While you may be used to paying for many of your purchases in the U.S. with your credit or debit card, you’ll find that you’ll primarily be using cash for your daily purchases abroad, more than likely paying only for large purchases with a credit card. Depending on your location, many shops and restaurants may not even accept credit or debit cards.
Because of this, you’ll carry more cash with you every day. The most convenient way to secure cash abroad is by withdrawing money from an ATM. ATMs are readily available all over the world and your 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).
You’ll need to inform your bank of your travel itinerary to avoid deactivation of the cards for irregular use. Check with your bank(s) 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 you withdraw money a couple of times a week, the charges could add up by end of the term. It is usually advised to withdraw more, less frequently, and storing your cash in a safe location.
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 you use your 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, you do not have to pay any ATM transaction fees within the host country, thus saving 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 you in selecting a bank and completing the required procedure. For the initial deposit, you can use traveler’s checks or withdraw money from an ATM.
If your parents or guardians are financing your semester abroad, they could add funds to the account either by doing an international wire transfer or mailing you a cashier’s check or bank draft by certified or insured mail to then deposit into your bank account. If they 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 their home bank will probably charge a fee, usually about $40 per transaction.
Tips we recommend to students (and parents) on a budget:
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.
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 your apartment or residence hall.
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 your host city and country. Your semester abroad will be more meaningful when you start feeling like a native. This won’t happen however if you are 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.
Visit local parks, the city center plaza or the city’s museums. Attend open-air concerts, street festivals, and local fairs.
We are frequently asked if students can use their regular cell phone abroad. The answer is, it depends. Tri-band cell phones will work around the world. Many U.S. cell phones, especially non-smart phones, “can’t talk” to cell phones in the rest of the world because the U.S. and Canadian operating system, CDMA, and is different from what about 75% of the world use, GSM.
If your phone is global ready, you can talk with your current provider about global plans and rates. Keep in mind, if you keep your current plan and number, local phones will have to dial internationally in order to reach you. A more reasonable choice is to purchase a phone when you arrive at your destination. 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, you’ll pay as you go by “topping up” your minutes using a recharge card. If your current phone is global ready, you can choose to unlock your phone and purchase a SIM card at your destination.
To “top up” a card, you’ll call a number and add minutes by paying with a credit card. You 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 students use Skype or FaceTime as these apps provide free calls between PCs or Wi-Fi enabled devices, and Skype offers low rates on calls to phones.
A laptop computer can be very convenient abroad. The AC adapter of most laptops today are dual voltage and can be used anywhere in the world with a plug adapter. Having a personal computer is not always required, however, as numerous affordable internet cafes can be found in your host city to post photos online and communicate with family and friends by email.
Immigration policy governs work and volunteerism among student travelers, and policy varies from one country to another. In some countries, you may work for pay without a special visa. In other countries, you are not even permitted to volunteer without an immigration visa that specifically allows it. Consult the Visa Information page as well as the consular website of the country of interest, as these policies are updated without notice.
During your semester abroad, there will be several things you’ll want to do to help prepare yourself to transition home smoothly.
During your term, you’ll need to communicate with various offices at HPU regarding your education abroad and your return. After classes have started, it’s suggested that you send your final course enrollment to your academic advisor, so they are aware of which classes you are taking abroad. This will help when it comes time for advising.
Before the course registration period opens, you’ll receive emailed instructions about how to register while abroad. When you receive this email, begin emailing with your academic advisor so you will be cleared to register.
You’ll also receive an email from the Office of Student Life with instructions on how to sign up for housing back at HPU.
In addition, important information and updates from the Office of Study Abroad will be emailed out as needed.
Because your HPU email account will continue to be used as your primary means of communication with HPU, it’s important that you regularly check your account and delete out unneeded emails, to make sure you do not lose necessary emails due to a full inbox.
You need to make sure that everything is finalized with your host university before leaving campus. Make sure that your transcript will be sent to the Office of Study Abroad at High Point University. Also make sure that there are no fines, outstanding balances, or holds on your account which would prohibit your transcript from being released. It’s much easier to clear up these things when you are still on campus.
Make sure that you have scheduled your departure from campus after your exams will be completed. If you purchased an open-ended ticket, schedule your return flight. Will you be traveling before returning to the States? If so, have you thought about storing your luggage somewhere verses carrying it all around with you (most accommodations will not allow you to store personal belongings past the check-out date)?
It is advisable that you bring home your coursework, especially if it is for a class which has not been approved already by HPU faculty.
You’ll receive emailed information about registering for courses while you’re abroad. Similar to when you’re on campus, you will need to be cleared by your academic advisor. Contact your advisor via email for advising. If it would be easier to speak, you may consider asking if you can have a Skype appointment during one of their office hours. It’s best to start this process as soon as you receive the email, as you’ll be working with varying time zones to communicate.
If you are planning to take a class with a prerequisite that you are taking while abroad, contact the professor for permission–you may need to send him/her a copy of the syllabus. This permission will need to be sent to the HPU Registrar.
Similar to course registration, you’ll receive emailed instructions from the Office of Student Life regarding your on-campus accommodations. You’ll be able to select your accommodations from those available on the website. Specific questions regarding accommodations should be directed to the Office of Student Life.
The way one prepares to leave their host university, culture, and new friends is often one of the most forgotten part of the studying abroad process—usually waiting until it’s too late or even until their home. Saying goodbye properly can be a very difficult process. There have been a lot of people and places which have added to your experience, and it’s important to give yourself the time to say goodbye. This process can be very different for each person, but can include everything from photos and videos, collecting popular local music or art, learning to cook your favorite dishes, journaling or blogging, or spending time with your new friends.
Consider capturing the places and people that have become part of your normal routine: your neighborhood or street, your favorite hangout location, cultural icons, etc. Remember, although these places are common now to you, they are not to your friends and family back home. Sharing pictures of your daily life will help others to understand better your experience, and will help you remember these great memories that you’ve built in your time abroad.
As you consider saying goodbye, think about what you anticipate and fear about leaving your host culture as well as what you anticipate and fear about going home. Let those answers prompt how you say goodbye.