Before You Leave

Before you Leave

Photo of Gabby Ciuteikis in Seville, Spain

Welcome to our pre-departure preparation page!

This page is intended for students that are already Accepted or Confirmed to study abroad; meaning they have submitted an application to study abroad to the Study Abroad Office. This will serve as a helpful resource in navigating pre-departure requirements. Here you will find reminders for various cultural, administrative, and logistical considerations to take into account before you go abroad. If you haven’t completed the application process yet, please visit our Get Started page or Meet with an Advisor to learn how.

1. Pre-Departure Orientation

All students going abroad must attend the UIC Study Abroad Office’s mandatory pre-departure orientation.  Pre-departure orientation will allow students to connect with other outbound UIC students studying in the same or nearby locations in addition to receiving travel tips, resources, and perspectives from UIC study abroad alumni. Information about the scheduled pre-departure orientation sessions per term will be available here and in your online study abroad application.

This session will cover the following topics:

  • Health & safety precautions
  • Emergency procedures
  • Immunizations and vaccinations
  • Paperwork and documentation needed to be completed prior to departure
  • Registration, course approval process, and transcript information
  • Visa resources
  • Financial aid and scholarship updates
  • Cultural adjustment and adaptation
  • Resources for navigating identity abroad
  • International communication options

2. Complete all Required Paperwork

There are several required forms for UIC study abroad which are needed to be completed prior to your departure.  Please plan to review your online student application portal to complete and submit those documents.  All documents required by the Study Abroad at UIC (listed below) are due by pre-departure orientation.  Course Approval forms and passport photocopies are due by April 1st for summer/fall programs and November 1st for Spring and embedded programs.

You will be required to sign and submit the following documents (some programs may have additional requirements):

  • Course Approval Form (review process here)
  • Copy of a Valid Passport (must be valid for at least 6 months from the date you return home)
  • GDPR Agreement
  • Media Permission Form
  • MAP Registration Agreement
  • Student Code of Conduct and Orientation Agreement
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships Agreement For

3. Passport and Visa Considerations

4. Financial Aid For Your Term Abroad

If you plan on receiving financial aid (grants and/or loans), it is your responsibility to make the
necessary arrangements prior to your departure.

  • Once you have selected a specific study abroad program, your SAO advisor will create a budget that will be sent to the Financial Aid Office. You should make an appointment with the Study Abroad Office contact in Financial Aid, Hua Kao, to discuss the financial aid package possible for your term abroad.
  • Aid will be disbursed directly into your UIC student account and you are responsible for paying your program provider directly unless you are going on an exchange program. If you are going on an exchange program, you will be charged UIC tuition and fees, and your aid will be applied towards any outstanding charges on your UIC account. Disbursal timing is based on the timely completion of all the necessary financial aid paperwork. If everything is submitted on time, your aid will be deposited into your UIC student account 10 days before the start of the UIC semester the earliest.
  • If your program balance is due before you receive financial aid, you should obtain Financial Aid disbursement letter from Hua Kao. This letter will indicate what types and amounts of financial aid you are eligible to receive. It’s student’s responsibility to submit the letter to their program. Upon receipt, due date may be adjusted. Please contact your program provider to discuss your program payment schedule.
  • You must fill out and return the Study Abroad Agreement form to Hua Kao. Without this form, your Financial Aid application will be considered incomplete!

Visit our Financial Aid section for more information.

Tools for Budgeting and Planning for Study Abroad

5. Select Your Courses and Housing

Selecting Your Courses

During your program advising appointment, you will be given a course approval form (CAF).  You will write down the courses you plan to take abroad and be required to have your home college sign it and indicate the type of credit you will be receiving.  Please be sure to review the course approval and credit policies.  You will also be required to register for courses at the local university (direct-enroll and exchange programs only) or select courses via the program partner pre-departure portal or registration system.  All instructions to select your courses will be given to you by your program provider. Make sure you carefully review all information they provide. Be mindful that you will need to complete both these steps before completing your study abroad pre-departure requirements.

Housing Arrangements

Depending upon your program, you may have a variety of housing options including homestays, research centers, shared or private apartments,  or shared or private residence halls.  Short-term programs may house students in hostels, pensions, or hotels. Students participating on exchange programs may need to make their own independent housing arrangements and will have to complete the UIC Study Abroad Housing Waiver. If you do need to set up independent housing, your exchange program and the study abroad office will assist you by providing resources in locating housing.

Students participating on a partnership program will need to select one of the official housing options offered. Residing in the official housing from these programs reduces health and safety risks and is usually more cost effective. In extenuating circumstances on select programs, some exceptions may be made for students to make independent housing arrangements. In these cases, an independent housing waiver will also need to be completed. When reviewing program options, consider the housing arrangements offered and the role it may play in your cultural immersion and meeting your personal and academic goals!

6. Health, Safety, and Security Considerations

7. Set Up A Communication Plan

To read more about staying connected and communication abroad, visit our While Abroad page for more information.  The below information includes how to prepare before you leave.

Phones

It is the expectation that you will have a local phone or phone from your home country with international coverage while studying abroad.  Having access to a working phone provides important safety benefits and is helpful when navigating new environments.  Usually students either opt to purchase a local SIM card that can be inserted into an unlocked phone or utilize an international plan from your home country. If you choose to purchase a local SIM card, your program partner may assist you in making these arrangements when when you arrive on-site. Make sure your phone is unlocked before traveling abroad.  For students who will be studying abroad for a longer period of time, we recommend you choose the local SIM card option as it is far more reliable and cost effective.

Helpful Applications to Stay Connected

  • Facebook & Instagram – Share your experience abroad by posting, direct messaging, and going live!
  • WiiChat, Whatsapp, & GroupMe – Allows you to text, call, and video chat internationally for free when connected to WiFi. Most international locations use Whatsapp instead of SMS to communicate because it is cheaper.  WiiChat is most commonly used in Asia, specifically China, because of governmental restrictions.  You will find you will be connecting with both locals and your home friends and family on these applications.
  • Google Voice – If you set up your Google Voice account before you leave it will give you a U.S. phone number. You can call landlines and companies like your credit card company or health care professional in the U.S. for free from your computer.  You can also share the number with relatives and friends who may want to call and leave a message for you.  It is also helpful if you have relatives who do not have a cell phone or do not know how to use some of the phone applications for texting/video chatting internationally listed above.

Set Up A Communication Plan

Although you are going to want to stay connected with family and friends back home, you are going to want to try your best to be present in the moment, form new connections with locals, and focus on your own development abroad. Therefore, it is best to set up a clear plan with your loved ones to make sure you strike a balance between home and abroad.

Mode. Talk through what the best way to communicate with each of your family members and friends will be.  Is it text? phone calls? video chats? or a combination?

Frequency. How often do you plan to talk to them?  Will it be daily? weekly? monthly? Make sure you are aligned on expectations so your loved ones don’t worry if they haven’t heard from you.

Safety. Who is your emergency contact?  Make sure that this person is aware that they have been designated as your emergency contact and it is clear the best way to get in touch with them in the event of an emergency.

Whatever the plan is, it is helpful to have a general idea of how often you will be talking with your parents, guardians, friends, and other acquaintances back home.

8. Learn About Your Destination

You will receive a variety of pre-departure resources from the UIC Study Abroad Office and your study abroad program partner before you leave.  Be sure to read all these resources thoroughly to learn more about your study abroad destination.

9. Travel Planning Resources and Helpful Tips