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Upon acceptance into a study abroad program, YOU are responsible for making all of the necessary travel arrangements unless they are included in your program. It is important to arrange your flight as soon as you know your scheduled arrival date in your host country. Waiting until the last minute to make travel arrangements may increase the cost of your airfare.
Buying a ticket through a travel agency will provide you with more personal assistance and help in case of date changes. Travel agents are often very knowledgeable about discounts and help you plan the best route for your travels.
Corvallis Travel Agents:
Teel's Travel Planners
728 NW Kings Blvd., Corvallis OR 97330
1545 NW Monroe Ave., Corvallis, OR 97330
Student travel agencies often have good discounts for students. You may need to provide proof that you are a student or have an International Student Identification Card.
Student Universe: http://studentuniverse.com
STA Travel: http://www.statravel.com
When purchasing a ticket, make sure to read fine print, such as changing fees and the cancellation policy. If you plan to travel after your program ends, you may need to buy an open-ended ticket, or plan on paying a fee to change the return date.
A travel partner might make the transition into another country easier. Ask your adviser how you can contact other students in your program to travel with.
You will most likely want to take advantage of the country and explore your new surroundings. Traveling by rail is one of the easiest and most affordable ways for students.
Rail in Europe
Eurail gives you access to reduced or free travel in Europe if you buy it in the U.S. before departing. There are a few different types of passes to choose from, depending on the amount of time you have and places you are visiting. The Eurail pass is the most convenient and popular. It allows you to travel on any day, for 15 days, 21 days or one-, two- and three-month increments. A consecutive-day pass provides unlimited rail travel for the duration of the pass, once it has been validated. The flexi-type pass gives the pass-holder a two-month period from the validation date to use the number of days they have purchased for their pass. The Selectpass allows you to choose the countries of travel. Once in Europe, rail authorities will ask you to make reservations for your seats, so budget around fifteen euros for each reservation, although they will vary according to seat and country. Despite the inconvenience, you will be thankful for a guaranteed seat, especially in peak travel times. When deciding between first and second class, the deciding factor should come down to personal taste and who, if anyone, you are traveling with. Some countries offer only second class. However, first class in other countries includes meals and the most comfortable seats. Keep in mind your parents may not appreciate a lively cabin as much as friends your own age.
Rail outside Europe
If you will be traveling or studying outside Europe, consult a travel guide for your host country or region to see if rail passes are available for your destination. Some countries, such as Japan and the United Kingdom, have discounted rail passes for students. The STA Travel Web site contains information on methods of transportation on every continent.
Calling home from abroad is part of a new cultural experience you will soon be adjusting to, from foreign dial tones to dialing instructions in another language. Options for calling cards are unlimited. A good idea for calling cards is to check with past students from the country you are visiting for the best deals. Often, cards bought in your host country are cheaper than the U.S. can offer.
Check into various U.S. calling cards for the best price. Popular cards are:
MCI (Prepaid cards are available at Costco)
Credit cards may be used in conjunction with your specific long-distance carrier. Be careful though, since you will need to arrange for someone at home to pay the bills and check for unexpected charges by your host country. Another word of caution, telephone companies operate differently around the world. Be aware for hidden charges and fees, and always read the small print on your calling card.
If staying with a host-family, your hosts may be charged by the local phone company for your calls even if you use your phone card. Be sure to inquire with your host if they are incurring any additional charges from your calls.
It may be a good idea to have an emergency calling card from the U.S that allows you to make international calls. It will be useful in case you do not have a chance to buy a card right away, your new card runs out of minutes unexpectedly, or for making calls in between international and domestic airport transfers.
Recently, students have been using Skype to call their friends and family from abroad. It is free service that allows you to communicate over the Internet. It requires both the caller and receiver to download the software from their Web site http://www.skype.com/. If you are planning to use your personal computer abroad and you will have Internet access, you may find Skype to be very useful.
More and more students are also using cell phones abroad. In many countries, cell phones are fairly inexpensive and students do not need to sign long-term agreements. Depending on your international plan, many students have had free incoming calls so their parents can reach them without any cost to the student. U.S. cell phones cannot typically be used abroad. If you have a tri-band cell phone, you may be able to purchase a SIM card abroad and get a local number. Do not assume you can use your U.S. cell phone abroad. Be sure to check with your local carrier.
If you will be absent during a U.S. election and wish to request an absentee ballot, you should do so at least two months before the election. To request an absentee ballot, complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). You can also check with your county registrar or the secretary of state's office.
Filing taxes while abroad
If you have earnings that require you to file federal and/or state income tax returns and you will be out of the country between January 1 and April 15 when taxes are due, you can file your taxes from abroad. You may need to arrange to have tax forms sent to you or have taxes paid for you while you are out of the country. It is also possible to ask for an extension. Be sure to know what your tax responsibilities are and how to comply while you are away. An official tax guide for U.S. citizens and resident aliens abroad can be found on the IRS website.
OSU students study abroad in 150 different countries, so it is unrealistic to create a "must-bring" list for every program. Here are some universal rules, however:
- Travel lightly. What you pack, you have to carry (sometimes for several miles at a time). Carry your luggage around the block, up and down stairs, and then re-evaluate what you have packed based on what you can comfortably carry.
- Begin packing by setting out all items you wish to take. Then, divide it in half and leave one-half at home. Every thing you take with you, you will have to bring back.
- Try to determine what the general population of your host country wears on a daily basis. Bring similar clothing.
- Try to be culturally sensitive as to the type of clothing you wear. For example, women in more conservative countries will find that short skirts, bare arms or legs, and shorts may not be appropriate in certain settings. Excessive informality may be seen as an insult in certain cultures and religions.
- Take clothing that is easily washable. The optimum articles are lightweight, washable and drip dry (check for synthetic fabrics such as nylon and cotton).
- Pack for comfort, not style.
- Make sure to pack at least one pair of comfortable walking shoes. Students often walk more abroad than they do at home.
- Interchangeability is essential. Dress in layers and bring mix and match items.
- Be prepared for all types of weather that you may encounter in your host country and any other countries you intend to visit during your time abroad.
- Consider the length of your study abroad program (one to nine months) and pack accordingly.
- Leave room in your suitcase to bring back souvenirs. You will most certainly buy things while you are abroad.
- Put your address on a luggage tag inside your suitcase as well as on the outside in case the suitcase breaks or is lost.
- Put a copy of your travel itinerary and temporary address on the inside of all luggage in case your bag is lost.
- Leave your valuables at home.
- Leave any irreplaceable items in the U.S. It is risky to take such items overseas. Things get lost or stolen during travel.
- Remember, in most countries, you can buy anything you need. In addition, if you forget something you really need, it can be sent to you overseas.
Two small suitcases are often easier to handle than one large one. Some students have brought an empty small suitcase to fill with souvenirs and gifts for their return trip home. Backpacks are great because it frees your hands to hold tickets and handrails. Backpacks are useful as school bags and for weekend trips.
If you plan on traveling and sleeping in youth hostels, pack a sleep sack. This is two sheets sewn together like a sleeping-bag, and many hostels require you to have or rent one. Even if your hostel does not require one, you may prefer to bring your own sheets.
Seal spillables such as shampoo, toothpaste, etc., in baggies. Airline pressure can open bottles and products could end up all over your clothes. Pack enough toiletries for the first few weeks, then once you are in the host country you will be able to find suitable foreign substitutes.
Other items you may consider packing:
- A money belt to hide important documents
- A medical kit that may include bandages, first aid tape, burn cream, extra-strength aspirin, sunscreen, anti-diarrhea mediation, anti-bacterial ointment, disinfectant, tweezers, water purification tablets, salt tablets, skin moisturizers and insect repellent
- Battery operated alarm clock
- Zip-lock bags for sealing spillable items
- Earplugs if night noises bother you
- Sewing kit and a few safety pins
- Travel book
- Address list to keep in touch
- Miniature photo album of your hometown/family/friends for show-and-tell
- Small flashlight
- Tiny lock
- Gifts for your host family
- Small notepad and pen for writing down directions and unknown phrases and foreign words
When you think you may be finished packing, do a couple of tests. Make sure you can climb up and down stairs, because you may have to in airports, bus and train stations. Also, airlines will charge for overweight luggage, so double-check their size and weight limits.
There are pros and cons for bringing your laptop overseas. If you bring your laptop, you will need to be conscientious of its safety and security. Some students do not want this extra hassle when traveling. However, some students find it very valuable for downloading pictures, Internet access, and doing schoolwork. It is a good idea to check with past participants on your program whether or not they brought laptops. Wireless Internet is available at some sites. However it is not as prevalent abroad at it is in the U.S. You should not expect to have the same access.
In the U.S, we use 110-volt alternating current; however, in most countries voltage is different. If you try to use an American shaver, iron or hair dryer in a European outlet, the high voltage will overheat and destroy the appliance and could shock you or start a fire. Verify the type of current and voltage of outlets in the country you will be visiting. Most European countries use a 220-volt direct current. Visit a travel store for different converters. The Corvallis AAA, located at 1318 NW 9th St., Suite A, Corvallis, OR 97330, phone: 541-757-2535, has converters for every continent (you do not need to be a AAA member to purchase travel accessories). Outlet plugs often vary from country to country, so look for plug converters as well.
It is important to make copies of all necessary and important documents that you bring with you from the United States. When you study abroad, this generally includes your passport, visa, credit cards, ATM cards, student ID card, insurance cards and plane tickets. Items should be copied on the front and back, so that you have all the information if you should lose it. It is a good idea to keep a copy of everything with you on the plane, but make sure it is in a spot separate from the originals. Leave a second set of copies at home with whoever is your emergency contact.
Bring extra medication along in your carry-on. They must be kept in their original container. You may be asked to show proof of medical necessity when you go through customs. Having a copy of your prescriptions will save you a lot of time and hassle.