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Preparing for Study Abroad

Fulfill all pre-departure requirements and learn about health and safety abroad. Research your host country and culture and consider how aspects of your identity may be perceived.

You are about to begin what will likely be one of the most exciting challenges of your life. It is not too early to start thinking about the steps you need to take before you depart.

Online Pre-Departure Forms

After being accepted to a program you must log in to your Study Abroad Portal and complete all post-decision requirements by the stated deadline.

You must disclose any accommodations, health, counseling, and dietary needs and history well in advance of the program start date to Overseas Programs and to your program provider so that proper support and care can be arranged for your time. If you have physical or learning disabilities, confirm whether the host institution can offer accommodations.

Complete Study Abroad 101

 This course is required for all students studying abroad on summer, semester, or academic-year programs. Students must register themselves for L99 101.  All required pre-departure briefings and relevant seminars and country meetings are outlined in the Study Abroad 101 Schedule/Syllabus, which can be accessed through Canvas.

Read Handbooks

Read the Overseas Programs Handbook before you leave to learn about Washington University policies, procedures, and services. There may also be program-specific handbooks students are required to read.

Obtain Passport & Visa

Passport | All study abroad participants must have a passport that is valid for six months beyond the end date of the study abroad program. Refer to the U.S. Department of State for more information about the application process for U.S. passports. Apply early for your passport, as it may take up to six weeks to process your application or renewal.

Visa | For many study abroad programs, students must obtain a visa from the host country granting official permission to enter.  Visa requirements depend on the laws of the country to which you travel and can be influenced by the length of time abroad, your country of citizenship, and other factors. Specific visa information for your program will be provided during Study Abroad 101 or by your program provider. You may also check with the host country’s consulate for specific information.

Passport photos are available through Harvey Media Center.

Non-US citizens must have a valid passport from their own country and must comply with the visa requirements applicable to citizens of that country.

Travel Plans

Wait until dates have been confirmed AND you have been admitted to the program before buying plane tickets. Some programs may have activities that occur before or after the host institution dates.

Health and Safety Preparation

Health Preparation

Your well-being is the most important factor to consider while you are abroad. It is important to evaluate your health needs as you research programs and destinations of interest to you. Investigate the host culture and the climate in the area of the program you are considering keeping in mind any conditions such as asthma and allergies. Even if a health issue is currently under control, symptoms may reappear while studying abroad. Make sure to visit your health care providers and have a conversation before you go.

CDC Country Health Profiles

The CDC provides general traveler health guidance, as well as Destination Specific information on its website. This includes tips on what to pack, information about vaccines and medications, and travel notices about current health issues related to specific countries.

Consult with Medical Practitioners

In order to be medically prepared to participate in your study abroad program, consult with your health care providers.  Visit a physician, your counselor, or a travel clinic. Make sure you have the recommended vaccinations and have researched the availability of health services in the host country. If you take any regular medications, consult with your physician and insurance company and check customs policies on prescription medication in your destination to ensure that you have access to an adequate supply for the duration of the program.

Washington University Student Health Services offers care to students who are traveling abroad, including physical exams, advice, and immunizations as needed. Before you travel, schedule a travel medicine appointment to make sure you are prepared for your trip.

GeoBlue Health Insurance

To best meet the medical needs of those who study abroad, Washington University requires that all WUSTL-approved study abroad students have health insurance from GeoBlue, a leading provider of international health insurance. Refer to the  GeoBlue Student Member Guide.

Semester | Students studying abroad in academic year or semester programs will be automatically enrolled.

Summer | Students participating in Washington University-approved study abroad programs will be automatically enrolled.  Only those students participating in Washington University-approved programs that require and facilitate enrollment in a comparable international health insurance plan will be exempt from enrollment in the GeoBlue plan. Students should refer to specific instructions provided through the study abroad application portal.

The GeoBlue Study Abroad Basic Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan is a comprehensive insurance plan providing $250,000 in medical coverage with no deductibles.  Please note, however, that GeoBlue coverage is a supplement to the student’s existing health insurance plan.  It is not valid within the United States and does not meet the University’s requirements for student health insurance. Students are encouraged to research potential health needs prior to departure through GeoBlue's Student Portal. The portal provides lists of contracted hospitals, doctors, dentists, pharmacies and translations services by location.

Safety Preparation

The safety and well-being of students studying abroad is of paramount importance.  While we cannot guarantee students’ safety and security abroad, Overseas Programs takes all reasonable steps to help students be safe during their program. We monitor international events, are in contact with coordinators and staff in the host countries, and evaluate and respond to each situation or incident on a case-by-case basis. We are able and willing to close or cancel a program, but our experience has been that this is seldom necessary.

It is important to remember that students play the most important part in ensuring their safety while abroad.  Take every precaution necessary to stay safe and happy during your study abroad program. Start by reading the Overseas Program Handbook for tips on staying safe while abroad. Before you leave the United States, you should also make use of the following resources to prepare:

Department of State Country Profiles

Become familiar with and check routinely the U.S. State Department website for students abroad and the Study Abroad Department of State website. The Department of State also provides information on every country in the world in their Country Profiles. For each country, you will find information including the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices, visa information, crime and security information, health and medical conditions, drug penalties, and localized hot spots. This is a good place to start learning about where you are going.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Sign up for the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive travel safety advisories and enter information about your upcoming trip abroad.  This is a free service provided to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country and will enable the Department of State to better assist you in case of an emergency in the United States or host country.

International SOS Emergency Assistance Plan and MyTrips

All WUSTL students are covered at no extra cost by an International SOS Emergency Service Plan which provides international security and travel assistance.  Please note this is an assistance program, NOT health insurance, and is meant to be used in tandem with existing health insurance.  Students may access ISOS resources by logging into the ISOS Website using WUSTL's membership number 11BSGC000032.  Additionally, all university-related travel outside the U.S. is required to be registered in MyTrips.  The registry allows us to better assist students in emergencies or times of crisis while abroad.

See the Overseas Programs Study Abroad Handbook for more information on International SOS and safety precautions.

Identity and Diversity

Overseas Programs is committed to extending the benefits of international education experience to all students. If you are concerned about how you will be perceived while studying abroad, please discuss your concerns with your Overseas Programs advisor.

Reflect on Your Identity

Diversity is contextual. Wherever you study abroad, you will be perceived differently. Societal attitudes toward gender, sexual orientation, race, language, ethnicity, religion, and disabilities are cultural constructs. As such, these can vary considerably across cultures and impact how aspects of your identity are perceived. As you explore your study abroad options, you'll want to reflect on how you define your salient identity/identities and how you may be perceived and treated in your host country.

When considering a study abroad destination, it is important to question the comfort, flexibility, and transparency of your salient identity or identities in your potential host country.

Some questions to consider may include:

  • What are the laws surrounding my identity/identities in my host country?
  • What are the attitudes toward my identity/identities in my host country?
  • Are there norms and behavioral expectations for my identity/identities in this country?
  • What resources are available in my host country? Are there any publications, online resources, establishments, and/or centers?
  • How flexible am I in the balance between genuine and complete expression of my identity/identities and the local norms of my host country?
    • How willing are you to flex your clothing choices?
    • What kind of healthcare access might you need?

Learn about Host Country's Social Norms

We encourage you to research social norms, cultural mores, and local practices before your program begins. Familiarizing yourself with the host country will ease your transition and allow you to prepare for how aspects of your identity may be perceived while studying abroad. When doing this, remember that your fellow Washington University students are an excellent resource. If you are considering studying in a particular place, talk to Washington University students who are from the country or have already studied there.