This section of the Study Abroad website provides a list of U.S. Embassies Abroad as well as information on cell phones and internet connections abroad and hostels and Eurorail passes.
There is also a section containing specific information for “You” as a woman, minority, LGBTQ+ student, student with a disability, vegetarian, international student, or member of a religious or spiritual group abroad.
US Embassies Abroad
Students should register with the State Department when they arrive in the host country. U.S. Embassies Abroad are excellent resources for study abroad students. They can provide a list of doctors or lawyers in the local area, tax forms, and information on travel advisories. Furthermore, the embassy is a safe haven in the case of a large scale emergency and may help U.S. students evacuate should that become necessary.
International Students should check-in with the embassy of their home country to determine what services are available in the host country.
While abroad, students must be particularly street savvy. Attitudes toward women, homosexuality, and people of color may not be the same as in the United States. OIE recommends that students research the host country’s view of diversity and find out what they can expect to encounter.
The personal experiences of other study abroad students can also be helpful. We have created a helpful collection of student stories. Students are often surprised to find that many countries are very open to diversity. Many students of color report that they are treated first as an American.
Individual differences affect cross-cultural adjustment and students’ experiences with Culture Shock. Being high-strung in a laid-back culture, a Muslim in a predominately Catholic country, a vegetarian in a country that serves meat at every meal, a student of color, a woman, a student with a disability, a member of the LGBTQQ+ community, etc. all affect cross-cultural adjustment. That is not to say that members of one or more of these groups do not adjust to the host culture, it is simply to say that these are factors to consider. In fact, joining an organization abroad such as a Religious or Spiritual group can be a great way to make connections, learn about the culture, and reduce culture shock anxiety.
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Call around to find the best phone card deals. Expect to pay a modest monthly fee, and then per minute rates that are usually under $1 a minute.
Some new U.S. phones will work abroad. Call Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint to find out more. Or, consider renting or purchasing a cell phone abroad.
Here are a few services for phone cards, cell phones, and/or other services to make calling home more affordable:
Remember, friends and family back home will be in a different time zone.
Most of the world is now connected to the internet and communication by email is possible in all but the most remote of locations.
Internet cafés are prevalent in many parts of the world and offer cheap internet access. Remember that identity theft can easily occur when using a public computer. Consider downloading a security program such as Spybot onto a USB drive and plugging it in before accessing online bank statements or other sensitive information.
WIFI is another way to access the internet abroad. Many restaurants and cafés have wireless internet access within their shops - for paying customers only.
Transportation & Travel
Travel To/From the U.S.
It is extremely important to make flight reservations in advance to guarantee a seat and get the best deal. There are several types of tickets that can be purchased for travel abroad, and the best two options are described below:
Round-trip tickets are usually the least expensive, but the return date must be specified at the time of purchase. This can be a challenge for students who are not sure when their exams will be completed or who are considering post-study abroad travel. Travel must be completed within one year. Most airlines charge a fee to change a return flight.
Open-ended, round-trip tickets are the choice of most students studying abroad because they do not require a specified return date at the time of purchase. Because of this convenience, open-ended tickets are usually more expensive than regular round-trip tickets. Like round-trip tickets, open-ended tickets require travel to be completed within one year. Book the return flight as soon as possible to guarantee a seat.
STA Travel offers discount airfares for holders of the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which is required for all Carnegie Mellon students studying abroad.
Other sites for cheap tickets include:
Travel While Abroad
Most study abroad students travel within the host country and to neighboring countries as well. Take advantage of weekends and vacations. Travel before or after the study abroad program is also possible, but check with the study abroad program provider first because some countries have restrictions on this. Also be sure to find out if a visa is required to visit any nearby countries.
Since Europe is the most traditional study abroad destination, there are many resources available for travel between European countries. Discount airlines are rapidly becoming the most inexpensive way to travel in Europe. Often they fly into smaller airports, but the savings can be significant. The train is also a cheap and convenient way to travel Europe. Eurail passes are available to American tourists and may be tailored to fit a student’s specific travel plans. Passes are available for every country in Western Europe, as well as most Eastern European countries.
After living in a European country for more than 6 months, students are eligible to purchase an Interrail Pass or a One Country Pass. They are similar to Eurail passes; however, they may be more or less expensive depending on the current exchange rate. Detailed information on these two options may be obtained online at www.interrail.eu, and at major train stations in Europe.
Rail passes can also be purchased for many non-European countries. For more information on travel in Asia, Australia, Africa or South America, contact a travel agency such as STA Travel or consult a guidebook.
Popular Travel Guidebooks
A good guidebook is essential. The Pitt bookstore, located at the Forbes Quad (between the towers), has a very extensive travel section, and they sell guidebooks for any country, city, or region imaginable. Some of the best student guide books are:
- Let’s Go: “Let’s Go” is written and published by students at Harvard University and is directed toward budget and student travelers. They publish books on 21 countries, cities, and regions.
- Lonely Planet: “Lonely Planet” guides are popular with student travelers and provide detailed information on places to visit, history, and culture. Publishing over 100 guidebooks on over 100 countries and regions, they cover the globe the most extensively.
Hostels are low-cost overnight accommodations where travelers can sleep and eat. Accommodations are dormitory style with separate bedrooms and bathrooms for males and females. Many hostels offer private and family accommodations as well. A self-service kitchen where meals can be prepared and common rooms for socializing create an atmosphere that encourages travelers to share experiences. Some hostels have mail pick-up service, laundry facilities, baggage and bicycle storage. Generally overnight fees range from $8-$25 per night depending on the location and season.
The “Let’s Go” and “Lonely Planet” guides provide information and recommendations on hostels. Hostel information can also be found at Hostelling International or hostels.com. Casamundo is another site that compares holiday houses, homes and apartments of every category and price range.
Other Travel Resources
Travel Document Systems offers visa, travel, and general information on almost every country.
Tips from Those Who’ve Been There
Theft is the most common crime reported among study abroad students. Think about ways to keep money safe such as keeping small amounts in various places. This is especially true on trains or long flights where a student may fall asleep.
Consider investing in a sturdy backpack with a padlock. This is useful while traveling or if luggage is left unattended at a hostel.
Call the airline to find out weight limits on luggage. Be sure to leave room for items purchased abroad that must also be returned under the weight restrictions. If everything does not fit, consider shipping lightweight but bulky items such as sweaters. Keep in mind that mailing to the U.S. is usually much more expensive than mailing from the U.S.
The voltage of electricity varies from country to country. Department stores, travel agencies, and office supply stores sell electricity converter kits. These converters work well, but are not designed for extended use. Students going abroad for a year should consider buying electronics abroad. Go to Kropla.com for more information about electricity conversion in the host country.
See the Study Abroad Handbook for a complete packing list and more helpful tips.