It is very important you create a budget for your global engagement experience. The first step in setting up your budget for your time abroad will be to determine how much money you will have available, including personal savings, support from your family, and scholarships, loans, and grants. Then you will need to determine the estimated cost for the program. Budget sheets for each Elon global engagement program are available on the program brochure pages. These budget sheets include costs that will be billed by Elon and estimates of other costs you will pay in the U.S. or on-site for airfare, meals, books, travel documents, entertainment, personal travel, and other activities. You should keep in mind both the cost of living in your host country and the exchange rate. Visit XE or Oanda to see current exchange rates worldwide. In addition to the information on the budget sheets, many programs abroad will provide you with additional cost information in their pre-departure orientation materials. If the total cost for your program and additional expenses is greater than your available funds, you need to look at ways to cut costs. Determine which items are essential and which are discretionary.

TIP: Former program participants, including Global Ambassadors, can also provide you very good information about how much to budget, unexpected expenses, and how to save.

Essential budget items include:

  • tuition, room and board/meals
  • insurance
  • transportation from the U.S., if applicable
  • local transporation
  • books and other required materials

These are required expenses that you cannot eliminate. You may be able to reduce the cost of some these by preparing your own meals instead of eating out, using lower-cost modes of transportation such as bikes and buses instead of taxis where it is safe to do so, or opting for a shared room or less expensive level of housing where possible.

Discretionary budget items include:

  • personal travel
  • entertainment
  • souvenirs and gifts

These expenses are optional and are the first place you should look to reduce your budget. It is very important to budget for emergencies or other unintended expenses.

Booking Flights

If you are not traveling on a group flight, it is your responsibility to book your own flight(s), assuring that you arrive by the date required by the program. It is up to you whether you would like to contact other students who are going on the same program and make arrangements to travel together.

The Isabella Cannon Global Education Center (GEC) strongly recommends that you DO NOT book your flight until you have been officially accepted by the program AND have received the official program dates. Your program / program manager may provide specific travel or airport information, so please be sure to follow their guidelines regarding date, time, and airport of arrival.

Some important things to keep in mind as you book your flight(s):

  • Time and Date Changes – Book a flight to arrive on the correct date in your host site.  This might mean that you must depart from the U.S. 1-2 days beforehand.  Always verify the date of arrival on your itinerary.
  • Round-trip Ticket – You should buy a round-trip ticket.  In the instance of studying abroad (vs. Study USA) you will usually need this to enter your host country and may need it to apply for a visa (where required).
  • Airport Pick-up – Many major cities have more than one airport.  If your program includes airport pick-up, be sure to arrive at the correct airport and on the correct date and time.
  • Connection Times – In the instance of studying abroad (vs. Study USA), if you need to take a domestic flight to the departure airport for your international flight, you should book a flight that will arrive four to six hours ahead of the scheduled departure for your international flight.

Be aware of any restrictions on date changes for your tickets. Costs to change return dates, especially on tickets purchased from discount websites, can be very high. If you are unsure of your plans and think you may want to travel at the end of your program, you may want to consider buying a flexible ticket which allows you to make changes to your return date for a low cost. Students have recommended agencies such as STA Travel and StudentUniverse.com for youth and student discounts as well as flexible tickets.

In the instance of studying abroad (vs. Study USA), you may travel before the program begins or after it ends, as long as you are within the allowable dates of your visa (if applicable), but remember that you will be responsible for your housing and expenses before and after the dates of your program.

Visa and Entry Requirements

In the instance of studying abroad (vs. Study USA), many countries require that you obtain a visa or other form of authorization in order to enter and study in there. This is typically a stamp, sticker, or loose leaf insert, inserted into your passport that allows you to enter the country. The process for obtaining a visa can be time-consuming and costly if you do not follow instructions exactly. Some countries also require that you appear in person at their embassy or consulate in the United States before your visa can be approved.

Although your advisor in the GEC will advise you on what kind of visa, if any, is necessary for your program and will provide information about the application process, it is ultimately YOUR responsibility to obtain the necessary visa and/or other documentation. You are responsible for all costs associated with the necessary visa.  Information will be provided to you in post-decision materials from Elon and/or your program.

Along with your passport and visa, you may need other documents on hand when going through immigration upon arrival in your host country. These documents may include flight itinerary or proof of return ticket, bank statements and/or other proof of access to funds, letter of acceptance from your host institution and/or home university, or other documents. Some countries have a residency permit process which is obtained after arrival in country. This may require students to carry other documents with them, such as certified copies of birth certificate. The host program will provide guidance so that students can pack and prepare appropriately.


Cell Phones

With regard to study abroad, cell phone usage is a constantly changing landscape with new innovations and cost-saving options presenting themselves to world travelers.

The following is a list of questions to ask:

  • Can I adjust my current calling plan to use my own cell phone abroad?
  • For semester-long program participants, how much do I plan to use my cell phone?
  • Can I purchase a new SIM card for my phone once abroad?
  • Can I wait to purchase inexpensive cell phone upon arrival in my host country and subscribe to a pay-as-I-go plan?
  • Can I rely on a free, cross-platform instant messaging and voice over IP (VoIP) application, such as “WhatsApp” or “Viber”, knowing that these do not work when I am out of range of Internet / Wifi?

Some study abroad programs provide students with a cell phone or have partnerships with specific wireless providers. Your program will likely provide you with some recommendations and information in their pre-departure materials.

TIP: Former program participants, including Global Ambassadors, can also provide you very good timely information about cell phone / smart phone strategies.

In addition to cell phones, you can also explore other ways of communicating while abroad.

Money and Credit Cards

In the instance of study abroad (vs. Study USA), it is wise to take money in more than one form such as ATM cards, credit cards, and debit cards. Traveler’s checks are no longer widely used and are therefore not recommended. Although credit and debit cards may be used quite regularly in some countries, some countries may still be cash-based. Many countries, particularly those in Europe, operate on a “chip-and-pin” system for debit and credit cards, meaning that instead of swiping the card, the card is inserted into a machine that reads a microchip, and the user enters a pin number. American debit/credit cards use swipe technology which may not be readily available in restaurants and stores, so you should always have cash on hand. American debit/credit cards will still work in ATMs in other countries regardless of chip-and-pin technology. Review the pre-departure materials from Elon and your study abroad program, speak with former program participants and Global Ambassadors, and review travel guide books or websites to determine the best recommendations for your host country.

Foreign Currency

If possible, you should purchase in advance some of the local currency of your host country so you have it available as soon as you arrive. Currency can be purchased at most major banks, upon advanced request, as well as through currency exchange services, either in person or online. You can purchase currency at most major airports in the U.S. and abroad, although the exchange rates and fees tend to be more costly. As a general guide, you should plan to arrive with the equivalent of about $200 USD worth of the local currency, unless your program indicates otherwise. This will enable you to pay for a variety of expenses in the first couple of days including food and bottled water, transportation from the airport (if not provided by program), toiletries, and other items you may need for your room. While you may be able to purchase these items with a credit or debit card, it is advisable to have cash with you in case you have any problems with your card(s) upon arrival.

Credit and Debit Cards

Be sure to inform your credit card companies and banks that you will need to activate your card for international use. You should tell them all the locations in which you may use your card(s) so that your access is not suspended. If you plan to use your credit card to withdraw cash as a cash advance, be sure that you know the PIN for the card.

Be aware that using your debit/credit card in an ATM abroad will often incur international service fees. When contacting your bank, ask what the fees are and ask if they have any relationships with banks abroad where you may incur lower fees. Confirm the phone number that you would need to call if you have any problems with your card(s). You cannot call a toll-free number from abroad, so be sure that you have a regular, toll number. You may also want to research different banks or credit card companies for the one that best suits your needs.

Make a copy of all your debit and credit cards (front and back) or create a list of the accounts. Note the phone numbers for each card. Bring a copy with you and keep it separate from your card(s). You may want to consider saving this as a Google Doc. You may also want to leave a copy with your family. This information will be very useful if your wallet is lost or stolen while abroad.

Power of Attorney

If you have checks, scholarships, or tax forms that must be signed while you are abroad, you may want to obtain a North Carolina limited power of attorney so that someone else can sign certain documents for you. If these documents will be signed in another state, refer to information from that state.

Voting Abroad

In the instance of study abroad, if you will be away during an election time, you may want to familiarize yourself with the voting process from abroad. Refer to information provided by the Federal Voting Assistance Program and Overseas Vote Foundation.

Mail Forwarding

Campus Mail blocks the mailboxes of these students and forwards first-class mail to the home address on record with the Registrar’s Office. Bulk mail or campus mailings will not be forwarded. If you have any subscriptions, please contact the company to stop/suspend delivery or change the address. If you do not want your mail to be forwarded to your home address, you must speak with someone in Campus Mail. If you live off-campus and receive mail at your apartment or a post-office box, contact the United States Postal Service regarding forwarding.


When it comes to packing for an extended time away from campus, a useful saying is, “pack your bag, take half out, and pack half of that.” It is essential that you pack as light as possible because you will be managing your luggage by yourself in unfamiliar airports, train stations, etc. when you are tired and possibly jet-lagged. Check with your airline for information regarding weight and size restrictions and additional fees. Review guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to determine restrictions and limitations on certain items in carry-on and checked luggage.

In your carry-on, you should be sure to bring the following items: your passport and other necessary travel documents, copies of your passport and other travel documents, your medications and prescriptions, eyeglasses / contacts, a change of clothes in case your checked luggage does not arrive with you, and copies of your credit cards and debit cards.

These guidelines will give you a general idea of what to pack. You should also review information provided to you by your specific program.

TIP: Former program participants, including Global Ambassadors, can also provide you very good advice about packing strategies.

Leave at Home:
  • Anything you would regret losing; anything that has sentimental value, or is expensive/meaningful (such as heirloom jewelry).
  • Your Social Security card and any extra credit cards, store cards, etc. that you do not plan to use while abroad.
  • Anything that would be considered a weapon. Even a pocketknife can result in a serious weapons charge while away – even if the knife is found during a search or arrest for an unrelated offense.
  • Toiletries and amenities that can be readily purchased on-site. Review the specific information from your program to see if there are any specific recommendations.
  • Hair dryers, curling irons, or straighteners. Due to the need for a power converter and/or plug adaptor, it is best to buy them on site if they are necessary.
  • Logo clothing and baseball caps. Shirts and other clothing with Elon or other school or team logos will tend to make you stand out.
Take With You:

Versatile and appropriate clothes

  • Consider variations in weather through the duration of your program.
  • Bring durable clothing that can be easily cared for / laundered.
  • In addition to weather, consider the local customs and dress code of your host location.
  • Consider whether you will be doing anything as part of your program that will require certain clothing, such as an internship, field work, and other outdoor activities, etc.
  • A general recommendation is to pack enough clothing to last about two weeks without doing laundry. Bring items that can be easily mixed and matched into many different outfits and dressed up or dressed down as needed.

Pack comfortable, sturdy shoes for walking

  • Regardless of where you are studying away, you are likely to walk much more each day than you normally do at Elon.
  • In many locations it is a good idea to have water-resistant shoes.
  • You may want to bring one or two other pairs of shoes for dressier occasions or for casual outings such as the beach.
  • If you plan to play a sport or use a gym or fitness center, bring sneakers.

Electric converter/transformer and adapter

In the instance of study abroad, please note that many countries have outlets that are shaped differently than U.S. outlets, and most have a standard electrical current of 220 volts. A converter/transformer coverts the current so that your U.S. devices can run safely and are not damaged.   Failure to use a converter/transformer can result in serious damage to the device and injury to you. Most laptops and some other devices are able to run on both the U.S. current (110 volts) and currents abroad up to 220 volts. An adapter allows you to fit the plug from your U.S. devices into outlets that are not the same shape. It does not convert the current. Depending on the device, you may need to use just the adapter, or the adapter in combination with the converter or transformer. The International Trade Administration provides some useful information about the currents and plug configurations around the world.

First-Aid Kit

Pack a small first-aid kit, including some bandages, alcohol wipes, sunscreen, and a mild pain reliever.

Gift for your hosts

If you will be living in a homestay, it is usually suggested that you bring a small gift for your hosts. Something that is a typical item from your home state or city usually serves as an appropriate gift.

Small Piece of Home

Pack a small memento from home to have in your room. A few pictures of your family and friends can be a nice way to make your living space feel like home, and your hosts and friends may be interested in seeing them.


Keeping a journal is a great way to document your daily activities, process your experiences and deal with the emotions of cultural adjustment.

Make sure your luggage is labeled inside and out with your name, address, and telephone number in both English and the language spoken in the location(s) of your program.  Check the TSA guidelines regarding locked luggage and other current airline travel regulations.

Carry-on Luggage

When preparing your carry-on bag(s), review the limits from your airline and the guidelines from the TSA. Items that should be either in your carry-on baggage or on your person include:

  • Passport and all travel documents
  • Credit / bank cards and cash
  • Contact information for your program and the details of where you are to go upon arrival
  • All prescription medications in original containers along with prescriptions and doctors’ notes
    Health insurance card(s)
  • Emergency card – link to health and safety page example emergency card
  • All necessary acceptance letters provided to you by your host program
  • Laptop computer
  • Change of clothes
  • Eyeglasses / contacts
  • Phone charger