The amount of money that will be needed for the trip depends on the expenses that the student may be required to pay while abroad. It is a good idea to create a budget prior to departure that separates any known living and school expenses such as food, housing, transportation and textbooks from general spending money that can be used for independent travel, tourist attraction entrance fees, and souvenirs. Keep in mind that having a budget does not mean that the student needs to have to carry cash around for each of these expenses- just know about how much is allotted to each so money for meals is not spent carelessly on souvenirs!
The student should consider using several different forms of payment for expenses. Credit cards, ATM cards, and cash are accepted almost everywhere. Although U.S. dollars are also widely accepted throughout the world, the student should make every attempt to use the local currency.
To obtain foreign currency, any of the following can be used:
AIRPORT EXCHANGE BUREAU – Currency exchange offices are available at almost all international airports. Although the rates may not be the lowest, it is probably the most convenient location to exchange money when the student first arrives. Note: because the destination airport is certain to have a large supply of the local currency, its rates for exchange may be lower than the rates at the student’s home airport, which may only have a limited supply of the foreign currency.
BANKS/ATM/CREDIT CARDS – After the student has had a chance to get accustomed to his/her new surroundings, a national bank or an ATM machine can be found, which are known to offer the lowest exchange rates. Using a credit card can also secure a decent exchange rate and is often safer than carrying around a lot of cash. American Express, Visa and Master Card are all widely accepted around the world. Keep in mind, however, that using an ATM/debit card may incur additional bank/commission charges.
LOCAL STORES/RESTAURANTS – With all the money changing options available, the best thing the student can do is to be an educated traveler. Know what the current exchange rate is and be able to calculate how much should be received in return for each transaction. Also, be safe when carrying money and do not carry all of it at once.
It is possible that wherever the student goes, he/she will be able to find someone that speaks even a little English, but it is always beneficial for the student to make every effort to learn the local language or at least some key phrases, as it will enable him/her to make the most out of the study abroad experience. If your child is not comfortable with the language, a program should be selected where the courses are taught in English. Another option is to enroll in an intensive language class prior to departure.
Chances are that the food in the country abroad is not going to be like the food many of us are used to eating at home. Although this can be a wonderful part of the experience, it may be difficult or even painful for some. Your son/daughter will be surprised, however, to find that many popular fast food chain restaurants from the United States can also be found all over the world! Visit the CDC website for more information about food and water precautions.
How can we keep in touch with the student while they are abroad?
Postal mail, telephone, fax, and email are all available means by which to communicate with students abroad. While rates may be higher to connect overseas, the services work very similarly to those here in the United States. A popular option is to obtain a phone card/calling card from your current long-distance carrier. Be sure to find out the appropriate access numbers for the United States as they vary from country to country.
If you have questions not answered here, email Laura Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.