Before You Go

The pre-departure period is the time after approval to study abroad and before departure. SMU Abroad hosts an Abroad 201 pre-departure orientation for all semester applicants and program directors host pre-departure orientations for their facutly-led programs. After moving into the post-decision phase, students will be contacted directly regarding dates and times for these sessions. These orientations go over important information to prepare students for studying abroad such as but not limited to:

  • Passports and visas
  • Health and safety (including insurance)
  • Academics abroad

Pre-Departure Tips

For students who receive accommodations at SMU, it is important to request an accommodation letter through DASS Link and then share with the SMU faculty (electronically through the DASS Link system) in order to discuss any anticipated challenges, due to a disability and any barriers in the course or city/country of study. If participating in an affiliated semester program, share the accommodation letter from the most recent semester with the new program/school in order to determine reasonable accommodations in that new program.

Lastly, students should consider medication needs before they leave the country. Any medications students carry overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled. Some U.S. prescription medications are illegal in foreign countries. Be sure to check with the foreign embassy of the host country and any country you may be transiting en-route to make sure your medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics in that country.

Students should consider several factors when packing for their time abroad: location and itinerary, seasons and weather, length of stay - to name a few as well as cultural norms, host country style, and comfort level. Items to pack will vary based on program, term, as well as personal choices. One universal truth is that you will be responsible for carrying your own luggage and should pack accordingly. 

Airline restrictions on baggage size and weight should be checked before arrival at the airport to avoid additional baggage fees. Luggage should be labeled with name, home address, forwarding address, and telephone number. Remember to pack a change of clothes and any essential items in a piece of carry-on luggage. It is not recommended to bring any precious valuables/heirlooms that cannot be replaced.

Check out this article for 7 items you should always pack in your carry-on bag.

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.

Currently available at 53 U.S. airports and 15 Preclearance locations, Global Entry streamlines the international arrivals process at airports for trusted travelers. The more than 4 million Global Entry members bypass traditional CBP inspection lines and use an automated kiosk to complete their admission to the United States. As an added benefit, Global Entry members are also eligible to participate in the TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening program.

How to Apply

Tips for When And How to Renew Your Global Entry Membership

Most countries will use a different currency and will have an exchange rate. Students should notify their bank or credit card company of their plans to study abroad, including any additional trips you take. Check with them about fees for the use of international ATMs and foreign currency transaction fees. We recommend choosing several different forms of money so that if there is a problem with one, students will still have access to funds. It is a good idea to take enough local currency to pay for initial expenses before you can get to an ATM.

Keep all money and checks in a money belt, neck pouch, or other safe place on your person. Precautions against theft should be taken at all times and particularly on trains and buses. Purses, wallets, passports, credit cards, money are lost each year through lack of vigilance. Never put documents, money, or traveler's checks in your backpack.

Learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the countries where you plan to visit. Good resources are web resources, books, tourist bureaus and U.S. embassies around the world through their consular services. You can find Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements for every country of the world at It is also a good idea to create a Google News Alert to follow the news in your future host country or city.