Practical Tips

Before You Leave


For all off campus programs, students still pay Westmont’s tuition (unless the program’s tuition is more), but the programs’s room and board charges. You will receive a preliminary bill in the summer for estimated charges for the program.  Once we receive the actual program bill, your Westmont charges will be adjusted accordingly.  If your parents receive any bills directly from the program, they should forward them to the OCP office. If you pay room and board directly (this is the case for some of the foreign language programs), and these charges show up on your bill anyway, please contact the OCP office and we will straighten out the billing.

Before you leave you need to know the following:

  • Will you be provided with room and board at your program or just room?
  • Are you responsible to pay room or board upon your arrival?
  • Will your financial aid, awards, and scholarships be the same as on campus?

Cash and Spending Money

  • Inform your bank and your credit card company that you’ll be using your ATM and credit card out of the country for the next four months. A lot of accounts get put on hold if the bank is not informed.
  • Check with your bank if they have an on-line banking option so that you can avoid overdrawing. Make sure to activate your on-line banking before leaving the country.
  • Make sure that you leave copies of your credit cards with your parents, along with an 800 number for the bank with which you have your account so you can report theft or loss of your cards.  800 numbers often don’t work outside the US, and banks are often unwilling to deal with parents about your credit card, so try to find a number where you can contact your credit card company anywhere in the world. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the currency. Visit Change some money before you leave so that you’ll have some cash in the local currency upon arrival. This gives you one less thing to worry about upon arrival and you’ll need this money for transportation, tips, snacks, etc.


  • Make sure that your classes were approved, you submitted your pre-approval of credit forms, and registered your off-campus classes. If you end up changing your classes once you arrive at the program, you must contact your advisor and the records office immediately ( to receive approval for any changes.


  • Research the weather (daytime and nighttime) of your specific destination in advance and plan your wardrobe accordingly.
  • Check the size and weight of the luggage and carry-on allowed by your airline.
  • Be organized! Plan what you are going to take, and pack your suitcase in an orderly manner.
  • Bring a change of clothing in your carry-on backpack, including socks, underwear, toiletries and other small items that would come in handy in case of a flight or luggage delay.
  • Pack your camera and/or laptop in your backpack or carry-on.
  • Keep your passport and tickets easily accessible.
  • Wear shoes that can be easily removed at a checkpoint.
  • Make sure that you pack any sharp-edged tools, such as a shaving razor, tweezers, and pocketknife in your checked luggage, not in your carry-on.
  • Coordinate your clothes around one or two basic colors. This will help you mix and match and will cut down on the number of shoes and accessories you have to bring.
  • Bring clothes that you can hand wash and line-dry. Avoid clothes that require dry cleaning.
  • Take with you one nice outfit and dress shoes.
  • Mark your luggage clearly. Never leave your luggage unattended.
  • Take zip-log bags with you–they are great for storing, organizing, or for carrying shoes, dirty laundry, or a wet swim suit.

During Your Stay

  • Try to look like as if you know where you are going.
  • Do not pull large amounts of cash out of your pocket.
  • Try to think where you are going that day and carry sufficient cash for that and any unforeseen extras.
  • Do not accept drinks from people you just met in the street.
  • Always carry your passport in your money belt or pouch (hidden from view). Or, if you have a safe place where you can leave it, just carry a photocopy of your passport if local law states that you must have it on your person at all times.

Alcohol and Drugs

  • The responsible use of alcohol is when: a student abides by the laws of the country, state, and program in which they are studying or living. Please refer to the handbook.
  • Each year 2,500 Americans are arrested overseas, one third for drug-related charges. Learn about the drug laws in the country you are going to. “I did not know it is illegal” will not get you out of jail.
  • There is very little anyone can do to help you if you are caught with drugs, including the American Embassy.
  • One ounce or less of marijuana, or any other substance could mean: interrogation and delays before trial including solitary confinement for up to one year under very primitive conditions, weeks, months, or life in prison.  In some places this includes hard labor, or the death penalty in a growing number of countries.

Sexual Harassment

  • Dress modestly.
  • Act more conservatively overseas than you would at home. In many cultures, smoking and barhopping could put you in the “sexually available category”.
  • In many places if a woman invites a man to her home, he thinks she is inviting him to have sex.
  • Follow your intuition about a situation–it is better to risk offending someone than risk being assaulted.
  • Be ready to give up some freedoms in exchange for an enhanced sense of safety.

Helpful links

  • Money Links

    Currency Converter

    Interactive site allows you to find the currency exchange rates for dozens of countries. Updated daily. (

    VISA ATM Locator

    Find ATM machines around the world with a little help from the folks at VISA.

    MasterCard’s ATM Locator

    Lists available ATM machines in Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, Latin America, and the United States.


  • Health Links

    Centers for Disease Control

    The Centers for Disease Control lists health concerns for specific countries, including vaccine recommendations, names of cholera and yellow fever-infected countries, and the locations of disease outbreaks. A good site for learning about health risks while traveling abroad.

    World Health Organization

    This site has a search vehicle to look for specific health-related information.
  • Travel Links

    U.S. Department of State Passport Services The State Department has made applying for important travel documents a little easier. This site boasts a passport application that can be downloaded, a list of passport offices, as well as information on where to get a birth certificate, and instructions on how to get a copy of your passport records.
    Foreign Entry Requirements Do you know what documents you need to enter the country you plan to visit? This Department of State web site will help you find the answer.
    Country Codes & International Resources One of the best lists of country and city dialing codes available. Also included are detailed country-by-country breakouts of embassies and visas, country information, cell phone providers, airlines and airports, stock exchanges, history, law and tax resources, lists of newspapers, TV stations, maps, military information as well as resources on local business etiquette.
    International Dialing Codes Making international phone calls does not have to be hassle. This WEB site provides the International Direct Dialing and Country for countries around the world.
    The Weather Channel You don’t have to turn on your television to check out The Weather Channel. The channel’s web version offers even more, including a special sections for travelers. Discover flight arrival times, personal safety tips, and access numbers for calls from abroad. And of course, it will also give you the weather.
    Embassy and Consulate Directory Need a Visa or need to contact an embassy while abroad? The site boasts a search engine which will lead you to embassy’s and consulates around the world.
    American Citizens Service Abroad U.S. State Department provides links to important services to United States citizens living and traveling abroad, including some important emergency information. It includes a list of hospitals in a number or countries, information on lost or stolen passport and information in case of general emergency.
    CIA: World Factbook Great maps, helpful data about the economy, geography, government, and people of each country are just a few of the reasons you should stop at the CIA World Factbook web site.
    CNN Airport Network From Washington, D.C. to London, England this handy web site provides a rolling weather report to round out a helpful web site designed to put travel-related information at your fingertips. The site provides toll-free numbers to a variety of airlines, advisories to travel delays–straight from the Air Traffic Control System Command Center, and some interesting travel-related stories.
    Map Quest Need directions to the airport? Trip Quest will give you detailed directions to thousands of locations in the United States by simply entering your starting point and destination. This interactive site can pinpoint your destination on a map of the country, state, or city.
    Lonely Planet

    Interested in finding out more information about a country? Want to know where to find the best food, or the hottest club? Lonely Planet offers an extensive local guide for the adventurous traveler.