Stage Two

Start your ed-abroad experience right by traveling wisely, and staying safe and healthy from ‘day 1’ in your new home.

STEP 8: Travel Safely

Pack with forethought, and plan for a longer journey than you schedule indicates, in case there are delays. Think what you might need, i.e. medications and over-the-counter drugs or products, while you're on the plane and on the ground without your luggage. Put these in your carry-on baggage. Your long-term medications could be packed in their proper containers in your checked baggage if necessary, but it's better to carry all medications in your carry-on luggage if possible. Keep prescriptions and other paperwork separately on your person while traveling, rather than with the medications. (Also pack the checklist of health-related safety measures listed in Step 11. Stay Safe to Stay Healthy.)

Jet lag can leave you feeling sick for days after your arrival. Your physician can suggest some ways to prepare for or beat jet lag, but these are easy things you can do to defend yourself against it:

  • Get lots of sleep before you start traveling.
  • Avoid alcohol en route.
  • Drink a lot of water along the way.
  • Immediately shift your eating and sleeping schedule to that in your new home.


STEP 9: Take Care of Yourself from the Day You Arrive

Arriving in a foreign country is exciting, and often a dream-come-true. But it's exhausting, and enthusiasm can't make up for being awake all night on a cramped international flight and arriving feeling dirty and tired.

There are things you can do to minimize the stress of flight, jet lag, and culture shock, and ways to more easily adapt to new living styles, values, and standards. You can expect to be ecstatic, grumpy, annoyed, and even depressed or anxious at times. Feeling surrounded by people who don't speak your language can throw you off entirely at first. But don't turn around and go home, or hide in your room and avoid all contact! Remember that these feelings are normal for the situation.

Things to do during your first few days after arriving in your new home:

GUARD AGAINST CULTURE SHOCK—You did your best in the U.S. to learn about daily life in your new location, but now you can learn so much more. On 'day 1,' start learning how to make phone calls, make travel arrangements within the country, get information and assistance, and get around in your new neighborhood. An early start makes a big difference in your long-term feelings in your new home.

ASK QUESTIONS—At orientations or in conversations with resident directors or counselors at your program, ask questions important to you. Talk about any special health needs, and get help in locating medical contacts or appropriate groups as soon as you can.

RECOGNIZE AND RESPOND TO YOUR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESPONSES—No matter how prepared, don't be surprised if you alternate between being exhilarated and exasperated, thrilled and frustrated during the first few weeks of your time abroad. That's natural. If you find yourself angry, impatient, homesick, or depressed in the first few days abroad, give yourself time to rest and get back to regular eating and sleeping patterns. If feeling homesick or depressed drags on, consider it a medical problem and seek professional help from counselors or doctors.