In our office's 40-plus years coordinating study abroad, we've picked up some simple tips that will help ensure your travels are safe, fun and fulfilling.
Baggage & Packing
Check with your airline for their specific rules and regulations on baggage and be sure to obey them closely. Any excess baggage charges are the responsibility of the passenger.
In case your checked bag goes astray, we recommend that you include the following items in your carry-on:
- A change of clothing
- A toothbrush and airline-compliant toiletries
- Any prescription drugs
- All important documents (e.g., plane ticket, visa, passport, international health insurance card)
As you begin to pack, be sure to research the climate and weather in your host city, as well as cultural norms around clothing. In addition to your usual wardrobe items, we suggest you bring:
- Comfortable shoes
- A raincoat or umbrella
- Clothing appropriate for the cultural and/or business visits you'll be completing as part of your program. Religious sites may require modest clothing and business visits will require professional attire
- Ample prescription medication (if necessary)
- Toiletries (although they can be purchased abroad)
- A small first aid kit
- A sewing kit
- A journal to document your experiences
Finally, don't overpack! Past students have reported that they wish they had packed less and left more room for souvenirs. Additionally, keep in mind that you will be responsible for navigating your luggage and you may need to carry your bags through the airport, up or down stairs, on cobbled streets or narrow sidewalks, etc. Only pack as much as you yourself can manage.
You should plan to have messaging and calling capabilities on your cell phone while abroad. Check with your own cell phone company to see what international plans and add-ons they offer. You may also opt to use internet-based services like Skype, iMessage, FaceTime, or WhatsApp, which can be more affordable options for international calling and messaging.
Electrical currents and plugs in foreign countries are often different from those used here in the US and it is likely that you will need to purchase a plug adapter and/or voltage converter to use your electronics abroad. For items like phone chargers and laptops, you should only need a plug adapter. You can purchase plug adapters through many online retailers. We encourage you not to purchase a voltage converter, as they are often expensive, heavy, and ineffective. We discourage you from bringing electronics that would require a voltage converter or which claim to be dual-voltage, such as hair dryers and straighteners.
You can find more information about the current and plugs used in the country where you will be studying here.
It is important to travel with more than one source of money so that you have backup options available. We recommend you travel with:
- An ATM/debit card, which will allow you to withdraw foreign currency from ATMs in your host city
- A small amount of foreign currency, which you can order through your bank prior to your travels
- A major American credit card. Be sure that you know your PIN, as this is often asked for when making transactions abroad!
- A small amount of American dollars
Before departing the US, place a "travel notice" with your bank on any ATM/debit/credit cards you plan to use while abroad. This will help ensure that your bank does not lock your cards for fraud when you use them overseas. You can set a travel notice by calling your bank, stopping in to speak with a teller, or via your bank's app.
International Health Insurance
All study abroad students are required to have international health insurance coverage while traveling abroad. As a Manhattan College student, you carry your Manhattan College liability insurance while traveling. However, we advise that you carry additional medical insurance that covers routine care, emergency care, and medical repatriation. First, check with the Office of Study Abroad to see if international health insurance is included in your program fee. This is routinely the case for short-term programs and Manhattan College-run full-semester programs (including Madrid and Rome).
If you find that insurance is not included in your program, check with your domestic health insurance carrier to see if you are covered under your current policy for out-of-country travel. If it is not, you can purchase supplemental international health insurance for the duration of your program. Some insurance companies that offer insurance to students abroad are:
Please note that "international health insurance" is not the same as "travel insurance." International health insurance typically provides coverage for a wide range of health-related care overseas, from everyday doctor's visits to prescriptions to inpatient hospitalization and medical evacuation from your host country. Travel insurance often focuses on providing financial reimbursement for travel cancelation or interruption. While travel insurance can be helpful, you are required to have international health insurance.
Passport & Visa
Everyone traveling abroad needs a passport. Certain countries also require a visa; check with the Study Abroad office to determine what documents you need. If you have a passport, be sure that it will not expire while you are abroad and that it will be valid for at least six months after your return to the US. If you need to apply for a passport or visa, allow ample time to apply for these documents. They can take up to three months for processing.
If you are not a US citizen, please reach out to the Office of Study Abroad to inquire about how the visa process may vary for you.
Keep in mind that once out of the U.S., you are leaving American protection and laws behind. Once abroad you will be responsible for your actions. If a law is broken, being a U.S. citizen will not protect you. Breaking a law that you are not aware of (ignorance of the law) is no protection from the consequences. Use good judgment and common sense; walk away from potential problem situations.
- Pickpockets are often more common abroad than they are in the US. Be aware of your belongings at all times, especially on public transportation. Carry your wallet and ID in a pouch that fastens around your neck or waist or in a zippered bag that you keep close at hand to protect yourself against pickpockets.
- Secure your original passport and and all important documents in your room once you arrive abroad. Carrying these documents with you every day increases the chance that you will lose them.
- Store photocopies of all important documents in your room abroad. In addition, leave photocopies of all important documents with family or a friend at home in the US.
- If you are going abroad for a full semester, take a set of extra passport size photos with you.
- Leave all valuable jewelry and electronics at home.
Prior to your travels abroad, be sure to review the State Department and Centers for Disease Control websites for information about your host country:
- State Department: Review health and security information about your destination. Make note of the address and contact information of the US Embassy/Consulate in or near your host city. As part of the study abroad pre-departure process, you will also be provided with information on how to register for the State Department's "Smart Traveller Enrollment Program."
- Centers for Disease Control: Review required and recommended vaccines as well as tips on staying healthy and safe while traveling.