Facebook Pixel Global Learning Handbook | Western Kentucky University

Global Learning Handbook

Part 1: Choosing a Program & Applying (Pre-Decision)

Choosing a program and starting an application: 

  • Meet with your Academic Advisor to:
    • Discuss the right time for you to participate 
    • Evaluate which courses you want to look for ina program
    • Ensure you are progressing in your degree path  
  • Meet with a Global Learning Staff Advisor to:
    • Narrow down your program choices & define global learning experience goals
    • Discuss funding and scholarship opportunities
    • Confirm program eligibility 
    • Most programs require a meeting with a global learning staff advisor
  • Start an application with WKU Global and your program provider, when applicable 
    • The Office of Student Conduct and WKU Global will review your WKU eligibility requirements upon submission of your WKU application 
  • Begin looking at scholarship opportunities and tracking scholarship application deadlines, apply as necessary

Upon acceptance to a program:

  • Complete the remaining sections of your WKU Global Learning Application and program provider application, when applicable 
  • Meet with your academic advisor to discuss final course selections and begin the course transfer approval process if you will be earning transfer credit
  • Continue appying for scholarships
  • Attend required Pre-Departure Orientations
  • Go Abroad! 

Careful financial planning is essential for a successful global learning experience. Download the Financial Planning Worksheet to get started planning your finances. 
Global Learning Scholarships 
A number of internal and external scholarships are available to offset the costs of global learning. The following scholarships are available through WKU Global: 

  • World Topper Scholarship - Open to degree-seeking WKU students not employed in a benefits-eligible faculty or staff position at WKU 
  • WKU Passport Scholarship - Open to U.S. citizens applying for their first passport 
  • WKU Study Abroad Application Fee Scholarship - Students applying for Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships, David M. Boren Awards, Freeman Awards for Study in Asia, and students who receive a Critical Language Scholarship are eligible to receive a scholarship to cover the $150 application fee. Confirmation of applying for Gilman, Boren, and Freeman awards and/or of receiving a Critical Language Scholarship must be received before the scholarship will be applied. 

Visit our Funding webpage to learn about other scholarship opportunities available through WKU and external organizations. 
We recommend partnering with the Office of Scholar Development (OSD). You can view a list of OSD-supported nationally competitive scholarships HERE. Staff members in OSD help students apply for scholarships by offering:  

  • Guidance on becoming a more competitive applicant; 
  • Support conceptualizing application essays and proposals; 
  • Assistance in revising and refining; and 
  • Support in preparing for interviews. 


Financial Aid 
Most forms of financial aid may be used to pay for your global learning program costs. If you wish to use your WKU financial aid, here are a few things you should keep in mind: 

  • Make sure you have a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file for the current/ approaching academic year. 
  • Contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance to discuss your plans and your options for using financial aid to pay for program fees. It is recommended that you do so at least 3-4 months prior to your departure date. 
  • Loans are generally the only type of aid that can be increased. Your parents may increase their Parent Plus loan if they have been approved for the current academic year based on the cost of your program.  
  • Private/alternate loans may be used to help cover study abroad program cost after other types of federal aid have been exhausted. Generally, a co-signer is required before loans can be processed and the loans often have higher interest rates than Federal Direct loans. Click here for more information. 
  • If you are participating in a summer program, you must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours (undergraduate) or 4.5 credit hours (graduate) in order to use federal financial aid. 
  • Federal regulations prohibit the release of aid before the beginning of the term.  
  • If you are applying for federal aid and are already receiving your academic maximum amount of Pell Grant and/or Federal Direct Student Loans, you may not be eligible to receive additional federal financial aid for the winter or summer term if you remain at the same grade level. 
  • Many, if not most, federal loans and grants require that credits earned through your program must apply toward graduation requirements (i.e.  If you plan to study abroad after completing all graduation requirements but have not yet graduated, you may no longer be eligible to receive certain forms of financial aid).  


WKU Scholarships 
Most institutional scholarships may be applied to global learning fees for semester programs.  

You should always confirm with the Office of Student Financial Assistance and/or the scholarship sponsor if your scholarships are eligible to be used towards study abroad program expenses.  
Note: KEES scholarship money may only be used to pay for study abroad if your fees are billed through TopNet. Also, WKU National/International Academic and Military Tuition Scholarships cannot be applied to most programs. Contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance if you have any questions. 

Proper documentation and identification are required for country entrance. Each country has individual requirements for entry based on your citizenship, purpose of visit, and length of stay.  


Passport: Always Required 

A passport is an internationally recognized document demonstrating your citizenship. A current passport (book) valid beyond the time your program ends is needed for entry into most countries. Many countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip.  If your current passport does not meet this requirement, you will need to renew it before departing on your program. 
Apply early for a passport. Passport processing times vary, but a good rule of thumb is to give yourself at least 3 months to complete the application process. If you do not have a US passport, our office provides scholarship opportunities to offset the application fee for a US passport. You can complete the scholarship application HERE. If selected, you would work closely with Passport Services located on the first floor of Downing Student Union (DSU) 

For instructions for applying for a US passport and current processing times, visit the U.S. Department of State's Passport Information webpage.

Visa: Sometimes Required 

A visa is a document provided by the country to which you will be traveling that confirms your legitimate status as a visitor. A visa is attached to a passport, so you must obtain your passport before you can apply for a visa, if necessary. Visa requirements vary from country to country. Information relating to all visas may be obtained from the embassy or consulate of the country to which you will travel. Your program provider and/or host institution may provide you with specific information about visa requirements and how to apply. Your program provider may need to provide a special letter or other documents that must accompany your visa application (such as a letter of acceptance).  

For a list of foreign embassies in the United States, visit HERE on the U.S. Department of State's website.

Global learning will expose you to different lifestyles and cultural norms, in the same way that you may expose others to new identities. What is viewed as normal and socially acceptable in one country may not be viewed the same in another country. What makes you a minority in the US could make you a majority in your host country, or vice versa. Certain aspects of your identity will be more or less pronounced while you are abroad than they are at home, and it is important to reflect on your identity before you depart for your program. 

Questions you may want to consider: 

  • How will you talk (or not talk) about your identity in your host community? 
  • What might people in your host country assume about parts of your identity?  
  • How might you react if someone comments on a part of your identity in a way that offends you? Do you have a support system in place to cope with this possibility? 


Ethnic and Religious Identities Abroad 

You may or may not be considered part of a minority group in your home country, but by going abroad it’s possible you will become part of the ethnic and/or religious minority group. In some cases, your outward appearance can also make you stand out. It is important to be aware of the attention this may bring you, and how to respond appropriately. Make sure to research your host country and ask your program administrators and Global Learning Advisor if there is anything you should be aware of relating to your ethnicity, religion, or any other aspect of your identity that you may be concerned about.  

Questions you may want to consider: 

  • What are the cultural norms of my host country? 
  • How will I be perceived in my host community? 
  • Will there be other minority students on my program? 
  • Will I experience racism or discrimination? How do I safely handle that? Who can I contact if I do? 


First Generation Students  

As the first member of your family to go to college, you are also likely the first to study abroad. This could mean that your support system of family and friends may have special concerns relating to your study abroad experience. By doing your own personal research and reaching out to your Global Learning Advisor, you can find resources to alleviate some of this stress.  

Questions you may want to consider: 

  • How will explain why I want to study abroad to my family? 
  • Who can help me answer my family’s questions as I plan my experience? 
  • How will you keep in touch with family and friends while you are abroad? 
  • How important is physical distance from your friends and family?  
  • Is it important to retain some cultural similarities in your host country or go for a completely different experience? 


Students with Disabilities  

There are global learning opportunities, including study abroad programs, available to all WKU students. However, it is important to be aware that views on disability, independence, confidentiality, and individual rights differ from country to country, and these views will affect your experience overseas. Whatever your concerns—exclusion, communication, unwanted attention—our staff are willing to go the extra mile so you can participate as fully as possible. Many of the accommodations you may receive at WKU can be accessed abroad, such as note taking services, exam assistance, and accessible housing accommodations. These services may look different aboard, so it is important to have a conversation with your Global Learning Advisor, staff in the Student Accessibility Resource Center, and your program administrators early on to make sure you have the best possible experience on your program. Additionally, it is important to note that other countries are not required to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Research the regulations and rights in your host country.  

Questions you may want to consider: 

  • What public transportation is available and to what extent? 
  • What types of medical care will I need abroad? Will it be accessible to me? 
  • What is the learning and housing environment like? 
  • What rights do I have in my host country? 
  • Have I discussed any concerns or requested accommodations with my program coordinator? 

LGBT+ Students 

It is important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other sexual and/or gender minority students (LGBT+) to be aware that the way sexual identities are defined and understood will vary by country and culture.  You might want to consider how your identity will be received abroad and how it may impact your experience, especially in safety concerns such as the possible threat of discrimination or legality of LGBT+ statuses in some countries.  Acceptance and tolerance of LGBT+ issues are increasing in some parts of the world—and may even be as good or better than in the United States—but unfortunately some countries and individuals remain intolerant.  Make sure to research and talk with your program advisors about the prevailing sentiment toward LGBT+ identities abroad, as well as the laws related to them. Please check out the additional resources for additional helpful information.  

Questions you may want to consider: 

  • Do the cultural, political, or religious values of the country conflict with my identity? 
  • Is there a safe way to connect with the LGBTQIA+ community in the host culture? 
  • Do I have a safe space or circle of support in my host country?
  • Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of? 

Gender Norms Abroad 

Individuals may find that their identity, role, and expected behavior in their host country are different than at home. It is helpful to remember that understanding cultural differences relating to gender and learning how to interact in that context is a valuable part of your experience.  Socially acceptable treatment of women in your host country may be very different from the kind of treatment acceptable in your home country or your personal values.  Personal space and boundaries may also be different abroad, so make sure to find out about verbal and nonverbal communication cues abroad to help you avoid unwanted attention or being inadvertently misunderstood.  

Questions you may want to consider: 

  • What is the attitude towards gender in my host country? 
  • What are the typical gender roles in my host country? 
  • What are the gender stereotypes of Americans in my host country? 
  • How do men treat women in my host country? 
  • What are the cultural norms regarding friendship and dating? 
  • How do my personal values compare with my host country’s attitudes about socially accepted gender roles? 

Further Resources


Every program in our database offers different courses in different fields of study, ranging from Colonnade options, to courses that could count for Major/Minor requirements and electives. Depending upon the program you choose, the credit you earn abroad will be awarded as either WKU credit or transfer credit. Programs that offer WKU credit directly include:

  • WKU Faculty-Led Programs
  • Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS)
  • Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (CCSA)

All other programs offer transfer credit, which is awarded upon completion of the program based on a transcript issued from an accredited academic institution (either a foreign university or a school of record in the United States).

Students who are participating in a program for transfer credit will be enrolled in a CSA 999 space holder course for the program's term. Enrollment in CSA 999 indicates to WKU that you are participating in a global learning program as a WKU student and will receive the given number of transfer credit hours upon completion of the program; however, it is not an actual course that will appear on your WKU transcript. In order to ensure that transfer credit from your program counts toward specific degree requirements, students must receive approval from appropriate departments through the course approval process.

Grades earned on your program transfer to WKU and will appear on your WKU transcript. These grades factor into the transfer GPA and therefore contribute to the overall WKU GPA.

For more information on the transfer course approval process, please check out our website HERE


Part 2: Preparing for Departure (Post-Decision)

Traveling internationally involves a great deal of preparation. It is important to start early to avoid scrambling at the last minute. Apply for travel documents, register your travel plans with the U.S. Department of State or equivalent in your home country, book flights, and familiarize yourself with international travel procedures well in advance of your program start date. 

If you have any health, safety, or security-related questions, contact us and/or the sponsoring organization or institution of your program.  

Resources To Get Started:  

Wellness starts before you go abroad. Be aware of and address any health concerns that may arise. This includes getting a check-up, receiving vaccinations, taking care of prescriptions, researching local health problems, and becoming familiar with your medical insurance before you leave. Below you will find a health checklist of things to consider.

  • Have I gotten a check-up recenelty?
  • Am I up-to-date on routine vaccinations?
  • Have I checked the CDC website for recommended immunizations and current health concerns for my country location(s)?
  • Have I informed WKU Global and my program provider of any medical conditions they may need to be aware of?
  • Will I have enough medication to last me through the duration of my program?
  • Have I familiarized myself with my medical insurance?


Most vaccines take time to become effective; it is important to see your doctor at least 4-8 weeks (about 2 months) before departing. Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for a list of routine vaccinations to see what may be needed. Visit Traveler's Health Destinations on the CDC website for more information on your specific country.  

Optional Self-Disclosure 
We strongly recommend that you disclose any medical conditions or allergies that you have to your on-site coordinator or program leader.  

Bringing Medication  
If you require prescription medication while abroad, create a health plan care with your doctor(s). Be sure to note that while some drugs are legal and readily available in the United States, they may be illegal or unavailable in others. Visit Travel Health Kits for more information on taking prescriptions abroad. 
Medical Insurance  
All students are required to enroll in international medical insurance for the duration of their program. If you are going on a WKU Faculty-Led or exchange program or if your program does not include insurance, WKU Global will enroll you in an affordable, comprehensive medical insurance plan. It is important that you bring your insurance card with you and that you become familiar with your provider’s health insurance before you leave the country, rather than waiting until you need to use it. Here are some questions you should ask: 

  • How would I file a claim? 
  • Do I need to pay up front? 
  • What is included / excluded? 
  • What emergency services are provided? 
  • What health providers can I use? 


Safe Food and Water 
Find out if water is safe to drink in your destination country by checking the health conditions on the CDC’s website. Opt for sealed bottled water. Poor refrigeration, undercooked meat, and roadside/outdoor vendors can also pose problems related to food contamination. 

Staying Healthy  
While getting sick is not something you can always avoid, taking care of yourself prior to departure and during your program will help you prevent and fight illness. Get plenty of sleep during the week leading up to your departure. While you are traveling, wash your hands frequently and make sure to stay hydrated. If you do get sick, inform your program coordinator, especially if you feel that medical assistance is necessary. 

You should carefully research the location(s) which you will be visiting to familiarize yourself with current events and safety concerns. Taking simple precautions can go a long way in helping you avoid problems. No location is going to be completely risk-free.  

U.S. Department of State country information pages outline safety & security concerns within each country. If you are not a U.S. citizen you should look into recommendations made by your home country’s government for traveling to your program location(s), in addition to the U.S. Department of State website.  

Enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s STEP- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program 

  • Note that individual enrollment is only available to U.S. citizens. International students should check if their local embassy/consulate offers a similar service and should take steps to enroll.   


Personal Safety Precautions 

  • Safety begins with awareness- awareness of your surroundings, but also awareness of yourself and your behavior in a public place. 
  • Be vigilant- establish boundaries, observe your environment, be aware of people around you, trust your intuition.  
  • Monitor local news. 
  • Travel in groups even during the daytime. Never walk alone at night. If you do not have someone to accompany you home at night, take an official taxi directly to the front door of your residence. 
  • Research and avoid neighborhoods and areas where crime is more pervasive. 
  • Dress to blend in and avoid attracting attention to yourself. 
  • Cultural awareness- know what’s appropriate in the culture you will be visiting. 
  • Do not take part in protests or public demonstrations of any kind. 
  • Do not engage in potentially dangerous activities such as high-risk sports (i.e., skydiving, bungee jumping, parasailing, white water rafting, surfing, etc.) or get tattoos and body piercings abroad. 
  • Do not sacrifice safety for cost when making travel arrangements. Use reliable forms of transportation and stay overnight at accommodations in safe areas of the city. 


Preventing Theft  
Pickpockets and scammers may be prevalent in many of the places you will visit. It is important to remain vigilant while in public spaces. 

  • Keep your luggage and personal belongings in your sight at all times.  
  • Be mindful of your surroundings while using public transportation to ensure a safe arrival at the correct destination.  
  • Use a bag with a strap that goes across the chest and don’t keep valuables in your back pockets. Wear backpacks on the front of your body when using transportation. 
  • Keep all non-essential valuables at home. Don’t wear/carry flashy jewelry or expensive electronics.  
  • If you are the victim of a robbery, do not resist or try to confront the person afterwards. Report what has happened to local law enforcement and to your on-site program contact.  


Alcohol Consumption 
You will likely be traveling to places where the legal drinking age is lower than in the United States. If you choose to consume alcohol while abroad, do so responsibly, following these guidelines to ensure your personal safety and appropriate behavior. 

  • Abide by the customs and laws of your host country. 
  • Abide by the standards of conduct established by your program administrators, even if those rules may be more rigid than the laws of your host country. They are intended to keep you safe. 
  • Be aware of the expectations outlined in the WKU Student Code of Conduct. Behaviors that deviate from these expectations can result in repercussions such as dismissal from your program and/or judicial sanctions. 
  • Be aware that the effects of alcohol are magnified at higher altitudes and that drinks may be stronger than you are used to. 
  • Do not become intoxicated, which can impair your judgment and can lead you to engage in inappropriate behavior, become ill, or get into a situation where you are taken advantage of. 
  • Do not accept drinks from strangers. Always buy your own drinks and keep them with you at all times. 
  • Never go home with strangers. 


Transportation Safety

Transportation in a new location can be intimidating. With research before arrival, you can feel better prepared to navigate transportation in your location. 

  • Research commonly used transportation methods in your host location(s) and what transportation methods to avoid.
  • Only use official and metered taxi services. These taxis will most likely be numbered and display a license.  
  • Research whether app-based transportation services, such as Uber or Lyft, are safe and legal in your location(s).  
  • You can use apps such as Google Maps or Waze to confirm the taxi driver is going to the right location.  
  • Do not drive a vehicle (car, scooter, ATV, etc) while abroad. Traffic laws in other countries can vary significantly from what you are used to, and this could lead to accidents and/or fines.
  • When travelling with a group, do not just be a follower- make sure you know where you are going and have a plan in case the group gets split up.  
  • Research apps, such as Google Maps, that will allow you to download maps/directions while off-line.  
  • Be careful when crossing the street. Only cross at designated crosswalks when the pedestrian light is green. Be observant of the flow of traffic in your location- it may be different than at home. 


Response Guide for Emergency and Non-Emergency Situations Abroad 
Fill out your WKU emergency card (provided to you during the WKU Global Pre-Departure Orientation) and keep it with you at all times while abroad, following the communication protocol below which is appropriate for the situation:  


Emergency Contact 

Types of Situations 

Program Leader / On-Site Coordinator 

For most emergencies, the program leader/on-site coordinator should be your FIRST point of contact. 

Examples of situations: 

  • Getting lost or being delayed on the way to meeting up with group 
  • Housing concerns 
  • Theft or loss of possessions (may also require contacting local police) 
  • Minor or major health issues 
  • Feelings of discomfort on program, homesickness, culture shock 
  • Emergency family situations 
  • Any other concerns or issues 

Local Emergency Number (Equivalent of 911) 

For crises that require immediate assistance, call the local emergency number first. As soon as you have received initial aid, inform your program leader/coordinator of the situation. 

Examples of situations: 

  • Medical emergencies 
  • Physical danger or assault 
  •  Any other situations that would normally require calling 911 in the U.S. 

WKU Emergency Phone (001-270-745-2548) 

The WKU Emergency Phone can also be used by students as a last resort. This will connect you to WKU Police Dispatch. 

Examples of situations: 

  • You are unable to get in touch with the program leader/coordinator or obtain assistance otherwise 
  • The emergency involves a situation with a program leader/coordinator   

Embassy/Consulate located nearest to your program location (for your country of citizenship) 

In certain rare cases, and only after the program leader/coordinator has been contacted, you will need to contact the nearest Embassy/Consulate. 

Examples of situations: 

  • Loss of passport 
  • Arrest or serious legal issues 

You can read about what the U.S. Department of State can and cannot do in a crisis HERE. 


In an Emergency: 

  • Assess the situation. Get to a safe location. 
  • Contact the local “911” equivalent for emergency assistance, medical care or if you need to report an emergency. 
  • Confirm the safety and well-being of fellow travelers. Check-in with your program director/leader as soon as is safely possible. 
  • Follow the advice of local authorities. 
  • To report that you are safe, email study.abroad@wku.edu. 

Non-Emergency Situations: 

If you would like to consult with someone regarding a non-emergency situation that you are dealing with while abroad, you can always reach out to WKU Global for assistance. 

When travelling internationally, you must meet the entry requirements of your program's host location(s). These requirements vary by each location and depend on your country of citizenship. To find out these requirements, visit the embassy/consulate website of the country and ask your program provider and/or host institution. It is ultimately your responsibility to make sure you meet entry requirements and have all the proper documentation in place. 


Recap: A passport is an internationally recognized document that verifies your citizentship. 

You must present your passport each time you enter or leave a country.  The expiration date of your passport needs to be at least six months after your return date or you will need to renew your passport before departing on your program. 
Keep your passport in a secure place at all times. While you must have it on you when traveling between countries, be sure it is safely stored where no one can easily access it while in the country. You may choose to wear a passport/money pouch under your clothing for additional security. If you are not staying in a secure location, be sure to always keep your passport with you. 

  • Lost or Stolen Passport. If your passport is lost or stolen while you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately. For information about how to report and replace a lost or stolen passport, click HERE. 


Recap: A visa is a document provided by the country to which you will be traveling that confirms your legitimate status as a visitor. A visa is attached to a passport, so you must obtain your passport before you can apply for a visa, if necessary. Visa requirements vary from country to country. Information relating to all visas may be obtained from the embassy or consulate of the country to which you will travel. Your program provider and/or host institution may provide you with specific information about visa requirements and how to apply. Your program provider may need to provide a special letter or other documents that must accompany your visa application (such as a letter of acceptance).  

You must have a valid passport prior to applying for a visa and typically must also be accepted to your program/host institution. 

Some visa applications may be applied for upon entering the host country, submitted online prior to departure, require that you mail in your visa application and some even require that you travel to the embassy/consulate to complete the application process. Be sure to budget for the visa application process in both money and time. 

Common items needed for a visa application submission include (but are not limited to):

  • Valid Passport
  • Acceptance Letter to Program/Host Institution
  • Proof of International Insurance Coverage
  • Enrollment Verification from Home Institution
  • Proof of Sufficient Funds/Financial Support (this is typically needed as bank statement and/or proof of aid from home institution)

Copies of Documents

Before you leave, make 2-3 copies of your passport, visa (if applicable), and any other important documents that you are bringing with you, such as an official letter confirming your acceptance into the program. Leave one copy behind with your emergency contact(s), along with your travel itinerary and contact information while abroad, and store 1-2 copies separately from the original documents in your luggage. Doing so will facilitate the recovery of those documents in the case of loss or theft. It is also a good idea to leave behind a copy of the front and back of your debit and credit cards with your emergency contact. 

Documents Checklist

  • Do I have a passport? Is the expiration date on my passport at least six months after my return date?
  • Will I need a visa? Have I checked with my program coordinator about visa processes and reviewed visa application instructions?
  • What documents do I need to acquire for submitting my visa application?
  • Have I made a few copies of my travel documents and left one with my emergency contact?
  • Have I left contact information and my itinerary with my emergency contact?

Immigration/Passport Inspection and Customs

When you arrive at your final destination, you will go through immigration and customs. This is where an official will check your passport, stamp it with your entry date, and perhaps even take biometrics. If you had to apply for a visa in advance, you will need to present it at this time. You may be asked about the reasons for your travel and the duration of your stay in the country. Answer the questions simply and directly. If your program provided you with an acceptance letter, have it available. You may also need to show where you are staying and your departure flight details. 

Sometimes, a flight attendant will provide you with a customs entrance form on your international flights. You will be required to list goods being imported/exported (declared). You should complete it before arrival, answering all questions honestly. It is not necessary to list in detail everything purchased. You can simply categorize items such as gifts, clothing, and souvenirs, and give an estimated value. 

Importation and exportation restrictions vary from country to country. Visit the embassy website of the country for the most up to date information.  When you go through customs, an official will ask for your customs form and may or may not ask you any questions regarding the information on your form and/or inspect your luggage. 

Upon your return to the United States, you will go through the same process and will be asked about where you traveled, what you did, and what you are bringing back with you. 

Flight and Travel Arrangements 

Many programs do not include the cost of airfare in the program fee. However, some programs may offer a group flight and will include the cost of your flight as part of your program fee. To determine which applies to your chosen program, check the program’s budget and/or reach out to the program organizer.  

When making flight arrangements on your own, it is highly recommended you research the cost with any travel agency or airline. Here are some things to consider: 

  • When should I purchase tickets?
    • You should only purchase flights once you have been officially accepted by both WKU and your program provider. Prices may increase significantly if you wait to buy your tickets too close to departure. Always research the refund/change/cancellation policies of the airline or travel agent that you are utilizing.  
  • Where should I purchase tickets?
    • You should always purchase your flights directly from the airline or through a reputable travel agency, such as Student Universe. Third-party booking agencies such as Expedia, Kayak, Orbits, Travelocity, and Cheapair, are useful for comparing flights and prices, but should not be used to book.  
  • When am I expected to arrive in my host country?
    • This information will be shared with you by your program provider. Generally, you are expected to be on-site the day the program begins and to remain for the duration of the program.  
  • Can I arrive early and/or stay late?
    • This is usually possible, but you will need to confirm this with your program provider and/or program leader. You will likely need to arrange your own housing for arriving early and/or staying after the program’s official end. You are responsible for being on-site for the first official day of the program. You will also need to research the impact arriving early or staying late may have on visa requirements.  
  • Please keep in mind that WKU has no authority over airlines with regards to delays or cancelled flights. You are encouraged to remain calm and follow the instructions provided by airline personnel and to prepare yourself for the stress involved with the uncertainty of travel delays/disruptions.  

Navigating Airports 

  • Airport Security- Airport in the U.S. is managed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You should prepare for various security screenings and special procedures when you arrive for your flight. Before arriving at the airport, learn what you can pack in your carry-on and checked baggage by reviewing the What Can I Bring? page on the TSA website.  
  • Check the airport and airline’s COVID-19 policies and regulations.  
  • Arrive to the airport early- this typically means 3-4 hours prior to your flight.  
  • Remember to leave plenty of time between connecting flights to allow for navigating the airport, going through customs & immigration, or for if your first flight is delayed. A good rule of thumb is that there should be a minimum of an hour between flights. 

Travel Insurance 

WKU recommends that you purchase travel insurance (different from the required health insurance). There are various different plans, so pay attention to exactly what each plan covers. Look for coverage that includes trip cancellation and where possible, Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage (check to see if “acts of God” are covered) and lost/delayed luggage. You can find more information on travel insurance offered through the company, CISI, HERE 


There are various types of housing options abroad. Most times, specific housing types will be required as part of the program, but some programs may give you an option: 

  • Homestay
    • Homestays allow you to live with a local family.  They are one of the greatest opportunities for immersion, which is especially beneficial if you are trying to gain proficiency in a foreign language. Host families are screened by the program provider. You may be the only student staying with the family or they may host multiple students at a time.  
  • Residence Hall/Dorm
    • This is a very common form of housing on programs. You may be living with local students, other international students, or with other students from the U.S.  
  • Apartment/Flat
    • Apartments may be a part of the arranged housing or you may choose to find one on your own. If you decided to rent an apartment on your own, a deposit is usually required (usually non-refundable) and you will be responsible for keeping the place in good condition.  
  • Hotel
    • Accommodation in a hotel usually only occurs on short-term programs and/or programs that move locations frequently. Hotels are common on WKU Faculty-Led Programs.  
  • Hostels
    • Accommodation in hostels is similar to hotels on programs. They vary in size from multiple bed dorm rooms to private rooms. It is common for the bathrooms to be shared. Hostels usually have kitchen and laundry facilities.  

Release from WKU Residence Halls 

If you are required to live on campus at WKU or have signed up for a year-long housing contract and plan to participate in a semester-length program in the Fall or Spring, you will need to request a release from your housing requirement and/or contract. Contact Housing and Residence Life for more information and deadlines for submitting this request. HRL may require that you show proof of your acceptance into your program.  


  • Plan a detailed budget in advance utilizing the Financial Planning for Study Abroad.pdf. 
  • In your budget, plan for:
    • Excursions and travel
    • Gifts/souvenirs
    • Medical and other insurance
    • Research cost of living and exchange rates in your host city
    • Explore low-cost or free activities 

Money Exchange & Obtaining Currency in Advance 

  • Withdrawing money from an ATM is often more cost-effective than exchanging through an airport or train station exchange kiosk.  
  • Consult with your bank to see what currencies they offer for pickup before your departure 
  • You may exchange currency at international airports, train stations, banks, large hotels, and travel agencies 
  • Expect to pay a fee 
  • Be mindful that exchange rates fluctuate day to day, location to location 
  • Ensure you have your passport with you to exchange money 
  • Visit the website of the international airport to which you will be arriving to learn more information about currency exchange at that location 

Money: Do’s and Don’ts 

  • Do bring a small amount of foreign currency or U.S. dollars ($75-100) to exchange at the airport upon arrival to your host country to use the first day or two or obtain some foreign currency in advance. 
  • Do bring a debit card that works in the countries that you will visit and have your PIN number memorized. 
  • Do bring a back-up debit or credit card that will also work at your destination. 
  • Do inform your bank and credit card companies of your travel dates and destinations and find out foreign currency transaction fees and ATM fees. 
  • Do not carry all your cash and cards on you in the same place. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will lose everything at once! 
  • Do not use traveler’s checks, unless your program coordinator recommends them, or you have no alternative back-up. 
  • Do not carry a large quantity of cash on you (unless there is no safer place to keep the cash). If it is a better deal for you to withdraw the maximum permitted amount at each ATM withdrawal, hide the cash in smaller amounts in your residence (if the place you are staying in is secure). Only carry with you what you might need for the day. 
  • Do not flaunt your money or valuable possessions. Keep larger bills hidden away until you need them, and only take out your wallet when you are at the register purchasing something

You will encounter numerous cultural differences as you are traveling and living abroad. Some may be immediately evident; others may take time to pick up on. Half of the fun of going abroad is learning about the things people from other cultures do differently. The other half is adding some of their customs, beliefs and perspectives to your own way of thinking. You will experience an easier transition and will have a more enriching experience if you prepare by researching your destination in advance. 
What to Find Out: 

  • Basic facts about the country and people 
  • Political leaders and current political climate 
  • Important dates and figures in the country’s history 
  • Current events 
  • Predominant religion(s) and their importance in everyday life 
  • Languages spoken 
  • Important holidays and how they are celebrated 
  • Etiquette for greeting, dining, and tipping 
  • Social norms for dress, eating schedules, drinking, dating, everyday social interactions, etc. 
  • Taboos or culturally inappropriate behaviors 
  • Differences in gender roles and perceptions of men and women 
  • Popular cuisine 
  • Popular music 
  • Common perceptions of Americans and the United States 
  • Laws (legal age for drinking, traffic laws, illegal drugs, public conduct, etc.) 

Resources for Cultural Information: 

Recognize the Adjustment Process 
Culture shock is a symptom of having to adjust to a culture that is different than your own. Culture shock is real and plays an important role in adjusting to your host country. A common misconception is that a traveler is suffering from jet lag rather than culture shock, but you cannot “sleep off” culture shock and if left unaddressed, it can have a significant impact on your experience abroad.  

You should expect to experience some level of culture shock. Common signs and symptoms include: 

  • Homesickness 
  • Feeling misunderstood 
  • Mood swings or irritability 
  • Closing up (not talking to others) 
  • Feeling disoriented  
  • Sleeping too much or not enough 
  • Lack of confidence  
  • Inability to accept anything in the new place 
  • Feeling lonely most of the time 
  • Making a bigger issue out of something than it needs to be 

Adjustment to a new culture tends to occur in stages similar to: 

  • Honeymoon Phase – everything is new and exciting  
  • Crisis - coping with simple aspects of everyday life suddenly seems foreign 
  • Gradual Adjustment- the culture becomes familiar and you understand how to orient yourself in relation to it 
  • Adaptation- you've learned how to function in the new culture, and perhaps even feel part of it 
  • Re-entry- after returning home, you realize that you’ve changed. You retain your original cultural identity, but your sense of identity may have shifted and grown from your experiences 

There is no one way to experience culture shock. It may be acute or barely noticeable. You may find it returns once after you thought you had already passed through all the stages. If you are experiencing the irritability and hostility associated with culture shock, there are positive steps you can take and the sooner you take them, the better. 
Coping Strategies: 

  • Acknowledge that you are struggling and identify your symptoms.  
  • Disengage from the situation temporarily. Take a deep breath and step back to look at the situation objectively to help reduce your emotional reaction.  
  • Assess your reaction. Isolate what it was about the situation that made you react.  
  • Pursue learning more about this aspect of the culture. Observe the locals in similar situations. Ask questions and reassess your reaction.  
  • Tolerate or acclimate to the local culture. You may not like everything about your host culture, but you should try to tolerate those customs. In many cases, you will find that you enjoy the traditions of your host culture and can consider steps to adopt the local traditions in a safe manner that will enhance your on-site experience.  

Things to remember: 

I came here to experience new things- One reason for studying abroad is the desire to leave your comfort zone.  

It’s not just me- Most travelers experience culture shock at some level. If you talk with your peers, you are likely to find that they are feeling some of the same things that you are.  

Additionally, it can help to journal or blog, read or listen to music, exercise, cook or eat home comfort foods, and stay connected with family & friends back home.  

If you are feeling overwhelmed, do not be afraid to discuss your feelings with your on-site contact or your peers. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Culture shock can be a very valuable experience, which can leave you with broader perspectives and a deeper insight into yourself.  

There are a number of ways you can communicate with family and friends back home while you are abroad. As you prepare for your international experience, decide the best way for you to communicate and set expectations for yourself. Remember, studying abroad is about encountering other cultures and people; do not miss out on rewarding experiences by spending all your time talking to people back home. 


If you have regular access to a high-speed internet connection, staying in touch through email, social networking sites, blogging, and video chat will probably be sufficient for your communication needs.  
International Cell Phone Plan 
You may wish to upgrade to an international cell phone plan that includes texting and/or minutes for calling for the period that you will be overseas. Check with your provider to find out about international plans and costs.  

Beware that using your cell phone internationally without an upgraded plan can be very expensive. Watch out for roaming and data charges. Be informed about what you will be charged if you do use your cell phone while abroad so there are no surprises when your bill comes in. Be sure to turn off your data so that you do not incur high roaming charges. 
Local Cell Phone 
If you will be abroad for a semester or longer, you may wish to either purchase a cell phone to use for local calls or to bring an unlocked phone and acquire a local Sim card. Be careful not to commit to a plan that you will not be able to get out of at the end of your program. Most study abroad students choose a pre-paid plan, purchasing credit as they need it. As pay-as-you-go credit is usually more expensive, you will want to use your phone primarily for texting and short calls. 
International Calling Cards 
In many countries pay phones are still very prevalent. Using international calling cards can be an affordable way to stay in touch with friends and family in the United States. Pay phones can also be used to make calls locally to communicate with fellow students and newly acquired friends. 


  • Start packing early!!! 
  • Leave behind unnecessary valuable items. Consult with your program coordinator for information on what may or may not be needed, such as a laptop. 
  • Pack light to save room for souvenirs! You may want to bring an empty duffle bag with you to use as a carry-on for extra luggage. 

What to research: 

  •  Your airline’s luggage policies on number of bags allowed, size and weight restrictions/fees, and prohibited items. Keep in mind you may be traveling long distances with multiple modalities of travel. 
  • Packing tips, such as rolling your clothes, using a pillowcase to pack clothes in, and the Ziplock bag method. 
  • Weather of all areas you will be travelling in 

What to Bring: 

  • Equipment for the necessary climates, such as rain gear, winter coat, or hiking boots.  
  • Enough medication for the duration of your program or secure a method to obtain it in your host country. 
  • The necessary power adapters and converters. Adapters change the plug to match your device, converters alter the voltage. Many laptops and phones have built-in converters, while items like hairdryers most likely do not. Some of these items may be easier to purchase abroad.  
  • Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes that are already broken in. 
  • If you are staying with a host family, bring a small gift that represents your state or WKU. 
  • In case your checked bag does not arrive with you at your final destination, pack in your carry-on the following items: an additional set or two of clothing, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and any other necessary items (keep in mind liquid volume and airline policies). 
  • If you are on prescription medication, bring enough to last a little longer than the duration of your program, just in case. Pack it in your carry-on to keep it with you. 

Keeping Luggage Secure 
Keep your luggage with you and in sight at all times while in airports or other transportation hubs. Ask someone on your program to look after your belongings when you need to stop at the restroom or to purchase something. 

Additional packing resources 


Part 3: Global Learning Checklist

Once you decide to participate: 

  • Complete all application materials required by WKU Global and your program provider. 
  • If you do not have a passport book, begin the application process. For information about how to apply, visit WKU Passport Services. 
  • Appy for global learning deadlines by stated deadlines. 
  • Contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance to arrange for financial aid to be applied to your program. 
  • Plan to register for classes at WKU for the term you will be away as a back-up option (most important for Fall and Spring terms). 

Early Pre-Departure Preparations:

  • Confirm with your program provider and/or host institution if a study visa is required and if so, how to begin the visa application process. Check on any other entry requirements for your host country.  
  • If you are not traveling on group flights, book your flights after you are accepted and official arrival and departure dates are confirmed.   
  • Check the U.S. Department of State country information page and the U.S. Department of State Student’s Abroad page for useful information to prepare for travel to your location. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, check resources available to you from your home country.  
  • Research the country to which you are traveling and become familiar with some basic facts, cultural norms, current events, and climate so you know what to expect.  
  • Check the Centers for Disease Control for information about health concerns and recommended vaccinations for the country to which you are traveling. 
  • Schedule a physical and obtain any necessary immunizations. 
  • If you regularly see a counselor/therapist, meet with them to discuss your  plans and how to prepare for challenges such as anxiety, depression, and homesickness. 
  • If you are on prescription medication, confirm that it is legal in the countries to which you are traveling. Request a doctor’s note and obtain enough medication to last you the entire length of your stay. Keep all medication in original containers. 
  • Become familiar with your travel health insurance plan and how to file claims. 
  • Check with your bank about ordering currency for your destination.  
  • Check with your cell phone provider about getting an international plan and/or look into other ways to have phone/text/data service while abroad.  
  • Purchase a travel electrical outlet adapter. Check whether you need a converter for any appliances such as hair straighteners and dryers.  

Final Preparations:

  • Attend all required pre-departure orientation meetings. 
  • If you live on campus, contact the HRL Office to cancel your housing for your semester abroad and Dining Services to cancel your meal plan. 
  • WKU Global will drop you from your back-up classes at WKU approximately two weeks prior to the start of the term you will be away and register you in a global learning placeholder course, as needed. 
  • Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel dates and destinations, and ask about foreign transaction fees to determine the best method to access funds. 
  • Register your travel information with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and download the STEP app if you are a U.S. citizen. If you are not a U.S. citizen, register with the program offered by your home country, if available.  
  • Make a few copies of your passport, visa (if applicable), immunization records, and credit/debit cards. Leave a copy with your family and bring one or two with you.  
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary and contact info with your family/emergency contacts. 
  • Check your airline’s baggage restrictions and TSA security regulations. 
  • Get everything together by the day before you leave: be packed, prepared and have your passport out with the alarm set extra early! 

Additional Considerations:

  • Arrange to vote by absentee ballot if you will be abroad on Election Day. 
  • Arrange to have your income taxes filed if you will be abroad during tax season. 
  • If you have no next-of-kin guardian (i.e. a parent), consider appointing a Health Care Power of Attorney to avoid international red tape for health care consent in the case of a medical emergency abroad. 


Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.

 Last Modified 10/31/23