You may be wondering what you will need to know apart from our Health & Safety and Financial Aid & Budgeting information to go abroad. Documents such as passports, visas, and knowing what you will need to do to have a successful study abroad program may feel overwhelming but our office has many resources to help you with this process.
Much of the process will be done on the study abroad application. Students will need to complete questionnaires, upload documents, and more on their application at various times in the application process and should check on their application often to make sure they have completed and submitted all necessary items. Our study abroad application process has moved online to our Study Abroad Portal.
Make sure you read the Pre-departure Handbook which have more information and answers.
Visit our Education Abroad Resource Guide which has valuable information on specific countries, languages, politics, and more.
In this section, we will address and have resources regarding documents you may need, emotions you may encounter, and have a link to other resources you should explore before you depart on your study abroad program.
Getting your passport:
In order to participate on any program with the CGE, students, faculty, and staff must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your last day of your program. If your expiration date is within this period, you need to renew your passport as this can also affect your visa application. If you do not have a passport yet and have not applied, we advise you to apply as soon as possible.
It can take six to eight weeks to process a passport and usually costs around $150 depending on how quickly you need it. You can get a passport application at U.S. government and postal offices. Our office occasionally has a few of the applications on hand as well.
- U.S. Citizens without a passport can apply for a first time passport on this website.
- U.S. Citizens can renew their passports here.
- Non-U.S. Citizens should check their country’s U.S. embassy website for more information on renewing their passport while studying in the United States.
Protecting your passport:
You will upload a copy of your passport onto your application in the Study Abroad Portal which you will be able to access at any time, but it is good practice to carry around a physical copy of your passport. You can store these in separate areas so if anything happens to your passport, you have a copy of the original.
Never pack your passport in your luggage. When traveling from country to country, keep your passport with you at all times, preferably in a money belt or attached somehow under your clothes. Once you have arrived at your program “home base,” you will want to locate a safe place to keep your passport.
If You Lose Your Passport or Your Passport Gets Stolen:
If your passport gets lost or stolen while you are abroad, you will need to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately. For a list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates, go to
For easier replacement of lost or stolen passports, we recommend that you carry copies of your
passport in checked luggage. Leave a copy at home with your family and attach a copy of your passport to your study abroad profile, application, and the cloud to have online access to it as well.
When replacing a passport, offering a copy of your passport tends to speed up the replacement
process. After an identification investigation, the consulate will usually issue you a three-month
Every visa process is different. If you are participating in a short, one- or two-week program, you may not need an academic visa. On the other hand, if you are going for a semester or an internship, you often will need a student visa or another type of visa to enter and study in your host country. Most European visas will not let you begin the process until 3 months before your program starts. Set up your appointment as soon as possible as the time visas take varies from country to country.
Some visas require you to appear in person to the embassy or consulate closest to the university or your permanent address so research the closest locations to you. Be aware that many visas require notarized copies of your bank statements showing you can support yourself while abroad. Other visas may have requirements after you arrive in country. Visas vary in cost and requirements so make sure you do your research and pay attention to your host institution when you are abroad for more information.
Here are a few resources for some of our most common study abroad locations:
- Italy Visa Information for Americans and FAQs
- French Visa Information for American students
- Spain Visa Information for American Students
- UK Visa Information for all
While you are abroad, you will want to be connected and have a cellphone on you in case of emergency or to communicate with local friends. You have a few options when looking at phones while abroad to stay connected.
The first thing you should do is talk to your phone provider to see if they can unlock your smartphone so it can be used while abroad. If you own the phone completely or no longer have a contract with the provider you purchased your phone with, the company legally must unlock it for you. Doing this, you should be able to use a local SIM card for calls. Research what SIM cards work best in your host country and look into where you can purchase one. If you do not unlock your phone or if you prefer, you can ask your provider about international plans directly through them. Be aware that though this option may be easier than getting a local SIM card, it may be more costly depending on your provider.
Some students find it easier to purchase a cheap phone while they are abroad and to work with that. You can purchase a simple, local cell phone for calls and texts in country and use your US smartphone for everything else when connected to WiFi or you can purchase a phone that will allow you to do everything you would with your US phone. The first is a budget-friendly option while the second would allow you to only focus or carry around one phone. Look at your options and your budget to make the choice that’s best for you.
Make sure you buy a small quantity of the local currency from your bank in the United States before you go abroad in case you need money to get to your institution. We recommend exchanging most of your money once you are in your host country as you get more favorable rates. Look into fees for using your Debit or Credit Card while abroad. Talk to you bank to see if they have partner banks in your host country where there are no fees or fees are reduced. Look into withdrawal rates from local banks. Usually, we recommend withdrawing larger quantities of money if the withdrawal fee is steady.
It is advisable to bring a credit card(s) with you. As with an ATM card, you get an exchange rate
close to that given to banks. (Be warned, however, that some banks have announced a 2-3%
surcharge on credit card purchases outside the U.S. Check with your bank.) In emergencies, you can also use your charge card for cash advances. To do so may require a special “PIN” number, so check with your Credit Card Customer Service prior to departure. A 7 – 10 day waiting period may be involved, so check EARLY! This type of transaction is costly: you begin incurring interest from the moment you get the cash advance and interest continues to accrue until you’ve paid off the cash advance. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards.
A few other documents you may want to carry are:
- Extra passport photos
- ISIC Card
- Copy of birth certificate
- Copy of front and back of credit cards
- A copy of your health insurance
- Emergency Travel Assistance (given by MU)
- Your Pre-departure Handbook
When packing, it is important to pack quality over quantity. Research the weather in your country to know what you should prepare for and take into consideration if you think you will be traveling to other locations. We recommend packing layers so you will be prepared for various types of weather. Try to fit in one large suitcase, no more than two since you will most likely make some purchases while abroad.
It is not necessary to buy shampoo and toiletries in most countries unless you have particular brands or needs for your care. If you plan on needing a hair dryer, straightener, curler, or other electronic hair tools, we recommend purchasing in country as to avoid overheating with improper voltage. Remember to bring adapters and, if your electronics require them, converters.
When packing, don’t forget to bring these items in your carry-on:
- $300 in local currency
- Your laptop (if you decide to bring it)
- Your passport and supporting documents
- Cell phone with charger
- Electronic devices such as a cameras with chords
- Prescription medication with Doctor’s prescription
- Printed information on your flight and university accommodations
For what to bring down below in your larger suitcase(s), you can look at these packing lists or in your pre-departure handbook:
- Study Abroad Blog packing list
- Her Campus Study Abroad list
- 17 Top Studying Abroad Items
- Study Abroad Packing List: For Students, By Students
Moving to a new country is exciting and an experience worth taking, but it can also be overwhelming when students encounter cultural differences or clashes. Culture Shock is the disorienting feeling when your personal culture clashes with the local one and may make you feel aware of your other-ness. This is a completely natural feeling to have, even for seasoned travelers. Most students will experience culture shock at some point when they study abroad, but you can prepare for it and soften its blow by doing some research on your home country.
Some tips we recommend are
- Check out our Education Abroad Resource Guide for country-specific resources
- Learn a few phrases and words in your host country’s language
- Learn about culturally appropriate ways to communicate with others and to dress
- Set up a communication plan with your family to deal with homesickness in a healthy way while also engaging in your host country
- Try to find ways to engage in your hobbies while abroad
- Read the pre-departure handbook to identify symptoms of culture shock and how to cope with them
The most important thing to do is to be able to recognize your culture shock, work through the emotions in a positive way, and to not let the culture shock stop you from experiencing your host country to the fullest.
We recommend checking out the following websites for extra emotional help and preparation:
- State Department Country Information — The State Department provides information on every country in the world, such as the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices; whether you need a visa; crime and security information; health and medical conditions; drug penalties and localized hot spots.
- Student Travel Information — Visit the State Department’s newly designed studentsabroad.state.gov website for information specific to students interested in traveling abroad.