Pre-Departure Orientation

Welcome to your pre-departure orientation! Penn Abroad is looking forward to guiding you through this next step in your experience abroad. It is imperative that you review this information in order to be well-prepared for your program. The following resources are intended to provide you with both general pre-departure content, as well as Penn Abroad program-specific information that you will need to be successful abroad. 

After you have read all modules in detail, return to your program application in PASSPORT to complete all required items, including the Pre-Departure Orientation questionnaire.

Step 1: General Preparation

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Logistics Preparation

As you prepare for your abroad experience, there are three important things to consider: how you will communicate while abroad, how you will access money while abroad, and how you will pack your things efficiently and effectively.

Communicating Abroad

Weigh your communication needs, budget, and length of time abroad in order to decide which option for communicating with family, friends, local contacts, and emergency resources will suit you best. Options to consider include:

  1. Unlocked Phone & Local SIM Card

    • Bring an “unlocked” phone with you when you go abroad.

      • A phone is “unlocked” when it is not tied to a single carrier and will work on another service provider’s network. Find out from your current cell service provider if your phone is already unlocked. If it is not currently unlocked, request that it be unlocked. A fee may be associated with this request.

  • On arrival, purchase a local SIM card abroad and insert it into your unlocked phone.

    • Most plans abroad will be “pay as you go” and are best for use for local calls, texts, and data.

  1. Local Phone & Local SIM Card

    • On arrival to your abroad location, purchase an inexpensive local phone for use with a local SIM card.

  2. Current Phone with International Plan

    • Find out what international calling and data options are available with your current cell service provider.

      • International phone plans sometimes include expensive data or roaming charges, so make sure you understand the plan that is relevant for your provider.

  3. Current Phone with Wifi Access

    • Use Wifi to communicate over apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, or FaceTime.

  • Although communicating over wifi can be inexpensive or free, make sure you are familiar with how accessible wifi will be in your abroad location.

  • If you will rely on wifi for communication, identify a way to communicate without wifi in the event of an emergency, even if this involves incurring expensive phone charges.

Accessing Money Abroad

Follow these steps to make sure you will have enough money to support yourself while abroad, and you will be able to access your money via a local bank or ATM.

  1. Call your bank(s) before you travel abroad:

    • Tell your bank where you are traveling (including stopover countries) and for how long. Your bank will put a travel notification on your account so that it does not freeze your account for suspicious international activity.

    • Ask what your bank’s policy is for international ATM and transaction fees. It is best if you have low or no international fees.

    • Ask if your bank has partner banks abroad so that you can utilize banks and ATMs without a fee.

  2. Look up the daily cost of living for a university student, as well as the exchange rate from US dollars to local currency. This will help you budget for your overall time abroad, as well as plan how much money you should carry on a daily basis.

  3. Access cash in local currency from ATMs abroad. ATMs tend to give better exchange rates than currency exchange counters in the airport or ordering foreign currency from your bank prior to departure.

  4. Bring several ways to access money (ATM card, credit card) and don’t keep them all in the same place.

  5. Refer to the program budget sheet on PASSPORT to help you estimate your expenses including housing, meals, and flights (where applicable).

Packing

Many students overpack when preparing for an abroad experience. It is best to pack lightly, as most students return home with more luggage than when they left.

  • Pack clothing appropriate to the climate of your host location.

  • Pack essential toiletries, such as contact lenses and contact solution.

  • If you will be abroad for a long period of time, investigate what items you may be able to obtain on arrival to your host location (such as bed linens, some toiletries, etc).

  • Make sure you understand the luggage restrictions associated with your airline and ticket type.

  • Do not pack any irreplaceable items.

  • You may need a plug adapter or a voltage converter for your electronics.

  • Outlet types and voltage output vary around the world. Find out what outlet types and voltage norms are standard in your abroad location, and plan accordingly with purchase of a plug adapter and/or voltage converter.

  • Bring enough medication for the duration of your time abroad.

  • Over-the-counter medication should be in original containers.

  • Prescription medication should be in original containers and you should have a copy of your prescription.

  • Contact International SOS to make sure that it is legal to carry your current medication (prescription and over-the-counter) in your host location.

  • If you will need to refill a prescription abroad, contact International SOS to make sure you know how you will access your medicine abroad.

  • Bring a photocopy of your passport, and keep this in a separate place from your actual passport. If you lose your passport, it is important you have a copy. Also, leave a photocopy of your passport with a trusted friend or family member at home. 

Back to top, proceed to next module: Travel Preparation 

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Travel Preparation

Travel Preparation for an abroad experience includes arranging your transportation and making sure that your travel documents are in order. Once flights are booked, you must register your travel in Penn’s Global Activities Registry (GAR).

Your travel documents

You are required to have a valid passport for all travel abroad. If you are a U.S. citizen, you can begin the process to obtain or renew your passport on the State Department’s Passport website. While most countries require the validity of a passport to extend at least six months past your intended return date, some countries require a longer amount of time. Consult your host location’s embassy or consulate for requirements. International students should also meet with International Student and Scholar Services to make sure that they are maintaining their F-1 student status while abroad and have valid documents to return to the US.  

For most programs, especially for long-term study abroad or internships, a visa must be obtained that will permit you to study, work, or intern abroad. Check your host location’s consulate or embassy for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements. Penn Abroad will support you with general visa advice, however, it is your responsibility to obtain your visa.  Make sure you understand what documents are needed to obtain your visa, and apply accordingly. Seek guidance from your host location’s consulate or embassy or from Penn’s contracted supplier, CIBT Visas. If a letter from Penn is needed as part of your visa materials, contact your Global Programs Manager.

Keep a copy of your passport and visa with your important travel documents, and leave a second copy of your travel documents with a trusted family member or friend in case they need to be accessed in an emergency or if you lose your passport while abroad.

Remember that it is your responsibility to make sure you have a valid passport and visa (if applicable). Failure to apply for a passport or visa in a timely manner may result in you not obtaining your required travel documents in time for your abroad experience.

See Penn Abroad’s website on visas as well as the “Visa & Passport Information Guide” for more information.

Your Flight Abroad

With the exception of the semester International Honors Program (IHP) and Penn Global Seminars (PGS) programs (which include mandatory group flights), you are responsible for booking your flight abroad. A cost estimate is included in your program’s budget sheet on PASSPORT.

You should only book your flight once you are an official program participant. Many students are unsure of their program end date when they book their flight abroad. Contact the airline to find out if it is more cost effective to book two one-way tickets or a roundtrip ticket with the option to change your return flight. It is usually more cost effective to book a roundtrip ticket and then pay a ticket change fee for your return flight if you are abroad shorter or longer than you originally anticipated. As this varies by airline, however, please consult appropriately.

Many websites exist for booking flights. If your arrival and departure dates are flexible, you may be able to find a more economical flight using the “my dates are flexible” option when searching.

Registering your Travel in Penn’s Global Activities Registry

Any Penn student, faculty, or staff member engaging in Penn-affiliated travel must register their travel details, including flight information, into Penn’s Global Activities Registry (GAR).

  • Students participating in a semester abroad or Penn Global Seminar will receive an email notification that they have been added as a traveler to GAR prior to the start of their abroad program. Students need to login to GAR to enter their flight and personal details. Semester abroad and PGS students should not create their own trips in GAR.

  • Students participating in the Global Research & Internship Program are required to register in GAR themselves.

By entering your flight information and personal details into GAR:

  • Your ISOS international medical insurance will be activated

    • You must enter your flight details to have international medical coverage while participating on your abroad program.

  • Penn will know your whereabouts in case of an emergency so that we can provide relevant and timely information.

    • Side-trips should also be entered into GAR so that Penn can contact you if needed outside of your primary host country abroad.

  • You will receive country-specific information about your overseas location.

In addition to registering your travel in GAR, Penn also recommends that all U.S. citizens register their travel online with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  Registration makes your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary for a consular official to contact you in an emergency. Non-U.S. citizens should contact their local embassy to see if similar enrollment programs exist.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Health & Insurance

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Health & Insurance

Staying Healthy Abroad

Your health and well-being are extremely important to ensure a successful time abroad. Meeting with your doctor and understanding how to access medicine abroad are two of the important steps you should be taking to prepare yourself for your abroad experience.

Read the following sections of the Penn Abroad “Health & Safety” website to make sure you are completing all steps of the health & safety checklist:

  • Be in the Know: Pre-Departure

  • Be in the Know: While Abroad

  • Be in the Know: Medical Insurance

Your Health Consultation

Schedule a consultation with your medical service provider or Student Health Services (SHS) prior to your international travel to learn about country-specific risks and precautions and how to stay healthy while traveling. Be sure to schedule this at least six weeks or more prior to your departure to ensure time for any necessary follow up. During your health consultation, be sure that all of your childhood immunizations are up to date, and obtain any required or recommended immunizations for your destination country.

You can find detailed information about travel support services, food and water precautions, common illnesses, medications and more on the SHS Travel Health website. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also a helpful resource for health information as well as required and recommended vaccines and immunizations by country.

Some Penn Abroad programs will require you to complete a Health Information Form during your health consultation. Check your online program application in PASSPORT to view your program’s requirements. If applicable, after completing your Health Information Form, upload it to your program application in PASSPORT.    

Medical Insurance and International SOS (ISOS)

Penn Abroad requires that all Penn students maintain medical insurance coverage that is valid in their home country, even when traveling abroad. If your home country health insurance is the Penn Student Insurance Plan (PSIP), make sure you have taken the necessary steps to remain enrolled even while abroad. Some semester abroad programs also require additional country-specific medical insurance. If you are participating in a semester abroad program, your Global Programs Manager can let you know if you will be required to purchase additional host country health insurance. 

In addition to maintaining medical insurance coverage valid in your home country for the duration of your travel, all Penn students traveling on a Penn-approved program are also covered by Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership while abroad.  Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership includes:

  • Travel medical insurance

  • 24/7 medical and security consultation

  • Hospital referrals

  • Emergency evacuation assistance

The complete summary of ISOS member benefits is available on the International SOS Penn portal. Print a copy of the Penn ISOS Card and keep it with your important travel documents while abroad. If you are injured, feel sick, or need to see a doctor while abroad, contact ISOS to find out what medical facility you should go to for medical assistance in your host location. In order to be pre-authorized to use International SOS medical insurance, you must register your round-trip flight itinerary in Penn’s Global Activities Registry.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Staying Safe Abroad

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Staying Safe Abroad

While no one can guarantee your health and safety or eliminate all risks from your abroad experience, there are many steps that you can take before and during your travel abroad to educate and prepare yourself, mitigate risk, and increase the likelihood of a safe and healthy international experience.

Review the following to help prepare yourself for a successful and rewarding time abroad:

  • Read “While Abroad” and “Register Your Travel” sections of the Penn Abroad Health & Safety website;

  • Read “Overview” and “Security” summaries on the International SOS Country Guide for your abroad location;

  • Watch the Traveler Training video (bottom of webpage) on the Penn Global International Travel Guidance site;

  • And read all of the additional safety information outlined below.

Travel Safety Tips

Depending on where you are traveling, you may be in a place with less, more, or the same level of street crime as in the U.S. Being a foreigner and not knowing the customs and patterns of local behavior may increase the odds of your becoming the victim of crimes such as fraud, robbery, or theft. Safety and security depend to a large degree upon being well prepared, listening and heeding the counsel you are given, being careful, and remaining vigilant.

Follow these essential safety tips while abroad:

  • Always be alert and conscious of your behavior. Be discrete and conservative in your actions, dress, conversations, and with personal possessions and electronics.

  • Remember that safety in numbers is a good idea wherever you are. Always travel in pairs or small groups for personal or weekend travel. Do not walk alone at night. If you go out with friends, return with friends.

  • Avoid environments that increase your risk, including demonstrations, protests, or other potentially volatile situations.

  • Be smart with money. Keep your money and credit/ATM cards in a secure location, only carrying as much cash as needed on a daily basis. When using ATM machines, be aware of your surroundings and preference ATM machines located inside buildings if possible.

  • Arrange for airport pick-up ahead of time or inform yourself about the public transportation options. If you plan to take a taxi, find the official airport taxi stand rather than accepting help from people waiting around the airport exit.

  • Do not impair your judgment through excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs.

  • Never rent or drive a vehicle or motorbike while abroad.

  • When traveling, leave an itinerary with your resident director, host family, roommate, or employer so someone knows where you are and how to contact you.

  • Communicate often. Develop a communication plan with your family so that they know how to reach you, whether it’s an emergency or just to check-in.

  • Keep abreast of local news. Read local newspapers and magazines and speak with locals to learn about any potential civil unrest.

  • Always pay close attention to your surroundings, even when you start to feel comfortable.

Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, and Stalking

The University's commitment to fostering an environment free from violence and abuse extends to all members of the Penn community traveling abroad. Laws, medical services, and cultural norms surrounding issues of interpersonal violence can be vastly different depending on where you are in the world. Before you travel, familiarize yourself with your host culture's attitudes towards gender roles, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and different religions.

If you or someone you know experiences sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking while traveling abroad, these Penn resources can provide support and emergency assistance. They can also help you assess any safety concerns if you are considering whether or not to contact local authorities.

Sexual Harassment

You may find that behavior that is considered sexual harassment in the U.S. is socially acceptable behavior in other countries. In some countries, for example, it is not uncommon for women to be loudly appraised, honked at, or addressed in other ways in public that can make them uncomfortable.

Although being culturally sensitive and respectful is an important element of your experience abroad, you do not need to accept behavior that invades your personal boundaries or makes you feel unsafe. Trust your instincts. Use body language, facial expressions, and a firm voice to fend off unwanted attention. Avoid eye contact, which can be seen as an invitation in certain cultures. Carry emergency contact information with you at all times. Engaging in conversation with locals about gender roles and techniques for deflecting unwanted attention can be helpful to prepare for managing these types of situations.

Finally, remember that sexual assault or harassment can take place by a person familiar to you or in a familiar setting, such as: in your host university setting, living arrangements, internship or work placement, etc. For more information, visit the Penn Violence Prevention website.

Alcohol and Drugs

If drinking, drink responsibly and avoid drugs. In many countries of the world, the legal drinking age is lower than in the U.S. However, just because you may be able to drink legally abroad does not mean that you should abandon your good judgment. Remember that most likely, drugs are illegal in your host country, and in some cases, the penalty for drug crimes can be even more severe than in the U.S. The U.S. Department of State outlines recommendations to help keep you safe when confronted with alcohol and drugs overseas.

Obeying Local Laws

Laws and systems of justice are not universal and you will be subject to the laws of your abroad location. Make sure you get to know the local laws in your host country, and be sure to obey them at all times. Do not assume that just because something is legal in the United States, that it is legal abroad. Many of the legal protections you may take for granted are left behind when you leave the U.S., and penalties in some countries are much tougher than in the U.S.

Remember, you’re still a Penn student while abroad, so represent yourself and your university well. Penn’s Code of Student Conduct, including the Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, and Stalking policy, still apply to you. Violations of Penn’s conduct policies while abroad can be reported to the university and investigated by the Office of Student Conduct or the Sexual Violence Investigative office (SVIO).

In Case of Emergency Abroad

If you are involved in an emergency abroad, follow these steps:

  • Immediately seek a safe environment.

  • Contact your program director, trip leader, or on-site staff for the most immediate assistance.

  • Contact International SOS (+1 215 942 8478).

  • If appropriate, contact local authorities.

  • Contact Penn Police (+1 215 573 3333) or additional Penn Abroad 24/7 assistance resources.

  • Inform family members.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Adjusting to Your New Environment Abroad

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Adjusting to Your New Environment Abroad

One of the best ways to prepare for your time abroad is to learn about the country where you will be living. Research the culture, news, and current events of the country and local area where you will be staying.

You can learn about your host country using resources like the State Department’s Consular Info Sheets and the ISOS country guides. Through ISOS, you can also sign up for email alerts that will send you specific information about your country, including airport closures, demonstrations, tips for travelers, and other helpful safety and security information.

You should also get to know the local cultural norms and attitudes of your overseas location. It is critical that you are mindful of gender roles, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and different religions within your overseas location, as well as local issues affecting your overseas location and its relationship to the worldwide political environment. Every International SOS country guide includes “cultural tips” which are a useful resource for navigating norms of your abroad location.   

Culture Shock

When you first arrive abroad, you will probably be very excited by your new surroundings as you meet new people and navigate a new city and community. It is not uncommon, however, for you to begin to feel upset or uncomfortable in your new and unfamiliar surroundings shortly after arrival. This is known as culture shock. Many students experience culture shock during their time abroad.

Diagram of the Stages of Culture Shock

Some tips for managing cultural shock include:

  • Participate in local activities

or traditions.

  • Be flexible. Don’t expect things to work the same way they do in the U.S.

  • Try to recognize your own cultural bias.

  • Ask questions!

  • Appreciate difference.

  • Establish a routine.

  • Find ways to keep in touch with family and friends.

Although many students overcome culture shock by following the tips above, you may require some additional assistance to help you feel comfortable in your abroad environment. If you find that you are having trouble adjusting to life abroad, it may help to speak to a CAPS counselor, even if you have never seen a counselor before.

Additional Resources to Assist Your Adjustment

As a Penn student, you have a wealth of support and resources available to you before going abroad, while you are abroad, and after you have returned. Read Penn Abroad information on Penn Campus Resources and Navigating Your Diversity and Identity Abroad to make sure you are familiar with the resources available to you, and how you may access these while abroad to help ensure you have a meaningful and fulfilling global experience. You can also reach out to your Global Programs Manager at Penn Abroad for additional assistance.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Documenting Your Experience

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Documenting Your Experience

As you go abroad you are likely to have many firsts, new experiences, and exciting opportunities. For many students, the experience of going abroad has a significant impact on their career, academic, and personal development. While you are encouraged to disconnect and enjoy every moment to the fullest, documenting your experience can also be a great way to reflect on your time and look back on your own development.

  • Keep a Journal – whether you make brief notes or spend more time detailing each day, your thoughts are worth taking note of. Looking back once you return to Penn can be a great way to remember and take stock of your accomplishments and growth.

  • Record Photos & Videos – we are all drawn to capture famous sites and vistas, but photos and videos can also be great tools for reflection and remembering the more everyday experiences and moments. Looking to improve your photos and videos? Check out our quick tips guide.

Sharing Your Experience:

We are looking for students to share their experiences, stories, and challenges from abroad.

Sharing your experience encourages and prepares other Penn students as they weigh the benefits of going abroad. Join us as we highlight and expand Penn’s global community!

  • Follow us on social media – find us @pennabroad on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #wherewillpenntakeyou in your photos and videos and they could be featured in our feeds (we'll as you first)! If you have private accounts, you can also direct message images you want to share.

  • Share your stories and tips on the Penn Abroad Blog – review our blog guide and submission information, including optional prompts and how to share if you already have a blog.

  • Send us your photos and videos – you can send your content to us directly by email, Penn Box, or other file-sharing platforms. Email Penn Abroad’s Marketing & Events Manager, Jamie Nisbet at jnisbet@upenn.edu to share or if you have questions about submitting content.

  • Returning to Penn – there are also opportunities to share your experience once you have returned to Penn. Look out for announcements about our annual spring photo contest, ambassador program, and other calls for submissions.

Proceed to Step 2: Preparing for Your Program (Below)

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Logistics Preparation

As you prepare for your abroad experience, there are three important things to consider: how you will communicate while abroad, how you will access money while abroad, and how you will pack your things efficiently and effectively.

Communicating Abroad

Weigh your communication needs, budget, and length of time abroad in order to decide which option for communicating with family, friends, local contacts, and emergency resources will suit you best. Options to consider include:

  1. Unlocked Phone & Local SIM Card

    • Bring an “unlocked” phone with you when you go abroad.

      • A phone is “unlocked” when it is not tied to a single carrier and will work on another service provider’s network. Find out from your current cell service provider if your phone is already unlocked. If it is not currently unlocked, request that it be unlocked. A fee may be associated with this request.

  • On arrival, purchase a local SIM card abroad and insert it into your unlocked phone.

    • Most plans abroad will be “pay as you go” and are best for use for local calls, texts, and data.

  1. Local Phone & Local SIM Card

    • On arrival to your abroad location, purchase an inexpensive local phone for use with a local SIM card.

  2. Current Phone with International Plan

    • Find out what international calling and data options are available with your current cell service provider.

      • International phone plans sometimes include expensive data or roaming charges, so make sure you understand the plan that is relevant for your provider.

  3. Current Phone with Wifi Access

    • Use Wifi to communicate over apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, or FaceTime.

  • Although communicating over wifi can be inexpensive or free, make sure you are familiar with how accessible wifi will be in your abroad location.

  • If you will rely on wifi for communication, identify a way to communicate without wifi in the event of an emergency, even if this involves incurring expensive phone charges.

Accessing Money Abroad

Follow these steps to make sure you will have enough money to support yourself while abroad, and you will be able to access your money via a local bank or ATM.

  1. Call your bank(s) before you travel abroad:

    • Tell your bank where you are traveling (including stopover countries) and for how long. Your bank will put a travel notification on your account so that it does not freeze your account for suspicious international activity.

    • Ask what your bank’s policy is for international ATM and transaction fees. It is best if you have low or no international fees.

    • Ask if your bank has partner banks abroad so that you can utilize banks and ATMs without a fee.

  2. Look up the daily cost of living for a university student, as well as the exchange rate from US dollars to local currency. This will help you budget for your overall time abroad, as well as plan how much money you should carry on a daily basis.

  3. Access cash in local currency from ATMs abroad. ATMs tend to give better exchange rates than currency exchange counters in the airport or ordering foreign currency from your bank prior to departure.

  4. Bring several ways to access money (ATM card, credit card) and don’t keep them all in the same place.

  5. Refer to the program budget sheet on PASSPORT to help you estimate your expenses including housing, meals, and flights (where applicable).

Packing

Many students overpack when preparing for an abroad experience. It is best to pack lightly, as most students return home with more luggage than when they left.

  • Pack clothing appropriate to the climate of your host location.

  • Pack essential toiletries, such as contact lenses and contact solution.

  • If you will be abroad for a long period of time, investigate what items you may be able to obtain on arrival to your host location (such as bed linens, some toiletries, etc).

  • Make sure you understand the luggage restrictions associated with your airline and ticket type.

  • Do not pack any irreplaceable items.

  • You may need a plug adapter or a voltage converter for your electronics.

  • Outlet types and voltage output vary around the world. Find out what outlet types and voltage norms are standard in your abroad location, and plan accordingly with purchase of a plug adapter and/or voltage converter.

  • Bring enough medication for the duration of your time abroad.

  • Over-the-counter medication should be in original containers.

  • Prescription medication should be in original containers and you should have a copy of your prescription.

  • Contact International SOS to make sure that it is legal to carry your current medication (prescription and over-the-counter) in your host location.

  • If you will need to refill a prescription abroad, contact International SOS to make sure you know how you will access your medicine abroad.

  • Bring a photocopy of your passport, and keep this in a separate place from your actual passport. If you lose your passport, it is important you have a copy. Also, leave a photocopy of your passport with a trusted friend or family member at home. 

Back to top, proceed to next module: Travel Preparation 

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Travel Preparation

Travel Preparation for an abroad experience includes arranging your transportation and making sure that your travel documents are in order. Once flights are booked, you must register your travel in Penn’s Global Activities Registry (GAR).

Your travel documents

You are required to have a valid passport for all travel abroad. If you are a U.S. citizen, you can begin the process to obtain or renew your passport on the State Department’s Passport website. While most countries require the validity of a passport to extend at least six months past your intended return date, some countries require a longer amount of time. Consult your host location’s embassy or consulate for requirements. International students should also meet with International Student and Scholar Services to make sure that they are maintaining their F-1 student status while abroad and have valid documents to return to the US.  

For most programs, especially for long-term study abroad or internships, a visa must be obtained that will permit you to study, work, or intern abroad. Check your host location’s consulate or embassy for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements. Penn Abroad will support you with general visa advice, however, it is your responsibility to obtain your visa.  Make sure you understand what documents are needed to obtain your visa, and apply accordingly. Seek guidance from your host location’s consulate or embassy or from Penn’s contracted supplier, CIBT Visas. If a letter from Penn is needed as part of your visa materials, contact your Global Programs Manager.

Keep a copy of your passport and visa with your important travel documents, and leave a second copy of your travel documents with a trusted family member or friend in case they need to be accessed in an emergency or if you lose your passport while abroad.

Remember that it is your responsibility to make sure you have a valid passport and visa (if applicable). Failure to apply for a passport or visa in a timely manner may result in you not obtaining your required travel documents in time for your abroad experience.

See Penn Abroad’s website on visas as well as the “Visa & Passport Information Guide” for more information.

Your Flight Abroad

With the exception of the semester International Honors Program (IHP) and Penn Global Seminars (PGS) programs (which include mandatory group flights), you are responsible for booking your flight abroad. A cost estimate is included in your program’s budget sheet on PASSPORT.

You should only book your flight once you are an official program participant. Many students are unsure of their program end date when they book their flight abroad. Contact the airline to find out if it is more cost effective to book two one-way tickets or a roundtrip ticket with the option to change your return flight. It is usually more cost effective to book a roundtrip ticket and then pay a ticket change fee for your return flight if you are abroad shorter or longer than you originally anticipated. As this varies by airline, however, please consult appropriately.

Many websites exist for booking flights. If your arrival and departure dates are flexible, you may be able to find a more economical flight using the “my dates are flexible” option when searching.

Registering your Travel in Penn’s Global Activities Registry

Any Penn student, faculty, or staff member engaging in Penn-affiliated travel must register their travel details, including flight information, into Penn’s Global Activities Registry (GAR).

  • Students participating in a semester abroad or Penn Global Seminar will receive an email notification that they have been added as a traveler to GAR prior to the start of their abroad program. Students need to login to GAR to enter their flight and personal details. Semester abroad and PGS students should not create their own trips in GAR.

  • Students participating in the Global Research & Internship Program are required to register in GAR themselves.

By entering your flight information and personal details into GAR:

  • Your ISOS international medical insurance will be activated

    • You must enter your flight details to have international medical coverage while participating on your abroad program.

  • Penn will know your whereabouts in case of an emergency so that we can provide relevant and timely information.

    • Side-trips should also be entered into GAR so that Penn can contact you if needed outside of your primary host country abroad.

  • You will receive country-specific information about your overseas location.

In addition to registering your travel in GAR, Penn also recommends that all U.S. citizens register their travel online with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  Registration makes your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary for a consular official to contact you in an emergency. Non-U.S. citizens should contact their local embassy to see if similar enrollment programs exist.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Health & Insurance

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Health & Insurance

Staying Healthy Abroad

Your health and well-being are extremely important to ensure a successful time abroad. Meeting with your doctor and understanding how to access medicine abroad are two of the important steps you should be taking to prepare yourself for your abroad experience.

Read the following sections of the Penn Abroad “Health & Safety” website to make sure you are completing all steps of the health & safety checklist:

  • Be in the Know: Pre-Departure

  • Be in the Know: While Abroad

  • Be in the Know: Medical Insurance

Your Health Consultation

Schedule a consultation with your medical service provider or Student Health Services (SHS) prior to your international travel to learn about country-specific risks and precautions and how to stay healthy while traveling. Be sure to schedule this at least six weeks or more prior to your departure to ensure time for any necessary follow up. During your health consultation, be sure that all of your childhood immunizations are up to date, and obtain any required or recommended immunizations for your destination country.

You can find detailed information about travel support services, food and water precautions, common illnesses, medications and more on the SHS Travel Health website. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also a helpful resource for health information as well as required and recommended vaccines and immunizations by country.

Some Penn Abroad programs will require you to complete a Health Information Form during your health consultation. Check your online program application in PASSPORT to view your program’s requirements. If applicable, after completing your Health Information Form, upload it to your program application in PASSPORT.    

Medical Insurance and International SOS (ISOS)

Penn Abroad requires that all Penn students maintain medical insurance coverage that is valid in their home country, even when traveling abroad. If your home country health insurance is the Penn Student Insurance Plan (PSIP), make sure you have taken the necessary steps to remain enrolled even while abroad. Some semester abroad programs also require additional country-specific medical insurance. If you are participating in a semester abroad program, your Global Programs Manager can let you know if you will be required to purchase additional host country health insurance. 

In addition to maintaining medical insurance coverage valid in your home country for the duration of your travel, all Penn students traveling on a Penn-approved program are also covered by Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership while abroad.  Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership includes:

  • Travel medical insurance

  • 24/7 medical and security consultation

  • Hospital referrals

  • Emergency evacuation assistance

The complete summary of ISOS member benefits is available on the International SOS Penn portal. Print a copy of the Penn ISOS Card and keep it with your important travel documents while abroad. If you are injured, feel sick, or need to see a doctor while abroad, contact ISOS to find out what medical facility you should go to for medical assistance in your host location. In order to be pre-authorized to use International SOS medical insurance, you must register your round-trip flight itinerary in Penn’s Global Activities Registry.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Staying Safe Abroad

assignment_late

Staying Safe Abroad

While no one can guarantee your health and safety or eliminate all risks from your abroad experience, there are many steps that you can take before and during your travel abroad to educate and prepare yourself, mitigate risk, and increase the likelihood of a safe and healthy international experience.

Review the following to help prepare yourself for a successful and rewarding time abroad:

  • Read “While Abroad” and “Register Your Travel” sections of the Penn Abroad Health & Safety website;

  • Read “Overview” and “Security” summaries on the International SOS Country Guide for your abroad location;

  • Watch the Traveler Training video (bottom of webpage) on the Penn Global International Travel Guidance site;

  • And read all of the additional safety information outlined below.

Travel Safety Tips

Depending on where you are traveling, you may be in a place with less, more, or the same level of street crime as in the U.S. Being a foreigner and not knowing the customs and patterns of local behavior may increase the odds of your becoming the victim of crimes such as fraud, robbery, or theft. Safety and security depend to a large degree upon being well prepared, listening and heeding the counsel you are given, being careful, and remaining vigilant.

Follow these essential safety tips while abroad:

  • Always be alert and conscious of your behavior. Be discrete and conservative in your actions, dress, conversations, and with personal possessions and electronics.

  • Remember that safety in numbers is a good idea wherever you are. Always travel in pairs or small groups for personal or weekend travel. Do not walk alone at night. If you go out with friends, return with friends.

  • Avoid environments that increase your risk, including demonstrations, protests, or other potentially volatile situations.

  • Be smart with money. Keep your money and credit/ATM cards in a secure location, only carrying as much cash as needed on a daily basis. When using ATM machines, be aware of your surroundings and preference ATM machines located inside buildings if possible.

  • Arrange for airport pick-up ahead of time or inform yourself about the public transportation options. If you plan to take a taxi, find the official airport taxi stand rather than accepting help from people waiting around the airport exit.

  • Do not impair your judgment through excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs.

  • Never rent or drive a vehicle or motorbike while abroad.

  • When traveling, leave an itinerary with your resident director, host family, roommate, or employer so someone knows where you are and how to contact you.

  • Communicate often. Develop a communication plan with your family so that they know how to reach you, whether it’s an emergency or just to check-in.

  • Keep abreast of local news. Read local newspapers and magazines and speak with locals to learn about any potential civil unrest.

  • Always pay close attention to your surroundings, even when you start to feel comfortable.

Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, and Stalking

The University's commitment to fostering an environment free from violence and abuse extends to all members of the Penn community traveling abroad. Laws, medical services, and cultural norms surrounding issues of interpersonal violence can be vastly different depending on where you are in the world. Before you travel, familiarize yourself with your host culture's attitudes towards gender roles, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and different religions.

If you or someone you know experiences sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking while traveling abroad, these Penn resources can provide support and emergency assistance. They can also help you assess any safety concerns if you are considering whether or not to contact local authorities.

Sexual Harassment

You may find that behavior that is considered sexual harassment in the U.S. is socially acceptable behavior in other countries. In some countries, for example, it is not uncommon for women to be loudly appraised, honked at, or addressed in other ways in public that can make them uncomfortable.

Although being culturally sensitive and respectful is an important element of your experience abroad, you do not need to accept behavior that invades your personal boundaries or makes you feel unsafe. Trust your instincts. Use body language, facial expressions, and a firm voice to fend off unwanted attention. Avoid eye contact, which can be seen as an invitation in certain cultures. Carry emergency contact information with you at all times. Engaging in conversation with locals about gender roles and techniques for deflecting unwanted attention can be helpful to prepare for managing these types of situations.

Finally, remember that sexual assault or harassment can take place by a person familiar to you or in a familiar setting, such as: in your host university setting, living arrangements, internship or work placement, etc. For more information, visit the Penn Violence Prevention website.

Alcohol and Drugs

If drinking, drink responsibly and avoid drugs. In many countries of the world, the legal drinking age is lower than in the U.S. However, just because you may be able to drink legally abroad does not mean that you should abandon your good judgment. Remember that most likely, drugs are illegal in your host country, and in some cases, the penalty for drug crimes can be even more severe than in the U.S. The U.S. Department of State outlines recommendations to help keep you safe when confronted with alcohol and drugs overseas.

Obeying Local Laws

Laws and systems of justice are not universal and you will be subject to the laws of your abroad location. Make sure you get to know the local laws in your host country, and be sure to obey them at all times. Do not assume that just because something is legal in the United States, that it is legal abroad. Many of the legal protections you may take for granted are left behind when you leave the U.S., and penalties in some countries are much tougher than in the U.S.

Remember, you’re still a Penn student while abroad, so represent yourself and your university well. Penn’s Code of Student Conduct, including the Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, and Stalking policy, still apply to you. Violations of Penn’s conduct policies while abroad can be reported to the university and investigated by the Office of Student Conduct or the Sexual Violence Investigative office (SVIO).

In Case of Emergency Abroad

If you are involved in an emergency abroad, follow these steps:

  • Immediately seek a safe environment.

  • Contact your program director, trip leader, or on-site staff for the most immediate assistance.

  • Contact International SOS (+1 215 942 8478).

  • If appropriate, contact local authorities.

  • Contact Penn Police (+1 215 573 3333) or additional Penn Abroad 24/7 assistance resources.

  • Inform family members.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Adjusting to Your New Environment Abroad

flight_land

Adjusting to Your New Environment Abroad

One of the best ways to prepare for your time abroad is to learn about the country where you will be living. Research the culture, news, and current events of the country and local area where you will be staying.

You can learn about your host country using resources like the State Department’s Consular Info Sheets and the ISOS country guides. Through ISOS, you can also sign up for email alerts that will send you specific information about your country, including airport closures, demonstrations, tips for travelers, and other helpful safety and security information.

You should also get to know the local cultural norms and attitudes of your overseas location. It is critical that you are mindful of gender roles, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and different religions within your overseas location, as well as local issues affecting your overseas location and its relationship to the worldwide political environment. Every International SOS country guide includes “cultural tips” which are a useful resource for navigating norms of your abroad location.   

Culture Shock

When you first arrive abroad, you will probably be very excited by your new surroundings as you meet new people and navigate a new city and community. It is not uncommon, however, for you to begin to feel upset or uncomfortable in your new and unfamiliar surroundings shortly after arrival. This is known as culture shock. Many students experience culture shock during their time abroad.

Diagram of the Stages of Culture Shock

Some tips for managing cultural shock include:

  • Participate in local activities

or traditions.

  • Be flexible. Don’t expect things to work the same way they do in the U.S.

  • Try to recognize your own cultural bias.

  • Ask questions!

  • Appreciate difference.

  • Establish a routine.

  • Find ways to keep in touch with family and friends.

Although many students overcome culture shock by following the tips above, you may require some additional assistance to help you feel comfortable in your abroad environment. If you find that you are having trouble adjusting to life abroad, it may help to speak to a CAPS counselor, even if you have never seen a counselor before.

Additional Resources to Assist Your Adjustment

As a Penn student, you have a wealth of support and resources available to you before going abroad, while you are abroad, and after you have returned. Read Penn Abroad information on Penn Campus Resources and Navigating Your Diversity and Identity Abroad to make sure you are familiar with the resources available to you, and how you may access these while abroad to help ensure you have a meaningful and fulfilling global experience. You can also reach out to your Global Programs Manager at Penn Abroad for additional assistance.

Back to top, proceed to next module: Documenting Your Experience

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Documenting Your Experience

As you go abroad you are likely to have many firsts, new experiences, and exciting opportunities. For many students, the experience of going abroad has a significant impact on their career, academic, and personal development. While you are encouraged to disconnect and enjoy every moment to the fullest, documenting your experience can also be a great way to reflect on your time and look back on your own development.

  • Keep a Journal – whether you make brief notes or spend more time detailing each day, your thoughts are worth taking note of. Looking back once you return to Penn can be a great way to remember and take stock of your accomplishments and growth.

  • Record Photos & Videos – we are all drawn to capture famous sites and vistas, but photos and videos can also be great tools for reflection and remembering the more everyday experiences and moments. Looking to improve your photos and videos? Check out our quick tips guide.

Sharing Your Experience:

We are looking for students to share their experiences, stories, and challenges from abroad.

Sharing your experience encourages and prepares other Penn students as they weigh the benefits of going abroad. Join us as we highlight and expand Penn’s global community!

  • Follow us on social media – find us @pennabroad on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #wherewillpenntakeyou in your photos and videos and they could be featured in our feeds (we'll as you first)! If you have private accounts, you can also direct message images you want to share.

  • Share your stories and tips on the Penn Abroad Blog – review our blog guide and submission information, including optional prompts and how to share if you already have a blog.

  • Send us your photos and videos – you can send your content to us directly by email, Penn Box, or other file-sharing platforms. Email Penn Abroad’s Marketing & Events Manager, Jamie Nisbet at jnisbet@upenn.edu to share or if you have questions about submitting content.

  • Returning to Penn – there are also opportunities to share your experience once you have returned to Penn. Look out for announcements about our annual spring photo contest, ambassador program, and other calls for submissions.

Proceed to Step 2: Preparing for Your Program (Below)

Step 2: Preparing for Your Program

school

Semester Abroad

Academics

Academic Policies & Your Academic Environment Abroad

Review the Penn Abroad academic policies, including:

  • Conduct, Academic Performance, and Integrity

  • Grades & Academic Credit

  • Courses, Exams, & Program Duration

Review your Penn Abroad program brochure and program-specific Fact Sheet for additional academic requirements, course information, grade scale information, and possible differences you may experience in the academic environment at your host university. Remember that you will be graded and treated as a local student and, as such, are expected to abide by local expectations and policies at your host university. If you have questions, please check with your Global Programs Manager for clarification. Past participants are also an excellent resource to learn more about the academic setting in your abroad location and how it may differ from Penn.

Penn Course Registration While Abroad

You will be registered for 4 Penn CUs during your semester abroad. You must remove all registration and financial holds in order for Penn Abroad to register you for study abroad. Your academic advisor or SFS may be able to assist if you are unsure why you have a hold.

Obtaining Credit for Courses Taken Abroad

While abroad you are required to be taking coursework in the equivalent of 4 – 5 Penn CUs. Individual academic departments at Penn are solely responsible for determining exactly which courses taken abroad will receive credit in particular disciplines. It is important to note that not all courses taken abroad may be assessed in the equivalent of 1 Penn CU. Therefore, prior to going abroad, use Penn’s External Course Approval Tool (XCAT) to determine both whether your proposed courses abroad are approved for credit by the relevant Penn departments and how much credit you will earn for each of your courses. You are expected to have sought the advice of your major advisor in planning your studies abroad. Failure to request course approval in advance may result in the denial of credit upon your return to Penn. Additional information on how to navigate and submit courses to XCAT, including a tutorial video, can be found on the XCAT information page for study abroad.  

Note: A summary of information on registration, credit, using XCAT, and obtaining Penn support while abroad can also be found in the Academics Abroad “How-To” Guide

Finances 

Financial Policies & Your Semester Abroad

Review the Financial Information page, including:

  • Financing Study Abroad

  • Financial Policies, Insurance, and Fees

  • Program Participation and Withdrawal

Your Penn Bill & Your Budget Sheet

The estimated cost for your semester abroad can be found in PASSPORT under the “Budget Sheet” section of your program’s online brochure. Your Budget Sheet is also attached as a document to your Penn Abroad application. Remember:

  • All expenses on your budget sheet are estimates.

  • Any item on your budget sheet with a cost of $0.00 is an expense which may or may not apply to you, and which will vary by student. When planning your finances for your semester abroad, keep in mind that you may need to budget for this expense. 

  • Your Penn bill during your semester abroad will always include Penn tuition and the study abroad fee. This is listed as a “billable expense” on your budget sheet.

  • Your budget sheet will indicate whether additional expenses such as housing, board, or visa fees, will be billed to your Penn student bill (as billable expenses) or if you will owe them directly to your host institution (as non-billable expenses to Penn).

  • Non-billable expenses may be items that you need to pay directly to your host institution or they may be items that you will pay on your own over time during your term abroad.

Study Abroad & Financial Aid

Every semester, Penn Abroad shares updated budget sheets with Student Financial Services. Schedule time to meet with your SFS advisor to understand how your aid package will be adjusted during your semester abroad. Also, read the information on study abroad and financial aid on the SFS special policies webpage.

Note: A summary of information on program costs, financial aid, work-study, and scholarships for semester study abroad can also be found in the Money Matters: Semester Abroad FAQ guide.

Housing

When planning for a semester abroad you need to consider both what housing arrangements you will have during your time abroad, as well as how to cancel and then return to your housing at Penn.

Housing Abroad

Housing information is available on the “Accommodation” tab of each program brochure in PASSPORT. You are expected to reside in the housing indicated for your program, which may include sourcing your own housing on arrival to your host location, living in a homestay, or living in student university housing. For some programs, housing is paid directly to your host institution. Some programs also include housing deposits or fees, which you are expected to pay by all stated deadlines. You are also required to follow all housing rules while abroad. If you are unsure about what type of housing is required for your semester abroad program, how to pay for your housing, or if you experience any challenges with your housing while abroad, contact your Global Programs Manager at Penn Abroad.

Canceling Your Housing at Penn

If you currently live on campus, review the steps on Penn’s Residential Services for canceling your housing at Penn.

  • Studying abroad in fall: Cancel housing by the last day of spring semester classes or within one week of program acceptance

  • Studying abroad in spring: Cancel housing by the date listed within the Terms & Conditions of your housing contract or within one week of program acceptance

Canceling Your Dining Plan at Penn

  • You can cancel housing and dining at the same time by indicating you also want to cancel your housing in your “Request for Early Termination” form.

  • If you need to cancel a dining plan only, complete the Cancellation Request Form on the Penn Dining website and email it to bsd-housing@pobox.upenn.edu.

Canceling Your Greek Life Chapter Housing

If you are approved for study abroad for a semester in which you have already signed an Occupancy Agreement with Penn Greek Life Chapter Housing, you must submit a cancellation request by email to the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at vpul-ofsl@pobox.upenn.edu.

Returning to Housing at Penn

If you plan on returning to on-campus housing after your semester abroad, review the steps on Penn’s Residential Services for securing on-campus housing on your return, whether it be the fall or spring term.

book

Penn Global Seminars

Academic Policies

Students in Penn Global Seminar are expected to participate fully in all course meetings and activities throughout the semester, including a pre-departure orientation and a group health consultation. Students are furthermore required to take part in the entire course travel component. Students who do not participate fully in the on-campus and travel components of the course will be subject to a grade deduction, and cannot be guaranteed course credit. If extenuating circumstances (health or personal issues, or inability to fulfill the requirements above) prevent the student from participating in the travel component of the course, s/he should seek approval to miss course travel from both Penn Abroad and the course professor, and must then work with the professor to find a suitable alternative (for example, an additional research paper).

Students are required to maintain good academic standing in the Penn Global Seminar as well as their regular course load. Students must also maintain good judicial standing at Penn.

Penn Global Seminars are Penn courses taught by Penn faculty and will be awarded Penn credit and letter grades. PGS courses may not be audited nor taken Pass/Fail. PGS participants must be enrolled full-time at Penn during the semester that they are participating in the program. Each PGS course is worth 1 C.U. and may fulfill general education or major requirements. Registration to the course will be by permit only, and the permits will be issued to accepted students by the rostering department.

Financial Policies

Review the complete PGS Financial Policies, including:

  • Funding

  • Financial aid

  • Tuition

  • Program fee

  • Refund policy

  • Withdrawal policy

Program Fee and Inclusions:

Penn Global Seminars are funded by a generous donation from the Ahmad Fund, as well as contributions from Penn's Global Engagement Fund. These funds cover the majority of program costs and are intended to make this program accessible to all students.

PGS students are charged a flat program fee of $950 for participation. This flat fee serves as the student contribution toward the full program travel experience and includes round-trip airfare, all hotels and accommodations, all ground transportation, entrance fees, translation and guide services, and group meals. Students will only be responsible for the cost of any personal meals and incidentals, any visa/consular fees, and (if applicable) the cost of travel to/from Philadelphia to meet the required group flight.

Financial Aid:

For eligible students with demonstrated financial need, it is the policy of Student Registration & Financial Services to cover these programs with a mixture of grant and loan funding. Penn Abroad will provide your PGS program costs to SRFS, which will add that amount to your cost of attendance, increasing your eligibility for financial aid. SRFS first increases your parent contribution by 5% to help cover the difference. For your remaining financial need, SRFS will offer 60% of the funding in the form of a grant and 40% as a loan.

You are not required to accept any loans that are offered to you, but if you do, please discuss next steps with your financial aid counselor. The process is different for federal loans, student aid loans, and alternative loans. Any financial aid recipients with further questions should make an appointment with their assigned financial aid consultant.

All costs related to the on-campus component of the program are the responsibility of the student and are not calculated into the program budget for SRFS.

Student Expectations:

PGS participants must travel on the group flight booked by Penn Abroad. No exceptions or deviations to the group flight itinerary will be allowed. Students must participate in all required aspects of the itinerary and stay in the accommodations booked by Penn Abroad.

Students traveling abroad as part of a Penn Global Seminar are expected to demonstrate maturity, flexibility, good judgment, and a willingness to learn at all times. Program participants are required to be on time for all activities, maintain a positive attitude, and remain engaged in all aspects of the itinerary throughout travel. Students are expected to be a good ambassador for Penn.

PGS participants are required to observe the laws of the host country and the rules of all host institutions and organizations abroad. Further, while abroad, PGS participants continue to be subject to Penn's Code of Student Conduct and Penn’s Code of Academic Integrity. Students who violate these codes will be subject to dismissal from the program. Misconduct of any kind will be referred to the University's Office of Student Conduct.

Any PGS student whose conduct is determined to be detrimental to the safety and well-being of the program or its participants may be subject to program dismissal. Students who are dismissed from a PGS course are not entitled to a refund of any portion of the program fee, and are responsible for any costs associated with required withdrawal from the program and return to the US.

work

Global Research & Internship Program

Global Research & Internship Program (GRIP) pre-departure orientation information for Summer 2019 will be available soon. In the meantime, you can review the general program information, application process, and funding information.

school

Semester Abroad

Academics

Academic Policies & Your Academic Environment Abroad

Review the Penn Abroad academic policies, including:

  • Conduct, Academic Performance, and Integrity

  • Grades & Academic Credit

  • Courses, Exams, & Program Duration

Review your Penn Abroad program brochure and program-specific Fact Sheet for additional academic requirements, course information, grade scale information, and possible differences you may experience in the academic environment at your host university. Remember that you will be graded and treated as a local student and, as such, are expected to abide by local expectations and policies at your host university. If you have questions, please check with your Global Programs Manager for clarification. Past participants are also an excellent resource to learn more about the academic setting in your abroad location and how it may differ from Penn.

Penn Course Registration While Abroad

You will be registered for 4 Penn CUs during your semester abroad. You must remove all registration and financial holds in order for Penn Abroad to register you for study abroad. Your academic advisor or SFS may be able to assist if you are unsure why you have a hold.

Obtaining Credit for Courses Taken Abroad

While abroad you are required to be taking coursework in the equivalent of 4 – 5 Penn CUs. Individual academic departments at Penn are solely responsible for determining exactly which courses taken abroad will receive credit in particular disciplines. It is important to note that not all courses taken abroad may be assessed in the equivalent of 1 Penn CU. Therefore, prior to going abroad, use Penn’s External Course Approval Tool (XCAT) to determine both whether your proposed courses abroad are approved for credit by the relevant Penn departments and how much credit you will earn for each of your courses. You are expected to have sought the advice of your major advisor in planning your studies abroad. Failure to request course approval in advance may result in the denial of credit upon your return to Penn. Additional information on how to navigate and submit courses to XCAT, including a tutorial video, can be found on the XCAT information page for study abroad.  

Note: A summary of information on registration, credit, using XCAT, and obtaining Penn support while abroad can also be found in the Academics Abroad “How-To” Guide

Finances 

Financial Policies & Your Semester Abroad

Review the Financial Information page, including:

  • Financing Study Abroad

  • Financial Policies, Insurance, and Fees

  • Program Participation and Withdrawal

Your Penn Bill & Your Budget Sheet

The estimated cost for your semester abroad can be found in PASSPORT under the “Budget Sheet” section of your program’s online brochure. Your Budget Sheet is also attached as a document to your Penn Abroad application. Remember:

  • All expenses on your budget sheet are estimates.

  • Any item on your budget sheet with a cost of $0.00 is an expense which may or may not apply to you, and which will vary by student. When planning your finances for your semester abroad, keep in mind that you may need to budget for this expense. 

  • Your Penn bill during your semester abroad will always include Penn tuition and the study abroad fee. This is listed as a “billable expense” on your budget sheet.

  • Your budget sheet will indicate whether additional expenses such as housing, board, or visa fees, will be billed to your Penn student bill (as billable expenses) or if you will owe them directly to your host institution (as non-billable expenses to Penn).

  • Non-billable expenses may be items that you need to pay directly to your host institution or they may be items that you will pay on your own over time during your term abroad.

Study Abroad & Financial Aid

Every semester, Penn Abroad shares updated budget sheets with Student Financial Services. Schedule time to meet with your SFS advisor to understand how your aid package will be adjusted during your semester abroad. Also, read the information on study abroad and financial aid on the SFS special policies webpage.

Note: A summary of information on program costs, financial aid, work-study, and scholarships for semester study abroad can also be found in the Money Matters: Semester Abroad FAQ guide.

Housing

When planning for a semester abroad you need to consider both what housing arrangements you will have during your time abroad, as well as how to cancel and then return to your housing at Penn.

Housing Abroad

Housing information is available on the “Accommodation” tab of each program brochure in PASSPORT. You are expected to reside in the housing indicated for your program, which may include sourcing your own housing on arrival to your host location, living in a homestay, or living in student university housing. For some programs, housing is paid directly to your host institution. Some programs also include housing deposits or fees, which you are expected to pay by all stated deadlines. You are also required to follow all housing rules while abroad. If you are unsure about what type of housing is required for your semester abroad program, how to pay for your housing, or if you experience any challenges with your housing while abroad, contact your Global Programs Manager at Penn Abroad.

Canceling Your Housing at Penn

If you currently live on campus, review the steps on Penn’s Residential Services for canceling your housing at Penn.

  • Studying abroad in fall: Cancel housing by the last day of spring semester classes or within one week of program acceptance

  • Studying abroad in spring: Cancel housing by the date listed within the Terms & Conditions of your housing contract or within one week of program acceptance

Canceling Your Dining Plan at Penn

  • You can cancel housing and dining at the same time by indicating you also want to cancel your housing in your “Request for Early Termination” form.

  • If you need to cancel a dining plan only, complete the Cancellation Request Form on the Penn Dining website and email it to bsd-housing@pobox.upenn.edu.

Canceling Your Greek Life Chapter Housing

If you are approved for study abroad for a semester in which you have already signed an Occupancy Agreement with Penn Greek Life Chapter Housing, you must submit a cancellation request by email to the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at vpul-ofsl@pobox.upenn.edu.

Returning to Housing at Penn

If you plan on returning to on-campus housing after your semester abroad, review the steps on Penn’s Residential Services for securing on-campus housing on your return, whether it be the fall or spring term.

book

Penn Global Seminars

Academic Policies

Students in Penn Global Seminar are expected to participate fully in all course meetings and activities throughout the semester, including a pre-departure orientation and a group health consultation. Students are furthermore required to take part in the entire course travel component. Students who do not participate fully in the on-campus and travel components of the course will be subject to a grade deduction, and cannot be guaranteed course credit. If extenuating circumstances (health or personal issues, or inability to fulfill the requirements above) prevent the student from participating in the travel component of the course, s/he should seek approval to miss course travel from both Penn Abroad and the course professor, and must then work with the professor to find a suitable alternative (for example, an additional research paper).

Students are required to maintain good academic standing in the Penn Global Seminar as well as their regular course load. Students must also maintain good judicial standing at Penn.

Penn Global Seminars are Penn courses taught by Penn faculty and will be awarded Penn credit and letter grades. PGS courses may not be audited nor taken Pass/Fail. PGS participants must be enrolled full-time at Penn during the semester that they are participating in the program. Each PGS course is worth 1 C.U. and may fulfill general education or major requirements. Registration to the course will be by permit only, and the permits will be issued to accepted students by the rostering department.

Financial Policies

Review the complete PGS Financial Policies, including:

  • Funding

  • Financial aid

  • Tuition

  • Program fee

  • Refund policy

  • Withdrawal policy

Program Fee and Inclusions:

Penn Global Seminars are funded by a generous donation from the Ahmad Fund, as well as contributions from Penn's Global Engagement Fund. These funds cover the majority of program costs and are intended to make this program accessible to all students.

PGS students are charged a flat program fee of $950 for participation. This flat fee serves as the student contribution toward the full program travel experience and includes round-trip airfare, all hotels and accommodations, all ground transportation, entrance fees, translation and guide services, and group meals. Students will only be responsible for the cost of any personal meals and incidentals, any visa/consular fees, and (if applicable) the cost of travel to/from Philadelphia to meet the required group flight.

Financial Aid:

For eligible students with demonstrated financial need, it is the policy of Student Registration & Financial Services to cover these programs with a mixture of grant and loan funding. Penn Abroad will provide your PGS program costs to SRFS, which will add that amount to your cost of attendance, increasing your eligibility for financial aid. SRFS first increases your parent contribution by 5% to help cover the difference. For your remaining financial need, SRFS will offer 60% of the funding in the form of a grant and 40% as a loan.

You are not required to accept any loans that are offered to you, but if you do, please discuss next steps with your financial aid counselor. The process is different for federal loans, student aid loans, and alternative loans. Any financial aid recipients with further questions should make an appointment with their assigned financial aid consultant.

All costs related to the on-campus component of the program are the responsibility of the student and are not calculated into the program budget for SRFS.

Student Expectations:

PGS participants must travel on the group flight booked by Penn Abroad. No exceptions or deviations to the group flight itinerary will be allowed. Students must participate in all required aspects of the itinerary and stay in the accommodations booked by Penn Abroad.

Students traveling abroad as part of a Penn Global Seminar are expected to demonstrate maturity, flexibility, good judgment, and a willingness to learn at all times. Program participants are required to be on time for all activities, maintain a positive attitude, and remain engaged in all aspects of the itinerary throughout travel. Students are expected to be a good ambassador for Penn.

PGS participants are required to observe the laws of the host country and the rules of all host institutions and organizations abroad. Further, while abroad, PGS participants continue to be subject to Penn's Code of Student Conduct and Penn’s Code of Academic Integrity. Students who violate these codes will be subject to dismissal from the program. Misconduct of any kind will be referred to the University's Office of Student Conduct.

Any PGS student whose conduct is determined to be detrimental to the safety and well-being of the program or its participants may be subject to program dismissal. Students who are dismissed from a PGS course are not entitled to a refund of any portion of the program fee, and are responsible for any costs associated with required withdrawal from the program and return to the US.

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Global Research & Internship Program

Global Research & Internship Program (GRIP) pre-departure orientation information for Summer 2019 will be available soon. In the meantime, you can review the general program information, application process, and funding information.