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Pre-Departure Resources

Students in ParisPassports

A valid U.S. passport is required for participation in all international programs. Application for a U.S. passport is filed in person at the Arcata Post Office. For application instructions and fees, click here.

If you already have a passport it must be valid for at least 6 months after your return date.

Mandatory Pre-Departure Orientation
Every HSU student going abroad is required to attend the pre-departure orientation. If you are a non-HSU student and are not in the area please contact the Center for International Programs to see how you can meet this requirement. Dates, times and locations are posted in the 'Announcements' box on the left hand side of this page. You only need to attend one of the sessions - choose the one that is most convenient for you.


Check the HSUGoAbroad Portal to make sure you have completed everything. Bilateral and Third Party students - make sure you have the email address and phone number for your academic advisor and department chair. If you are taking courses from other departments, then take the email address and phone number for those department chairs too. Many students change their class schedule when overseas and you may need to contact advisors to get approval for changes.  It's a good idea to print out your DARS Report before you go. Your Credit Transfer Agreement will be uploaded to your application on the HSUGoAbroad Portal so you can refer to this when you need to.
Make a coded list of bank account numbers, passwords, bill information etc. to take with you if you can’t remember them. Make two copies of all your important travel documents (one should go with you abroad in your suitcase, the other to a trusted individual). Scanning documents and sending them to your e-mail is another way to make copies but remember – e-mail is not secure.
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • ISIC Card, Driver’s License, and any other Identification cards
  • All credit/debit cards (front and back)
  • Health Insurance Information
  • Immunization Record
  • Power of Attorney letter (Notarized)


Get a money belt or secure bag (that zips shut)  or wallet in which to carry your passport, cash, traveler’s checks, ATM card, credit cards, airline ticket, vaccination records, health insurance card and that company’s customer service contact information.  Keep the belt/bag/wallet stored in a safe place at all times. Take dollars in small denominations in case of an emergency. Make sure you have a four-digit PIN for your ATM and credit card (longer PIN’s are not valid in some countries). Contact your bank to let them know that you are using your credit and debit cards abroad or they might put a hold on them and you will not be able to use them. Also, ATM withdrawal fees vary - check the penalties. Check with your bank to see if they have a partner bank in your host country – you may avoid some fees. Students going for longer that one semester will want to look at opening a bank account.


Get your finances in order before you leave.  If you receive financial aid (this includes loans) you MUST meet with the Financial Aid Office before leaving the country. Your aid will not disburse until you verify to the Financial Aid Office that you are on your program. Notify your bank, student loan company and credit card company that you will be living in another country and operating from there. Provide them with your contact information in the host country.  Give Power-of-Attorney in writing to someone you trust so that they can handle all your financial and legal matters on your behalf. 

Health Insurance

All study abroad students must have study abroad health insurance. Make sure you have read your insurance policy before traveling and you know how to use it if needed. Take the insurance card and contact phone number with you. Be aware that if you are going on a Bilateral Exchange, CSUIP, or HSU Program your insurance only covers you during your program dates. If you want coverage during travel or extended dates, it is up to you to purchase it. Third party programs have varying insurance plans. Be aware of yours.
It is your responsibility to understand your insurance and take any additional safety measures if needed.
Talk to the coordinator, resident director, faculty leader about any physical and mental health issues you have that may be important for them to know about.

Medication and Prescriptions

If you need particular medications, contraception, eye wear (glasses or contacts), feminine hygiene products, hair products, motion sickness medicine etc., research if they are available in the host country.  If not, bring enough to last your whole time abroad.  Take your immunization records with you!
Take care of all your medical and dental checkups and needs prior to leaving. You do not want to have surgery or get a root canal while studying abroad!
  • Carry a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor
  • Keep medicines in original drugstore containers
  • Take extra glasses and bring a copy of your prescription in case you need to have them replaced.
  • Over-the-counter medication in the U.S. may not be legal in other countries.
  • Do not stop taking your medication while abroad, especially if you are taking medication for anxiety or depression. 

Staying in contact

Make sure you leave contact information with people at home who need to know. Develop a realistic communication plan. Parents and loved ones worry about you.  Have an agreement on how often you will contact them.  Stick to it!  Email, Skype, Messenger, Whatsapp etc. are a great way to stay in contact.
Discuss safety with your parents/loved ones.  Let them voice their concerns and listen to them (believe it or not, they may have some good suggestions!) The more your loved ones know about your program, the less they will worry.
If your phone is unlocked try buying a SIM card in-country, or buy a cheap phone in-country and use phone cards (shop around). Some US phone companies will have international plans. You can also start a blog to inform friends and family.

HSU Checklist

All important university documents and financial bills or disbursements will be sent to your permanent address in Peoplesoft. Is that where you want them sent?
The emergency contact you entered in the HSUGoAbroad Portal in is the person who will be contacted in case of an emergency – make sure it is who you want to be contacted and let them know they are the contact.
Make sure your personal e-mail and your HSU e-mail accounts are connected. Check your HSU e-mail regularly.

Electrical Equipment

If you decide to bring a laptop, get it insured and back-up files regularly!  Laptops are popular targets for theft in most countries. Do you need any adaptors or power regulators? Look up the voltage used abroad and make sure you have the appropriate adapter and/or converter.
Take as few electrical appliances as possible. Check what plug you will need here:

Booking a Flight

Look for airline tickets early! The closer to departure you get, the more expensive the ticket will usually be. Buy from a reputable company that has good customer services and stands behind their tickets. Get multiple quotes from various sources. Some search engines you can check are: Google Flights, Kayak , Faretracker, STA, Student Universe, Hopper, Skyscanner. Specify if you want special meals and seat preferences.  Join the airline’s frequent flyer program and start racking up those miles towards free travel!
Some countries require you to show that you have a return flight before you are allowed into the country. Even though search engines are helpful for finding cheaper flights it is a good idea to check on the airline's website to compare prices.

Some useful websites:
Student Travel Association
Student Universe


Check baggage allowances (you will be surprises how little you can take without incurring an extra fee!) and security regulations. Lay out everything that you think you need and then get rid of half of it.  If you can’t carry your luggage up three flights of stairs unaided you are taking too much! Bring at least one nice outfit that you can wear at a more formal event, such as a wedding, important meeting or presentation.
These web sites have some interesting packing tips:


Read this: A Letter to the Students About to Leave to Study Abroad.

Learn about your country. The more customs, communication styles, and gestures you know, the less shocked you will be on arrival and it will ease potential homesickness. Remember to be AWARE, PREPARED, and OPEN-MINDED to avoid unwanted surprises.

Look at maps and travel guides, like AfarLonely Planet, Thorn Tree, Trip Advisor, WikiTravelRough Guides, Rick Steves, Let's Go, Fodors, Frommers, and CultureGrams.

Read the State Department’s information about country you are going to, and the CIA factsheet.


Consider taking some business cards (you can make these before you go) and your updated resumé . You never know when that perfect job might come along!

Odds and Ends

Applying for Graduation: You need to do this if you have reached junior standing (60 units) and it is strongly recommended that you apply for graduation at least three terms prior to your expected term of graduation. For more information:

The GWPE: Students become eligible to take the GWPE upon completion of at least sixty semester units (i.e. having attained junior standing) and successful completion of the General Education Area A: Written Communication course (or an equivalent college-level composition course with a grade of C- or better). It is recommended that, the examination be taken during students' junior year. If you are eligible take it before you go so you don't have to think about it! More information can be found here:

Voting - How do you vote when you are abroad? or
ISIC - A good card to have, learn more: