International Service Learning Study Abroad Handbook/Pre-departure Basics



A passport provides a lawfully legitimate identity that gives a person the ability to travel across a county’s borders. When traveling to another country, a passport is used in order to prove that an individual is actually a citizen of the country he or she claims to be from. Once the proper officials accept a passport, the traveler is granted entry into the country. Every country has different requirements for obtaining a passport. However, most countries require an original birth certificate and a fee. It is also recommended that the traveler obtain travelers insurance to protect the passport in case it gets lost or stolen. For more information on how to obtain a United States passport visit:



Similar to passports, visas are a document that gives a person the ability to travel across a country’s borders. The difference between passports and visas is that visas specify certain reasons as to why an individual will be traveling as well as providing a timeframe for his or her stay. Most students who study abroad need to obtain a visa in order to designate the amount of time he or she will be staying in a country. A visa is a supplemental document that is usually attached to the passport. When planning to travel abroad, a visa issued by the country’s embassy may need to be obtained. It is also recommended that the travel obtain an insurance policy that covers the visa. For more information on how to obtain a visa, visit:



When you are traveling to other countries you often face health issues they wouldn't ordinarily experience at home. To lower your risks of becoming seriously ill when traveling abroad, you should find out in advance whether any specific immunizations may be recommended for travel to the region of the world you'll be visiting. It's also a good time to review your own immunization history. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's best to schedule a visit to your doctor or travel medicine clinic four to six weeks before an international trip. Since your body needs time to build up immunity after receiving a vaccine and many vaccines are given in a series over time, getting an early start on your immunizations is the best way to protect yourself.

The CDC divides travel vaccinations into three categories: routine, recommended, and required. "Routine" vaccinations are those that are normally administered, usually during childhood(i.e mumps, measles, hepatitis. "Recommended" vaccinations are given to protect travelers from illnesses that occur routinely in other parts of the world (i.e Rabies,Typhoid fever). The only vaccine classified as "required" by International Health Regulations is the yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Doctors determine which vaccines are recommended for international travel on an individual basis, taking into consideration your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year you are traveling, your age, your overall health status, and your immunization history.

Here is the link for the CDC website, which provides all the information you will need.

Packing-what to bring; how much to bring


General Packing Tips

- Clearly identify your luggage inside and out with your name and US & overseas address. Colored tape can make it easy to identify among similar baggage. - Place a strap or piece of rope around your suitcase to secure it in case the lock breaks. - Check airline regulations for weight, size and number of bags - In your carry-on, keep a change of clothes, toiletries, valuables, important documents (passports, visas, arrival instructions) and medications in their original containers -Pack as light and efficiently as possible

Miscellaneous Items

- $100 in local currency for when you first arrive - Map of your host city - Guidebook of your region and of the places where you will travel - Photocopy of your passport information pages. Also leave a copy at home. - International calling card and access numbers for the countries where you will travel. - Phone numbers to cancel credit cards in case of theft (800 numbers don't work outside US) -Travel size board games, book, or cards, as you will not likely have a TV - Portable audio devices: Music player, walkman or shock absorbent CD player, portable speakers, power supply, ipod - Camera - Journal -Addresses and photos of family and friends -Travel alarm clock -Umbrella or really good rain jacket that can be packed accessibly -Sunglasses -Small sewing kit -Money belt -Day pack (for short trips; this could double as your carry-on) -If you plan to travel, Swiss army knife with bottle opener, corkscrew, & can opener, absorbent fast-drying and small-to-pack towel (available at outdoors stores like Erehwon, Fontana and REI) - If you bring a laptop, inquire about international voltage converters at an electronics store -Power strip so you only have to purchase one converter (if you plan to bring several items that require plug-in to an electrical outlet)


- Consider both the physical & social climate; dress accordingly. Persons in other countries tend to dress a bit more formally than we do in the US. - Dark colors do not show dirt as readily - Take durable, drip-dry, no-iron clothes - Take items that have multiple uses and (for colder climates) can be layered. - Comfort, respectful (modest), and practicality are the keys for both clothing and shoes - Bring one professional outfit in case of a site visit to somewhere a little more formal - Bring comfortable walking shoes.


-Don't overstock on toiletries; most things are available in major cities abroad. Women may want to bring a preferred brand of tampons or pads, as they may not be as readily available abroad. -Transfer liquids from breakable containers into plastic containers; use tape to seal the lids when traveling or pack them in ziplock bags to separate them from clothing - Prescription drugs for the duration of your time abroad (in your carry-on)

What is TOO much (What NOT to bring unless required)

Too much – I know the list above looks large but you can really get it down to very little if you pack carefully. In this case packing light is especially important because you will literally be carrying everything around on your back for your entire trip! Keep this in mind when you are packing and keep it as light as possible!

Dressy clothes – unless you know you have to go to a black-tie event somewhere, jeans and a shirt are probably about as fancy as you are going to get when you are “roughing it” in hostels and inexpensive bars/restaurants.

Hair dryers, flat irons, or tons of makeup – get into the travel spirit and leave the primping behind for a few days! You’ll be glad to have less of a load to carry and besides, you’d probably find it difficult to primp very well when you’re on the road and staying in hostels anyway.

Your laptop – it’s heavy; you won’t want to risk it getting stolen; and most hostels offer computers with internet to use for free anyway (this is subject to change depending on what kind of program your doing and where you're traveling)