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All Knox students going on term, semester or year-long programs are required to attend one of the pre-departure orientations hosted by the Stellyes Center for Global Studies before they depart for their off-campus experience, at which they will receive a hard copy of the Pre-Departure Student Manual. All Knox students will also have a copy of the Pre-Departure Student Manual available to them in their studyabroad.knox.edu (terra dotta) account, accessible at any time via computer with internet connection.
Most students will also attend a pre-departure / on-site orientation offered by their program provider and will receive detailed information and advice from their chosen program directors in preparation for their departure to their program. Also, GoAbroad.com's Meaningful Travel Manifesto includes good advice about preparation for meaningful travel and study abroad as well as principles for conduct while living abroad.
The U.S. State Department has a rich array of resources for student travels - see particularly the Traveler's Checklist and Students Abroad—both websites are well worth careful review. GoAbroad.com also has a useful overview, Preparing for Study Abroad: What to Know as a First-Timer.
The organization Diversity Abroad, of which Knox College is a member, has resources for students who are underrepresented in international study. Knox students may want to join at no cost the Diversity Abroad on-line community: this network provides study-abroad resources, scholarship opportunities, leadership cultivation, career and post-graduate support, and access to a network of peers engaged in study abroad and international education.
Knox Logistics | Travel Documents | Health | Money & Budgeting | Safety Reminders | Packing Tips | Travel Tips | Photography and Social Media | Social and Cultural Preparation | Re-Entry Resources: counseling, career preparation, graduate school and national fellowships
Credit Transfer: Credit earned on off-campus and study-abroad programs does not count toward your GPA, but the courses and grades received appear on your transcript and credit earned by passing grades counts toward degree progress (remember to take courses that are appropriate for transfer credit to Knox - if you have questions about course selection, talk with your academic advisor and the Registrar). If you want particular courses to count toward a Knox major requirement, you will complete a form (Permission to Use Transfer or Off-Campus Course Work to Satisfy Major Requirements) available in the Registrar's Office or via MyKnox.
Pre-Enrollment Procedures: The Registrar will email you with your degree audit and instructions about registering for courses in the following term. You should plan to email your course selections to your academic advisor and to the Office of the Registrar.
On-Campus Housing Selection: If you will not be on campus in spring term, lottery information will be available via email from the Office of Student Development.
Financial Aid: If you expect to receive need-based financial aid (grant/loans) you must complete the two-part financial aid process in the year before your off-campus / study-abroad experience. Finish the financial aid application per the deadline. Upon receipt of your financial aid package, return all required documents immediately (no later than your departure date). Follow the instructions in your award letter. If you have questions, the Financial Aid Office personnel are always available to meet with students.
Off-Campus Address: As soon as you know your off-campus address, login to studyabroad.knox.edu to fill out the query box with this address. Some programs provide participants with the address before the participants leave the States, and other programs provide housing information after participants' arrival in the host country.
Knox College Campus Safety Contact Information: 001-309-341-7979 (available 24/7).
Passport - you need it. Don't forget it. Be sure it is valid until at least six months after your scheduled date of return. Some countries will require you to carry your passport with you everywhere you go. Determine what will be the best way for you to carry your passport securely and discreetly.
Visa: Countries vary in their requirements. You will want to check carefully on the embassy webpage of the country you are visiting to understand the visa requirement for that country and the application process if a visa is necessary. The length of your stay and your citizenship determine the visa requirement (for U.S. citizens, the State Department provides a searchable database with country-specific information, including the visa requirement for U.S. citizens - Learn About Your Destination).
International students at Knox (students on F1 visas) need to ensure that the I-20 form has a valid travel signature when you return to the United States and that your student visa and passport will still be valid (not expired) at the point of return to the States. If a Knox international student is going to be gone for one term, the assistant director of international student services signs the I-20 before the student's departure for the study abroad program; if the student is going to be gone for more than one term, Knox ISS makes arrangements to send that student an I-20 form before their return to the States.
International Student ID Card: some programs require this. The card is issued by STA Travel Services and offers many benefits.
Photocopies: Review your pre-departure handbook (available in your account at studyabroad.knox.edu) for the list of documents you should photocopy before you depart (ID pages of your passport, prescriptions, credit cards (with phone numbers to call if a card is stolen or frozen), emergency telephone numbers). Keep one set; leave one set with your family or other trusted adult.
Smart Travel Enrollment Plan (STEP): this is a service provided by the U.S. government. Sign up so that the U.S. Consular Service in your host country can better assist you in cases of difficulty or emergency (https://step.state.gov/step/). Photocopy the contact information for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate in the country where you'll be staying.
Prescriptions and Counseling: Take responsibility for your physical and psychological health needs while abroad. You know your health situation best. Research how to meet your needs in an unfamiliar setting (and be aware that not all locations can provide the same level of support you will find on your home campus).
You should take additional supplies of any prescription medicines you are currently taking in the original medicine bottle. Take a photocopy of the prescription itself with you. Have on hand prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses (and an extra pair of eyeglasses is often useful). Take enough medicines with you to last the duration of your stay.
Be aware of vaccination requirements and recommendations for your host country.
Accident and Health Insurance: Students traveling on approved programs (ACM, CIEE, DIS, FIE, IES, SIT, SFS, etc) should explore with their chosen program provider what coverage for accidents and illnesses are provided by the program. Make a copy of your program's insurance provider information and leave a copy with your parents. Students on Knox programs have basic coverage by an insurance provider under contract with the College and will receive information from on-campus faculty program advisors and on-site program directors about how to access the list of in-network clinics and doctors.
See the U.S. State Department's Your Health Abroad webpage for additional information and check-lists. The U.S. State Department has Country Specific Information for every country of the world. The Center for Disease Control provides a Travel Health Notices page with Watch, Alert and Warning country-specific notifications.
Family Communication Plan: have a plan in place with your family in case of an emergency at home or abroad. Arrange with your family for some form of regular check-in (but it's best not to say that you will call or email immediately upon arrival because this is not always possible). Investigate getting a local cell phone (many programs require this); be sure your family knows how to use Skype or Viber or other internet-based communication platform.
Restroom facilities: These can be quite different abroad. It is best to be prepared for a variety of toilet styles. Be prepared to carry toilet paper with you in some regions; be prepared for a lack of running water in the facility. Hand sanitizer lotion can be useful. Some restrooms are not as private as the standard facilities in the U.S. as privacy norms differ. Be understanding, but also be aware of your surroundings and always trust your sense of appropriateness and safety.
Managing Your Money: Always review the money information section of the pre-departure guide provided by your program provider. Some programs have agreements with local banks; others suggest credit cards, debit cards and ATMs. Avoid Traveler's Checks. If possible, before departure, obtain a small amount of currency used in your host country. Plan to bring some US dollars with you (typically, small denominations not larger than $20 will be easiest to exchange for local currency).
Communicate with your bank and credit card companies about your travel plans before your departure. You don't want your cards frozen because of suspicious transactions! Ask: will your current card work in your host country? Does your bank have ATMs where you are going? What fees will you be charged? Will there be foreign transaction fees? an International ATM fee? Be aware of possible fees from the ATMs you use abroad, on top of the international fees. Does your bank offer a card with no foreign transaction fee? If so - this is the one to use!
Create a realistic budget and stick to it. Research non-program costs before departure (recreational travel, transportation, gifts, banking fees, and so on). Know the exchange rate of the US dollar to the local currency (XE Currency Converter is a reliable resource). Try to avoid carrying large sums of money on your person.
Plan Ahead: Notify your banks and credit card companies of your travel plans. Make copies of your wallet contents, including the number to call to report a lost or stolen card, and leave copies of this information in a location separate from the card as well as with a trusted adult at home. Consider taking a back-up credit card with you.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Be careful and aware of your actions and surroundings at and around ATMs (take all transaction-related materials with you; make sure you 'exit' the transaction, watch for bystanders). Use a neck or body wallet in crowded places, wearing it discreetly. Appreciate the value of coins (some coins, particularly in Europe, can be as valuable as bills).
Laws: Your host country's laws may vary significantly from those in the U.S. or your country of citizenship. It is a good idea to read up on the basic laws of the country or countries you will visit (particularly regarding driving, drinking, clothing in public, photography of government buildings, internet access). Violations of law may be handled more severely abroad.
Trust Your Gut: if something doesn't feel right or look right, it probably is not. Although you should pursue activities outside your comfort zone, your new experiences should be safe ones. Look for warning signs that things are amiss. If something sounds too good to be true, for example, it probably is.
Situational Awareness: you should always be aware of your surroundings and where your personal belongings are. Walk with purpose; be observant. Use the buddy system - always let a friend from your group know where you are going and how long you intend to be there.
Valuables: do not bring anything of value you do not have to bring. Leave jewelry, expensive or designer clothes and shoes, expensive camera equipment and unnecessary electronics at home. If it would break your heart to lose it, leave it at home. Consider buying a cell phone that you use just for the trip, for example. At a minimum, back-up your smart phone a few days before leaving on your trip.
Lost or stolen items: you may not have a lot of resource abroad if things are lost or stolen. If you have anything of value that you are bringing with you, you might want to buy insurance for it before you leave. Some insurance carriers will insure a single item, or you can buy traveler's insurance.
Social media and networking apps: use caution and common sense in arranging meetings with new friends; be aware of location and setting; avoid situations in which you meet others in an unfamiliar area or in solitary settings. Be aware that photos and posts on social media may cause complications for local friends (for example, in socially conservative regions, casual online banter or photos of alcohol consumption may embarrass new friends and their families), and that posted photos may have connotations beyond intent if they become public (for example, selfies at sacred sites may be seen by others as disrespectful).
If you run into trouble: try as you might, you may find yourself in a situation you cannot reasonably get out of without assistance. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask for it. Your professor or program director in charge is your first and best point of contact. Knox Campus Safety is also available 24/7. Their phone number is 001-309-341-7979. The police in most countries will be able to help you or can put you into contact with the U.S. Embassy. Don't forget to enroll in the U.S. State Department's Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP).
Be aware of culture and context: be thoughtful and sensitive to cultural, regional and personal differences in interactions with persons in the host country.
For other safety tips, visit the U.S. State Department's Travelers Check List. This resource includes information specifically for Women Travelers, LGBTI Travelers, and Travelers who are differently abled.
You may also wish to review this free webpage offering a compendium of information about active U.S. State Department Travel Warnings and Alerts. (Please note that this is not a Knox College endorse of the travel insurance company that provides this informational page.)
The U.S. Department of State's Overseas Advisory Council is a valuable resource, as well, for those interested in more extensive information about world events. Students might also select resources such as The Economist, Reuters, Foreign Policy, BBC World News, and NPR as you explore news and information about your destination.
Make a checklist of necessary actions so that you don't forget anything at least a week before you leave. Make a checklist of the essential items you will need to bring before you begin packing.
Print the set of Emergency Contacts provided in the Pre-Departure Orientation Manual and provided by your chosen program provider: this set should include the Knox Campus Safety Office (001-309-451-7979 - available 24/7), your program director's or faculty director's phone number and email, the assistant director's phone number and email, the Stellyes Center for Global Studies phone number (001-309-341-7445 or 309-341-7323), and other contacts as appropriate for your particular program (the study abroad center phone number for your program, for example).
Pack Light: less is definitely more when you travel overseas. Focus on bringing only the essentials you need to maintain your hygiene and fully engage in your program and excursions.
Pack extra clothes in your carry-on luggage: you may want to pack a couple of outfits in your carry-on luggage (or at least some fresh underwear). If your luggage is lost or delayed, you will have enough clean clothes to get through a few days.
Wear comfortable shoes: it is important to remember to pack at least one sturdy pair of comfortable shoes for your trip.
Bring your medications: bring any prescription medications you will need to take while abroad in your carry on, with enough for the duration of your trip. These should be brought in the prescription bottles and/or packaging you received from the pharmacy, which clearly show your name and the physician who prescribed them. While most countries carry common over-the-counter medications, the brands, products, formulas or dose allowances may be very different. You may also have trouble translating the labels.
Bring First-Aid Items: a first-aid kit shouldn't be forgotten! No matter where you are visiting, accidents can happen and a first-aid kit is a great help. Whether you are dealing with a small scrape or a larger cut, first-aid kits should include basics (band-aids, aspirin or other pain reliever, antiseptic wipes, neosporin, athletic tape for sprains, eye drops to relieve dryness and/or allergies, over-the-counter allergy reliever, and other items of personal preference). Having a few medical supplies handy is far easier than trying to locate the nearest pharmacy, especially soon after arrival. (If your kit includes scissors or fingernail clippers (a good thing to have, and often forgotten), pack these items in checked luggage to avoid security issues at the airport.)
Cell Phone Apps: there are a multitude of cell phone apps that can be useful for a traveler. Explore to see which might be most useful for you: there are currency converters, barcode readers, QR code readers, voice activated translator apps, maps and navigation apps, phone locators (to keep track of friends or professor), city guides, and many more.
Check with your cellphone provider for information about services and rates for your phone and data plan. Be aware that data plans can be VERY expensive if they are activated overseas. It is well worth investing mindfully in an international calling plan.
Purchase an outlet converter and plug-in adaptor. Your small appliances, electric razors, hair dryers, laptops, phone charges, etc. may not work overseas without proper plugs to convert them to foreign outlets and electric charges. You may need both a converter (which will keep your appliances from burning out) and an adaptor (which enables you to plug into outlets that are not shaped like US electric outlets).
Thoroughly research the country or countries where you are going. There is no single or universal answer to all questions associated with international travel. Each country (and city) is different, with its own unique set of challenges. The best way to have a positive and beneficial learning experience abroad is to be prepared, open to new experiences and well informed - with good supplies thoughtfully packed and unburdened with unnecessary things.
There are many reputable and informative websites with information about student international travel and advice for student travelers. We recommend www.goabroad.com, www.gooverseas.com, www.diversityabroad.org and www.studyabroad.com as reasonable first-stop websites - and you'll certainly find many more. Lonely Planet and Rough Guides (and similar travel advice organizations) offer useful travel tips about specific locations. The short list of recommendations below comes from experienced international travelers and isn't meant to be complete. We welcome additional items for this list.
Be sensitive to others' feelings about photography and do not intrude where you are not welcome.
If you plan to spend several days or more with your host, wait awhile before you begin taking pictures. It is easier when friends take pictures of friends.
Ask permission. If no photographs are allowed, don't violate the rule.
Do not pose your subjects: show interest in what people are doing and then photograph them doing that activity.
Do not allow yourself to be drawn only to the bizarre. During your travels you may see many things which are strange to North American eyes. It is natural for you to want to take pictures of such things. But it is easy to insult your hosts by taking pictures of things which poorly represent their country. Think how you would feel if a visitor insisted only on taking pictures of poor living conditions, junkyards and pollution. If you take pictures of people experiencing difficulty, remember also to take pictures of people enjoying life.
Be prepared to occasionally pay people who appear in your pictures. Don't be offended.
For more photography dos and don'ts, visit: Urban Adventures: Dos and Don'ts of Photographing Locals (or How Not To Be a Jerk Photographer) and the U.S. State Department's page Picture This: Dos and Don'ts for Photography.
Key resources: Culture Matters: The Peace Corps Cross-Cultural Workbook and Table of Contents.
U.S. Passports & International Travel: Learn About Your Destination.
Rules of the House - Questions to Explore when you are a Guest with a Host Family (from Culture Matters)
Diversity Abroad offers Destination Guides, country-specific guides for underrepresented students participating in study abroad.
Resources for LGBTQIA students include the Diversity Abroad page for LGBTQ students, the Know your Rights - Air Travel page of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the NAFSA Resource Page for LGBTQI students,
Culture Shock: a new culture won't likely be scary, but it may be surprising and even uncomfortable. Experiencing another culture and traveling abroad should take you out of your comfort zone! The experience should make a lasting impact on your development as a global citizen and as a thoughtful, self-reflective, empathetic adult in a complex and interconnected world.
Homesickness: it is customary to feel some anxiety when you are away from home, no matter where you go. The farther you are away from your usual surroundings, the more likely you will feel some anxiety. However, over time, you will become accustomed to your new surroundings and to the norms of a new country. You can ease homesickness by:
The Vovis Center (undergraduate research; national competitive fellowships and scholarship programs)
Student Fulbright - English Teaching Assistant program and Research program
And see the many opportunities listed in the Beyond Knox and Opportunities for International Advanced Study and Research on the Stellyes Center page! (right here - look at the nav bar on the left for the links)
*With thanks to the many on-line resources from study abroad / international education offices across the United States, including the University of Houston, Evergreen State, Beloit College, IIE, NAFSA and the Forum on Education Abroad.