Travel Smarts

Deciding to go abroad is one of the most exciting and rewarding moments in a student's life. Once you've decided, you'll likely be eager to start your adventure as soon as possible - but wait!

Taking the time to plan and prepare for your travels will help you make the most of your journey.

Pre-departure Basics

One of the most important elements of a successful voyage abroad is preparation. From climate to transport and currency to security, there's so much to consider before you leave!

Get The Ball Rolling

Make sure you have the basics in order: Passport, visas, and travel insurance should be arranged up to six months in advance. Start your application processes as soon as possible, then think about transportation and accommodation.
More tips: Print multiple copies of tickets, insurance information, program acceptance letters, and emergency numbers. Make note of the contact details for your country's embassies, your go abroad program officials, insurance company, and any other relevant numbers. Have your passport, visa, and all proof of identity and purpose at the ready. This will keep your mind at ease.


We can't stress this point enough: Pack light! Especially important if you're backpacking.
Medicine and first aid
If you have any prescriptions, bring enough to last for the whole trip. Contact lens wearers should also bring lenses, solution, prescription glasses, and a copy of their prescription. Pack a small first aid kit, too.
Have a small amount of cash in the currency of your destination country, as well as your home country currency.
The professional edge
You neer know who you might find yourself next to on the airplane - bring a resume and a business card just in case.
If you're staying with a host family or visiting a needy organization, you might consider taking a small gift to show your appreciation.
Get suited up
Have one professional-looking outfit in your luggage in case a job opportunity arises - but pack for functionality, not fashion.
Remember that plugs and voltage numbers are different all over the world. Be prepared.
What to leave at home
It's always a good idea to leave expensive or sentimental items at home. Anything that could draw attention to you or that you would be said to lose.

Research & Planning

Preparation isn't just about packing, it's also a mental process. Research is a key component of successful pre-departure strategy.
Cultural and practical research
Read everything that you can about the culture of your destination country, as well as country reports, weather patterns, crime rates, demographics, and other basic info.
Travel practicalities
What are the baggage allowances on your various flights? Do you have any tight flight connections? Will you need to take a taxi or train upon arrival? Think through each step of your journey before leaving.
Have you saved enough to support yourself during your travels? Do you have a safety net in case something unexpected happens? It's easy to get swept up in the excitement of travel plans but don't avoid your budget.
Know why you're going
This is crucial. Are you going abroad to develop a professional skill set? Learn a language? Engage with a foreign culture? This will help you stay focused while abroad.
Are you flying solo?
It is easiest to integrate into another culture if you travel alone. If you're planning to travel with someone, do a short test trip first. Travel can place unique stresses on friendships and partnerships. It's important to judge your compatibility before jumping in.

Staying Safe

As Westerners, we sometimes have a tendency to feel safe in areas where we perhaps should not. Don't be governed by fear, but do take the time to consider the health and safety risks of your destination.
Find out the answers to these questions
What diseases, if any, are common? Are tourists considered targets for crime? Are there districts or regions that are considered more dangerous than others? What is the political climate?
If you have a medical or mental condition, make sure your program advisors are aware of it. Always bring an adequate supply of any necessary medication, as well as prescriptions and instructions from your doctor.
Food and water
Use your discretion when sampling the culinary riches of your host country. Don't miss out on expanding your culinary horizons, but be smart. If contaminated water is a problem, use bottled water or water purification tablets.
Safe sex
Even if you don't expect to meet anyone on your travels, keep in mind the 'better safe than sorry' mantra and always travel with protection.
Are immunizations and vaccinations required when visiting your destination? Plan this well in advance, because immunizations need time to take effect.
Altitude sickness can strike anyone, even athletes. It's most common above approximately 8,000 feet, but can begin as low as 6,000. If you're mountain climbing or staying at a high altitude, read up on prevention.
Staying active is important abroad, especially for those who find themselves suffering the effects of culture shock and jet lag.
Alcohol and drugs
In many countries, the legal drinking age is lower than at home. Enjoy yourself while abroad, but be careful not to over-consume. Avoid taking drugs of any kind while abroad.
This drug is distributed in some regions as a treatment for diarrhea and other fungal infections, but has been linked to nervous system complications and should be avoided. If you are ill abroad and a doctor prescribes this drug, ask for another option.

Making Connections

Successful cross-cultural travel is about interacting with locals and forming friendships, but use your street smarts to avoid unnecessary risks.
Avoid making friends with people who approach you in public places
It is generally safer if you initiate a cross-cultural friendship. People you approach are likely to be genuine and interested in your friendship rather than your pocket book.
Be careful making friends in tourist hotspots
Never befriend someone who approaches you at a beach, bus stop, train station, or airport. There are con artists everywhere you find tourists.
Never engage in any financial transaction that does not seem legitimate
Tourists are the primary targets for scammers. If you're offered a bargain that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Research your business connections
You may be looking for a job or for professional connections, but do your research and ask around about potential employers before you engage in any business dealings.
Stay alert!
Be prepared to flee the company of anyone who makes you feel threatened, who shows erratic behavior, disregard or lack of compassion for others, or participates in illegal activities.
Be cautious with host families until you feel secure
You'll know you're in a trusting cross-cultural relationship with your host takes care of you, is considerate of your needs, and helps you integrate.
The no-brainer
No matter who asks you, never carry a package through customs for another person.

Common Sense

Know the local laws
It is generally safer if you initiate a cross-cultural friendship. People you approach are likely to be genuine and interested in your friendship rather than your pocket book. THIS TEXT SEEMS WRONG.
Keep plans to yourself
Don't discuss detailed travel plans with strangers while abroad. And tempting as it may be to share your journey with friends on social media, don't post public notices about your plans. These sites have recently become targets for hackers and criminals using travel details to solicit money from family and friends.
Out and about
Don't take shortcuts, walk through poorly lit areas, or along back alleys in unfamiliar areas. If you must take a short cut to avoid a disturbance or get somewhere quickly, do so with at least one or two other people. Keep your distance from public demonstrations, civil disturbances, and loud arguments.
When things go wrong
At some point during your time abroad, it's likely you will face disappointment or discomfort. You could fall ill or be the victim of a petty crime. If something negative happens, maintain perspective on it as an isolated incident.

Maximizing Your Experience

Cross-cultural travel has little in common with tourist travel. It's less about shopping for souvenirs or touring the sights, and more about immersing yourself and cultivating personally and professionally enriching experiences. It's also about getting to know your levels of tolerance, your limitations, and your strengths. So, how can you cross the tourist boundary?
Offering your services
To make contact with the local culture, you need a vehicle that allows you to interact. Volunteering your services to an organization is one of the best ways to integrate into a community.
Professional networking
Making professional connections in your field is a great way to meet like-minded people and develop career-boosting contacts. Offer your services to businesses and if they have an opportunity, accept it!
Invest in your host family
Until you become familiar with your hosts and their cultural norms, friendship can be a roller-coaster. Just remember: You're there to learn. Connect with your host family, show respect, and participate.
Cultivate friendships
Becoming friends with locals is a fantastic way to get to know a culture. Be bold: Join groups and classes, and start conversations. Learning the language will help you connect - and connecting will help you learn the language!
Share your journey
Although you should be careful about how publicly you share your itinerary, be sure to keep your friends and family updated on your plans. Blogs, postcards, and emails are good options.
Describe your surroundings
Whether you're writing a postcard or a travel blog, be as descriptive as possible. How does this place differ from your home country? How do people eat, dress, and interact? Write what you see and feel.
Maintain balance
Be sure to take a few days off to relax and recuperate while you travel and integrate into a new culture. The time off can be refreshing and will allow you to reflect on your experiences and intentions for the rest of your trip.

In Conclusion

Follow the guidelines above, and you'll be on your way to having an exciting, enriching, and well-planned experience abroad.

We wish you happiness and cross-cultural growth!
Reproduction rights for this Visual Guide granted to schools.

©Intercultural Systems / Systèmes interculturels (ISSI) Inc. All rights reserved.
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