Information for Students Traveling Abroad

The information provided below has been compiled to answer questions you may have as you plan for your international experience. Much of the information is provided through a link to Education Abroad. Although this information is focused on students who plan to study abroad, most of it applies to any type of international experience you may be planning. If you have additional questions that are not addressed here, please feel free to contact us, or stop by to see our international envoys to discuss how best to prepare for your international experience.

Travel Safely: Students are encouraged to visit The Bureau of Consular Affairs website for American students traveling overseas prior to their departure. Students are strongly urged to review the information on the site and sign up online to receive the latest travel information from the Department of State.

Passports, Visas, and Work Permits

Passports

You will need a passport to travel abroad, and your passport will need to be valid for at least 6 months past the end of your program. Additional information regarding passports, including how to get a passport, where to get a passport, passport tips, lost passports, and passport delays is available through the Education Abroad site. Students planning to travel abroad should not wait until they have applied to their program or have been accepted; they should apply for their passport immediately.

Visas and Work Permits

Visa and work permit requirements vary greatly and depend on the country in which you plan to study or work, as well as on your country of citizenship. Please check the embassy web site of the country in which you plan to study or work for more details. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are meeting the necessary requirements in a timely manner. Education Abroad also provides information regarding visas for study abroad in their program guides.

Travel Tips

Information and resources from the U.S. Department of State regarding travel are very helpful. Be sure to read the information on "Preparing for a Trip Abroad", and check the website for travel alerts and travel warnings.

Before you purchase your airline tickets or pack your bags, read these travel tips on the Education Abroad website. They provide information regarding: deals and rules for airfare, points to check before you pack, how to get around once you're abroad, and where to stay.

It is recommended that students do not purchase their airline tickets or make any other nonrefundable financial commitments until they have received confirmation of acceptance into their program, information about their program start date, and have received any required visa or work permit. The purchase of trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended.

For students planning to work abroad, we recommend that you bring sufficient funds to cover your personal and living expenses for at least the first month of your stay, and for return transportation.

Country Information

Before you go abroad, make the effort to understand as much as possible about the country to which you will be travelling. This includes making yourself aware of the current political situations as well as cultural differences of the country to which you plan to travel. The U.S. Department of State provides country specific information for every country of the world.

Education Abroad has some country specific guides that contain some practical and cultural information to help you prepare.

Additional suggestions to help you prepare for your experience abroad follow:

  • Purchase the newest edition of either "The Lonely Planet" or the "Rough Guide", as needed by country or region. "Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands" is also a useful book.
  • Read information available in news sources such as the International Herald Tribune, The Economist, or BBC news from and about the country you plan to visit so that you are informed about recent events.
  • Find an international student from your destination country and meet them for a discussion (perhaps offer to take them to lunch). Try to learn 10 colloquialisms from your international partner.
  • Attend international cultural events on campus. For example, try a new type of international food, see a foreign film, or attend an on-campus international event.
  • Try to learn some basics of the language of your destination country.
  • Do some research on the culture and customs of your destination country.

Insurance

Students traveling abroad must be covered by the appropriate accident and medical insurance. The exact insurance requirements depend on your program.

Study Abroad

If you are studying abroad through a Penn State program, you are automatically enrolled in the Education Abroad Health Insurance as part of your program.

Work Abroad

You are responsible for making sure you are covered by appropriate insurance for your program, including benefits for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. You should check to make sure that your insurance coverage meets any visa or work permit requirements of the country in which you will be working. Since you will be registered through the co-op program as a full-time student while you are abroad, you may be able to participate in the Education Abroad Health Insurance, but enrollment in the insurance plan will not be automatic.

Embedded Programs

Students travelling on short-term programs led by Penn State faculty members must enroll in HTH Worldwide Insurance. You should receive an e-mail from HTH with a link to log in to their website with your Penn State ID and pay for coverage with a credit card. The cost is approximately $0.75/day. Please watch for these enrollment e-mails, as they sometimes end up in e-mail junk mail boxes.

Health & Safety

Before you go abroad, consult with a medical doctor with regard to any personal medical needs. In addition, check for the recommended or required immunizations for travel to your destination country and make the necessary arrangements to get these immunizations. University Health Services has a travel clinic which provides information, immunizations, and consultation to international travelers.

All students are subject to laws and legal procedures of their host country. This includes, but is not limited to, laws regarding possession and distribution of controlled substances and possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages before the lawful age. These laws will likely be strictly enforced by local authorities. Each student is solely responsible for conducting him/herself in compliance will all laws in any country while participating in an international program. Students should honor and respect the laws, regulations, guidelines, and policies of their destination country, or any other country in which they travel while participating in their program.

Review information provided by Education Abroad regarding Penn State policies on travel, safety and security, staying health abroad, staying safe abroad, and important health and safety links.

Funding Possibilities for International Experiences

College of Engineering students who are planning a study or work abroad experience may apply for travel support by submitting the international travel grant application. The deadline to apply for funding for Spring programs is October 1, and for Summer or Fall programs is February 1.
All engineering students are encouraged to go abroad, but due to limited resources, priority will be given to applications from students planning an engineering experience. See the priority list on the application for more information about what will be used when evaluating travel grant applications. Some funds are designated for students with demonstrated financial need and for those, financial need will also be a factor.

Questions about the travel grant application may be directed to international@engr.psu.edu.

Students planning a work-abroad experience should expect to cover all costs associated with the experience. Participation in an international work experience is not a way to make money, but rather to gain experience. In most countries, internships are designed to provide relevant experience rather than a significant wage. An internship that provides enough support to cover living expenses is unusual.

The Office of Global Programs has compiled information regarding finances for study abroad programs, including information about costs, keeping it affordable, and financial aid and scholarships. Much of this information also applies to students participating in work abroad programs. In addition to this information, students planning to study abroad should look at the budget sheets for their particular program, available through the program search.

Students traveling to Germany should look into funding opportunities through DAAD [PDF].

NAFSA: Association of International Educators also provides resources concerning financial aid for study abroad. Two resources of particular interest are:

Useful Links

There are many resources available to help you as you plan your study abroad. The links provided below are meant to help as a guide, but are not necessarily connected to Penn State or the College of Engineering.

Parents & Families

Your parents and family members may have many questions about your decision to participate in an international experience. Education Abroad has compiled some information for parents and families. You can refer to this source as you discuss your international travel plans with family. Some of the questions addressed on this site are:

  • Why should students study abroad?
  • How much is this going to cost?
  • What are our shared responsibilities?
  • What should I know about health and safety?
  • How can I be most supportive?
  • How will I stay informed?
  • How will I remain in communication while s/he is abroad?
Previous semester newsletters are also available on this site for your reference.