Prepare for your Program
Explore the World. Pack Your Bags.
Are you ready for your study abroad program? Before you go on your adventure, here are some helpful tips to make your travels as smooth as possible.
Once you have been accepted by both UHart and the provider, you can begin making travel arrangements. If your flight is not included with your program, you are responsible for arranging your own travel. Make sure you've been given the final program dates and any information regarding when to arrive or depart before you book your flight—if you book your flight before being given this information, you risk having to pay to change your flights to the new times/dates. Some providers will offer group flights or scholarships/grants towards air travel so check the program page before booking as there may be specific requirements or limits to when you can travel.
If you plan to book your flight on your own, you can go through any airline, use airline miles if you have them, or work with any travel agent or student discount provider. STA Travel and Student Universe are two companies that offer student discounts on travel and other products. If you book with a STA Travel agent, they offer a "Book Now, Pay Later" program which allows students to pay a fraction of the cost up front, with the remaining balance due a week before flying out. All students will need to have a return flight booked at time of departure.
Some students choose to arrive early or stay after the program ends. You are welcome to do this as long as you're not arriving before or after the timeline included on your visa (if you need to get one, see below). Please keep in mind that you are responsible for finding and paying for housing for those extra days, because housing is only included for the program dates.
All students will need a valid passport in order to travel internationally. Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the completion of your program abroad. Applications can take four to eight weeks to process, so students should plan accordingly. Please visit the U.S. Department of State's website for more information.
A visa is an endorsement stamped into your passport by a foreign government, allowing you to stay in the country for a specific purpose and period of time. Most countries require you to have a student visa in order to enter the country and stay there legally as a student. If a visa is required, your program provider will send you the necessary information to apply for your student visa; they will typically provide you with a letter from the host school and an overview of the process, and you will be responsible for both gathering any additional materials and applying for the visa. If you need any paperwork from the International Center, such as a guarantee that you are a student, you are responsible for informing the International Center that you need this document. Please allow a week for us to process the materials if you are picking it up from the office, and two weeks if we are mailing it out to you. Typically a visa is obtained in one of three ways:
- You must go to the consulate with your paperwork or passport,
- You mail your paperwork and passport to the consulate, or
- You apply and submit your paperwork online.
Depending on the host country, it can take several weeks to schedule your visa appointment and/or receive your passport with the visa stamp; do NOT wait until the last minute to schedule your appointment and/or get your visa. Keep all documents that are sent to you by your program provider; some may be needed by immigration officials upon arrival in your host country rather than at the specific visa appointment.
One last thing to keep in mind is that some countries don't require you to get a visa upfront, but you will need to get a residency permit once you arrive in the host country, and others will require you to get both a visa beforehand and then a residency permit onsite. Your program provider will have the details regarding whether you need one or the other or both, and can give you an idea of the associated costs and processes.
All students are required to have international medical insurance while abroad. Most providers will include it within the program; if yours does not, you will have medical insurance through the University of Hartford’s required GeoBlue Insurance plan. Coverage varies widely for each program and it is your responsibility to know your coverage. Make sure you understand what is covered under your policy and what is considered an exclusion, how prescription drugs are covered, if the plan has a deductible, etc. When outside of the U.S., you will likely be asked to pay for your medical care first and then will need to seek separate reimbursement; ask your program provider or insurance company how this might be handled.
The University of Hartford requires that all students are covered by the GeoBlue Insurance Policy regardless of whether students have personal insurance and/or insurance included through their study abroad program. The GeoBlue policy provides medical coverage and worldwide assistance and evacuation services for all study abroad students. Prior to departure, students will be emailed instructions to create an account at GeoBlue. Once logged in, students can access their electronic ID card, locate providers and hospitals at your host destination, arrange direct payment to your provider, access global health and safety tools including translations, drugs, news and safety information, and submit and track claims. Students can access the GeoBlue Member Hub at www.geobluestudents.com.
Please speak with your doctor regarding your prescriptions while abroad. If possible, bring enough medication for the entire duration of your program. If it is not possible to bring a full supply of medication, consult with your doctor. Be aware of customs limitations and regulations on medications overseas as some medication that is legal here may be illegal overseas. All medications should be clearly labeled with your full name, and should remain in their original container (you cannot show up with an unlabeled bag or bottle). It is best to also travel with a note from your physician describing your condition and the necessity of the medication, as well as the generic brand name, as some specific brands may not be available in your location.
Banking overseas can be quite different from what you are used to back home. Below you will find tips and strategies to help make your time abroad as easy as possible.
Be prepared with a combination of cash and appropriate credit and bank/ATM cards. Most of your major costs for the semester (tuition and fees, housing, and sometimes food or excursions) may be taken care of before you go. After your fees are paid, create a budget so that you do not find yourself running out of money or unable to travel due to a lack of funds.
Learn the local exchange rate and what options you have available to you for changing money. A useful resource is www.xe.com. Avoid exchanging money at the airport because of high fees; instead use an ATM for good rates. If you do need to exchange cash, look for exchange vendors that may give discounts with a student ID.
Here is a guide on tipping etiquette around the world. Note that in some places, it is not required to tip, and can even be considered offensive.
Here are a few general guidelines:
- Exchange $100 before you depart; when you arrive use ATMs to obtain local currency
- ATM cards and credit cards will usually provide you with the best exchange rates
- Contact your bank and credit card companies ahead of time to let them know the dates you will be out of the country AND where you are going
- Verify with your bank that you can use your debit card overseas, and ask about withdrawal fees
- Contact your bank and credit card companies, and ask if they charge an international transaction fee for using the card (is there a fee locally and/or a fee back home)
- Ask your bank/credit card company if they have any "sister" banks abroad - if they do, it may be cheaper to use those specific ATMs or you may have smaller (if any) transaction fees than using other non-sister banks
- Make an extra copy of your credit card numbers, ATM card, and their corresponding phone numbers, and leave it at home so you'll still have easy access to the information if the cards are lost or stolen
- When using your ATM card or credit card, be careful that someone isn't around writing down your number; only use ATMs that are in well-lit areas, and only use ATMs inside banks or locations that require you to swipe a card to enter the vestibule.
- Put aside money when you arrive in your host country to be used for emergencies, departure fees, and day-of-travel expenses at the end of the semester.
There are quite a few options available for students when it comes to cell phones overseas:
Option 1: Renting or purchasing a phone through your study abroad program. You would pay the cost of the phone and/or rental fee to the provider and then would be responsible for paying for usage (minutes and texts).
Option 2: Purchasing a phone from a local phone company such as Vodafone, O2, or Orange. As with option 1, you are responsible for the cost of the phone and cost of usage. For both options 1 and 2, you shouldn't need to enter into a contract but can "top off" which is basically a pay-as-you-go method.
Option 3: if you have a smartphone you can bring it with you abroad and 1) turn off the data and roaming and only use it on Wi-Fi; 2) talk to your current phone provider to see if they offer an international phone plan and the cost of that plan for what you get; 3) if your smart phone is unlocked, you can go to a local phone provider onsite and buy a local SIM card to use in your smartphone (you would still be responsible for the cost of usage and the SIM card but it may be cheaper than buying/renting a phone).
Some students prefer not to have a phone with them; however, we recommend students bring a phone or buy one for emergencies. Some providers will not allow a student to participate without having a phone that can work abroad.
In addition to your phones, there are a number of apps and other ways of communicating, such as Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, Viber, WhatsApp, TextMe, GroupMe, etc. that allow you to stay in touch with your friends and family.
General Packing Tips
Packing for a few weeks or months abroad can be stressful, so we've listed a few general packing tips and guidelines below.
In general, if you don't wear it here, you won't wear it there. Don't pack too much, and don't pack anything that needs to be dry-cleaned or ironed. It is better to layer up then to have bulky sweatshirts and sweaters. Nobody will care or notice if you wear the same pants frequently. Pack dark colors that won't show dirt, and don't pack too many of one item.
Lay out all of your clothes, then cut the pile in half; that is what you should bring. Remember that you will personally have to carry everything you take with you; if you are not able to carry your luggage up and down the stairs a few times, you have packed too much.
What to leave at home
- Copy of your passport
- Copy of all credit card/debit card details you are bringing with you
- Copy of all important UHart and program provider contact numbers
What to take care of before you leave
- If you expect a refund from the University of Hartford during the semester you are abroad, you must set it up with the Bursar's Office/CSS before you leave for the semester. If a refund requires your signature in person, it is impossible for you to do that while abroad, so take care of it ahead of time to ensure you get that refund.
- Complete and sign your FAFSA form to ensure you get your financial aid package
- Complete and sign any income tax documents to be filed by April
What to pack with you on the plane
- A copy of your passport (keep it separate from where you keep your passport)
- A few toiletries - i.e. toothbrush, small supplies like shampoo, toothpaste, etc. (pay attention to the airline 3-1-1 rule)
- A change of clothes in case your bag is lost
- Your daily medications. Leave your medication in its original bottle; some medications may require a note from your doctor explaining the prescription to avoid confiscation at customs.
- Make sure you have written copies/notes about where you need to go once you land in the airport (if you do have an international plan and expect to pull up the information on your phone, remember it can take up to several hours for your phone to connect to the local network).
General Packing Tips
- Pack an extra duffel in your suitcase for all of the souvenirs you will acquire.
- Bring a small backpack for day trips and weekend getaways - you don't want to be dragging a huge suitcase around
- Leave expensive jewelry and other items at home.
- The electricity is different in every country; you may need an adapter and converter in order for your plug-ins to work. Do not bring a hair-dryer or straightener; you can buy an inexpensive one when you arrive (previous students have blown fuses in entire apartment blocks because they thought it would work - it can be a great way to make new friends when you shut off the power for a large group of people)
- If you choose to bring your laptop, it is your responsibility to make sure that you have the appropriate adaptors and property insurance for it. If you plan to travel after your program, keep in mind you will have to bring your laptop with you or pay to have it stored.
- Luggage weight restrictions vary by airline. Make sure that you check the airline's website for international restrictions. You may be required to pay extra fees or remove some items if you go over the weight limit.
- Bring an adequate supply of medication to last throughout your stay, plus a little extra; if you are unable to do so, pre-arrange for someone to ship you medication during your stay (remember to look at the customs restrictions for your host country) and/or work out a plan with your doctor to get additional medication throughout your time abroad.
- Contacts/Glasses: bring an extra pair
- Birth Control/Condoms: make sure that if you are going to be sexually active, you use contraception. Talk to your gynecologist about bringing a semester's worth of birth control with you.
- You can buy refills for most things, but if you only use a particular brand of something, bring enough to last the entire time (but be ready to pay extra fees for overweight luggage)
- Small pack of tissues and hand sanitizer - very helpful when traveling!
- Extra passport photographs (often needed to make ID and discount cards)
- A good book and/or travel book on the country you're going to (Lonely Planet, Let's Go, Rick Steves, etc.)
- Camera with extra battery and memory cards
- a TSA approved lock for your luggage and backpack (good for traveling in hostels)
- Change purse (many countries use coins worth more than typical U.S. change)
- Umbrella and/or rain coat
- A few things to remind you of home