In this section we want to give you a few suggestions about how to get started thinking about the new culture you will be encountering, and how best to make the most of that encounter, and to offer some links about health and safety while studying abroad.
During the entire time you are studying abroad you will be learning about the world and about yourself, in ways you may only vaguely have imagined before. We also believe that learning about the culture you are visiting, and observing some common sense rules about health and safety while you are there, will make your experience all the more valuable. Please take some time to consult the web sites listed here before you leave for your study abroad destination.
Below are a few web links that provide information about countries around the world:
Preparing to encounter a new culture:
Encountering a new culture has been compared in one popular simile to passing an iceberg on a cruise ship. Part of the iceberg is immediately visible; part of it is intermittently visible, as it emerges and submerges with the tides, while its foundations go deep beneath the surface and are not visible to the passenger observers. What this simile is designed to illustrate is that some aspects of culture are visible, explicit, and taught; other aspects occupy an intermediate zone, where implicit understandings and ambiguity predominate; still other aspects of a culture (in the simile below the water line) include habits, assumptions, values, judgments—things that a person in that culture “knows” but cannot easily articulate: it comes down to what feels “right” to someone acting within a culture. Such things can usually be learned by keenly observing, listening, and inquiring.
To understand a culture more profoundly, you need to know about more than a country’s institutions, indispensable as that knowledge may be. You also need to know what to look, listen, and taste for, and it helps to know what questions to ask. The siteprovides a work book-like primer on cultural encounters and culture shock. Another helpful resource is a video produced by the Coverdell Worldwise School entitled . If you spend a little time preparing for yourself to encounter a new culture, you will enjoy your experience that much more.
In addition, you might also find the three brochures produced by Glimpse helpful when thinking about the issues of culture shock, dealing with anti-Americanism abroad, and learning a foreign language:
The diversity of Baruch students reflects the ethnic and cultural complexity of our campus and our increasingly global world. In your host country, you may meet a similar variety of people, or you may be the only individual of your ethnicity, skin color, or orientation. Bringing together students of different ethnic groups, religions, sexual orientations, political viewpoints and physical abilities can help facilitate the exchange of ideas and the breaking down of negative stereotypes.
You will meet a fascinating variety of people abroad. Some will be accepting of differences, but others may not. Depending on your destination, you may encounter discrimination or you may be amazed at the capacity for tolerance of your host culture.
We encourage you to learn as much as possible before you go about:
- Legal rights and laws in your host country pertaining to discrimination
- Local tolerance of difference
- Social perceptions of people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, etc.
- Gender roles assigned to individuals
- Any support groups available in your host city/country
- Prior experiences of students who have studied abroad in your host country
provides additional helpful information on dealing with these issues.
Political and international events may influence how people view and act towards you. Having an informed opinion about events around the world will help you understand others and help them understand you.
offers news by regions of the world, and is one of the most trusted English language sources for news from around the world. Via the internet you can, of course, read the news sources you are accustomed to, but if you can read the local language, you should regularly read local papers. If you do not, you can also look for a local English-language newspaper. provides links to online English-language newspapers around the world. Find one in your host country.
No matter where you are going, people live safely there. However, while you may be feeling adventurous, trying to experience as much as you can, remember that you are also removed from your usual surroundings and will likely have lost some of your framework of knowledge about what is sensible and what is not. Try to seek an ideal balance of calculated risks and maintaining common sense.
As a temporary visitor in another country, you DO NOT take your rights as an American with you abroad. You are subject to the laws of that country, and to the punishments as well. Activities that we take for granted here may not be legal overseas, and ignorance is not a defense for illegal activity anywhere. Furthermore, the authorities in your host country are generally not inclined to give young Americans the benefit of the doubt. So obey all local laws scrupulously, and always err on the side of caution.
However strongly you feel about an issue, it is advisable to avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances while studying abroad. Citizens in your host country may not enjoy some of the same liberties as exist in the United States regarding assembly and dissent, and as a non-citizen you would have even less claim on these rights. There are other ways to help any cause you find worthy of support.
US Embassies and Consulates
If you encounter serious legal, political, health or economic problems, thecan offer limited assistance. Please understand that they are the primary sources for information about where to obtain advice; however, embassies and consulates do not give advice. They can, for example, provide you with a list of local attorneys and physicians; contact next of kin in the event of an emergency or serious illness; contact friends or relatives on your behalf to request funds or guidance; provide assistance during civil unrest or a natural disaster; and replace a lost or stolen passport. The US Embassy cannot get you out of jail!
You shouldfor your host country online before you leave the country. It will allow the embassy to locate you in the case of a disaster and provide emergency services or evacuation.
- Be Informed and Be Alert. Observe what is going on around you, including out-of-the-ordinary people and events. Be especially alert at night; stay on well-lit streets, avoid empty subways, buses, and train stations, take taxis that are radio-dispatched, do not walk in empty parks or areas, and travel with a friend or in a group!!
- Travel Wisely. Whenever possible, travel with one or more friends and make sure to tell someone where you are going. Review maps to determine the route you will take before you go out. Looking lost or confused, or fumbling with a map or guidebook can make you vulnerable. Plan where you are going before you leave.
- Blend In. You should also be aware of differences in dress, manners and actions that would make you stand out unnecessarily as a foreigner. Try to learn some words in the native language; most everyone appreciates it when foreigners do so. If you feel anti-American sentiment, avoid wearing clothing that identifies you as an American, including t-shirts with US flags, college sweatshirts, baseball caps, etc.
- Be Aware of Pickpockets and Scam Artists. Pickpockets tend to work in crowded places as a group. While one person distracts you, the other goes after your valuables. Be alert in public places, tourist locations and public transportation – a favorite with many pickpockets. Beware of strangers who approach you, are overly friendly, very loud, offer bargains, or offer to be your guide.
- Keep Important Information with You. You should have the following information with you at all times:
- Program resident director contact information
- 24-hour emergency phone number for your host institution
- Local equivalent of 911
- Address and direction card for the host university and your residence
- Address and contact information for the nearest embassy or consulate
- Personal identification, preferably not your passport (unless required by the laws of the host country). A student ID card usually works well.
- Local recommended hospital
- Local recommended taxi service
- Health insurance card and information
“Wellness” abroad includes both physical and mental health. You should take steps to ensure that you are prepared to handle your own health while abroad.
The best thing you can do for your health abroad is to take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthfully and stay on schedule with any regular medications. You will likely experience some colds or flu while abroad, and you may usually bring familiar over-the-counter medications or products from home or adapt to what is available in your host country. For doctor and hospital visits, consult the information provided by your health insurance carrier to find a provider in your network. Some campuses even have clinics on site for minor care.
Medications and Prescriptions
Do not assume that you will be able to fill any prescription abroad. If you have prescription medications that you take regularly, try to take enough to last for your entire stay. If you are unable to take a large supply, talk to your doctor to see if you can take an alternate medication that is available in your host country or to get references for prescriptions in your host country. All medications should be in their original bottles, with your name printed on them, and accompanied by a copy of your prescription that has the scientific name of the drug. Do not try to mail prescription medication abroad. It may be confiscated or delayed at the border.
You should check to make sure that the prescription medication you take here is not considered a controlled substance in your host country. Some drugs that are legal in the US are controlled substances or illegal abroad.
Mental Health and Counseling
Studying abroad can provoke changes in your mood and mental health, even if you were never prone to changes before. The brochure on culture shock discusses the common emotional cycle of study abroad. If you find yourself in need of help to deal with aspects of culture shock, ask! The resident director or international office at your host university can refer you to counseling or treatment.
Students who are currently undergoing therapy or treatment for mental health issues should consult with their doctor before going abroad to adequately prepare for the experience. Do not make changes to your usual regime without consulting your doctor.
Recommended Websites for Travel Health
The websites listed below provide additional or complementary information of various sorts about some of the health and safety issues that could come up while you are studying abroad. The student handbooks of theas well as the both provide important general information about health and safety that you should read before you leave. You might also want to consult the following for additional information on health abroad and health in your specific country: