What is a visa? A visa is an official stamp or document affixed within a passport, or given to you as a separate document, that has been issued by a foreign government granting permission for entry specifically to study, work, or live in a particular country. The country you’re entering is not legally obligated to issue you a visa.
Are you required to apply? Typically it is domestic or international students planning to study abroad for 90 days or more who are required to obtain a visa. Some countries require all students to apply for a visa regardless of the length of the program.
When should you apply? The actual date depends on the individual consulate requirements, but don’t wait until then. We recommend you apply for a visa once you have been accepted into the study abroad program. Keep in mind that a passport is required to be able to apply for a visa.
Steps for applying for a visa are as follows:
Determine if you need a visa for the country where your program operates, or for any additional traveling
Determine which consulate you will use to apply for your visa. The majority of consulates in this region are located in Chicago, IL
Obtain the most recent visa instruction from the consulate
Submit your visa application, along with your passport, to the consulate according to their guidelines (either in person, through an approved representative, or by mail)
For any international flight, arrive at the airport a minimum of 2 hours before departure
Students should keep a copy of the flight itinerary on hand and give another copy to a parent or family member back home
To avoid paying hefty fees, students should be aware of the baggage regulations for the particular airline they will be flying with
A passport is needed to travel internationally, and a visa may be needed as well. Keep these documents safe and secure when traveling through the airport, but also accessible
Flights for faculty-led programs Flights for faculty-led study abroad programs will be arranged by the Study Abroad Office and the faculty leaders. Flights for these programs could depart from MBS, Flint, or DTW. Faculty leaders will instruct students on where to meet the group once they arrive to the airport.
Flights for non-faculty-led programs Students who are participating in a semester-long or summer (non-faculty-led) programs are required to book their own flights. Certain providers may offer a group flight option. Otherwise, students are free to choose their own flight itinerary. It is important for students to be aware of the arrival instructions given by the program they are participating in. Typically, program providers and universities abroad will give students a specific date and timeframe they should arrive. From there, most programs will send a representative to pick up students from the airport.
The Study Abroad Office will request a copy of the flight itinerary that is booked.
Jetlag occurs when you travel across time zones and your sleep cycle is disrupted. The best way to combat jetlag is to be prepared for it! Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your study abroad trip:
Adjust your sleeping schedule before you leave. Even if it's just going to bed an hour earlier, modifying your schedule will help prepare your body for the adjustment.
Once you arrive to your destination, do not take a nap! A quick nap could turn into one that lasts a few hours — then you might find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night. A good rule of thumb is to stay up until the local bedtime. This way you will begin your first full day on the right schedule.
Stay hydrated! Drinking a lot of water on the plane and when you arrive to your destination will keep you feeling fresh and energized.
Go through immigration. Have your passport, visa, and letter of acceptance readily available.
Collect your bags.
Go through customs and submit your customs form
Please note: Sometimes, this can happen so quickly you may not even realize you went through. Other times, it can take quite a long time. This all depends on the country, airport, and time of day.
Important information about U.S. customs
Clearing customs: Follow the directions given to you by flight attendants and your program for the process of clearing customs.
Declaration Forms: In most cases, you will be given a card to fill out that will require your passport information, items you have purchased while abroad and are bringing back into the country, and the cost of these items.
Receipt of Purchase: Retain all receipts or make an itemized list of purchases prior to customs inspection.
Taxes: If the total cost of your purchases exceeds a certain amount, you will be asked to pay a tax on all items over the allotted amount.
Items you cannot bring Into the U.S.
Plants, animals (especially those on lists of endangered species), and all live birds: The exception is if you have obtaineda valid certificate or license from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Drugs: Even if a drug was legal in your host country or other countries, it may not be legal to bring it back into the United States. If you are carrying prescription drugs, it is important to have your prescription with you for proof.
Weapons: Firearms, knives, explosives, and gas canisters.
Items you can bring Into the U.S. There are limits on bringing in substances that are not illegal, such as alcohol or tobacco. Check with customs for updates on these legal quantities. Even if a minor can purchase alcohol and tobacco in your host country, he or she cannot bring these substances back into the United States.
Smuggling What may be legal abroad may not be legal in the United States, and vice versa. Smuggling can be a federal offense leading to fines or imprisonment.
Credit and Debit Cards If you are planning on taking a credit card or debit card (which we highly advise to financially protect yourself in case of an emergency) it is important to inform your bank provider of the countries you will be visiting so they do not deactivate your card for suspicious purchases. Keep in mind most credit cards have an international transaction fee.
By withdrawing money from an ATM you will encounter the following:
ATM withdraw fees
Your bank might have a fee for withdrawing from an international ATM
If the withdraw takes places in a country with a different currency, the exchange is based on the wholesale exchange rate, which is usually reserved only for very large interbank exchanges
Debit cards are similarly as easy to use as credit cards; however, more than likely your bank provider has a set international transaction fee. For more information, please contact your bank provider.
General tips Make sure to take money in a variety of forms, for example:
ATM Card (Debit)
Small amount of U.S. currency
Small amount of foreign currency
Never carry all your money in one place
Before you leave check the exchange rates
Constantly be aware of the difference between the dollar and the foreign currency-exchange rates are volatile
Culture Culture is the way of life of a particular group of people. It is everything a group of people thinks, says, does and creates. It encompasses all from systems of attitude and feelings to accepted norms and beyond. In other words, culture is the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
Culture Shock Culture Shock expresses a lack of direction, a feeling of not knowing what to do or how to do things in a new environment, including not knowing what is appropriate or inappropriate. Every individual experiences culture shock to some degree.
Sadness, loneliness, melancholy
Preoccupation with health
Aches, pains and allergies
Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little
Changes in temperament, depression, feeling vulnerable
Unwillingness to interact with others
Loss of identity
Developing stereotypes about the new culture
Developing obsessions such as over cleanliness
Longing for family and/or friends
Develop a hobby
Include a regular form of physical activity in your routine
Relaxation and mediation
Maintain contact with your ethnic group
Maintain contact with the new culture, learn the language
Some countries require immunizations before you are allowed into the country. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site and select your destination to see what immunizations are required. The website also provides pertinent information and tips on how to stay healthy while you are abroad.
Inquire with your doctor and local health department to see if they provide the vaccinations your destination requires. There is an Immunization Clinic in Midland that administers an array of travel specific vaccinations.
Talk to your doctor about prescribing you a supply that will last through your entire trip.
Make sure you have copies of all prescriptions, including their generic names.
Over-the-counter medications We recommend taking a supply of your favorite over-the-counter remedies. Keep these in the original and unopened bottle. The CDC recommends the following over-the-counter medications while traveling abroad:
Diarrhea medicine (for example, loperamide [Imodium] or bismuth subsalicylate [Pepto-Bismol])
Motion sickness medicine
Medicine for pain and fever (such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen)
Mild sedative or other sleep aid
Saline nose spray
Make sure to pack all of your medication in your carry-on suitcase!
Provides discount opportunities for airfare, lodging, museum entry fees, shopping discounts and some insurance coverage.
Travel insurance: Students participating in any type of study abroad program are strongly encouraged to consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance can protect against the following situations:
Eating & Drinking We definitely want you to get as much from your experience as possible and that includes trying the local cuisine! Traveling will bring your body in contact with different bacteria, which are not necessarily harmful, but the change can unsettle your stomach or cause health problems. Stay cautious as your body may not be fully adjusted yet. Water (including ice cubes), milk, fresh fruit and unwashed raw vegetables could upset your system until your body adjusts to new surroundings.
The CDC provides information on how to eat and drink safely for your specific destination here. After choosing your destination, scroll down to the portion "Stay Healthy and Safe."
Alcohol Consume alcohol in moderation. Inebriation can result in poor academic performance, higher risk behavior, and/or regretted sexual activity. Excessive alcohol consumption plays a role in many serious accidents and deaths involving students overseas. Also, be aware of the laws regarding alcohol; the laws could differ from our laws in the U.S.
Staying active Staying active is a great way to relieve stress, feel more energized, and help cope with culture shock. By exercising, you will maintain a healthy lifestyle while you're abroad. Most likely, you will be doing a lot of walking which will help with staying active. Reach out to activities provided by your host school such as exercise classes, the recreation center, and intramural sports.