If you are a participant attending an Internship, Service Learning or Global Research Placement, you should arrive on the Arrival Date stated on the website or by your Learn International Coordinator. Typically this is a Sunday (in Ireland) or Saturday (in the UK, Spain and Belgium).
For all programmes, please check with your Learn International Coordinator to confirm the best airport and time to arrive.
If you are a part of a group participating in a Learn International programme, please speak with your Study Abroad Advisor or Faculty member(s) accompanying you about whether group flights are being organised with your home institution.
If group flights are not included, please contact your Study Abroad Advisor at your home institution for flight instructions.
If your programme offers an airport transfer, you either will be greeted at the airport by a Learn International representative or provided instructions on local transportation prior to arrival.
If your programme offers “Optional Airport Transfer”, your Learn International Coordinator may be able to organise this for you for an extra fee, depending on your location.
If you miss or have an extended delay on a flight, you must contact your Learn International Coordinator via WhatsApp or email to coordinate your arrival. Your Learn International Coordinator will give you the best number to contact.
For all group programmes, airport transfers are agreed with your Study Abroad Office and/or faculty member leading your programme. Please ask your Study Abroad Advisor if an airport transfer is a part of your programme.
Visa and Immigration
Individuals and Groups
Learn International staff are not immigration or visa specialists. It is the responsibility of all participants to read the rules and regulations in their host-country.
Additional information about the type of visa required will be provided by your Learn International Coordinator or from your home university Study Abroad office.
Upon arrival be prepared to:
- Show your passport (be sure it is signed and is valid for up to 6 months AFTER your programme is completed)
- Show your exit ticket from your host-country.
- Provide an address for where you will be staying on your programme.
- If your university or Learn International has provided you with an invitation letter for your programme, have a copy of this with you also.
Employment laws vary from country to country. On a tourist visa in most countries, you may not undertake paid employment. It is important to know the laws in relation to working and the consequences of working without permission. Learn International does not support working of any kind while on short-term programmes without an appropriate visa. It is illegal and may distract participants from their studies and overall experience.
Your host-country’s weather will vary based on the time year. Please research this on your own, so you are prepared. Additionally your pre-departure manual will give some basic advice.
Paperwork and Copies
Before you go abroad, it’s best to make sure you have important documents with you. We advise keeping copies of these documents with you and to leave a copy with someone you trust in case of emergency.
- Make sure you make copies of:
- Your passport and/or visa information (where applicable)
- Please make sure your passport is signed and valid for up to 6 months after your programme is completed.
- Second form of identification (e.g driver’s license)
- Invitation or acceptance letters from Home University or Learn International
- Exit plane ticket from your study abroad destination
- Health insurance and travel insurance
- Credit cards and ATM cards
- Flight details
- Prescriptions (see more about medications below)
Clothing and Toiletries
Packing can feel like a stressful thing, but you can buy most of what you need in your host country, so it’s best to pack light.
Wearing layers is always good idea in any country. You can usually buy what you need in your host-country, so don’t worry if you forget something. We recommend packing the following items:
- Raincoat/warm jacket
- Waterproof and/or comfortable shoes
- Long pants/sweater/sweatshirt
- Business casual clothing is also recommended in programmes where professional attire may be required
If you decide to bring toiletries, make sure you check with your airline for the size limits for carry-on baggage and be sure to wrap them up to prevent leakage. If there is a brand that you prefer, it is best to bring this with you, as the brands in your host-country may vary.
Types of toiletries commonly brought:
- Face/body lotion
- Bug spray
- Razors (most airlines allow these on the plane as a carry-on but it’s better to pack it in checked luggage)
Tip: You can purchase most toiletries in-country, which will decrease weight in your luggage. However, if your programme is short-term (2-3 weeks) it might be wise to bring small travel toiletries with you, to save on costs of buying regular-sized items.
If you take regular medication, it is best to carry this on the plane with you and in the original bottle/package with the prescription attached. Do not mix pills/tablets into one bottle, as this could delay you at immigration. You can choose to pack your medicine in your checked bag, but make sure it’s not something you need regularly, in case your bag is lost or delayed.
If you take any medication such as insulin, narcotics or any other controlled substances, please have a doctor’s note, a written prescription and keep the medication in its original bottle with you. Controlled substances are taken very seriously while travelling abroad, so be sure to have the appropriate documentation on the items.
If you are doing an extended programme, 8-12 weeks, often your doctor can prescribe a script for up to 3 months; this may vary with controlled substances however. Please check with your doctor and health insurance for more information to assure you have enough medication for the duration of your programme.
If there is brand of medicine you prefer, for example allergy medication, it is best to bring this with you also, as brand availability in different countries varies.
- Electrical plug adapters and electrical converters: If you are from the USA or Canada, you will need to bring adapters and converters when visiting other countries, as the plugs are different and so is the voltage. Please research what types of adapters you will need prior to arrival.
- If you do not use these items, you risk burning out your electronic device, fire or worse.
- You can buy these items at a local electronics or travel store prior to arrival.
- Laptop and charger: Most laptops have an automatic converter for power, but you will still need a plug adapter.
- Mobile phone: Learn International highly recommends you have some form of communication device in case of emergency. Options for phones in-country:
- If you bring your home phone, you have three options:
- Use the phone as is, but be sure to check with your service provider about international rates.
- Keep the phone on airplane mode and use WiFi only. **Recommended for short-term programmes only.**
- Ask your service provider to unlock the phone and purchase a local pay-as-you go SIM card when you’re in-country. **Recommended for long-term programmes (8+ weeks), as it ensures you have easy and quick means to contact people in case of an emergency.**
**Tip** Prior to arrival be sure to download apps onto your smartphone that you can use on WiFi to text, talk and send photos for free. Your Learn International Coordinator will contact you via WhatsApp during the arrival period, as well as other times during your stay.
- Don’t forget your camera, charger(s), USB cables or any other electronics you need while away.
Check with your airline carrier to see what your luggage allowance is (weight and size), and adhere to it. Typically, you can take one large checked bag, a carry-on bag and personal item.
It is also recommend that you bring a small suitcase/duffel bag that you can use for overnight excursions or travel within other countries.
Money and Banking
There are ATM machines, banks and money exchange at most airports. However, it’s important that you check with your home bank and credit card institution(s) to see what fees they charge when you use your debit or credit card abroad. Typically, it’s a 3% charge/fee on every purchase or withdrawal, plus an additional flat fee for an ATM withdrawal.
- There are some banks and credit cards that do not charge this fee, so we recommend you research these and apply for accounts prior to arrival.
- We recommend you bring $100-200 in the currency of your host-currency in case an ATM is not available immediately.
- It’s not recommend that you carry large amounts of money on you.
- Spread your money in various places while travelling, in case of theft.
- You also must call your banks and credit cards to let them know you will be travelling abroad, where and for what dates. If you do not, your card may be cancelled or frozen while abroad.
- At times, your home bank will have a sister bank in various countries where you can withdraw money for free or reduced fees. It’s a good idea to ask your home bank prior to departure.
**Tip** Traveller’s checks are no longer common, however you can exchange money prior to your arrival or use companies like Travelex as a safer way to carry money.
If you have any further questions about money, banking and credit cards, please contact us. We are happy to help you plan.
It is important to use your best judgement when going out outside of programme hours, especially late at night. Please be aware of your surroundings, as you would in your home country. You should always travel with a friend or in a group.
If you feel unsafe at any time, please contact the local police by phone at: 112 or 999, or tell your on-site Learn International Coordinator and follow the Learn International Emergency Plan provided in your on-site orientation packet on arrival.
Health Risks and Dangers
Every country has its own risks, some higher than others. This is reviewed in pre-arrival and orientations but please research prior to departure.
Learn International does not support participating in any activity that endangers your health or others including but not limited to: drugs, alcohol (underage and binge drinking), extreme sports, riding bicycles without a helmet, renting motorbikes, etc.
Common risks to be aware of in any country:
- Bug bites: Ticks and mosquitoes ; please check and protect yourself.
- High UV rays from the sun: Use 50+sunblock and reapply regularly.
- Crossing the street:
- Research what side of the road your host-country operates on and use extreme caution.
- Follow all traffic and walk signs in host-country.
- Public transport: Always use caution and mind the gap or steps in train and subway/tube stations.
- Mobile phone theft: Keep your mobile phone locked and close to you in public.
- Texting and talking on mobile phone: This can be dangerous while walking or riding a bike if you are not aware of your surroundings.
- Petty theft and pick pockets: This happens in every country; please be aware of your surroundings.
- Eating street food or drinking the local water: Research if these are safe in your host-country.
- This list is not exhaustive.
Health Insurance: All participants with Learn International are required to have international health insurance. Please check out our Health and Safety page for requirements and more information.
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is highly recommended. It can cover things like trip cancellation, lost baggage and electronics. Some international health programmes have travel insurance built into them, so please research these options before arrival.
Before you go abroad, it’s likely you are pretty jazzed and excited to experience a new place, a new culture and explore. We’re excited for you too! That’s why we want to review a few things before you set off, so you can be aware of feelings of adjustment when you immerse yourself into a new society, place and people.
What is Culture?
According to dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster online dictionary, culture is defined as the behaviours, customs, arts and/or belief systems of a particular society, ethnic group or place and time.
For the context of studying abroad with Learn International, culture is the way of life, value systems and behaviours of a group of people and varies from place to place, region to region and country to country. This way of life may be different from your own or what we are accustomed to. At times, these differences can be difficult for us to manage and we may experience what is called, culture shock.
What is Culture Shock?
Some participants are completely unaffected by culture shock; others struggle with it to different degrees of intensity. The majority of Learn International programmes are short-term or under three months in length, so participants who do experience some form of culture shock may do so at a less intense level than those on longer programmes, but it is still possible.
When travelling and entering a new community, culture or daily routine, we have to adjust to a new way of life, routine and behaviours. At times, you may feel alone, uneasy, sad or even depressed from being outside of your comfort zone. Whether you are a participant on a study abroad programme or a family member of a participant, please know that these feelings are normal, will decrease in time, and at times they are preventable.
A few additional symptoms of culture shock are:
- Extreme tiredness or insomnia
- Idolizing your own culture and criticizing your host culture
- Isolation from others
Kalervo Oberg was the first person to identify and coin the term Culture Shock in the late 1950s. He developed the five stages of Culture Shock, which we will use for this discussion but there are many theories related to Culture Shock and adjustment, such as Rhineback’s Ten Stages of Adjustment, if you would like to read more.
It’s important to note that everyone goes through these stages differently, not in the same order and at varying rates and levels of intensity. It is wise to understand these phases prior to arrival, so you are aware and recognise them if you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of culture shock while abroad.
According to Oberg’s stages, there are four that apply directly to culture shock abroad:
- Honeymoon stage: This is where most people are excited, everything is new and wonderful. People are in a semi euphoric/happy state and are enjoying their journey as a tourist. This is typically within the first couple weeks after arrival, when a person transitions to a new country or culture.
- Irritation, Anger or Aggression/Crisis stage: This is the stage after the “honeymoon” wears off and little things that are different about your host country’s culture may start to annoy or frustrate you. It is during this time when most people really start to notice a differences between their host country and home. At times, it may feel as if everything and everyone from the host country is awful and unbearable to deal with and you just want to go home. But leaving isn’t going to make it all better.
- Recovery stage: This is where you will most probably start to accept/adjust to the differences in your host culture, get used to them or learn how to manage them. Things may still feel difficult, but feelings of hopelessness decrease. Every day gets a little easier and you feel more at ease.
- Adjustment stage: This is when you feel mostly at peace and comfortable in your new surroundings because you have adapted. You appreciate your host country and culture, want to learn more, and usually have a social network to keep you busy.
The rest of the stages, not listed here, refer to returning back to your home country and how you navigate your feelings and thoughts. We recommend reading about this before you return home.
Tips on managing culture shock abroad:
- Prior to arrival do your research on your host country’s culture to prepare yourself.
- Maintain some of your regular routines from home (exercise, journaling, etc.).
- Try to be flexible and patient.
- Exercise frequently. Go for walks and/or do something outside.
- Keep an open mind and try to learn from your new culture versus criticising it.
- Ask for a care package from home.
- Try to make friends with someone from the local culture so you can ask questions about the culture and get involved.
- Make friends with someone from your own culture/programme, as it is likely they are or have experienced similar feelings.
- Ask for help and talk to someone. Learn International staff are always available to help and can help refer you to someone to chat too.
- Explore your surroundings, be a tourist and see as much as possible.
- Find something you like or appreciate about where you are every day.
- Join a club, find a sport or an activity you enjoy.
- Write down what you are feeling/keep a daily journal. Journaling is a great way to think about your feelings and experiences. Plus, it makes for a great keepsake/tool to look at after your study abroad experience when you re-enter your home-country.
Remember, you aren’t alone and most of what you are going through is normal; it’s all part of the process.
All of us at Learn International have either studied abroad or lived abroad, so we have firsthand experience with culture shock and managing it. We are always here to listen and help!
Links to helpful resources and sources:
What’s Up With Culture? – University of the Pacific
Northeastern University – Culture Shock
Oberg. K. Culture Shock presentation
Returning Home, Canadian Bureau for International Education, 1984, p. 7.
Oberg, K. (1954). Culture shock. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.
Oberg, K. (2006). Cultural shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments.curare, 29(2), 3.
If you have any questions about the above, please contact us or by email: [email protected] We are here to help.