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Before You Go

There is a lot to do before you go. We've tried to break it down into a list compiled by our staff and students who have experience traveling abroad. All VU programs have comprehensive pre-departure training, some of which is highlighted below.

Please note any costs associated with some of these items and add it to your budget.


If you are going to be studying abroad outside of the US, you will need a current passport. If you already have a passport, make sure to check the expiration date and renew it if it will expire within 6 months of your return date to the US. To apply for a passport, visit the US State Department for all forms, fees, and instructions.


If you are studying outside of the US, check to see if the country you’ll be in requires a visa. Some countries allow you to pay for it upon arrival while others require it to be completed prior to travel.

International Insurance

It is recommended by Vanguard that all students studying abroad have adequate international insurance during their time out of the US. Check with your specific program and ask if this is included in your fees. If not, you have the option of purchasing it through Vanguard if desired.

STEP Enrollment

It is encouraged to document your travel with the US State Department in case of an emergency. By enrolling, you give the State Department information about when and where you will be so they can better assist you in case of an emergency. If visiting multiple cities/countries, we suggest a separate entry for each. If you are studying abroad with a Vanguard group, this will be done for you. If you are doing a separate program, you can complete the quick registration online.

International Student Card

The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) gives you access to discounts and services at home and around the world. Check what’s available near the location you’re traveling to, including discounts for local restaurants, cinemas, and shops. The ISIC card is a real student lifestyle card. Keep it in your pocket wherever you go—it will come in handy time and time again. Any full-time high school, college, or university student 12 years old and over is eligible for an ISIC card.

Exchange Rates

To check out how far your dollar will go, check out the international exchange rates. Please note rates change on a daily basis.

Travel Tips

The internet is full of amazing travel blogs. Search for one in the region you will study abroad in to gather tips and tricks for that area. It is even better when you can find someone who has blogged about your program!

Travel Advisory

We encourage all travelers to check the US State Department's travel advisories prior to travel. Alerts range from Level 1-4 and can provide specific travel information should there be any concerns or locations not advised to travel to.

While You're Abroad

Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity that is to be fully enjoyed. With that, it’s important to remember you are in a different city or country and being aware of your surroundings is essential for your own safety & security.

Living Abroad

  • Know where your local police department, hospitals and clinics are when you arrive (or research before) and the phone numbers. Not all nations use the 9-1-1 system but they mostly likely have an equivalent. You need to know it.
  • Ask your host about the police – police and other officials are not the most trusted in every country.
  • Make sure you have your local address and host phone number on you in case you get lost.
  • Have a phone with you? Keep it charged!!
  • Be a learner of the culture you are in — ask questions, learn the language and try the food.
  • Pay attention of your surroundings, especially when walking around a new city or on public transportation. Avoid demonstrations or rallies.
  • Learn the local laws of the city you are in. Not all things that are legal in the US are legal in other countries.
  • Be careful when buying souvenirs to take home — make sure they are not made from any banned substances and check with your host about antiques. It must clear customs.

Travel Safety

  • Keep valuables in front pockets — get in the habit of not using back pockets.
  • If you have a backpack/purse, put it on your lap in front of you when using public transportation.
  • Make sure there is a copy of your passport at home and on record with VU.
  • Use appropriate precautions for common health concerns (ie: Malaria medication and bug spray for Africa).
  • Unless locked up with your host, keep your passport on you — there are several types of holders you can buy online (belt, around the neck, scarf).
  • Put all medication in your carry on – never pack it in a checked bag. Keep medication in the original prescription bottle with your name, doctor, etc. on it.
  • Plan ahead with your medications — make sure you have enough supply of your medication to last you through your whole time abroad.
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry at any one time. Many locations have ATMs available and often the international charge your bank will put on your account is cheaper than the charge for exchanging currencies.
  • Let your bank or credit card companies know when and where you’ll be so they don’t block your account or mark it as fraud. Have your card info and phone numbers of the bank/cc company written down in case they are stolen.
  • Do not buy any drugs or controlled substances as some nations have very harsh penalties against drug use.
  • There are no cell phones, pictures or videos allowed in security or customs areas at any airport. Ensure all devises are in your bag when going through.

Returning Home and Moving Forward

Coming home from studying abroad for any amount of time can be an adjustment. There are so many emotions the you may go through as you process not only your experience away, but also how to adjust back to “normal” life, and even more difficult, how to share what you experienced and how you have changed with others. Vanguard University wants to walk with you through it all — and sometimes it’s a bit messy.

Adjustment & Integration

Our office does our best to connect with you within a few days of you returning home. We will offer some suggestions to continue processing in and ways to ease the transition back home. The semester you return to campus, VU will hold a debrief meeting that you are encouraged to participate in. Depending on the time of year you were studying abroad, you could have up to a nine month period of being off campus. The transition back to campus life and lecture styles can sometimes be challenging.

Lessons from Abroad

This is a one day conference that is put on as a collaboration of several Southern California schools. During the day, you’ll be able to attend sessions that cover topics such as transitioning home, how to include your experience on your resume, and how to leverage studying abroad in interviews for internships and jobs. Although optional, the registration fee is covered within the application fee – so it’s already paid for.

Unpacked Parties

Each semester, our office will host Unpacked Parties which offer you an opportunity to share where you went, what you experienced and how the time impacted your education and faith. A casual event, students love hearing from their peers and it is a great way to encourage your friends to go!

Peer Ambassadors

Additionally, in this debrief, you'll get a chance to connect with other Vanguard students that just went through a similar experience. Upon returning, you will have the opportunity to help future study abroad participants by promoting and recruiting for your program and helping their processing and adjustment back to Vanguard's campus.

Parent Connection

Parents and family members play a vital role in a student choosing to study abroad. From program length to city or country choice, there is a lot that not only impacts the student and their educational experience, but the family unit as a whole. With that, we want to provide some information to commonly asked questions we recieve from parents.

Safety & Security

Vanguard has established policies, procedures and processes surrounding student travel, domestic and international. All trips and programs are reviewed and approved through various areas of the campus including our Risk Management Committee.

If your student is accepted to study abroad, they will be provided with information for their parent/family members from the GEO office including these processes. In addition, the GEO office holds a 24/7 on call phone in case of emergencies while students are studying offsite.


Should parents or family members visit their student while they are abroad, we encourage it is done at the end of their time so the student can excel in guiding parents or family members around their 'home' while they've been gone and maximize the experience to its fullest. Please check with program specific requirements for visitors prior to booking travel.

Questions & Answers

We anticipate parents and family members will have just as many questions about studying abroad as their student. We welcome open conversations with our staff members, however, we do require that the initial meeting with a student be on their own with GEO staff.

This serves several purposes, the most important of those is that we see the entire process of studying abroad as an opportunity to train and guide. When students are able to navigate something new, have conversations with staff members and seek answers out on their own, it begins to build the confidence needed while studying abroad. The student is the one studying abroad and we want to ensure they are driving the process from the start.

Study Abroad Programs

Interested in studying abroad?

Make an account using your Vanguard email with Via TRM to get more information and apply!