When the students arrive at their destination, they will probably have to travel from the airport to a train, taxi, or bus station, walk several blocks, and go up a few flights of stairs to the apartment or residence hall. (Elevators may not be available!) They must be able to do all these while hauling their luggage. We do not recommend bringing anything you and your student do not want to lose, i.e., valuable jewelry or family heirlooms.
There are now stricter government regulations about airport luggage. Please check with the airline about weight limits and the US State Department’s website about items that can be brought on board.
Here’s a test to see if the student has over-packed: have him or her walk around the block a few times with the entire luggage. If the activity becomes very trying after only a few minutes, take out a few items.
Most returned student advises outbound students to not bring too many clothes and shoes. What’s fashionable is often different at the host country so students will most likely buy new things.
A comfortable pair of shoes. Your student will do a lot of walking while abroad. They should pack clothes that can be easily washed and dried. Leave out the bulky and heavy sweatshirt. Layering and mixing-and-matching are key. Most things that are available in the U.S. are generally also available overseas. Thus, hairdryers, toiletries, linens, eating utensils, etc. are best purchased on site. Also, research what the electrical specifications are at your student’s host country before he or she packs any electrical items.
Your student might also consider bringing his or her overseas academic advisor, host parents, exchange student coordinator, or resident director a little souvenir from HPU. An HPU keychain, T-shirt, pen, calendar, and other small items are quite appropriate. A gift is a small token of appreciation and a gracious gesture that will establish goodwill between the student and his or her hosts.
We are frequently asked if students can use their regular cell phone abroad. The answer is probably not, unless it’s a tri-band cell phone. Most US cell phones “can’t talk” to cell phones in the rest of the world. That is because the US and Canadian operating system, CDMA, and 75% of the world, GSM, are different.
The most reasonable choice is to purchase a phone when the student arrives at his or her destination. Many onsite orientation programs will include instructions and assistance for purchasing a cell phone. Buying a cell phone abroad is no more expensive than buying one in the U.S., and there is no need to get a plan that involves a monthly fee. For the most part, students pay as they go by “topping up” their minutes using a recharge card.
To “top up” a card, the student calls a number and adds minutes by paying with a credit card. Students can also purchase additional minutes with a SIM recharge card at any convenience store, grocery store, gas station, or news stand. GSM phones can be used almost anywhere. Incoming calls are often free.
Some students do purchase a tri-band cell phone before leaving for overseas. While convenient, the calls will not be cheap and there is a charge for both incoming and outgoing calls. Most of our students use the computer program “Skype,” as it provides free calls between PCs, and low rates on calls to phones.
Returned students have told us that having a laptop computer made writing papers and downloading photos more convenient. The AC adapter of most laptops today are dual voltage and can be used anywhere in the world with a plug adapter. Some students however, had little use for computers and usually just went to numerous and affordable internet cafes in their host city to post photos online and communicate with family and friends by email.
For the most part, students studying abroad secure cash by withdrawing money from an ATM using the debit or cash card they use in the United States, and paying for large purchases with a credit card in their name. ATMs are readily available all over the world and a student’s current debit or ATM card can be used abroad as long as the card is in the Cirrus or PLUS network (check the logos at the back of the card).
Students are advised to inform their bank of their travel itinerary to avoid deactivation of the cards for irregular use. Students should also check with the bank to determine the daily limit of funds received. Many U.S. banks charge a transaction fee every time the card is used on a non-bank ATM. While each transaction may only cost a couple of dollars, if your student withdraws money a couple of times a week, the charges could add up by end of the term. Students are advised to withdraw more, less frequently.
When using credit cards, charges are immediately assessed for every withdrawal. Be aware that most banks assess a one percent or higher fee every time a credit card is used for purchases. If the student uses his or her card for every purchase, including items costing less than the equivalent of $20, these fees could mount!
For some students, opening a bank account while studying abroad has proven to be quite convenient and a money saver. Some countries, such as Germany, require this. In this case, students do not have to pay any ATM transaction fees within the host country, thus saving themselves a few hundred dollars in fees. Having a local bank account also makes it easier to make housing and other local payments.
If you decide on this route, the onsite staff should be able to assist your student in selecting a bank and completing the required procedure. For the initial deposit, the student can use traveler’s checks or withdraw money from an ATM.
If you are financing the student’s semester abroad, you could add funds to the account either by doing an international wire transfer or mailing the student a cashier’s check or bank draft by certified or insured mail. Your student will then deposit this check in his or her bank account. If you choose to do a wire transfer, we suggest doing large transfers occasionally rather than transferring smaller amounts more frequently. The latter will cost more as your home bank will probably charge a fee, usually about $40 per transaction.
Tips we recommend to students (and parents) on a budget:
Be frugal during the first few months. It is better to have a bit left over than to run out of money before your program ends. Purchase only necessary items during the first few weeks. Try not to immediately start shopping for souvenirs.
Eat out only occasionally. We applaud students who are enthusiastic about the local cuisine. However, rather than eating meals at restaurants all the time, buy supplies at a local grocery and prepare meals in the apartment or residence hall.
Explore the host city and country. Some students are compelled to visit as many countries as possible that they hardly spend a free weekend “at home.” Yet, there is much to discover and learn about the host city and country. The student’s semester abroad will be more meaningful when he or she starts feeling like a native. This won’t happen however if the student is traveling to another country or city every weekend. Also consider exploring the roads less traveled. There are many lovely smaller cities that are worth visiting and affordable. Neighborhoods and suburbs also offer a glimpse of daily life abroad.
Investigate free entertainment. Visit local parks, the city center plaza or the city’s museums. Attend open-air concerts, street festivals, and local fairs.
It is likely the one thought that makes you uncomfortable about your student studying abroad: safety.
The Office of Study Abroad takes our students’ safety abroad very seriously, monitoring political and environmental situations multiple times each day. Before departing for their host country, your student receives an emergency contact information card for their host country, which contains HPU emergency numbers, the 911-equivalent for their host country and the location of the nearest US embassy or consulate. We also discuss safety and emergency preparedness at length during the mandatory pre-departure orientation session.
In addition, we encourage all students to register their travel itinerary with the Department of State’s Smart Travelers Enrollment Program. Students in Global Experience Programs are enrolled by our office.
In the rare event of an emergency abroad, please note that students are encouraged to act locally first. Especially students and faculty on Global Experience programs will work with local authorities, hospitals and the HPU Office of Study Abroad before family members are contacted about the situation. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the safety and well-being of the individual students and the group as a whole are of primary importance. HPU students on semester programs are encouraged to work with their local advisors, police, and on-site administrators who are best able to assist them in an emergency. If your student reaches out to you first, gently remind them to get help locally, as there is little you can effectively do from thousands of miles away.
In case of a serious accident or illness, students should contact Heidi Fischer, Director of Study Abroad, at the number provided on the emergency card after they have reached a safe location and appropriate treatment.
The medical insurance that covers your family is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs also do not cover medical services outside this country. Furthermore, doctors and hospitals abroad often expect immediate cash payments for medical services.
For these reasons, HPU has mandated that all students on study abroad and exchange programs have comprehensive insurance coverage which covers the students while outside the U.S. and is comparable to the coverage required for study at HPU.
For some HPU programs, insurance coverage is provided by the provider or host institution. Students on programs which do not offer insurance are able to search out their own coverage, provided it meets the minimum coverage needs. Because most standard insurance plans may not cover travelers abroad, we encourage you to contact your provider for options. Alternatively, international coverage can be purchased through GeoBlue Travel Insurance.
The Office of Study Abroad provides all students studying abroad with an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) which provides limited insurance coverage. The ISIC serves as a student ID card and is accepted many places around the world. It offers discounts on travel, activities, events, museums, etc. It also operates as a pre-paid MasterCard.
Please note: The ISIC coverage does not eliminate the need for comprehensive coverage as outlined above.