Student Pre-Departure Resources
CAPA International Education strives to fully prepare their students to have safe, enjoyable, academically rigorous, and life-changing experiences abroad. To that end, the Pre-Departure Resources section contains a number of documents which have been designed to help students as they prepare for their overseas experience. CAPA Pre-Departure Services team members are available to answer questions at every step of the process, from recruitment and application to advising and sendoff. However, we encourage you to review the following resources, including detailed student handbooks, information on diversity and more.
Please click on the links below to download your pre-departure handbook.
If you have any questions about the material in the handbooks, please do not hesitate to contact our pre-departure team at 800-793-0334.
Certain students studying on CAPA Programs require a student visa.
Students will receive updated visa information for the designated country during the pre-departure advising process. Students should be aware that it is their own responsibility to obtain all passports, visas and required travel documents in order to enter each of the countries on their itinerary. If students are unable to obtain the necessary travel documents, or do not have them with them at the time of travel, they will not be entitled to a refund as described in the agreement. Although CAPA does advise in broad terms for the visa requirement/process for US citizens, we cannot stipulate all requirements as they might vary based on country of citizenship, or current legal standing. Students are responsible, in these cases, to research any additional requirements to which they might be held. Students should be aware that in some locations, certain passport holders could automatically be denied entry due to lack of diplomatic relationships, or other similar circumstances. Completing this research before committing to the program is strongly advised, as participation is then at one’s own risk.Visas must be obtained prior to traveling abroad. It is the responsibility of each student to obtain their own visa, but the CAPA pre-departure staff will assist you in answering your questions.
CAPA provides travel insurance for all students and visiting faculty who are traveling abroad.
All students on CAPA programs are covered under CAPA’s international world student health insurance policy which will cover up to $100,000 in medical expenses, up to $500 for lost baggage, up to $3,000 for trip interruption, and coverage for accidental death or dismemberment and emergency evacuation. All enrolled students will be provided with detailed policy details and instructions on how to file a claim. Please contact the CAPA Student Services Line at 1-800-793-0334 for any questions concerning student insurance coverage while abroad.
You will receive an electronic insurance brochure outlining your coverage in your Program specific pre-departure website that includes International Student Insurance (under which you are covered). The medical claim form is within the insurance brochure, should you need it.
Healthcare abroad and health insurance coverage during your time abroad can be one of the most confusing aspects of preparing for your travels. Healthcare and insurance do function differently while you’re overseas. We’ve tried to answer some of the questions you might have so that you can manage your own health appropriately abroad!
CAPA’s International Student Insurance Policy insures you. Be sure to bring a copy of the policy and claim form with you. If you plan to travel independently prior to or after official program dates, you should obtain additional insurance coverage for that period as International Student Insurance will only cover you for the program dates.
When reading through the coverage provided under this policy, be sure to note whether or not it covers your own independent needs – specifically regarding pre-existing medical conditions that may require more frequent care. Pre-existing conditions can be nominally covered under this insurance, and students with pre-existing conditions who anticipate needing care whilst overseas will want to consider exploring alternative options for additiona coverage. You may require additional insurance coverage in this instance. Your total coverage is up to $100,000 per medical claim during the length of the program.
How does my health insurance work while I am abroad?
CAPA International Student Insurance will reimburse you for medical care up to $100,000 in cost, for care that included under the plan, but it is important to note that you will have to pay out of pocket up front for these costs. Be sure to hold onto ANY receipts in order to more easily reclaim the money spent once you have returned to the United States. Keep ALL receipts! You are responsible for filing your own claim directly with the insurance provider within 30 days of the end of your program. If you have another insurance policy that is covering you this time, you will need to present a letter that the policy will not cover medical costs in order for our insurance policy to reimburse you for this. The International Student Insurance is considered secondary insurance in an event in which the student has another policy.
If I am sick, can I go to the doctor or is there an easier and quicker place to get treatment?
You can go to the Hospital to receive care and treatment! Also, keep in mind that for mild illnesses, particularly in Europe, pharmacists are as equipped at diagnosing and prescribing medications as doctors in the United States. This method is quicker and less expensive and generally recommended for non-serious illnesses.
Why don't I have a health insurance card?
Your health insurance works to reimburse you for your costs, it does not cover them up front. Therefore, hospitals abroad do not need a record of your health insurance as they will be billing you directly.
How can I plan to make sure I can pay out of pocket in the case of an emergency?
Try to keep some money aside for an emergency and also you can keep a credit card with a higher balance that you can use for an emergency as well. Although basic costs for treatment range far lower than in the US, it’s better to prepare for the unexpected.
Is there anything for which I am not covered?
It is important that you read the International Student Insurance brochure for the exact coverage and exclusions before departing. It is also advised to print the policy our and bring it with you overseas or keep an electronic copy in your email for reference. The insurance does not cover you while in a motor vehicle).
You will receive location specific packing guides in their pre-departure materials, but here are some general considerations:
First, you will want to look into the baggage restrictions for the airline you are taking abroad. Some airlines will allow you to check two large suitcases for international flights, but you definitely want to find out the size and weight restrictions so that you don’t end up having to pay extra for heavy baggage.
Make copies of all important documents and leave them with a trusted family member or friend while you are away. Also leave a list of important phone numbers, including both the US and Program Location Specific CAPA emergency phone numbers.
- Passport (bring an extra photocopy with you as well)
- Entry documents such as visa letters, invitation letters, etc.
- Airline ticket (This must show proof of return to the US. It is NOT advised that students try to enter the country in which they are studying with a one-way ticket)
- Copy of Insurance policy
- ATM and credit cards
Remember, you will be gone for a long time, but you will have access to laundry facilities throughout the duration of your program. Pack as lightly as possible to avoid surcharges on your airline and to leave room for anything you might buy while you’re abroad! It’s also important to remember that you may have to carry your bags on your own, so don’t pack more than you can carry.
Here are some specific things you will want to remember:
- Comfortable shoes for walking
- Rain gear
- Appropriate clothing for your internship site, if you are doing an internship, including an interview outfit. Your internship placement will have info on the style of dress required at that company.
- Seasonally appropriate clothing (coats for winter, bathing suits for summer, etc)
- Layers! It is difficult to plan for every changing weather pattern but the best way to do this is to pack a few basic pieces that can be appropriately layered for cooling or warming temperatures, even the uncharacteric weather changes.
- Any prescription medication that you take- bring enough for the duration of the program. You CANNOT have prescription medication shipped to you from the US.
- Contact lenses, if you wear them- bring enough for the duration of the program. Also bring a spare set of glasses.
- Shampoo, soap, etc- you can buy more in abroard, but bring enough for the first few days at least while you are getting situated. If you have particular brands of toiletries that you like to use, bring these with you, as it’s possible that you won’t be able to find exact brands and products.
- Personal health kit- band-aids; anti-itch ointment; hand sanitizer; vitamins; cold medication; diarrhea and upset stomach medication; personal hygiene products; sexual health supplies. Please note that similar products will be available in most locations.
- Budget travel book about your Program Location
- Alarm clock
- Backpack or other bag for carrying books
- School supplies, such as pens, notebooks, calculator
- Journal to record memories of your adventures
- Camera and charger
- Books, I-Pod, or any other items that will help you reduce stress and keep you occupied on train, plane, and bus rides
- A towel
- Converter and adapter kit
- A topsheet. This is the sheet that goes between you and the blanket or comforter. These are not widely used in the UK and Europe.
Do Not Bring
Do not bring anything that is very expensive that you could not bear to become lost or damaged. For appliances such as hairdryers, it is better to buy an inexpensive one overseas. Often these will break in the different outlets, even when using a converter. You will not need to bring bedding.
CAPA World Student Insurance does cover up to $500 ($250 per item) in claims for lost or stolen items, certain items (such as laptops and cell phones) have been omitted from this list, and there is a maximum amount per item that can be replaced. For very valuable belongings such as laptops, jewelry, cameras, you may want to consider insuring these separately. It is highly recommended that students avoid bringing very expensive items that aren’t an absolute necessity entirely.
Other Things to Do Before Departing
Let your bank and credit card companies know where you will be, so that they do not place a hold on your account for unusual activity. Most ATMs will apply a high fee (about $5) to international withdrawals. Talk to your bank about partner institutions abroad that may apply a lower fee or no fee at all.
If your bank/credit card is lost or stolen, and thus cancelled, your bank and/or credit card company will not be able to send a replacement card to you abroad. Identify a parent/guardian/partner to whom the replacement card could be shipped in that situation. They will then need to send it to you overseas. For this reason, it is a good idea to bring a small sum of money in traveler’s checks to help you through any delay in losing your card, and receiving a replacement.
Talk to your doctor about getting enough of a prescription to last during your time abroad. You will not be able to have it shipped to you once you are overseas. Pack this in your carry-on luggage, NOT checked baggage, in the event that your checked baggage is lost.
For many students, studying abroad is the first opportunity in which you will be booking not only your own airfare, but international airfare at that. What is the best way to go about doing this? What should you keep in mind as you proceed with your purchase?
You should book your flight to arrive into the location in which you are studying on the first day of the program. Example - if your program runs from Jan 12 until Apr 23, that means you are to arrive into the city ON the 12th, and depart on the 23rd. If you arrive into your location of study before these dates or stay beyond them, your housing will not be available and you will be responsible for your own accommodations.
For some locations, you may find that it actually takes two days to arrive – ie. Australia, due to the length of the flight and the time/date change. Be sure to compare the date of arrival on the itinerary rather than to just assume when you will arrive in your destination.
We do NOT recommend that you book a one way ticket into the country in which you are studying, as this could result in you being denied entry.
Check-in will commence for most programs between 9 AM and 5 PM. Even if your flight arrives in at 7 AM, between going through immigration, collecting your luggage, and traveling to your housing you are still not likely to get to central area of the city until 9 or 10 AM. If applicable, it's advised to pick an overnight flight that arrives into the city in which you are studying in the morning, rather than a daytime flight for which arrival arrangements will be trickier, and you are likely to get into the city in which you are studying late in the evening. This can be prohibitive in that you may not be able to check in until the following morning. In Beijing in particular, the night staff in the accommodations don’t typically speak sufficient English to be able to check you in. Please note, if you are flying to Sydney for example, you are likely to arrive in the morning no matter what time of day you leave the US – but always confirm when looking at itineraries before booking tickets.
Purchasing your ticket
There are a number of options out there for finding discount airfare, and even more options if you are a student/under 26.
STAtravel.com and StudentUniverse.com offer airfare deals especially for students. Often they are able to contract specific rates with the airlines that are not published for other travelers. In addition to searching for airfare on their websites, it never hurts to get an agent from both companies on the phone, as occasionally they can find even better deals. Additionally, some of these fares have more flexible approaches towards changing your return date, in case you decide to stay on after your studies.
Kayak.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Priceline.com, and Hotwire.com are all search engines that allow you to sift through offers from numerous airlines and consolidators to check for the best deal. Here's a hint - check the airline's website after finding a good deal on these websites. Sometimes you will be able to get a better schedule at the same price, or find an even better discount. Airline websites can surprise you with a good deal from time to time and it never hurts to check. Remember that booking airfare over the phone will usually carry a surcharge, but if you feel more comfortable talking through the investment, it can be worth it. Another good tip is to use the travel predictor on bing.com - it can give you an idea as to where prices are going to go in the next few weeks - such as if prices are expected to rise, drop or stay the same. It's not error-proof, but if you are deciding when to take the plunge and purchase your ticket, it can be helpful.
It is important to be aware that the least expensive plane ticket will generally also be the least flexible. Be prepared to pay high fees to change your return date, and even higher fees should you need to change your outgoing date.
Be sensitive to the feelings and privacy of others. Try to put yourself in their shoes and reflect on when it may or may not be appropriate to take photos. If it IS an appropriate situation for photos, then your options are:
Ask the person if you can take a photo. If it is a child, ask the parents. If possible provide them with copies of the photo or show them the image on your digital camera. Be sure to thank them, and a compliment is always appreciated as well.
Stay far enough away so that the subject of the photo is not singled out. This option should be considered with caution. You do not want to upset anyone by stealing his/her photo.
Expect people to be articulate and well informed when it comes to politics and international relations. Do not be surprised if people engage you in political debate. Be aware that you may encounter unfortunate stereotypes with locals believing all Americans are arrogant and wish to force their views on the rest of the world. The best way to prove these stereotypes wrong and to engage in meaningful debate is to remain open-minded at all times and accept that not everyone will share your views or agree with US policy. However, always use your best judgment and leave a situation where emotions are high and you may become unsafe.
Let your hosts lead the way when engaging in small talk. Be aware of which subjects they seem comfortable discussing and which they may avoid or only mention indirectly.
Be extremely sensitive of others’ feelings about drinking. Be respectful of your roommates, fellow residents or host family. You may not bring alcohol into your host family’s home. You may find that your host family or your peers enjoy social drinking, but may look upon drunkenness as intolerable or disreputable. You should also consider cultural/personal/religious/health-related motivations in relation to alcohol are quite personal, and these preferences to abstain from drinking should be completely respected. Additionally, pickpockets and others find drunk students from abroad to be perfect targets. Take this into consideration and make responsible decisions. Be sure to avoid any altercations when out for an evening. The experience of studying abroad can be significantly marred by an unpleasant/dangerous experience that occurs while under the influence. It is important to remember that for the length of the program, you are still in a fundamentally new situation, in a new place in the world. Your level of self-awareness should be raised and maintaned accordingly.
It is important to note that CAPA has a zero tolerance policy towards the use of illegal drugs. Should you be caught using, selling or possessing illegal drugs while on a CAPA program you will be dismissed from the program and required to vacate your housing. No matter what you perceive to be the attitude towards drug use within the community in which you are living, it is never advised that you put yourself in a situation in which you could be prosecuted for breaking the law in the country in which you are studying. Should this occur, the US Consular Officers Abroad can ensure detainee’s rights under local law are fully observed. They may visit the detainee and provide a list of local attorneys, but they cannot in any way intervene in a foreign country’s court system. Similarly, CAPA also cannot intervene on your behalf.
Everyone goes through different stages as they adjust to a new country and culture, regardless of where they previously lived. Common stages are as follows:
- Initially, you are excited about being in a new culture, also known as the honeymoon phase. You hold very high expectations and an extremely positive attitude toward the host country and people. You focus mainly on similarities between the cultures.
- Then after the honeymoon ends, you may become irritated by particular customs or values. You may feel hostility and focus on differences between how things are done in your host culture and your own cultural understanding of how things “should” be done. Minor incidents are often blown out of proportion and you may react negatively.
- Gradually, you orient yourself and begin to open up to more of the complexities of living in another culture, both the positive and negative aspects. Your outlook brightens and things become comfortable and familiar.
- Finally, your attitude changes and you are able to confidently function in both cultures. You enjoy living and experiencing life in a multitude of ways and appreciate diverse worldviews.
Studying abroad and interacting with diverse cultures can be an exciting experience, but it can simultaneously feel jarring to constantly interact with others who do not share your worldview, values, and customs. When a person shifts to a new culture, they are uprooted from the comfortable and familiar surroundings of home and transplanted, voluntarily or otherwise, to a different cultural setting. The majority of travelers residing in another culture for an extended amount of time encounter some of the following physical and psychological reactions when shifting to a new culture.
Signals of culture shock and shift:
- Homesickness (longing to be where everything is comfortable and familiar)
- Compulsive eating and drinking to excess
- Irritability and excessive need for sleep
- Boredom (no discovery of new aspects of the culture)
- Hostility and stereotyping of host country nationals
- Avoiding contact with host country nationals and seeing only other Americans
- Inability to perform work efficiently
- Tension and conflict with those around you
- Unexplained crying/depression or physical problems
Some common frustrations that occur when shifting to a new culture:
- Finding your goals to be unrealistic in a different culture
- Realizing your approach is inappropriate, despite good intentions
- Not being able to see any results after working hard
- Feeling involved in a project for too short a time to make any qualitative impact
Some routine interactions that may cause discomfort in a new culture:
- Differences in customer service
- Understanding new accents or the language (including British English)
- Understanding people’s mannerisms and how to respond to them
- Distinguishing a serious statement from one meant to amuse
- Having to rely on public transportation
- Sense of time/different value placed on punctuality/response time
- Doing laundry and food shopping
- Gender, class, race, (etc) relations
- The attitudes of host country nationals towards Americans in their land
- Different values or attitudes to things such as religion
Strategies for Addressing Culture Shock
Everyone experiences the above symptoms to varying degrees. You will be able to adjust to the local culture more easily if you anticipate and welcome cultural differences and prepare in advance for how you will deal with potential frustrations:
- Learn about the culture. Find out all you can by talking with people from that culture, read guidebooks, talk with other students who have visited there, seek out additional resources, and search the Internet. Ask yourself in what ways the information you found may be biased and why.
- Journal about your expectations based on your research. Then try to look for areas where you may have made assumptions. Why do you have those assumptions? What other possibilities exist?
- Make of list of things you can do to reduce stress (journaling, going for a walk, practicing yoga, listening to music, playing cards, knitting, collecting items for scrap-booking, talking with friends, writing letters, etc).
- Pack some small (and not too valuable) items from home; plan to use them to relax when you are feeling stress.
- Pack your sense of humor. You will make lots of mistakes, but it’s okay and all part of the learning experience!
- Be able to laugh at yourself and the circumstances you encounter! If you are not able to laugh, try a half-smile which has been proven to trigger a positive mood change.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Realize your expectations may not be met. Prepare for an adventure every day and to learn from all the different situations you may encounter.
- Practice going with the flow and living in the moment. Be prepared to tolerate ambiguity. And don’t forget to relax and have fun!
What should I do if these feelings persist?
Let a member of the CAPA advising team on site know about this. In addition to speaking with a member of our team for support, they will be able to point you in the direction of additional/professional care. CAPA is knowledgeable of local counselors and psychiatrists in your city who can ensure that your mental health is supported during your time abroad. Never try to endure a situation in which your emotional health is significantly challenged alone. Additionally, CAPA’s World Student Medical insurance provides coverage for mental health care for up to $500 (excludes pre-existing conditions).
Planning your finances before you go abroad is key to a successful experience.
Before You Leave
- Let any and all financial institutions that you use - banks, credit card companies, etc. know of your intended travel dates and destinations. Banks and credit card companies are quite good about putting a freeze on your account when they see expenditures that they perceive as being unauthorized. This is wonderful for your security, but could leave you in a bind until the freeze is lifted. You may even want to do this each time you leave the country in which you are studying for a weekend, or Spring/Fall break trip.
- Contact your credit card company for emergency phone numbers to use while overseas. If your credit card is lost or stolen, you can call to have an immediate stop put on its use. Write down the international numbers for your credit card company to keep on file.
- Ask your bank for a list of correspondent banks in case you need to have funds transferred to you. Check that your PIN will work overseas. Ensure you have the phone number of your local bank for any emergencies.
- Purchase $100 to $200 in local currency to take with you to handle any costs until you can get to a bank.
Receiving Money from the US
- The fastest and easiest way to get money from home is to have cash deposited into your checking account for you to withdraw it abroad via ATM. Checks deposited into your bank account may be held for up to 14 days before the funds are made available for withdrawal. Be sure to leave deposit slips and your bank information at home.
- Another easy, though potentially expensive, way is to have the money wired to a correspondent bank in the city where you are staying. It is a good idea for both you and your family to have a list of your USA bank’s correspondent banks. Then you can decide exactly which bank is closest to you and money can be wired directly to that bank. Remember to bring your passport when you claim the funds.
- Western Union has an international fund transfer department, as does American Express. You can use Western Union to get a wire money transfer and pick it up at any Western Union throughout the city. Check the Western Union website for more info (www.westernunion.com).
You probably won’t be able to open a bank account in the country in which you are studying while you’re abroad (and it is not recommended). However, you will be able to withdraw money from ATM’s at most banks; helpful information regarding ATM’s is explained below.
Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs/Cash Points)
ATM machines are very common in our Global City locations. ATMs usually get the same exchange rate as your credit cards. In major cities, ATMs are readily available in banks, airports and post offices.
If you’re considering using cash points, your card must be on the International ATM Network, and the PIN for your card must have four-digits. Some newer cards in the US have six digits -- these won’t work in most international locations so you should discuss this with your home bank and change your PIN. Also, realize that your PIN is a number, not a series of letters. Cash dispensers in many world cities do not list the letters, so know your PIN numerically before you get caught in a jam. If you utilize cash dispensers and experience difficulty, contact your home bank to ensure that your account is properly designated for international access.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is often a limit on how much you can withdraw from your account daily. You should inquire with your bank about any charges they may impose for withdrawing money overseas.
Traveler’s Checks (Traveller’s Cheques)
This is still a safe way to carry money when traveling however less and less will you find that traveler’s checks are often accepted as cash. It is not recommended to bring large amounts of money in traveler's cheques, but you may want to bring $100 - $200 in case of an emergency, particularly if you have a hard time not spending all of your cash at once! Thomas Cook and American Express are the most widely recognized. If you see any "Bureau de Change" or "Chequepoint" offices, casually walk the other way. They often charge outrageous commission fees and give very poor exchange rates. Go to a bank or a branch of Thomas Cook, or American Express instead.
Leave a copy of traveler’s check numbers at home and keep check receipts in a separate place overseas. Record the number when you cash a traveler’s check. In the event they are lost or stolen, traveler’s checks can be replaced if you have the check numbers. Ask the US issuing institution for a list of their foreign offices. Set a few checks aside for emergencies.
Most major credit cards are accepted overseas. Credit card currency conversions are generally quite favorable, and your bill will serve as a reference if something is lost or stolen. Always keep a record of how much you're putting on your cards and try to stay under your limit, otherwise you might find yourself in a sticky situation. It is important to take care of your cards. Don’t store them with the magnetic strips facing each other and keep them from getting scratched. Check that you activate your credit card for overseas use. If you do not travel outside the United States on a regular basis, some banks and credit card companies may deny use of the card outside of the United States or stop the card completely thinking there has been fraudulent activity.
Lost or Stolen Credit Cards and Traveler’s Checks
After making sure that the item is actually missing, report it to the nearest police station and get a receipt. This is needed for any further steps you need to take to replace the missing items. Unfortunately you can never replace cash!
Most students on study abroad programs are traveling on a limited budget. Because spending habits differ widely from student to student, it is impossible to provide a set amount for all students. Think of your expenses in two categories (1) expenses that are necessary for survival on the program (fixed costs) and (2) costs for things that will enhance your program but are not crucial to your survival (variable costs).
The following worksheet will help you decide how much money you will need. It is divided into fixed and variable costs. After you complete the fixed costs, you will have an idea how much to budget for your weekly necessities. You must at least have this amount of money available to you on your program. The total variable costs will help you determine the additional money you should take for optional activities during your time abroad such as travel on weekends and your break, going out with your friends etc. The general rule of thumb is to take twice as much as you think you will need, just in case something unexpected arises. Also keep in mind that most students end up spending all the money they take with them.
When building your budget, remember to consult your program brochure to determine what is and is not included. It is also a good idea to speak with recently returned students about their spending habits and to consult guide books for estimated costs.
Helpful Budget Worksheet
|Fixed Cost||Variable Cost||Total|
|Shopping and Gifts||$||$|
Traveling? Have you registered with the US Embassy?
As part of CAPA's thorough commitment to the health and safety of students, we are now asking that students register online with the U.S. embassy before they depart on their program. Please take a moment to visit the US State Department website and register your information by clicking on “Create an Account.”
Travel registration is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. Registration allows you to record information about your upcoming trip abroad that the Department of State can use to assist you in case of an emergency. Americans residing abroad can also get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- U.S. embassies and consulates assist nearly 200,000 Americans each year who are victims of crime, accident, or illness, or whose family and friends need to contact them in an emergency.
- When an emergency happens, or if natural disaster, terrorism, or civil unrest strikes during your foreign travel, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate can be your source of assistance and information.
- By registering your trip, you help the embassy or consulate locate you when you might need them the most. Registration is voluntary and costs nothing, but it should be a big part of your travel planning and security.
For More Information and to register your trips go to the US State Department website.