Read your pre-departure handbook. It is full of helpful information!
Resources and Materials
Passports and Visas
U.S. citizens will need to review the Department of State website to apply for or renew passport. First time applicants will need to apply in person.
Passports are currently taking 12 weeks or longer for routine applications and 4 – 6 weeks for expedited applications.
If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Passports must be valid for six months beyond your return date.
- Make several copies of your passport. Keep one with a relative or friend in the U.S. and one with you, stored separate from your physical passport.
- While abroad, keep a copy of your passport with you on a daily basis, but keep your original passport locked in your room, unless traveling.
Contact On Call to help you locate the closest U.S. embassy to replace a lost or stolen passport. Visit the U.S. Department of State website for more information. If your passport is stolen, report it to the local police.
A visa is official documentation from the host country allowing you to enter and stay in that country for a specific purpose and specific period of time. Some countries require study abroad students to obtain a visa prior to travel. There may be different processes and requirements depending on your citizenship and the length of stay. Check with the embassy of your host country for more information.
TCU Global will typically notify students traveling with a US passport who are departing from the US any visa requirements for the duration of their program. Participants extending their stay abroad should verify if additional immigration (visa) requirements apply.
Non-US passport holders should verify visa requirements relevant to the country issuing their passport.
For Consulates that ask TCU to apply for student visas as a group, we will apply on your behalf, but you must provide all the necessary paperwork, exactly as requested.
A visa is stamped in your current passport; therefore, your passport will be submitted with your visa application. Do not make plans to travel internationally for the duration of this process.
Flight and Travel Information
- For most programs, you are responsible for your own travel and all transfer arrangements. Check with your program to be sure.
- Carefully check program dates and check-in information so that you will arrive on time.
- Many international flights are overnight, which may mean starting your journey a day before you need to arrive.
- Allow plenty of time for connections. You may need to collect your luggage during connections and re-check it, as well as navigate large airports.
- If you would like to arrive early or stay after the program, you must arrange and pay for your own accommodations and meals. Your access to On Call Services and insurance is only valid for the dates of the program.
You MUST have a return ticket when you leave the U.S.
- Arrive at airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure for international flights.
- Keep all essential documents, including passport & visa, arrival address & instructions, medication, and change of clothing in your carry-on. (For more tips, see Packing below.)
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and jet lag. If possible, walk from time to timethrough the aisles of the plane to keep blood flowing.
- If connecting, keep flight info handy and allow plenty of time (2 hours) to navigate through the airport.
When you land, you will pass through customs and immigration. During this process, government officials of your host country verify you are allowed to enter the country and that you are not bringing any illegal items into the country. This is a serious, although often tedious process, and should be given the utmost respect.
Have passport, visa and/or acceptance paperwork, as well as housing address readily available.
Keep all medications and dietary supplements in their original containers and if possible, bring a copy of any prescriptions from your doctor.
Follow the instructions provided to you by your program and proceed to the meeting point – it may be the airport or it may be your housing.
Anytime you cross borders – and when you return to the U.S. – you will go through this process again. Always carry your passport and entry authorization (visa or study abroad acceptance letter) when you cross borders.
Many travelers struggle with jet lag when they arrive. To adjust, get outside during the daytime. Drink plenty of water. Try not to nap, but rather wait and go to bed at a regular (early) bedtime.
Packing and Electronics
Pack less than you think you need! Savvy travelers often say, “pack your bag and then take half of it out.”
You need to manage all your luggage by yourself in airports, train stations, etc. which often do not have elevators or ramps, and then store everything in much smaller rooms. If you cannot manage all your bags, they are too heavy. Rolling bags and backpacks are easier to carry.
Check with your airline for information regarding weight and size restrictions and additional fees. Typical weight restriction is 50 pounds per bag. Review guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to determine restrictions and limitations on certain items in carry-on and checked luggage.
You may NOT leave your luggage in your apartment/room/homestay while traveling before or after the program ends. It is very expensive to have bags shipped home or stored at an airport or train station.
The Suggested Packing Checklist will give you a general idea of what to pack. You should also review information provided to you by your specific program.
If you plan to bring a laptop computer, consider the following:
- Check with program to see if internet access is available in housing abroad.
- Internet access abroad can be much slower than you may be accustomed to.
- Some of your courses may require you to use a computer for preparing academic course work.
- Do not ship your laptop overseas. Your laptop may be held for inspection by customs officials and customs fees are quite costly, even for older laptops.
- You should be certain your laptop is fully insured in case of loss or theft as TCU does not provide insurance for personal property.
- Make sure your laptop has antivirus software, runs smoothly and has been serviced recently. Repairs on-site are expensive and time-consuming.
- Never set the bag containing your laptop out of reach. Laptops are among the most frequently stolen items from travelers.
- Make sure you laptop is equipped with a voltage converter allowing you to use the 220V electricity, and bring an adaptor to plug it in. Please read your manual to confirm.
It is extremely important to have a cell phone with local access during your time abroad. In case of an emergency, TCU and program coordinators will contact participants via their local cell phones. Cell phones also allow participants to contact the local staff in case of an emergency as most housing is not equipped with telephones. We have found that students often pursue one of the following options:
- Purchasing a SIM card for an unlocked phone upon arrival
- Purchasing a moderately priced pre-paid cell-phone on-site
- Using a U.S. cell phone number abroad
- Contact your cell phone provider for a breakdown of the fees associated with using your cell phone abroad and options for plans
Do your research early and make a plan before your arrival in country
- Passport and all travel documents
- All necessary acceptance letters provided to you by your host program
- Credit/bank cards and cash
- Address and other contact information for your program and details of where you are to go upon arrival
- One change of clothing and a toiletry kit in case your checked luggage does not arrive with your flight. (Remember 3—1—1 rule for liquids)
- Prescription medications in original containers and doctors’ notes
- Phone Charger
- Jewelry / Other valuables
- Adapters / Converters if necessary. Check here to see what voltage and plug your country uses.
*When packing your carry-on, review the limits from your airline and the guidelines from the TSA.*
We recommend you leave at home:
- Anything you would regret losing; anything that has sentimental value, or is expensive/meaningful (such as heirloom jewelry).
- Your Social Security card and any extra credit cards, store cards, etc. that you do not plan to use while abroad.
- Anything that would be considered a weapon, including pocketknives and pepper spray.
- Toiletries and amenities that can be readily purchased on-site. Check with your program to see if there are any specific recommendations.
- Hair dryers, curling irons, or straighteners: if your country uses a different voltage system, it is best to buy them on site if they are necessary.
- Logo clothing and baseball caps. Shirts and other clothing with American or team logos will tend to make you stand out.
Money and Banking
Most countries will use a different currency and will have an exchange rate. Visit http://www.xe.com/ucc/ to see the latest exchange rates. Check with your bank / credit card company regarding fees for the use of international ATMs and other currency transaction fees.
We recommend that you choose several different forms of money so that if you have a problem with one, you will still have access to funds. This could be a combination of different credit / debit cards, cash, or traveler’s checks. See option details below.
- We highly recommend that you purchase $100 to $150 worth of foreign currency from a bank or exchange office before leaving the United States. Arriving with local money in hand will ensure you have money for the first day or two until you get to know the layout of your neighborhood.
- It is expensive to exchange U.S. dollars at the airport, and there are limited places outside the airport where you can exchange U.S. dollars.
- While abroad, we recommend you not carry large amounts of cash, which can be lost or stolen!
- We strongly recommend that you bring an ATM card linked to your checking account in the U.S. This is by far the easiest way to access your money overseas. Ask your bank whether your ATM card will work overseas.
- Confirm with your bank that your PIN will work abroad.
- Some banks have sister banks overseas which may not charge you withdrawal fees.
- Notify your bank of your plans to study abroad, including any additional trips you take.
- Check with your card company to see if the country where you are studying abroad accepts your card.
- Both debit and credit cards should have a “chip” and PIN. Confirm with your credit card company that your PIN will work abroad.
- Notify your credit card company of your plans to study abroad, including any additional trips you take.