Preparing for Your Study Abroad Program

3 minutes read time
International Education Week, November 18-22

Preparing for Your Study Abroad Program

During International Education Week (IEW), November 18-22, the U.S. Department of State works with the U.S. Department of Education to promote the benefits of international education and exchange programs worldwide. We want to see you travel smart, travel safe, and travel well! Here are some practical tips as you prepare for your study abroad program:

Before You Go: Get Your Passport and Travel Insurance

1. Get your documents.
For students, winter break is a great time to gather the documents you will need for your passport application. You likely already have an acceptable form of identification with you at school if you have a valid driver’s license, but you may need to work with your parent or guardian to locate proof of U.S. citizenship at home. You can use a U.S. birth certificate to fulfill this requirement, or one of the other options listed on our website. Lastly, make sure your parents or guardians have valid passports in case of an emergency (or a surprise visit!).

2. Make a plan.
If this is your first passport, or if your last passport was issued when you were younger than 16, you will need to apply in person at a passport acceptance facility and you may need an appointment. Start the process as soon as possible to have the best selection of appointment dates and times. You can also search for special passport acceptance events near you. Routine processing takes approximately 6-8 weeks, and you may need additional time to get a visa for your destination once you receive your new passport. Making a plan also involves researching your destination and learning about travel conditions abroad. Check out our dedicated website for students traveling abroad to get started.

3. Make sure you’re covered.
Up until now, you have probably relied on your parents to take care of your medical insurance. Checking your coverage might be the last thing on your mind as you prepare for your trip, but it’s important to confirm your plan covers you abroad. This way, if the worst happens you can get the care you need away from home. You can purchase supplemental medical insurance for travel if your plan doesn’t cover you abroad. Also, consider purchasing travel insurance that covers emergency evacuations, lost baggage, and other unexpected challenges—it’s relatively inexpensive, and can save you (and your parents) a lot of worry later.

While Abroad: Stay Informed and Be Alert

1. Enroll in STEP.
U.S. embassies and consulates publish alerts for security situations, natural disasters, health concerns, weather events, and demonstrations. When you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), we notify you of new alerts relevant to your destination. Your parents can also enroll in STEP to see the same alerts as you for their peace of mind.

2. Know local laws and special circumstances.
Familiarize yourself with the country page for your destination. Understanding local laws and customs will keep you safe and out of trouble. Remember, you are subject to the laws of your destination country even as a U.S. citizen. Research the best modes of transportation (bike, car, scooter, etc.) when getting around, and make sure to drive or ride safely no matter which method you choose.

3. Be Aware of Scams.
Keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Falling victim to a scam can turn your study abroad dream into a nightmare. Study up on ways scammers target tourists by visiting

For more information on International Education Week 2019 visit and follow the #IEW2019 on Twitter.