In addition to preparing to leave campus, it is important to start taking care of the items listed below to ensure a smooth pre-departure experience.
Register your trip with the State Department
The State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows travelers to register their trip. In case of an emergency in your host country, the State Department will know how to reach you and provide you assistance if necessary.
Have a valid passport
If you already have a passport, make sure it is valid for at least six months beyond the date of return. If you need to obtain a U.S. passport or renew your passport, you can find more information on the U.S. Department of State passport website.
Secure a student visa if necessary
More information about visas and phone numbers for the embassies or consulates can be found on the U.S. Department of State website. Your study abroad provider may also help facilitate this process. Follow the instructions given to you by your provider about the visa process, in particular, any deadlines for applying.
Be prepared for medical prescription needs
See your doctor and obtain enough medication to last for your stay abroad. Take a copy of vision prescriptions and an extra pair of glasses or contacts.
Be sure you have medical insurance that works overseas
Consult your insurance agent to make sure that you have appropriate medical insurance and any other travel insurance you wish to purchase. Be sure that you have coverage for medical evacuation, in the rare case that you would have to be flown back to the U.S. (or to a different country) for medical treatment. Also, check to make sure that your policy covers any continuing treatment you may need for newly acquired medical conditions after you return home. Your program may provide you with insurance for when you are abroad. Check that it is sufficient coverage.
Call your banks
Inform your bank that you will be studying abroad and traveling so that they do not put a security freeze on your ATM, debit, or credit cards. Also, make sure to find out about any international transaction fees that they may charge.
Scan all important documents
Take a copy of your passport, your visa, your health insurance card, debit cards, ATM cards, and credit cards, your acceptance letter and any other important entry documents. Also, take a copy of any prescription or doctor's notes. Keep all the originals in a safe place for travel. Keep them together in a folder, Ziploc bag, or whatever works for you.
Talk to your family about potential safety issues and make sure they know how to contact you in case of emergency
Have a discussion with your family about these and other issues that may come up while you are away.
Learn about your host country
Get informed about its history, customs, important cities, places and politics. The more you know about your host country, the easier your transition will be. The U.S. State Department country guides can help get you started.
Learn how to vote from overseas
Arrange to get an absentee ballot for any elections you will miss while abroad. You can find information about how to vote by going to www.fvap.gov.
Plan ahead for travel while abroad
You may find a Eurail pass helpful. For more information, visit www.counciltravel.com or www.eurorail.com. There are similar rail passes available outside Europe. Consult travel books and search the web for more information.