Study Abroad FAQs
Chatham University Office of International Affairs
- The program I am interested in is so expensive - are there cheaper programs?
There is a range of prices for study abroad programs, from "all-inclusive" to "no frills." In addition to program inclusions, some study abroad countries and cities are less expensive than others, and the study abroad office can help you to find a program to meet your financial needs. Once you've found the program that works best for you, there are many ways to fund your experience.
- How can I pay for this?
There are many ways to afford a study abroad experience. Most Chatham undergraduates pay for study abroad through a combination of aid, personal finances and savings, scholarships and Chatham vouchers.
- You may qualify for financial aid such as student loans to cover the academic expenses for the trip. Federal aid and state aid can be used toward semester study abroad. Check with the Financial Aid office with questions related to your aid package.
- If the program is a Chatham exchange you can apply your Chatham aid and Federal financial aid toward the tuition costs.
- Each Chatham undergraduate student receives a one-time study abroad voucher of $1200 which can be used toward any credit bearing experience abroad. Students who have completed at least half the requirements for an International Studies certificate are eligible for an additional $1,800 voucher which can be combined with the $1,200 voucher for a total of $3,000. The study associated with the International Studies voucher must be equivalent to a minimum of 6 credits. To be eligible, students must have completed with a grade of at least "C" or better at least one half of the total credits for the certificate, including at least 8 credits of the foreign language requirement (or proof of proficiency). Students who leave Chatham without completing the certificate or who do not complete the certificate for other reasons will be required to repay $1,800 to the university. Study abroad programs taken in connection with the International Studies Program or the International Certificates must be approved by the International Studies regional coordinator. To receive funding, students must complete and submit the International Studies Certificate Verification form.
- There are outside scholarship opportunities that you may be eligible to apply for, including the Gilman scholarship and the Boren Scholarship.
- Some students fundraise for their trip abroad. See the fundraising ideas compiled by NC State University's Office of Study Abroad for some creative ways to cover costs.
- How should I handle money abroad?
- It is best to have access to multiple sources of money in case you should have difficulty with any one source. You should have some of the foreign currency and some US dollars with you at all times. Keep these in a secure place on your person such as in a hidden pocket or travel pack. Do not leave money or documents in pockets or bags that could be easily accessed by someone passing by. Awareness is the key to keeping your belongings safe.
- ATMs in other countries often charge expensive fees for withdrawals, so be prepared to pay extra for the convenience of taking cash out. Be sure to inform your bank of your travel plans.
- You may consider bringing a travel money card, which works like a declining debit card.
- Most major credit cards are accepted abroad. You can research whether your card is accepted at most locations within the country you are traveling to. You should inform your credit card company in advance of your travel dates, otherwise they may put a stop on your card if they suddenly charges are made in another country.
- Be aware of the exchange rate. Taking out 20 US dollars out of an ATM may not be a big deal, but if you take out 20 Euros, it is more significant. Likewise, a credit card purchase in local currency is going to be different from the US dollar amount that you owe when you get home.
- I don't have the time to study abroad because I have to finish my degree in ___.
With some careful planning, you can probably find a way to fit a study abroad experience into your degree program. Plan ahead; plan early! Check with your academic advisor to see if there are ways that you could get credit toward your major. Some abroad programs may fit directly into your degree problem with no trouble, and some experiences just need to be tweaked so that they count for classes or time that you would need at Chatham anyway. Summer and short term programs may work well for study abroad if you are crunched for time.
- I couldn't do a Chatham field experience in my sophomore year – is it too late now?
If you are an upper class student who has never participated in a Chatham field experience and meets the requirements (good academic, financial, and judicial standing with the university) and you need the credits to meet graduation requirements, you can still apply. All applicants regardless of class standing must meet requirements with the university. Look for program and application information early in the fall semester.
- Is it really safe to travel abroad? What about terrorism/ disasters, etc.?
Chatham does not allow students to study abroad in locations at US State Department travel advisory Level 4-Do Not Travel. Travel to locations with US State Department travel advisory Level 3-Reconsider Travel will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Pay attention to the specific risk indicators listed for the travel advisory for each country. Check the U.S. State Department's website for travel information and updates. With regard to safety, you will need to take precautions and follow the same basic rules that you would follow at home in the US. Read local news to be informed about current conditions in your study abroad destination. Pay attention to your instincts and if you are in a location where something does not feel right, leave. Do not travel alone if you don't have to, and never travel alone at night. Carry your fully charged cell phone and a copy of your passport ID page with you at all times. Keep your personal belongings close to you and keep valuables hidden and out of easy reach. Be careful about sharing personal details with strangers and accepting invitations to private events or locations. Never accept open drinks unless you are at a dining establishment. Above all, make sure that you know who to contact and where to go in the unlikely event of an emergency.
- What if I get sick while I'm abroad? What about my prescription medications?
Often students will have a minor complaint like a cold or stomach flu. Familiarize yourself with the location of a pharmacy or store that sells basic remedies like pain killer, throat lozenges, cough syrup, etc.
For situations that require medical attention, your US health insurance may not cover you while you are abroad. You should contact your health insurance provider to check on the coverage provided by your insurance plan. Before you travel, you can purchase supplemental travel insurance for additional coverage. Many study abroad programs include travel insurance, or you can purchase insurance through providers, such as:
If you have prescription medication, make sure that you have enough for your entire trip or that you can get a prescription filled where you are going. Bring a copy of your prescription and check to be sure that your medications are legal in the country you are traveling to. You can talk with a doctor about an alternative if your medication is not legal in the country you will be visiting.
- I only speak English; doesn't that mean I can only go to England, Canada, or Australia?
No, there are plenty of universities abroad that offer coursework in English. You can find a program or school that offers most or all courses in English. You can work on language skills while you are abroad, but a lack of them should not keep you from going.
- I'm not proficient enough in my secondary language to study abroad.
Study abroad is a great way to improve your language skills! You may need to prove proficiency if you want to take an academic course or a whole semester of courses in another language while you are abroad, but if you are going to work on language or to study in English, you do not need to worry that your language skills are not fluent. Check with your academic advisor, study abroad coordinator, or program contact person to find a program that is right for you. Many programs and courses through study abroad are either taught in English or you can choose language courses equivalent to your level of proficiency.
- I'm afraid I'll miss my family and friends too much if I go abroad.
You may miss the people you are close to here, but while you are away you can email and call them. (If your cell phone does not allow international calls, international calling cards are easy to use and reasonably priced.) Social media makes it easy to connect with home. You can share pictures and stories online, and you will have lots to share with them about the new friends that you made while you were traveling.
- What if things are really different when I get there? I won't know how to do anything.
A little bit of discomfort in a new culture is normal and to be expected at first. You will adjust well if you are flexible, patient and keep an open mind. Do some research about the area you will be visiting before you go to learn a little about local customs. Do not be afraid to ask questions if you want to understand something. Just ask politely and try to apply what you learn. Before long, things that seemed hard or confusing at first will seem like second nature.
- I am international student. Can I study abroad, and do I need another visa?
Yes, international students can study abroad! If you are studying in the United States from another country, you may need another visa to go abroad.
You should discuss your plan with the International Student Services and Study Abroad Coordinator. They will help you navigate the immigration process to study abroad.
- I don't have a passport
If you do not already have a passport, now is a great time to get one. US passports are valid for ten years and they are useful because you need them to travel anywhere outside of the US, including Canada and Mexico. You can apply for a passport online with the State Department or at a US Post Office. (Not all post offices provide this service, so call ahead to check.)
Passports cost $110 plus $25 in fees. Remember that passports take 4-6 weeks to process, so you cannot wait until the last minute to apply. Expedited services take 2-3 weeks, and carry additional fees. Don't put it off!
- Do I need immunizations or proof of medical records?
Check with the State Department's website to answer health-related questions. Please note that some vaccinations have to be taken several weeks in advance, and you may not be permitted to leave for your trip if you do not have documents proving your compliance.
- Can I use my cell phone while I am abroad?
Most smartphones can be used with local Wi-Fi in airplane mode. You can check with your cell phone service provider to see if international calling is included or available for an additional fee. Some phones have no international utility at all, and you may prefer to purchase an international calling card or a temporary/pay-by-use phone.
- Can I take electrically powered devices with me?
You can take things like laptops and other electrically powered devices, but you may need an adapter or a converter to be able to use them since not all countries use the same voltage and plugs in their electrical systems. You could easily destroy an appliance or machine if you plug it in without a voltage converter. Check online to see what you may need for the country you are visiting.
- Who should I tell that I am going abroad?
- If you are receiving academic credit for your study abroad experience or internship, you must have your coursework approved by your advisor and department chair and file a study abroad application with the Office of International Affairs. If you are doing an internship, you must also complete paperwork with the Office of Career Development.
- You should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) when you are preparing to go abroad. The program exists in order to help the US State Department get in contact with you in the event of an emergency: https://step.state.gov/step/.
- You should also inform your bank and credit card company so that they do not put holds on your accounts if you make charges from another country.
- Where will I live? (with a family, by myself, find apartment, in a dorm)
Depending on your program, you may live with a host family, with other students from your program, or on your own depending on the type of study abroad trip that you are taking. If you are going with a group, you will likely get accommodations through the group. If you are going alone, you should find out if your program provides housing or if you need to find your own.
- What should I pack?
In addition to the regular necessities like clothes, shoes, and toiletries the following items are recommended:
- Proof of Insurance
- Program acceptance and local contact details
- Proof of Vaccinations and medical history
- Prescriptions and medications
- Student I.D. Card
- Money Belt
- Backpack (for class and for day-trips)
- Family Photos
- Set of dress clothes (just in case you go somewhere fancy)
- Gift (it may be appropriate to bring your host family a simple gift from home)
- An inventory list of the items you packed in your checked baggage, in case you need to make an insurance claim on lost luggage
- Identification tags with your contact information on them, attached both outside and inside your checked bags and carry-on bags
- What travel considerations do I need to make?
Depending on where you are going, you may travel by land or by air. If you are flying, take the time to shop around as flight costs can vary greatly. Try websites such as google.com/flights, vayama.com, orbitz.com, studentuniverse.com, and statravel.com. Be sure to check baggage rules with your airline. Certain items may be banned or you may incur additional charges for too many bags or too much weight. Once you get to your destination, make sure you have your program contact information if you are being picked up at the airport. If your program does not include airport pickup, plan ahead for how you will travel to your housing. Taxis can be prohibitively expensive, so a rail or bus shuttle may be more efficient and affordable.
- What to Buy When You Get There
There are inexpensive items you can purchase at your destination. Consider buying items like shampoo, soap, sheets, towels, an umbrella and film while on your program. Hairdryers and curling irons are best purchased abroad because the voltage conversion may destroy your appliance – just buy an inexpensive one when you get there.
- Will I get credit for classes abroad?
You will get credit if and when all Chatham study abroad requirements are met:
- Submitted study abroad application with all signatures
- Successfully completed study abroad coursework or internship requirements.
- Official transcript requested from study abroad provider and sent directly to
- Office of the University Registrar
103 Braun Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15232, USA
- Office of the University Registrar
- Approved courses with grades of C or higher for undergraduates and B- or higher for graduate students will be transferred
Prior to study abroad, Chatham students should meet with their academic advisor to discuss course equivalency. Students are responsible for ensuring that a transcript is sent directly to the Chatham Registrar; otherwise, Chatham cannot accept and verify grades.
- What can I bring back to the United States?
Check with Customs and with your airline to see what you are permitted to carry into the US. Guidelines change frequently, so you should check right before you return to the US to make sure everything you want to bring back is allowed.