise good judgment about what sorts of places to frequent during the day and at night, and avoid being on the street at late hours more than necessary.
- Avoid alcohol consumption in quantities that might impair your judgment.
- Don’t flash money or documents in public places. Keep small bills in your pocket and use them whenever possible to pay for things. Be discrete in displaying your passport.
- Have sufficient funds or a credit card on hand to purchase emergency items such as train or airline tickets.
- Be wary of people who seem over friendly or overly interested in you. Do not give out your personal address or phone number. Be careful giving information on other students or group events. Be alert to anyone who might appear to be following you or of any unusual activity. Report any unusual people or activities to the program director immediately.
- Do not take valuables like expensive jewelry with you.
- Do not travel alone. Always try to travel with at least one other person.
- Do not leave bags or belongings unattended at any time. Security staff in airports or train stations are instructed to remove or destroy any unattended luggage. Do not agree to carry or look after packages or suitcases for anyone. Make sure no one puts anything in your luggage.
- When traveling, use a neck or waist pouch or money belt to carry passport, credit cards and traveler’s checks. Wear it under clothes if possible. Also, make several copies of your passport information page. Never keep all of your documents and money in one place or one suitcase.
- In some countries, avoid taking a taxi alone at night as it can be dangerous.
- Keep the program director and your family informed of all travel plans during the program.
- Check the US State Department Travel Warnings for up-to-date information on travel precautions.
Advice for Women
A woman may encounter additional difficulties. Some of the best methods of avoiding hassles are to fit in and try to understand the role of the sexes in the local culture. Flexibility means observing how the host country’s women dress and behave and then following their example. What may be appropriate or friendly behavior in the U.S. may bring unwanted, even dangerous, attention in another culture. Try not to take offense at whistles and other gestures of appreciation, regardless of whether they are compliments, invitations, or insults. Realize these gestures are as much a part of the culture as its food, history and language, but if your intuition tells you a situation is dangerous, then act as if it is. Never walk alone at night and never hitchhike. In addition, if alone in a train car, move to another one where other people are sitting.
In recent years an enormous amount of attention has been given to the threats of political terrorism and violence said to be specifically directed against Americans abroad. In fact, few instances have occurred. This does not mean that these threats are hollow or that in the future no Americans will become targets or actual victims. Respecting the possibilities of such occurrences and taking every precaution is important. It is equally important not to be intimidated. In times of political conflict, here are some general safety precautions:
- Keep in touch with the current political situations by listening daily to the television or radio. In the event of an emergency, advisories may be made to the general public through the media. Remain in contact with the program director.
- When in large cities and other popular tourist destinations, avoid or spend as little time as possible in potential target areas for terrorist activities, especially places frequented by Americans: bars, discos and fast food restaurants associated with the U.S.; branches of American banks; American churches; American consulates or embassies.
- Keep away from areas known to have large concentrations of residents aligned with interests unfriendly to the U.S. and its allies. Always consult with the program director before undertaking travel to neighboring cities or popular tourist destinations.
- Be as inconspicuous in dress and demeanor as possible. Wear moderate colors and conservative clothing. Avoid American logos on belongings and clothing. Avoid large loud groups and try to act like the locals as much as possible.
- Keep away from political demonstrations even if they seem peaceful, particularly those directed toward the United States. Resist the temptation to investigate what is happening.
- Do not agree to newspaper or other media interviews regarding political conflicts.
- Association for Safe International Road Travel
- Center for Global Education: Study Abroad Safety Handbook
- Federal Aviation Administration
- Minnesota Office of Higher Education Health and Safety Resources
- Minnesota Office of Higher Education Study Abroad Data
- Transportation Security Administration
- Travel Tips
- Travel Warnings
- U.S. Department of State
Helpful websites for finding scholarships
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
- Fast Web
- Fund for Education Abroad
- Go Abroad
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund
- IEFA – International Education Financial Aid
- NSEP David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarships
- Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships
- Scholarships for Multicultural Students
- Study Abroad.com
- Study Abroad Funding
- The College Board
- Univ. of Minnesota, International Study and Travel Center (ISTC), Scholarships Database
- U.S. Department of Education/Scholarships
Tips for Parents
Tips for parents of students studying abroad
Thank you for supporting your son/daughter in his/her choice to study abroad. I can assure you that it will be an enriching and memorable experience for all of you. As parents, you can help make your son/daughter’s experience more successful and satisfying. Some helpful tips are listed below.
- Communicate your concerns and discuss ways you can stay in touch.
- Discuss your son/daughter’s goals for the study abroad program and what his/her expectations are.
- Share your email address. Be aware, however, that your son/daughter may have limited access to the Internet.
- Discuss with your son/daughter how to handle financial needs as well as emergency funds. Credit cards and bank cash cards are the most helpful as they provide access to local currency at the best exchange rates and are usually easily available.
- Locate a map and become familiar with where your son/daughter will be staying. This may help you feel more connected with your son/daughter and where he/she is staying.
- Purchase travel guides about the area your son/daughter is staying.
During the study abroad experience:
- Expect that your son/daughter will quickly rise to a new level of independence.
- During the first few weeks, your son/daughter may call or write about difficulties he/she is experiencing due to differences in culture and lifestyle. Allow him/her to express him/herself.
- Expect communication to dwindle as he/she becomes accustomed to his/her surroundings.
- Send mail as your son/daughter will appreciate receiving things from home.
- Suggest that your son/daughter send you a picture of his/her living space, as it will be comforting to you if you can picture the setting.
- On rare occasions, students have a difficult time adjusting. Be alert for signs that your son/daughter is not adjusting well, such as your son/daughter being excessively critical or that he/she is spending an extreme amount of time emailing or calling you. If you are concerned about your son/daughter’s health, safety, or well-being, please notify our office.
- Your son/daughter will be excited about sharing his/her experiences for months to come. Be willing to talk about these experiences and to look at pictures and souvenirs.
- Realize it is common for people to make many comparisons to American life after an international experience. He/she will refer back to his/her time abroad repeatedly.
- It is normal for students to go through a period of mild depression after he/she returns. Be understanding and patient while he/she readjusts.
- Understand that an international experience often has a tremendous effect on people and that your son/daughter may have changed some and grown in many ways.
Traveling during personal time is encouraged and can add significant value to the study abroad experience!
You are strongly encouraged to travel at the end of your program. In Europe, Eurail passes provide economical unlimited rail travel to many European countries. Catalogs and order forms are available in the Study Abroad office.
Hostels are low cost, dormitory style accommodations and are much cheaper than hotels. They are available in over 60 countries. One of the largest concentrations of hostels is in Europe. Hostel cards can be purchased prior to departure or after arrival.
The Heights International Center, Room 103
Hours: Monday–Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.