First-Time Travelers

Purdue Study Abroad provides many people with their first-ever international experience.  In many cases, our students who go abroad are the first members of their families to leave the US or to have a passport.  We’re very happy to help people have these rich and life-changing experiences.

The perfect time 

In many ways, your college years are the best time for you to go abroad. 

  • You have the greatest opportunity you will ever have to try new and unfamiliar things in the company of other people doing the same thing.
  • You probably have fewer commitments (bills, mortgages, family, limited vacation time…) than you will ever have.  It’s much easier to go away for three or four months now than it will be after you graduate.
  • Though you can go on vacation later, study abroad is a deeper experience. Our programs are meant to help you have more contact with the culture you are visiting, and to learn more from it, than is possible on vacation.
  • Study Abroad will help you to get a job after you graduate.  Most employers are looking for some kind of international experience because it says that you are mature, adaptable, can relate to people who are different from yourself, and may have skills in other languages.

Is this really for ME? 

If you feel uncomfortable or intimidated at the idea of traveling abroad because it is so new to you, or if you are concerned that you “won’t know what to do” on study abroad, here are some things to remember.

You have already successfully met similar challenges

There are a number of parallels between leaving high school for college and going on study abroad.  In both situations, there is an adjustment period that can be challenging.  But if you are reading this as a Purdue student, then you have successfully made (or are making) that transition.  And just as getting used to college life turns out to be enormously rewarding, so does getting used to living abroad.  After getting through the period of adjustment in both situations, most people say that they are very happy to have gone to college and/or to have lived abroad, and that their lives are much better for having achieved these things.

How important is previous travel experience? 

Not having traveled does not always mean that you will have greater difficulty on study abroad than more experienced participants.  A first-time traveler who is organized, open-minded and adaptable often has a better time, learns more and is more of an asset to the group than an unprepared or irresponsible or inflexible person, regardless of his or her prior experiences.

Along the same lines, not everyone who has travel experience is well-prepared for study abroad.  It can be fun to go on short-term vacations or package tours, or to live abroad in the company of people from your home country, but these experiences do not always prepare people to relate to other cultures or to deal successfully with new situations.

In summary, going on study abroad can be somewhat easier for people who have already traveled, but other factors such as your level of maturity and adaptability, and the preparation that you do, are probably more important factors to success.

Study abroad and your family 

Some students tell us that their families think that study abroad is unjustifiably expensive, that it is a vacation that will delay graduation, that it will make their sons or daughters forget their roots, or that it is too dangerous.  We would like your family to know that we understand these concerns and encourage them to consider the following.

  • There is a wide range in the costs of the 200 + programs that Purdue offers.  While some are expensive, many are very close in price to the cost of staying in West Lafayette.  You can find a detailed explanation of costs and financial aid.
  • Study abroad is a good investment, because having some kind of international experience is not really an “extra” any more.  Just as it has become more and more important to have a college degree to get a satisfying job, employers are more and more frequently requiring their new hires to have experience in relating to people from other cultures, to be familiar with other languages, and to be prepared to travel in their work.
  • Students take classes and earn credit while abroad, so as long as the student does reasonable planning before the program, going abroad should not delay progress toward graduation.  Read more at our page on Getting Academic Credit.
  • While study abroad does change people in some ways, the changes are usually quite positive.  Many parents report that their sons and daughters come home more mature and with greater self-sufficiency than they were before going abroad.
  • Purdue is very serious about student safety and does not send students to places about which we have serious concerns.  You can view our safety policies here.
  • Many parents visit their sons or daughters who are on study abroad (either during a break or just after the program has ended).  They report that they find it very enjoyable to see a new place and also to see how much their son or daughter has learned from their experience.

A few common questions and answers 

What is a passport?  An official identity document issued by the government of your home country.

The US Government is experiencing substantial delays in issuing passports.  "Normal" processing time is now approximately four months.  If you are planning to go abroad in the next year and do not have a passport, apply for one immediately.  If you do have one, be sure that it will be valid for as long as you need it, or apply for a renewal immediatelyHaving a passport, or having proof that you have applied for one, is now a condition for acceptance to Purdue Study Abroad programs. (NOTE: This requirement is waived if you are applying for an International Programs in Agriculture program.)  Link here to the U.S. Passport Services Office web page. 

What is a visa?  A stamp or sticker placed in your passport that gives you official permission to visit someone else’s country, granted by the government of that country. Speak to your study abroad advisor or program leader to determine if the location you are going to requires a visa – they are not required for all study abroad programs.

US Citizens should check the state department website (link here) for more information about your destination's visa requirements.

International students should check your destination's embassy or consulate website to verify any visa requirements for your specific nationality.

How do I buy an airline ticket?  Staff in the Office of Programs for Study Abroad would be happy to talk to you about this.  Many Purdue students use on-line sources or STA Travel.

Can I join a group flight to my destination?  Sometimes there is one, but even if there is not, there are usually several Purdue students going to the same location so you almost always have the option of traveling with familiar people, if you want to.

What about time zones and the International Date Line?  There are a number of on-line time zone converters that clear this up.  Visit our Helpful Travel Links page to see some.

Do I have to buy new electrical appliances?  No.  Most laptops have a built-in voltage converter so you will probably be able to use it abroad (with a plug adapter).  Most students do not take other appliances with them (or buy a $10 hairdryer at their program site).

How do you get money?  Most people use ATMs to get local currency while abroad.  Just go to the ATM and enter the amount of local currency (euro, British pounds, yen, etc.) that you want.  Your bank at home converts that amount into US dollars and withdraws the converted amount (in dollars) from your account.

What if I get sick?  Purdue students going abroad are covered by a required and affordable health insurance policy.

What if I don’t like it and want to come home early?  This is very rare; in fact, most students say they wish their programs were longer.  It is possible to leave a program early (though there are financial and academic complications).

For more Q & A, see our FAQs page.

How can I get ready to be successful abroad? 

The better prepared you are for a new experience, the more you can enjoy it and learn from it.  We suggest the following if you are applying to a program have been accepted, or even if you would just like to be more knowledgeable about international travel.

  • Browse through our Helpful Travel Links page
  • Spend some reading and thinking about our Culture and Identity Abroad page.
  • Read one book – even a short one – on the history and culture of the place you will visit.
  • Seek out and talk to other people who have been where you want to go.  Our office includes a short meeting with former participants in a group setting as part of the orientation process, but we can also arrange for you to meet individually with former participants over coffee, etc.
  • Talk with your academic advisor about your plans.

Study Abroad staff are happy to help you. 

You may have seen that our mission statement refers to first-time travelers.

The Office of Programs for Study Abroad is dedicated to internationalizing Purdue University by helping as many Purdue students as possible to have overseas experiences that enrich lives, enhance academic experiences and increase career potential.  The Office helps students to overcome academic, financial, or personal concerns that might prevent them from going abroad and is especially devoted to removing obstacles for first-time travelers.

We want to help you to have a great experience abroad, and we welcome you to bring us your questions and concerns.