Preparing for Departure
The following checklists provide general pre-departure steps for all programs. Check with your program and/or directors for other program-specific things to do.
Research, research, research! Your time abroad will fly by. Make the most of it by learning as much as possible before getting on the plane.
- Mark your calendar for all pre-departure meetings and orientation. These meetings are required; dates can be found in your approval letter.
- Note your program’s cancellation policy and dates.
- Get courses approved! Any courses you take abroad will automatically count as elective credit for graduation. For a course to fulfill a major, minor or core requirement, a signature from the appropriate department chair is required. This requirement only applies to Affiliate programs, not St. Thomas programs.
- Review S-D-R grading policy (pass/fail). Form must be submitted to the Office of Study Abroad by required deadlines.
- Know your program’s cost: Visit the Study Abroad Programs page, or refer to the program provider’s website.
- Get a Passport. Estimated processing time is 11-13 weeks, but may be longer.
- Or renew your passport. Check your passport expiration date. Passports must be valid for 6 months past your date of return.
- If needed, consider an expedited passport process. Extra fees apply.
- Check with your program for visa requirements. Some countries require visas for entry, others only require visas for stay over a specified time period. Keep in mind that visa requirements may be different for international students.
- Make copies of your passport and visa to carry with you, and to leave at home.
- Review our pages on Health and Safety and Risk Assessment.
- Register with the U.S. State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
- Prepare a list of emergency contact information you may need: onsite program, St. Thomas, your parents, and anything else that applies to you.
Especially for international travel, it’s good to be prepared. Here are some things to keep in mind while traveling:
- Familiarize yourself with the currency and exchange rate. This doesn’t just mean knowing what the currency exchange rate is, even though that’s important. It means knowing what the bills and coins look like and what they are worth. For instance, how much does a carton of milk or a dozen eggs cost, and if you had a handful of random coins in foreign currency, could you add them up to the right amount? Visit XE to learn the exchange rate.
- Notify your bank about your travel plans. Some banks have made it super easy to share where you will be in the world and when, and you can simply login online and submit your itinerary. For others, you will have to call in order for them to make a note on your account. No matter what, make sure you notify your bank prior to departure.
- Research ATM and foreign transaction fees. Generally speaking, the easiest and cheapest way to get money abroad is via an ATM, but in many cases your bank is going to charge an ATM transaction fee and may also charge a foreign transaction fee. In both cases, these fees are usually a small percentage of the amount you withdraw, but they add up. Do your research ahead of time! By switching banks before you go, you could end up with no fees at all. The same applies to credit cards – some cards charge foreign transaction fees, and others don’t.
- Be sure you have at least two ways to access funds and cash. Even if you never need to use it, an additional card can be your emergency back-up while you are abroad. Visa and Mastercard tend to be the most widely accepted cards internationally but check with your card(s) and see how widely they can be used in your destination.
Upon arrival, your program will hold an orientation covering many items including safety and emergency procedures. Attend and pay close attention.
Know emergency contact information for your program staff/directors, the address and contact information for your housing.
Know the in-country equivalent of 911.
Stay healthy and stay safe – review best practices with our Health and Safety page.