1. Travel in a spirit of humility and with a genuine desire to meet and talk with local people.
2. Do not expect to find things as you have them at home…you have left your home to find things different.
3. Do not be too serious… an open mind and a sense of humor is the beginning of a fine study abroad experience.
4. Do not let others get on your nerves…you have come a long way to be a good ambassador for your country, to learn as much as you can and to enjoy the experience.
5. Read carefully the information in the Study Abroad Handbook and checklists…those who have gone before you have good advice to share.
6. Know where your passport is at all times…a person without a passport is a person without a country.
7. Do not worry…one who worries has no pleasure.
8. Do not judge the people of a country by the one person with whom you have had trouble… this is unfair to the people as a whole.
9. Remember you are a guest in every land…one who treats a host with respect will be treated as an honored guest.
10. Cultivate the habit of listening and observing, rather than merely hearing or seeing.
11. Realize that other people may have thought patterns and concepts of time which are very different– not inferior, only different.
12. Be aware of the feelings of local people to prevent what might be offensive behavior. Photography particularly must be respectful.
13. Make no promises to local, new friends that you cannot complete.
14. Spend time reflecting on your daily experiences in order to deepen your understanding of your experiences.
Adapted from: A Code of Ethics for Tourists, Center for Responsible Tourism
21 Kensington Road, San Anselmo, California
When going abroad there are some general rules of thumb to follow that make packing easier.
Plan to wear layers: a T-shirt, a cardigan and a light jacket will be more diverse and take up less space than a puffer jacket or bulky sweaters. Layers are easy to mix and match, meaning you can bring a versatile wardrobe in less space.
Bring modest clothing: How we dress in the United States is not always appropriate abroad. In some countries, it is normal to wear pants even in the middle of summer for example. Modest clothing also refers to how expensive your clothing looks. Branded, flashy, or otherwise high-fashion clothing can single you out as a target for thieves and scam artists. It is best to avoid displays of wealth abroad in your jewelry, luggage, clothing, accessories and possessions.
Always bring half as many clothes as you think you’ll need, and twice as much money. When the end of your time abroad comes, you’ll want luggage space for souvenirs and gifts.
When packing, making rolls with your clothes takes up less space than folding.
Pack socks inside of shoes.
Always put toiletries in plastic ziplock bags.
We suggest you bring few, if any, toiletries with you abroad, as you will be able to purchase whatever you need once you arrive. This is also a neat way to experience the culture of your home country– how people bathe in Japan is quite different from a shower in the rainforest in Costa Rica!
Consider if you really want to tote a hair dryer, curling and/or flat iron around the world. Look for a small, travel size version if you do. Remember that electricity is different around the world, so you’ll need to be sure to bring a converter if you want to use your beauty supplies.
One exception: ladies should research the availability of feminine hygiene products in their destination country and pack accordingly.
- Wrinkle-resistant, breathable, easily washed clothes.
Bring less clothing than you think you’ll need. 2 weeks of clothing should be enough. If you plan on going to formal events or locations bring one or two nice outfits.
2. A light jacket
Research the weather at your destination. Some places may be under snow for the entirety of your stay. For such locations, consider packing a heavier, non-bulky jacket, or two layerable jackets, such as a hoodie and an anorak. You can always buy a heavy jacket in your host country if you find you need one.
- Comfortable walking shoes
These don’t have to be sneakers, but try to stay away from open-toed shoes or sandals– big cities tend to be dirty! In addition, flip-flops, sandals, and other open-toed shoes may be viewed as inappropriate for public wear. For example, in China, slip-on sandals are considered shower shoes.
- A notebook
Trust us, you’ll want to record your memories and impressions. A notebook is also useful for taking down directions and recommendations, keeping emergency phone numbers on hand, or jotting down useful phrases and words in the host language. Use it to store business cards, museum pamphlets, and other paper souvenirs.
- Something comforting
Your coffee mug, a photo of your family, or your favorite chocolate. Homesickness is natural, and you will enjoy having a small piece of home with you when you’re feeling down.
- A map
A city map is priceless for a day out on the town, especially if you are walking. Also bring a subway map.
- A small phrasebook and guidebook
It’s always good to have communication backup for when your language skills fall short. Cell phones and apps don’t always work when you want them to, so a book is a good backup. Guidebooks help you plan your excursions.
- A photocopy of your passport
It’s best to leave your passport locking in a hotel safe, or a lockable drawer in your dorm room. A photocopy of your passport will almost always suffice on the rare occasion that someone asks to see it. Be sure to listen to your host institution coordinator’s instructions about other immigration documents you may receive.
- Enough medication/supplies to last your stay
If you require medicine, or wear contacts or glasses, make sure you have enough supplies to cover your stay. Glasses and contacts wearers should to bring a backup pair, or a copy of their prescription in case they need a replacement.
- An open mind, and a lot of patience
Study abroad is an incredible experience, but it can also be upsetting at times. Culture shock means you may love your host country one day and hate it the next. Remember to be patient with yourself and your emotions. You’re not failing at study abroad if you don’t enjoy yourself. Try to view your cross-cultural interactions as learning opportunities, and don’t get too frustrated when people behave in confusing or unusual ways– no one is trying to purposefully confuse or upset you, they’re just behaving with the cultural tools they have, and you’re responding the same way. Read more about culture shock, and how to handle it here [hyperlink]
We strongly recommend having a cellphone abroad, wether you bring your unlocked smartphone and buy a SIM card upon arrival, or you purchase a cheap, local cellphone. If you use your cellphone for pictures and communicating with your family, talk to your network about using your phone abroad. Smartphones take very nice photos, and may easily replace a camera.
- Expensive Jewelry/Clothing
- Purses without zippers- These are too easy to reach into
- Expensive/unnecessary electronics.
Don’t bring your XBox. You won’t need it. Consider purchasing a small, cheap netbook, or simply using the computer lab at your host campus. Store precious photos and documents in a cloud system, or email them to yourself as a form of backup. Unless you are a photography buff, you probably won’t need a high-powered laptop or camera while abroad.
We recommend a large camping backpack or a 4-wheeled, 360spinner suitcase.
Here’s some examples. This should not be considered an endorsement for these particular pieces of luggage.
360-Spinner luggage: https://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=Hardside-Spinner-Luggage)
We do not recommend duffle bags as your main piece of luggage, as these are unwieldy and flimsy, though they are good piece of backup luggage if you find yourself going home with more than you went abroad with. These two items will be easiest to manage in an airport, taxi or city street. There are drawbacks and benefits to each.
A backpack goes where you go, and helps keep your hands free. However, you have to carry all of your possessions, which may not be possible for you physically. Backpacks may not stand up as well to being checked baggage.
Rolling luggage is easy to maneuver, and it carries the weight for you. Luggage is generally easier to pack, and is generally made to withstand more of the wear and tear associated with flight. However, you won’t have free hands, and you may need to pack luggage in taxi trunks, which is not recommended in certain locations. Heavy luggage can also make you appear more vulnerable depending on the method of travel you use to get from the airport to your place of residence abroad.
The best carry on is a backpack. You can store your laptop, a lunch, and your prescription medicine in one easily, while navigating the airport with your hands free. Please note, some countries allow one carry on and an additional bag, such as a purse or laptop case. Choose the combination of bags that will keep you mobile, and give you easy, organized access to documents such as passports, itineraries, and cash.
The U.S. Department of State Travel Emergencies Abroad Page allows you to look up the nearest U.S. Embassy’s location, contact information, and emergency telephone number. The page also has info on what to do in the following situations:
- Lost & Stolen Passports
- Medical Emergencies
- Victims of Crime
- Arrest & Detention
- Missing Persons & Contacting Loved Ones
- Parental Child Abductions
- Death Abroad
- Natural Disasters
- The State Department’s Role in a Crisis
In case of an emergency abroad only: Office of Education Abroad After-hours: +1 (575) 644-1714