There are many important things to consider before departing for your study abroad experience. Start planning for your departure sooner rather than later.
Prepare your Travel Documents
You will need to have a valid passport before applying to a study abroad program. US citizens are required to have a passport to enter foreign countries and to gain re-entry into the United States. If you do not have a passport, or your passport has expired or will expire within 6 months, apply for one as soon as possible. Passport processing can take up to 6 weeks or longer, and we recommend that you apply several months in advance. You will need a valid passport before you apply for any country-specific visas. You can find more information on the US Government’s passport website.
Applying: You must apply for a passport in-person. You may do so at one of the following locations:
- A US post office authorized to accept passport applications
- A passport agency (some travel agencies may aid if you proceed by this route)
- A county or superior court. In Burlington:
Chittenden Superior Courthouse
175 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401
8:30 - 4:00 p.m. Monday - Friday
Renewing: If you already hold a passport that has been issued within the last 15 years, and you were at least 16 years old at the time of issuance, you may be eligible to renew your passport by mail. Passport renewal application forms can be obtained from the Chittenden Superior Courthouse. Or, find out pricing and get an application on the US Government's passport website.
For F-1 and J-1 International Students: You will need your passport from your home country to be valid during the full time of your study abroad experience. Before returning to UVM from overseas, your passport must be valid for at least six more months in order to reenter the US. You will also need to obtain an I-20/DS-2019 travel signature and have your F-1 or J-1 record updated in SEVIS to show your study abroad. This can be done by meeting with an International Student Advisor.
You should make copies of your passport and visa before you travel abroad. Keep a copy of these with you, whether it is a digital copy or a physical copy, and leave a copy with a trusted contact.
Apply for a Visa
Many students need visas in order to study abroad. In most cases, you will need to obtain a visa before leaving the United States. As with your passport, please allow plenty of time for your visa to be processed.
Visas can only be obtained by applying directly to the foreign government via their diplomatic offices in the US. Be aware that some countries do not accept applications through the mail or on the internet, and require you to appear in-person at their US office in order to secure your visa.
Find out if you need a visa: Once you have been accepted to your program, check with your program provider or on the website of your host country's embassy in the US to see if you require a visa, and if so, which type of visa you need.
Find out if you or the program secures the visa: A few programs, generally all run by external program providers, are able to secure a visa for you. Many host countries do not allow this, however. If your program does not process visas for its participants, you will be responsible for securing your own visa.
Obtain the visa: You can learn more about the visa process you will need to follow from visiting the website of your host country's embassy in the US. Go to the US State Department's website to search for your host country's information page. When you reach your destination country's Country Information page, scroll down to the Entry, Exit, and Visa Requirements section for links to the embassy of that country. Each embassy's page will provide links to their regional consulates (if they have them) and visa processes on their websites. Visa application processes vary widely between countries. Some countries allow you to apply online, but many will require you to appear at least once for an appointment at a consulate or visa processing center. Check the consulate or embassy website for information regarding application fees, requirements, process timeline, and regulations regarding visa validation upon arrival in your host country. If you need to apply at an embassy or consulate in person, make sure to schedule your appointment far in advance, as appointment times book up very quickly.
For F-1 and J-1 International Students: Check with the foreign embassy/consulate of the country where you will be studying abroad to confirm the type of visa you need. Note that in some cases consulates and embassies will only work with individuals who are citizens of the country in which the consulate/embassy is located. This might mean that you are working with people who are physically working in your home country at a foreign consulate or embassy, rather than one in the US.
Tip: Photocopy everything before submitting it and use certified mail both ways if your country requires/allows you to have your documents mailed. Usually, visas are stamped directly in your passport and you will likely have to submit your passport along with your application. Certified mail will ensure that this valuable document can be traced if lost.
Verify your Health Insurance Coverage
While making your plans to study abroad, verify your own health insurance policy to see what coverage it provides for medical services abroad. You will also be covered by International SOS's health insurance partnership with Starr Insurance as long as you complete the GoAbroad process and are registered for OSSP.
- UVM’s student health insurance can also provide some amount of coverage for you while studying abroad, provided that you are not studying abroad in your home country.
- It is recommended that you check with your current health insurance provider to understand their coverage for any possible medical expenses incurred while traveling abroad.
- Many programs and/or countries may require that you purchase specific health insurance. Check with your host university or program provider for requirements.
- Be prepared that you may need to pay cash for medical services on-site.
- While traveling, you should carry your insurance policy identity card as proof of insurance (like your International SOS card) and a claim form.
- If your friends and family are planning to visit you, they should plan to purchase additional health and travel insurance that will cover them in their travels.
Get any Needed Immunizations
If your physician locally or at home can provide you with international travel medical advice, please feel free to the seek the guidance of that specialist to help you determine what immunizations and medications you might need abroad.
Under the International Health Regulations adopted by the World Health Organization, a country may require International Certificates of Vaccination against yellow fever, and a cholera immunization may be required if you are traveling from an infected area. If you are required to get vaccinations for your country, you will need to carry your immunization records with you. Typically they are listed in a small yellow packet that your doctor or the Travel Clinic will give you, although this may vary depending on the vaccination and location.
Attend Pre-Departure Orientation
UVM students studying abroad must attend a pre-departure orientation. These orientations are held on a Saturday or Sunday during the last few weeks of the semester; students should attend the orientation in the semester before the intended study abroad date (usually mid-November for Spring/Calendar Year students, and mid-April for Fall/Summer/Academic Year students). The pre-departure orientation is very interactive, and we require students to bring their laptops with them if they have one.
Note: This pre-departure orientation does not apply to students participating on short-term UVM Travel Study programs.
Read the Pre-Departure Guidebook
All UVM students studying abroad are required to read the Pre-Departure Guidebook before departure. It is a comprehensive resource guide covering topics such as health and safety, International SOS, cultural adjustment, communication from abroad, and dealing with money abroad. The Guidebook is also designed to be a resource while students are abroad.
Get Final UVM Approval
Exchange and External Students: Final UVM approval is not granted until you have completed all of your GoAbroad checklist items, and have been registered for the OverSeas Study Program (OSSP) or BUCK for the Buckham Program. The Registrar's Office will automatically register students who have completed the Request OSSP Registration form in GoAbroad. You will receive a confirmation email.
UVM Semester, Travel Study, and Independent Travel Students: Final UVM approval is not granted until you have completed all of GoAbroad. You will receive a confirmation email after you have completed the final form.
Make your Flight Arrangements
Prior to purchasing your flight, make sure you have read arrival information from your program/University. You want to be sure to arrive during their suggested times, as it may impact your housing/transportation. UVM doesn’t recommend any specific travel websites, however resources like Google Flights can be a good place to start. It is a good idea to start looking for airfares early, so that you can learn what its typical cost range is. This will allow you to recognize a good price when you see one, so that you can purchase it.
Make sure you are flying on a reputable airline, and are leaving enough time for any layovers. Planning to arrive at your final destination early in the day will leave room for flight delays, customs, and finding your way in a new country in daylight. Some programs/host universities will pick you up at the airport or a train station, while others will have you make your way to your university and housing on your own. Do your research ahead of time about where you will need to go once you've arrived in your host country, and the best ways to get there.
Be sure to review TSA Guidelines and your specific airlines baggage requirements for all connecting flights. International flights will often allow larger bags than in country/continent flights. For example, students may be allowed two large suitcases to fly to New Zealand, however the connecting flight may only allow one suitcase. To avoid extra baggage fees be sure to pack for the lowest weight/size allotment. In addition, make sure to research customs requirements for your host country so that you are prepared when you arrive, and do not bring anything that is not allowed into the country.
Notify your Financial Institutions
It is crucial to notify all of your banks and credit card companies prior to leaving the country about your intended travel. If you do not do this, and use your credit/debit card/ATM while abroad, your account will likely be frozen due to suspected fraud. You may be asked for a list of the dates that you will be in each country you plan to visit. It is uncommon for students to have all this information before even arriving in their country, so it is important to find out the requirements for informing your bank of unexpected travel. It is also advised that you ask for the best practice if your card is lost/stolen, and their policy for getting a new card sent to you.
Prepare to Vote While Abroad
If you are a US citizen, voting in US elections is your right and civic duty. You can still vote in all local, state, and national elections using an absentee ballot when studying abroad. Make sure to follow the process for getting an absentee ballot mailed to you while abroad, and pay attention to the date you are required to return it via mail.
The voter registration and absentee ballot request processes are different depending on your state of residency. Typically UVM students who are US Citizens are allowed to register to vote in either Vermont or their home state. Please see here for additional information and resources for voting abroad.