Carnegie Mellon University

Planning & Preparation

In order to make students’ experiences abroad as happy, healthy and safe as possible, and in order to make their transition back to Carnegie Mellon as seamless as possible, OIE has instituted several policies that all students must follow in order to study abroad during their time at CMU. These administrative procedures, and the procedures laid out by the study abroad program or host institution, are a large part of the planning and preparation process.

All students, regardless of the study abroad opportunity chosen, must attend a Pre-Departure Orientation and submit all required forms in order to be registered for study abroad and receive transfer credit upon return. Students must have adequate health insurance coverage during their time abroad and have a valid passport. In addition, many countries also require a visa. 

International students who wish to study abroad must complete additional steps.  

Questions? Email

Before Studying Abroad

Attend Pre-Departure Orientation Session

Students are required to attend a pre-departure orientation session the semester before the study abroad experience. These sessions address administrative procedures, health and safety preparation and cultural training. Registration must be completed in advance. Students who do not attend a Pre-Departure Orientation may not be registered for study abroad or receive credit for the experience.  Learn more.

Submit Required Forms & Documents

Several forms and documents must be completed through the CMU Study Abroad Portal before a student may study abroad. These forms become available to students after they attend a Pre-Departure Orientation. Learn more.

Secure Identification

In order to study abroad, all students must obtain:

  • A valid passport
  • In addition, many countries also require a visa
Learn more

Verify or Obtain Health Insurance

Carnegie Mellon requires that students have adequate health insurance coverage during the entire study abroad experience. Learn more.

Students are required to attend a Pre-Departure Orientation the semester before the study abroad experience. Those who do not attend may not be registered for study abroad or receive credit for the experience.

Pre-Departure Orientations take place:

  • In the spring for summer, fall, and all-year programs
  • In the fall for spring programs

Students should register for a session in advance: 

  1. Visit CMU’s The Bridge
  2. After logging in, you will see all of the sessions listed
  3. Choose the session that best fits into your schedule
  4. RSVP for the session

The following forms and documents must be completed through the CMU Study Abroad Portal after a student has completed a Pre-Departure Orientation Session. 

  • Study Abroad Transfer Credit (SATC) (pdf) form: Use this form to document classes to be taken abroad and their Carnegie Mellon equivalents. Obtain signatures from the appropriate departments. Learn more about transfer credit.
  • Personal Data Sheet: Complete this form to provide our office with emergency contact information, demographics, and an academic profile.
  • Study Abroad Information & Agreement Contract: Read and sign this legal document.
  • Study Abroad Release: Read and sign this legal document.
  • Financial Documents:
    • Acknowledgement of Financial Responsibility: For all students studying abroad during fall, spring or all-year programs.
    • Consortium/Contractual Agreement (pdf): For students going on External or Direct Enrollment programs who have federal or state funding to be used while abroad. Fall, spring or all-year programs only.
    • Sponsored Study Abroad Financial Responsibilities Contract: For students going on Sponsored Programs. Fall, spring or all-year programs only.

Have a passport?
Ensure that a current passport will be valid for at least 6 months beyond the study abroad program’s end date.

Need a passport?
U.S. passport applications must be done in person at a designated site such as a courthouse or post office. Passport applications can take approximately 6 weeks to process. See the U.S. State Department website at for more details.

Need to renew a passport?
U.S. passports may be renewed by mail only if your last passport was issued after age 16 or less than 2 years ago. Renewal forms are available online at and at passport agencies. The process generally takes about 4-6 weeks but can take up to 12 weeks, so plan ahead!

The process for renewing a passport that was originally issued to a minor is the same as applying for the first time.

Need a visa?
A visa states the purpose of entry into a foreign country and is required by most countries. Apply early. This process can take up to several months. A valid passport is required to apply for a visa. It is important to find out what the visa requirements are for the host country. Embassies serve citizens based on home address, so students need to go to the Foreign Embassy closest to their hometown. This may mean taking time out of winter or spring break to visit the consulate or making a special trip home. For those with a Pittsburgh address, the New York embassies are generally the designated consulates.

Need a visa letter?
Some countries require a letter from the home institution (that’s us) verifying the payment method and ensuring that the student will return to the U.S. to complete their degree. Students who need a visa letter should complete the visa letter request form (pdf) and submit it to the study abroad office or email the form to Letters take 3-5 days to process and may be picked up at the OIE front desk.

Carnegie Mellon requires that students have adequate health insurance coverage during the entire study abroad experience. This insurance must cover students door to door for all situations that can occur while abroad, including accident coverage, medevac and repatriation of remains.

Verify Coverage
Students should verify that their current policy will provide the required coverage for the entire abroad experience. Providers commonly consider treatment in foreign countries as “out of network,” which means that patients must pay upfront for medical care and seek reimbursement from the insurance company.

Carnegie Mellon’s Student Health Insurance
Students can purchase Aetna Student Health through Carnegie Mellon’s University Health Services Office.  Plan details can be obtained by visiting the University Health Services webpage by contacting University Health Services at x8-2157 or, or by contacting Aetna directly at

Insurance Provided by Study Abroad Programs
Some study abroad packages include health insurance as part of the program fee and some do not. Students should not cancel their current policy if additional insurance is offered.

Not Covered?
A variety of companies provide short-term insurance specifically for study abroad students. Carnegie Mellon does not endorse a specific plan.

Important Questions
When speaking to an insurance provider, ask the following: 

  1. Do I have coverage for the country(ies) to which I am traveling?
  2. What is the process if I need to see a doctor abroad?
  3. What is the process if I go to a hospital abroad?
  4. How is payment/reimbursement handled?

International students in the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas (most commonly F-1 or J-1) who are going abroad during the academic year should make sure they understand the impact of their abroad experience on their immigration status. They should meet with their Study Abroad Advisor if any questions arise, but should also meet with their Foreign Student Advisor for more detailed immigration situations. International students should always ensure that their I-20 or DS-2019 has a signature within a year of their return to the U.S..

Tip: To help prepare for your time abroad, see if your country's embassy abroad has an emergency alert system. Many countries now have a system that will alert individuals if any large-scale emergency occurs and/or if an evacuation is necessary.

Where and how to receive a signature:

  • Visit OIE Express, each Monday, from 3 to 4 pm in OIE (Cyert Hall, First Floor Atrium). You can receive a signature on the spot.
  • Stop by OIE on a Signature Day for a signature on the spot. These days normally coincide with upcoming vacation breaks.
  • Drop off the document in our OIE office for 3-day processing.

make an appointment with your Study Abroad Advisor

make an appointment with a Foreign Student Advisor