It is impossible to anticipate all the circumstances that will cause confusion to a newcomer to a country. This section mentions only a few items that should help ACA students who are going abroad for the first time.
Contacting ACA in Maryland
In order to contact the ACA office in case of emergency, students are advised to telephone 301-680-6444 during office hours (8:00 am - 5:30 pm Eastern Time Monday through Thursday, and 8:00 am - noon on Friday), fax 301-680-6463 or email to email@example.com
ACA students are strongly advised not to travel alone, but to travel with at least one other person. This is particularly important for students who have not had previous international travel experience. Furthermore, Americans and Canadians are not always admired by local citizens. It is wise to keep a quiet, low profile and blend with area travelers as much as possible.
Problems in traveling in an unfamiliar city increase markedly after dark. Because of this, plan on arriving during daylight hours if at all possible. Luggage and travel items should be carefully guarded at all times. Do not rely on strangers to watch your belongings. Guard your carry-on bags and luggage on buses, trains, airports, train stations, and bus depots even when you sleep.
International bus, plane, and rail timetables usually incorporate the twenty-four-hour clock. PM times are 12 hours greater. Thus 3:27 PM becomes 1527, usually without the colon.
Bus and rail depots as well as airports usually have provision for changing money. A similar situation exists at most borders. Banks will also change money. Where time permits, comparison shopping will help students find the best places with which to deal. Posted rates of exchange frequently do not include the service commission that is charged. To avoid confusion and the possibility that exchange offices will not be open, students are advised to bring the equivalent of US$50 in the currency of their international campus country or countries they may be visiting en route. Include some change or small bills for luggage carts.
Making Phone Calls
The hotel or post office is usually the simplest place from which to make a phone call, since operators are there to help. At a hotel, however, before making the call, check on what surcharge is made. This has been known to be as high as three times the cost of the call. Many public phones require the use of tokens which are usually available at one or more stores in the vicinity of the phone. As in Canada or the United States, some of the phones require the deposit of coins or tokens after the party answers.
Surcharges can be avoided by making long distance calls from the main terminals at a central post office, some railway stations and airports. These can be packed with callers at peak hours. For North Americans calling home, the time difference may make it possible to call at non-peak hours. US and Canadian telephone credit cards are honored in many countries and may reduce any surcharge a hotel makes. Make sure the credit card has the international access number, not the US access number. Carry the credit card or a photocopy of it with you. Either may be required even on the host campus. Also, the 'call back' technique can keep the surcharge to a minimum since this is proportional to the length of the call. AT&T international calling cards are no longer accepted in Spain or Italy. Students are advised to buy local telephone cards upon arrival in the country. Once at school it will be easier to call. Many ACA students choose to buy local cell phones.
Communicating May Be A Problem
A few simple practices will reduce communication problems while vocabulary and speaking skills are still in an embryonic state:
Reducing Jet Lag
- Speak slowly, repeating if necessary. If this fails, smile and thank them in their language.
- Carry a paper and pen and communicate in writing.
- Use motions and hand signals to communicate your needs
Reducing jet lag will go far toward making frustrations bearable. For three or four days before flying abroad, go to bed early. If possible, break up long trips with stopovers and avoid 'red-eye' flights. If you must fly at night, get comfortable--take off shoes, loosen tight-fitting clothes, use pillows, blankets, ear plugs and eye masks. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, one of the factors leading to jet lag. If awake, walk about or at least flex your legs and feet every hour. Exposure to sunshine or daylight also helps.
Getting to Train Stations
Portions of students' trips may involve train travel. Getting to the right train station--in cities with more than one--can become a problem. If there is a subway going to the station, take it, especially during rush hours. Taxis can be expensive and slow, especially during rush hours.
Tips on Train or Subway Travel
- Ask someone--preferably a native--to pronounce the name of your destination in the foreign language so that you will recognize it when it is called.
- Be certain that the car boarded is going to the proper destination. At some point en route, the train may be split.
- Don't get off the train before final destinations unless you are certain that the train will be in the immediate station for a specified time.
- Don't throw a ticket away until you have passed through the exit gates at destinations. Tickets are permits to exit.
In many places, such as the restrooms on trains, the water is not drinkable. Do as the Europeans do--take your own water in a bottle. Water or juice may be purchased for a reasonable price at stores near a station. Water may be missing at a dinner table. Ask for it--tap water for free, or mineral water for a price. The mineral water comes with or without gas (carbonation). In France, ask for 'une carafe' - it will be free.
Differences in food and water may cause gastro-intestinal upset during an adjustment period. Expect some discomfort. It doesn't mean you have the flu, or have eaten unhealthy food or water, but that your system is not used to the biochemical differences. Take some corrective medications like Pepto Bismol, Immodium or other anti-diarrheals.
What to Take
In planning what to take, remember that closet and other storage space at the international school is limited, so pack only essentials. Currently, transoceanic flights allow two bags to be checked through to the ultimate international destination. Students checking their bags to an intermediate international city and then rechecking the bags on another flight may be informed of weight limitations of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) or less, or of restrictions to fewer checked or carry-on items. If in doubt, check with your airline directly to find out what limits apply. (2 bags are allowed in international flights up to destination. If you travel only inside Europe, 1 bag only be allowed).
Have a copy of your prescription for eyeglasses or any medications. Possession of drugs can lead to serious problems. To prevent arrest, carry required medications in clearly labeled containers with copies of any applicable prescriptions. Medications may be much more expensive and difficult to find in other countries. Students taking regular prescription medications are advised to take enough of a supply for the duration of their time abroad. Such medications should be clearly labeled as to contents and use. It is wise to have a packing list with your travel documents not only for packing purposes, but also for insurance purposes in case your bags are lost or stolen.
In addition to the various things that will make up baggage, be sure to include a goodly portion of caution. As a stranger in a foreign land, you will more than once exhibit an air of bewilderment, making yourself a good target for con artists. DO NOT ENTRUST YOUR BAGGAGE OR PERSONAL EFFECTS TO ANY STRANGER other than an agent authorized to do so. Do not leave home without your passport!!! Some even suggest that you keep your passport with you at all times.
Current and former ACA students are essentially unanimous in recommending the following:
The following are less critical items, but you may wish to consider taking them, depending on your travel plans and needs:
- Take US$50 worth of local currency before entering the country, or exchange a small amount immediately upon arrival at the airport.
- Take a back pack as one 'suitcase.' It will be handy if you are traveling before or after your summer study term.
- Take a sleeping bag. This is not for bedding on campus, since that is rented and laundered as part of your boarding fee, but is especially useful for stays in youth hostels during independent travel before or after your summer study term.
- As stated above, there is no need to take bedding, since pillows, sheets, and blankets are provided at each campus, but towels must be brought from home.
- Take extra passport photos--(4-6) for various ID uses.
- Be prepared to do hand laundering and/or coin-operated machine laundering--men also. Be sure all clothes have name labels sewn in if you wish to use the free laundry service at Sagunto. Remember that turn-around time is one week. Bring sufficient funds for washing machines if you plan to use them--they are not cheap. Bring liquid laundry detergent for hand washing or be prepared to purchase it after you arrive.
- Take adapter plugs for any electrical appliances being transported. Include a converter if the appliance is not designed for 200 volts. Be sure voltage and wattage ratings of the converter are adequate for the appliance(s) taken.
- Eurail Pass can be purchased before you leave or your family can send it to you later on. If you plan to do any extra traveling before or after the program, your travel agent may be able to obtain these for you for less than you would pay to buy them overseas.
- Take your ACA Bulletin with you! The bulletin has the telephone numbers and address of your host school as well as the names of your program directors. You may need to contact the school during your personal trips, whether before the program begins, during weekend excursions, or after the program ends.
Because needs and priorities differ so markedly among individuals, it is impossible to produce a list of 'must' items for a summer abroad. It is only possible to indicate some of the items that previous students have indicated have a reasonably high priority. Three lists are provided in the 'What to Pack' section--the first is a general list of items of potential interest to all. The other two separate those items that men and women have considered differently.
- Take an International Student ID Card (ISIC). This can get you discounts on things like rail passes, museum entrance fees and some attractions. Some local colleges or universities make this card available to anyone.
- Take a youth hostel card. Phone (202) 783-6161 for details, including beginning and ending dates. American Youth Hostels, Dept 804, PO Box 37613, Washington DC 20013-7613. The card is also available in Europe. Any hostel can give necessary directions on obtaining one.
- Take an International Driver's License and state or provincial driver's license if planning any driving in Europe. Contact American or Canadian Automobile Association offices for details.
Remember although bargains may be found in some shops, things are not always cheap at ACA study center locations abroad. Postage is especially costly compared to North American rates. Be prepared to spend as much as US$1 per letter. Even postage for post cards will be about 75 cents.
Students who have questions after reading the bulletin and all ACA correspondence should feel free to contact the ACA office using the information provided on this site. We are here to help you. Thank you for taking the time to carefully read this information. We hope that it has been helpful and we look forward to working with you as you plan for your summer abroad.
~Odette Ferreira, Director of Adventist Colleges Abroad
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