Office of International Programs

Preparing for Study Abroad

Parents of Brown students who have studied abroad share the following advice, which will help you support your son or daughter during their abroad experience.

Calling Home

Before your student departs for his or her host county, contact your long distance phone company to inquire about international call options. Possibilities include the following:

  • Charge cards, which can be used by students abroad to call a single previously-approved number in the U.S., at the expense of the receiving line. 
  • Special arrangements--including disccounts--when calling a previously designated number abroad, and access to that company's operators abroad.

It's natural to want your student to call you immediately when they arrive in their host country. But students may not be able to use the phone as soon as they arrive in their residences. In some countries, they will need to make special arrangements, or adhere to established hours in order to call. Or they may simply forget, out of exhaustion or excitement.  Ask your student to contact you within a few days of their arrival. 


Before your student leaves the U.S., exchange $100-$150 into the local currency to cover minor expenses between the time of arrival and the opportunity to change larger sums at a bank.

Other than this small amount of local currency, it's usually best for students to carry the bulk of their funds in traveler's checks. Keep a list of the traveler's check numbers in the event the checks are lost or stolen. Check with your son or daughter's program to determine the best approach.

Most developed countries now have the same ATM networks (Cirrus, Plus) available in the U.S. See "Transfer of funds" below for more information. Students' expenses vary according to their personal habits. Be aware that the buying power is directly related to the strength of the dollar.

Transfer of Funds

It's almost inevitable that your son or daughter is going to need more money from you during their time abroad. In most developed countries, it is now possible to obtain local currency with a Visa or Mastercard, or with the card issued by your bank for ATM networks such as Cirrus, Plus, and NYCE.

Your bank should be able to provide you with a list of available locations in the countries your son or daughter will be visiting and tell you the applicable fees. Bank card withdrawals are debited (in dollars using the market exchange rate) from the bank account directly, while credit card withdrawals are charged against your card.

Service charges are usually minimal with bank cards, but considerably higher with credit cards. Holders of American Express cards may receive emergency cash drawn on their account, if necessary.


Students who need special prescription drugs should take along an adequate supply, along with written instructions from a physician in case of emergency. We suggest that you contact the nearest international health clinic to obtain information on any inoculations that may be required for the host country. For comprehensive information, please see the Centers for Disease Control.

Health Insurance

Adequate health and accident insurance must be carried by each student. Brown University Student Health insurance is considered adequate by the Office of International Programs (but it should be noted that there is not always a Student Health Clinic available overseas).

Students may be fully covered under a parent's policy, or they may wish to contract for insurance directly related to living abroad. Students and their families must decide what is adequate for them. Only a few policies arrange to pay the bill directly; most reimburse the user upon presentation of bills.

Students on Brown programs must provide OIP with the name of their carrier and their policy number. Students on Brown programs and Approved Brown programs are given a card describing the Travel Assistance Program which covers those students for emergency medical evacuation. If your student needs supplemental insurance, you can get additional information through Brown's Office of Insurance & Risk.


Students traveling abroad tend to overpack. You can help your son or daughter with the following ideas:

  • Students will often have to transport their luggage themselves. They should therefore pack lightly, and their luggage should be lightweight and sturdy. Check with the airlines to make sure that the luggage conforms to international size regulations.
  • Focus on comfort and necessities, being sure to pack comfortable walking shoes in particular. 
  • In most countries, people have far fewer clothes than the typical American student. There is no stigma attached to being seen repeatedly in the same outfit. Versatile clothing items and layering pieces help change an outfit, and make it flexible for varying weather.
  • Students will be able to find toiletries abroad; they should pack only as much as they need to get started. One exception to this rule concerns contact lenses. It may be advisable to take an adequate supply of lens solution and disposable lenses.
  • Pack a small calculator for currency exchange calculations (some phones do this), an international currency converter, and power cords for any electronics. 

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