While most students do not encounter any difficulties while abroad, it is useful to think ahead about what to do and who to ask if you do find yourself in a situation where you need help. Our students need to be aware that there are some risks associated with travelling, working, and studying overseas, but with proper preparation and care, exposure to potentially hazardous situations can be mitigated.
· Ensure you know the local emergency number for your host country and use this for any immediate emergency.
· Contact your local host university’s Study Abroad Office or work placement supervisor.
· During 9-5pm UK time, you can call the Study Abroad Office at UEA on +44(0)1603 591871 with urgent queries.
· For out of hours calls, UEA has a 24-hour emergency number +44(0)1603 592222. The UEA Emergency number will assist you or will be able to contact the Student Support Services or Study Abroad Office.
Research your destination before you go. The UK government provides travel advice and you should read this carefully before you set off, to make yourself aware of any potential issues and to get an insight into legal matters in the host country. They also provide information on their Travel Aware webpages (https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/) to assist your preparation for travelling and living abroad.
The Foreign and Commonwealth office website (FCO) has a wealth of foreign travel advice and checklists specially tailored for the different needs of travelers and regularly updates the information in their travel advice following any significant incident that might affect British nationals visiting or living in the area.
The “Support for British nationals abroad: a guide” provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth offers vital advice on staying safe abroad. Save this guide as an electronic file on your laptop.
Join the FCO on facebook.com/fcotravel and twitter.com/fcotravel to receive updates on the current situation of the country you are planning to travel to.
Keep a list of emergency numbers with you. Familiarise yourself with the contact details for emergency services in each country you travel to, and save these directly into your phone so that you can access them easily if you need to. In all European Union countries, you can dial 112 to reach emergency services.
Know how to contact your nearest relevant Embassy or Consulate and don’t forget to save it on your phone! They can provide general support and liaison with the UK particularly if you have been admitted to hospital or detained by the police.
Keep important documents safe. It’s a good idea to keep scanned copies (or even photographs) of your passport (of your information & photo ID page and any relevant visa pages), visa, (if going to Europe) EHIC card and bank cards, so that if documents are lost or stolen, you have the details to hand quickly.
We strongly advise you to also leave a copy of these documents at home (especially the passport copy), in case you need to replace or request a new passport while abroad.
Emergency contact page on your passport. Before you set off, remember to fill in the emergency contact details in your passport. This will help government officials to get in touch with next of kin in case of emergencies.
Keep in touch with your host university’s Study Abroad Office. Save their contact details into your phone, as they may be able to help you more adequately based on their proximity and the lack of a time zone difference and it is always important upon your arrival to ensure that you have a contact in the host country if you need it. In accordance with data protection legislation, they will also keep UEA updated.
Health Insurance. Make sure that you obtain appropriate health insurance cover for the whole duration of your study placement. Refer to the information provided by Study Abroad Office and your host university or work placement provider especially outside Europe where compulsory policies are usual via the host university. If you are heading to Europe then obtain the Student EHIC card before you leave; the letter you need from UEA for applying for this is in your pack.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you research whether and how you will be able to obtain any required medication while abroad. Speak with your GP about taking prescription medications with you and be sure to research local restrictions on carrying medication into your host country. Check the National Travel Health Network and Centre and NHS Choices advice about travelling with medicines and contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you’re travelling to if you need more information.
Don't fall foul of the law. All exchange students are subject to the laws of the host country and so you must research in advance the legalities for consuming alcohol, age of sexual consent, and drug legislation. Be aware that your travel and/or health insurance may be invalid if you are under the influence of alcohol/drugs. For example, some medications that are legal in the UK are not in other countries (even within the EU), and could potentially lead to criminal conviction and/or deportation.
Purchase travel insurance (study placements). Choose a policy that will, where possible, cover any medical bills, repatriation (getting you home after an emergency), loss or damage of possessions, missed flights, or costs associated with having to end your trip earlier than planned. Always read the small print! Work placement students can apply for free travel insurance from UEA if connected with a credit bearing placement as part of their degree: https://portal.uea.ac.uk/finance/insurance/travel.
Keep in touch with UEA. Should there be a natural disaster or incident to warrant concern within the country of your placement, staff from the Study Abroad Office will contact you to check that you are safe. Such correspondence is vitally important; therefore please answer these emails promptly. Be sure to check your UEA email account regularly (at least weekly) or you may find your access is locked due to inactivity.
Study Abroad Blogs. Read the feedback left by previous students in our Study Abroad UEA on the Road blog entries (https://ueaontheroad.wordpress.com/) and also Global Graduates (https://globalgraduates.com/) to get first-hand insight into your destination.
Risk Assessment form. Your must complete the online risk assessment form, which is a required part of the study year or semester abroad. This form will help you to start thinking about various practical aspects of your year abroad, identify any problems you may face and start to consider how you will adapt to the challenges that come with living in a different environment. Please refer to the Guidance notes for Study Abroad Programmes Risk Assessment Form before completing the online form.
Attend the Study Abroad Pre-Departure event. The Pre-Departure briefing (in April or November) will include information on planning your exchange visit, travel, academic and cultural matters, applying for your visa etc. Some of the 4th year students who have been abroad will attend and will be able to answer questions and give you the benefit of their experience. It is also a great networking opportunity for you to meet students from a different Faculty who may be attending the same institution, or going to the same city, as you. Make sure you note the date in your diary/on your calendar ASAP (as listed in the Study Abroad/semester Guide) as there will not be any other formal briefings to prepare for your year (or semester) abroad by the Study Abroad Office between your application workshop and your departure.
Attend Orientation events. Make sure you find out about your host university’s orientation meetings, and pay close attention to the safety advice given. These meetings will usually cover any local risks they know of, personal health and safety tips, and details of who to contact locally in the event of any problems or an emergency.
Be careful when on your own. Whatever your gender, try to avoid being alone with strangers, stay in public and well-lit areas, and exercise reasonable caution when meeting new people. Sexual harassment is completely unacceptable wherever you are in the world, so make sure you report any unwelcome advances or attention to the local police and Study Abroad Office at your host university.
Be alert. Pay attention to how local students behave and don’t be afraid to talk to them about safety precautions or ask them about local customs. Observe the normal patterns and behaviors in your community, be aware of behaviors that may deviate from that norm and trust your instincts - if it doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t! Remember that it’s better to be over-cautious as you get used to a new environment. Use reliable means of transport and beware of pickpockets! Don’t display money or any other valuable items while traveling. Be careful if using a money belt /wallet to keep money and documents safe as you could be a target when taking items out.
Harassment and sexual harassment. Harassment (unwanted conduct that creates an intimidating or hostile environment) and sexual harassment (unwanted verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature) can happen to anyone anywhere in the world, and are never the fault of the victim.
Cultural sensitivity does not mean that you have to tolerate behaviour that makes you feel unsafe or encroaches upon your personal boundaries. Trust your instincts and always prioritise your safety. If you experience harassment or sexual harassment while abroad, we strongly encourage you to report it and make use of the support services available to you. You can talk, in confidence, to the following people/contacts:
· The local study abroad/international/Erasmus office or welfare office at your host university.
· Your UEA academic advisor, School Study Abroad Co-ordinator and/or Study Abroad Office at UEA.
· UEA Student Support Services which are free, independent and confidential help from professional advisors, and remain open to you throughout your time abroad. These include the Wellbeing Service (https://portal.uea.ac.uk/student-support-service/wellbeing) and the Mental Health Team (https://portal.uea.ac.uk/student-support-service/counselling-and-mental-health).
Stay in touch. Get in touch with a family member as soon as you get to the country to let them know that you have arrived safely. Update your new contact details and address on UEA’s E:vision, and via the Erasmus Address Form (if applicable) to the Study Abroad Office and share them with your family and friends in the UK. If you plan to travel during the year, remember to let a friend or a family member know about your plans in advance and leave them your contact details, insurance policy details and itinerary.
Culture Shock. Even if you are going to a country wih fairly similar values, systems and standards of living as the UK, you may find certain things about the society different and this can result in feelings of 'culture shock'. Culture Shock is defined as a feeling of disorientation, nervousness, doubt and/ or anxiety experienced when you are suddently subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. There is a GoOverseas article which provides a good overview of the possible effects of culture shock and how to overcome them. This StudentAbroad.com webpage might be useful too.
Culture shock is an ongoing process of cultural adjustment – everyone experiences it differently and it can crop up at any point during your year abroad. One of the best ways of dealing with culture shock is to talk about how you are feeling, especially with other study abroad students who will understand what you are going through. The StudentsAbroad.com webpage might be useful too. If you feel that your feelings of culture shock are going on too long or are affecting your ability to study and stay healthy, don’t be afraid to speak to someone. It is often easier and more helpful to speak to someone locally, but remember that University of East Anglia support systems remain open to you while you are abroad too.
Reverse Culture Shock. You may also feel the effects when returning back home but you should give yourself time to re-adjust to life in the UK and at home.
Home sickness can happen to the most resilient and well-travelled of people, it is normal that you may be feeling a bit under the weather and missing your friends and family back home. UEA’s counselling service can provide some long distance advice, if you would prefer to talk to someone at UEA rather than at your host university. For information on how to contact them, visit their webpages at: https://portal.uea.ac.uk/student-support-service.
There is an amusing video from Global Graduates about dealing with home-sickness and culture and the following are a few tips to help you cope with any feelings of home-sickness you may have (from www.studentsabroad.com):
· Don't wait for homesickness to go away by itself. Confront your feelings by talking to someone (a counsellor, family member, roommate, or another student, etc.) about your homesickness. Chances are that the other students in your programme may be feeling the same way you are.
· Bring some reminders of home along with you to the country of your choice. Be sure to pack photos of family and friends, bring your favourite music and cook family recipes while abroad.
· Make friends with locals and invite them to spend time with you. Creating such a support network can really help to alleviate homesickness while creating lasting friendships.
· Be patient with yourself as you adjust to the unexpected realities of being in the country of your choice, and how abroad is not like home.
· Get involved by seeking out opportunities that keep you busy and occupied so that you won't think about home. You could also try to work, intern, volunteer, or travel. Alternatively think about joining a sports team, club, gym, or participate in program activities.
LGBTQ+ and Study Abroad
“Every country varies in its acceptance, awareness and understanding of the LGBT community, and it is important for LGBT students to understand what type of environment they will be walking in to. The types of laws, policies, and organisations present in any country are huge factors in determining its social environment, so these are all things LGBT students should consider before studying abroad.” GoAbroad.com: An LGBT Student Guide to Studying Abroad
Research your destination thoroughly, and identify issues that may affect your experience studying/working there, for example occurrences of homophobia, or failure to recognise same-sex marriage rights. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has regularly updated information on traveling that you may find useful, as does NAFSA: Rainbow Special Interest Group.
Identify support services that can provide help, should you need it. For example, your host university may have a LGBTQ+ society, or a dedicated member of staff in their Student Services team. There may also be LGBTQ organisations in your destination country that you can join.
Other Useful Travel Tips
· Research local customs, clothing, language and tipping. For example, in America tipping is expected but in Japan it is an insult!
· Research bank options in your host country including withdrawal fees in advance. Your Arrival Pack from your host may give details of banks/ATMs available on campus. Other options include money transfer sites like Transfer Wise or pre-loaded credit cards.
· Use our checklist in your pre-departure pack and refer to our Guides – they are written for YOUR benefit!