Step 4: While Abroad
Go to our Facebook site to let us know what you're up to and connect with other students studying abroad.
Just got back from studying abroad or are you currently oversees studying?
We're looking for stories and photos to post to our website. If you have a great story - tell us! We are always interested in hearing from you. Share your exciting stories and pictures with us and other students who might be thinking about studying abroad.
*Please keep in mind that we would like to post these stories and pictures to the UI Study Abroad website and cannot post inappropriate material.
Some students may find that, as they settle in to their new environment, they experience culture shock. Culture shock can be described as the physical and emotional discomfort people suffer when living in a culture different from the native culture. Often, the norms of life in the native culture are not accepted or considered normal in the host culture. Everything seems different and hard to understand, and the ability to easily function in a familiar culture has disappeared.
Culture shock cannot be avoided, so it is important to be able to recognize it in order to better deal with it. With effort and patience the adjustments can be made, and recognizing the symptoms is the first step. It doesn't hurt to remind yourself that culture shock is normal and temporary.
One can determine whether he/she is experiencing culture shock by recognizing the symptoms:
- Sadness, loneliness, depression
- Preoccupation with health
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Feelings of vulnerability or powerlessness
- Isolationism, irritability, or loss of identity
- Inability to solve simple problems
- Lack of confidence
- Developing stereotypes about the new culture
- Obsessing about small things, like over-cleanliness
- Feelings of being lost, overlooked, exploited
Culture shock has many identities, from feelings of elation to feelings of resentment or depression.
Below is a table that does a good job of explaining the stages of culture shock (quoted from The Experiment in International Living Cross-Cultural Orientation Guide, 1984):
|The Honeymoon||Everything is new and exciting.|
|Culture Shock||The excitement is gone. Differences begin to emerge; questions arise about how to relate to friends or to their host family. Students may feel lonely or homesick.|
|Surface Adjustment||It is starting to make sense. Students can communicate basic ideas and they begin to make friends. They start to feel more comfortable in the host culture.|
|Unresolved Problems||Problems with friends or family of the student may surface, or the student may wonder why he/she ever went abroad and might be extremely homesick.|
|They Feel at Home||The student accepts the new culture as just another way of living. They may not approve of it always, but they accept and understand differences.|
|Departure Concern||The student begins to sense personal changes. They have mixed feelings about returning home.|
Here are some ways you can combat culture shock:
- Develop a hobby.
- Take personal time. Do something you like to do, like going to a café and reading a novel in English.
- It is important that you include a regular form of physical activity in your routine. This will help combat the sadness and loneliness in a constructive manner.
- Maintaining some contact with Americans can help to give a sense of belonging, therefore helping to combat feelings of loneliness and alienation. HOWEVER, spending time with Americans ONLY is very harmful to the study abroad experience, as it limits a student’s interaction with the host country and also limits a student’s ability to learn the host language.
- Establishing simple goals and evaluating your progress will give you a feeling of power in a culture where you may feel powerless.
- Be confident. Remember why you decided to study abroad, your future plans, and how this experience will help you get there.
If you are experiencing problems coping with culture shock you may wish to seek out your Resident Director or the staff in the International Office at your host institution. They can help you find an appropriate counselor or may have other suggestions for combating the feelings you are having. If you have any questions or concerns for UI Study Abroad staff, do not hesitate to contact us or call (208) 885-7870. You'll find more information about culture shock and cultural differences within your Studio Abroad account.
Most overseas programs have educational systems that are quite different from the system in the states. This could mean:
- Your classes are very large. For example, some classes at German universities may have 1,000 students in them. Since typically no one keeps attendance, students come and go as they please, and the professor will probably not know your name.
- You have very little guidance in your classes. Unlike the U.S. system where students are given regular homework assignments, you may be given a reading list at the beginning of the semester and that is it. It is up to you to make sure that you read all the material.
- Instead of numerous quizzes and tests, you are given one comprehensive exam at the end of the term or year.
- There are no regularly scheduled office hours. At some universities, there is a shortage of rooms. Professors are not given offices and when they finish teaching, they go home.
- Communication between professor and student may be quite different. For example, in France professors can be very frank with their students. When a student entered a class thinking her spoken French was excellent, the professor turned to her and said, “Your French stinks!”
- Some classes may have strict attendance policies that penalize a student’s grade for each unexcused absence.
So what's a person to do?
Read! Don’t ignore those reading assignments until a week before the exams!
Don’t skip class! As a U.S. student in a foreign educational system, you are at a disadvantage over your fellow peers. They have had a lifetime of learning the ins and outs of the system; you haven’t.
Do not return to the U.S. unless you have taken all the required exams. If you don’t take your exams, you will fail your courses!
Try to talk to your professor. The best time to do this is typically before or after class as they may not have office hours. The hierarchy between professors and students can be very different in many countries than what you are used to in the U.S. You should speak to the professor personally, first introducing yourself and being sure to address them as Doctor or Professor. Email is not the best approach when trying to reach your professors. Many professors abroad may not check their email regularly or may find it rude that you would contact them that way.
If you have trouble in class, make it your mission in life to get help from your fellow peers. Not only will you stay on top of your subjects, you’ll have the chance to get to know other students.
If you are having serious trouble with a class, don’t let it slide. Seek the assistance of your on-site coordinator or staff at the institution’s International Office. If these individuals are unable to help you, contact the Study Abroad Office by email.
Academic problems are always more difficult to resolve after the fact than when they are actually occurring!
Prior to leaving (or upon arrival if students could not pre-register) all UI students were required to complete and submit a Course Planning Form. The purpose of this form is to determine how courses taken overseas will fit into your major or minor. If you have decided to take courses different from what you had pre-approved on your Course Planning Form, it is a good idea to contact your advisor to obtain approval via e-mail. The Registrar's Office should then be contacted so they may make a note on your Course Planning Form. Suguru Fujiwara, in the Registrar's Office can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Non-UI students are not required to complete a Course Planning Form but are encouraged to discuss issues of credit transfer with their home university.
Since educational systems vary, it is often difficult to determine credit equivalency at UI. When questions occur, the Registrar’s Office typically uses the formula 15 classroom contact hours = 1 UI credit. If you are in class 3 hours a week for 15 weeks, the number of credits you should receive for this course is 3 credits (45 classroom hours/15 = 3 credits). Many European countries use the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). The UI transfers 1 ECTS credit as 1/2 of a UI credit so if you take a course for 5 ECTS credits, you would receive 2.5 UI credits for that course.
While you should receive credit for all the courses you take overseas, it is up to the individual departments to determine how these courses will fit into your major/minor.
One important note: Overseas student visa regulations and the Study Abroad Office require that all students be considered full-time students. Students who are not registered for the minimum number of credits could jeopardize their financial aid.
Finally, It is a good idea to bring copies of your course syllabi and/or descriptions back to UI with you in case any issues arise in the transferring of your credit.
Prior to departing for their programs abroad, students expecting to receive financial aid funding were encouraged to sign up for direct deposit so that funds would be deposited directly into their bank accounts. If you are experiencing trouble with this process, or if you have another question about your financial aid, you should contact the UI Financial Aid Office at email@example.com or at (208) 885-6312 (non-UI students receiving aid through their home university should contact their home university Financial Aid Office).
Financial Aid Release Dates
Students participating in programs abroad that have different academic calendars may have additional issues regarding financial aid. The Financial Aid Office releases aid according to the U.S. academic calendar, rather than the calendar of the overseas institution. Therefore, students on programs that begin either much earlier or much later than the U.S. academic calendar must do careful budgeting.
For example, the University of Idaho fall semester release date is in August, yet some students in places like Australia or New Zealand may have started their semester in July. They must cover expenses (airfare, etc.) on their own until the financial aid release date, when they can then "reimburse" themselves out of their financial aid award. In most cases financial aid cannot be released early. In the reverse situation, the University of Idaho spring semester release date is in January, yet some students may not begin their programs abroad until February or later. These students must carefully budget so that they do not use up the funds intended for their study abroad/exchange experience before it even begins.
Students are reminded that they must remain full-time students abroad in order to maintain financial aid eligibility. Students who drop below full time status may be placed on financial aid probation or may even be required to pay back a portion of their award. Undergraduate students must take 12 credits/semester while graduate students must take 9 credits/semester.
Financial Aid Suspension
Federal law requires UI to verify that financial aid recipients were enrolled full-time and received passing grades while overseas. You will receive a financial aid suspension letter if UI does not receive a transcript from the institution you attended by June 1 showing you were a full-time student and passed your courses. While some institutions will be able to submit transcripts by the required deadlines, many institutions--particularly in the southern hemisphere--follow academic calendars that make this difficult. Students particularly affected are those who will be abroad during the spring semester, as there is little turn-around time between the end of their program and the June 1st deadline. Before you leave your study abroad site, you should make certain all your fees are paid, all your coursework is submitted, and you have taken all your exams, as this will speed up the issuance of your transcript. If you do receive a financial aid suspension letter, please contact us. We work with the Financial Aid Office and the academic colleges to request that student aid is reinstated until your study abroad transcript has arrived.
Students nearly finishing up their overseas experience may find that it is time to register for the next term of classes back at their home university. As most universities now use online registration and have course catalogs and time schedules online, this process doesn't change much when registering from abroad.
If you have an advisor hold on your account, you may first contact your academic advisor to conduct "e-mail advising," after which the advisor can remove the "Advisor Hold" so that you can register. "Study Abroad Holds," which you might see on your account, do not generally prevent you from registering.
Many universities open access to registration on a "tiered" basis, first allowing seniors to register, then juniors, and so on. At the University of Idaho, the study abroad "placeholder" credit students are registered for is counted toward moving students up in class standing. Therefore, if you are a sophomore, you may count the 12 study abroad placeholder credits toward putting you into junior status. However, if you are actually taking the equivalent of 14 or 16 or another number of credits abroad, these credits (above the 12 placeholder credits) will not count toward your class standing. Only the 12 placeholder credits will be counted. After you return and your transcript is received, any additional credits will be counted toward your class standing. This means at registration time you may still have to register during the time frame allotted for sophomores, for example, if the 12 placeholder credits were not enough to move you into a higher class standing. While this delay is not likely to keep you from getting into any of your classes, if you are concerned you should register for the wait list and contact the course instructor.
Given world events there are often questions asked by both students and parents regarding the safety of study abroad. It is easy to become alarmed when we hear the Homeland Security Office has raised the alert level for U.S. citizens, or we see natural disasters being broadcast on network television. However, it is important to step back when we receive such information, to view the information through an impartial and rational lens, to separate fact from rumor. We know this is difficult - as parents we worry about our children, and as students we wonder how these events might impact our study abroad experience.
At the University of Idaho we take student safety and well-being very seriously. However, we cannot guarantee a risk-free overseas environment any more than we could do this for a student studying in the U.S. The best way a student can remain safe is to be aware, be responsible, and to follow the advice of UI and other program staff. Student safety is a three-pronged effort: initial preparation, on-site personal responsibility, and program preparedness.
Students on UI programs participate in a pre-departure orientation. Two of the main discussion points of this orientation are health and safety. Students also receive a Survival Guide that discusses these issues. When students arrive in-country, they receive another orientation that covers site-specific health and safety issues. As a part of this preparation (both in the U.S. and overseas), students should receive emergency contacts for:
- Host institution international office staff and/or on-site resident directors
- UI Study Abroad Office staff
- Police, fire, ambulance
- Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
If students have misplaced this information, they should request it from their resident director and/or host institution international office staff, or contact UI’s Study Abroad Office (telephone: 208-885-4075 or email).
On-site Personal Responsibility
There are many things students can do to minimize their safety risk:
- Blend in with the local surroundings as much as possible. Dress like the locals and avoid wearing clothes with American slogans, cultural icons, or company logos.
- Avoid American hangouts, moving about the city with a large group of other Americans, and visiting areas that are known to be unsafe.
- Avoid consuming alcohol or other substances that might impair their decision-making ability.
- Keep travel to a minimum, but if they do travel, they should journey with a companion (preferably a local citizen), and be sure to leave an itinerary behind with their host family or resident director.
- Avoid crowds, confrontations/arguments concerning political/religious views, and public demonstrations of any kind.
- Draw upon as many sources of information as possible before making decisions—the U.S. Consulate, host family members, on-site resident directors or program staff, and heed their advice whenever it is given.
- Make every effort to be aware of their surroundings and keep in regular contact with the host institution and/or program provider staff.
If students follow these simple recommendations, they will keep themselves safe and have a great educational experience.
Over the years, UI has handled a wide variety of emergency situations, including student injury, illness, arrest, natural disasters, political and social unrest, and war. The UI International Programs Office staff is very experienced in emergency response, and they have an extensive network of professionals in the U.S. and abroad that they can draw upon for expertise and advice. Each of these sources of information provides a critical link to understanding complex situations and providing guidance in taking the appropriate actions.
Whenever possible, UI uses in-country assessment since this provides the most accurate picture of a situation. As an example, last year the U.S. State Department issued a Public Announcement concerning potential political instability in a country where UI students were studying. On-site staff kept our office updated on the recommendations provided at weekly U.S. Embassy briefings so that we could make informed decisions and keep our students safe.
Another important source of information are the travel advisories provided by the U.S. State Department. These usually come in the form of a Travel Alert or a Travel Warning. A Travel Alert, in itself, does not necessarily constitute a reason for canceling a program. The incident may be in a remote region of the country where UI students will not be going, or the threat might be non-specific, e.g., advising U.S. citizens to be cautious because of possible heightened terrorist activity worldwide. As when handling all potential safety issues, UI consults as many sources of information as possible before making decisions or taking action on a Public Announcement. As a general rule, Travel Warnings tend to be more serious than Travel Alerts, and it is UI policy not to allow student travel in a country where Travel Warning has been issued.
As defined on the U.S. State Department website www.travel.state.gov:
“Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, either transnational or within a particular country, that pose significant risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert.”
“Travel Warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.”
How often are programs canceled or students evacuated, and what should I do if I am asked to evacuate a country?
Program cancellation and/or the necessity for student evacuation is really quite rare.
Should students be asked to evacuate, they should always follow the instructions of the resident director and/or the host institution international office staff. Some program sites may have a predetermined emergency meeting place that students should go to, or in other cases, students may be asked to remain with their host families, or stay in their residence hall rooms or apartments until further arrangements can be made. As in all emergency situations, it is important that students try to remain calm, not act impulsively, and follow any instructions that are given by program staff or the U.S. Consulate. Once students are safe, they should contact their family members in the U.S. at the earliest opportunity available.
During such an emergency, parents are encouraged to contact the UI Study Abroad Office so they can be provided with the latest information available.
In the event of an emergency, the following Study Abroad Office numbers may be called (please call in the order in which they are listed):
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
|First point of contact:|
|Jill Kellogg-Serna||(208) 885-8475|
|Colton Oliphant||(208) 885-7870|
|Jean Wenner||(208) 885-0105|
After 4:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
|First point of contact:|
| UI Campus Security
(they will contact a UI Study Abroad Staff member)
Parents may also email for information requests: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What roles do UI, the host institution, and/or program provider have in an emergency response situation?
UI provides study abroad opportunities in approximately 370 institutions in 70 countries through a variety of programs and collaborative relationships. This represents a wide array of language, social, political, cultural, and administrative differences. A “one size fits all model” for emergency protocols would not be possible or even practical.
Generally speaking, UI’s study abroad programs can be categorized into two main types: partner programs that involve two universities (UI and the host institution), and programs delivered by program providers. Program providers may be a membership organization made up of many universities such as the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), or may be a company such as GlobaLinks. In most cases, they provide programs at multiple sites, and act as an intermediary between UI and the host institution(s).
In the case of partner programs, each foreign university has developed its own emergency response protocols based on what makes sense for that institution given its particular environment, and UI works within the framework of those established protocols should an emergency situation arise. Emergency response and decision-making are equally shared by UI and the host institution.
Program providers have also developed their own emergency response protocols. These typically operate in tandem with host institution protocols where the providers deliver programs. However, when a program provider leases campus space, hires its own faculty, and delivers its own curriculum—creating a “specialty program”—the protocol used may be entirely its own. Regardless, the emergency response is coordinated by the provider (usually via a U.S. office), and although UI remains an active partner in the process, it is to a lesser degree than with partner programs.
Below you will find UI programs organized by program type:
- Australia - University of the Sunshine Coast
- China - The University of Nottingham Ningbo
- Costa Rica – CATIE
- Denmark - University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science
- Denmark - University of Southern Denmark
- Ecuador - Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador
- England - Chelsea School at the University of Brighton
- England - Lancaster University
- England – Regent’s University
- Finland - Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences
- France – INSEEC Alpes-Savoie
- France - Institut International d'Etudes Françaises at the Universite de Strasbourg
- France - Institut National Polytechnique Grenoble
- Germany - Hochschule fur Technik und Wirtschaft-Berlin
- Japan – KCP International Japanese Language School
- Japan - Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies
- Japan - Ryukoku University
- Kenya – Kenya Methodist University
- Mexico – Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara(UAG)
- Mexico - Universidad Autonoma de la Yucatan
- Morocco - Al Akhawayn University
- Nepal - SANN Research Institute
- The Netherlands - The Hague University of Applied Sciences
- New Zealand - Lincoln University
- Spain – Universidad de Zaragoza
- Sweden - Lulea University
- Taiwan - National Chiayi University
- Thailand - Chulalongkorn University
University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC)(775) 784-6569
International Student Exchange Program (ISEP)
International Studies Abroad (ISA)
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)