Researching your placement

In the lead up to you departing for your time abroad you will have no doubt heard us tell you time and again how important it is to research your placement.  Below are a number of topics for you to consider and resources to help you conduct your research, if there is anything you think we have missed please email us.

It is your responsibility to find accommodation for the duration of your time abroad. Most exchange partners will provide you with full information on how to apply for university accommodation but you must ensure you follow their procedures and deadline dates.  

It is worth noting that at our exchange partners around the world (and similarly for inbound study abroad students to Exeter) student accommodation is limited and you should not assume that you will be allocated a room in halls at your host university.  We recommend that you research thoroughly the private accommodation options available to you as well as apply for student accommodation.  

It is very common for students to rent private accommodation and to secure this once they arrive in country rather than before.  It makes things easier if you go out early and book yourself in to a hostel or hotel while you look for your private accommodation, check the noticeboards and student forums at your host university to find flat shares and other accommodation options. Be sure to read the contract carefully, including the small print, and question anything you are unsure of. If you pay a deposit get a receipt and never sign a contract or pay any deposit or advance on rent before you have seen the property.

Speak to Exeter students who have returned from Study Abroad placements at your host institution chances are they will have some great hints and tips for you on how to find accommodation.  The Outbound Study Abroad team can help put you in touch with returning students.

Birth certificate

It is advisable to take the original (and a copy) of your full birth certificate with you. Do not part with the original. Some authorities require a certified translation of this document. Students going to France should ensure that they hold a certified translation of their full birth certificate.

Passport

It might seem obvious, but please check your passport is valid with an expiry date of at least 6 months beyond the end of your year/semester abroad. If your passport is near its expiry date we recommend that you apply for a new one in plenty of time. As always when travelling abroad, it is advisable to keep a copy of your passport at home with other copies of documents and take a spare copy with you but don’t keep it in the same place as your passport.

Photographs

Always take plenty of passport sized photographs for use abroad on official cards (student IDs, hostel cards etc.)

Whether your placement will be in Europe or further a field it is important and valuable to research the culture, customs and etiquette of your host country.  Being aware of the customs and etiquette of your host country will help you integrate and avoid social faux pas.  

  • Did you know that giving a clock as a gift is considered impolite in Japan?  
  • Did you know that French people don't really hug, in fact there isn't even a French word for hug?  
  • Depending on your location in Canada a 'thumbs up' gesture can mean okay or obscenity
  • Wearing a mask in Denmark can get you arrested
  • In Korea a tip is considered an insult, accepting tips is akin to begging.

When you consider the subtle social customs and etiquette here in the UK it makes sense to ensure you have a good knowledge of the basics.  thirdyearabroad.com have country guides written by students who have experienced a broad range of customs from across the world, travel guides often contain comprehensive information on etiquette, speak to theInternational Office or your Study Abroad Coordinator who can put you in contact with returning University of Exeter students.

It is important to check your Exeter e-mail regularly.  Some students have experienced problems accessing their Exehub whilst abroad so we recommend you setup email forwarding from your Exeter email to a personal email account, information can be found here.   You must inform the university of any change of address, you can do this via the student portal. You should also feel free to contact your Exeter Study Abroad Co-ordinator if you encounter any problems. The International Office and your Study Abroad Co-ordinator will help and support you as much as possible while you are abroad, provided we are made aware of any problems. In line with the Data Protection Act (1998) no member of staff at the University of Exeter is able to discuss details of any student with a third party (including parents). It is therefore your responsibility to contact your Study Abroad Co-ordinator and/or the International Office regarding any significant change in circumstances or serious difficulty you encounter. If you are happy for the University to discuss any issues/problems with your parents you should inform the University. You may also want to consider making arrangements such as giving power of attorney to a parent/guardian which might facilitate matters while you are away, eg dealing with finances.

Please ensure that you register on-line with IT Services so that your Exeter e-mail address is activated while you are abroad as this is the ONLY address we will use to contact you with updates throughout the year. This can be done using the IT account activation webpage. You should also check the International Office website at regular intervals for latest news.

Before going abroad to an EU country you must obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which is availableonline. For more detailed information see the leaflet Health Advice for Travellers which is available from any Post Office or visit the Department of Health website.

Insurance:

You must arrange comprehensive health and travel insurance before you depart, if you are attending an institution outside of Europe it is very likely that your host university will expect you to take out their insurance policy, alternatively the University of Exeter offers a comprehensive policy.

Inoculations and vaccinations:

You should ensure that your inoculations and vaccinations are up-to-date and we recommend that you are vaccinated against Meningitis C and MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella).

Prescriptions and other medicines:

If you are prescribed or take any regular medication for an ongoing health condition please ensure you have access to a regular supply for the entire period of study abroad as medications, trade names and dosage levels may vary. Make sure that you label medication and keep it in containers that clearly show the prescription. If you need to take a large amount of medication it is advisable to ask your doctor to provide you with a diagnosis/prescription describing the medicine. It sounds obvious, but students who wear glasses or contact lenses should take a spare pair and plenty of contact solution if needed.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs):

Lack of adequate precaution means you could be at risk. If you suspect you have contracted an STD see a doctor immediately.

AIDS:

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) seems to have dropped out of the news but it has been reported in over 125 countries.  It is thought to be more widespread and there is still no vaccine. As with most situations, use your common sense and follow these simple guidelines:

  • Avoid unprotected sex
  • Don't use illicit injectable drugs
  • Don't share hypodermic needles
  • Don't use or touch contaminated, unsterilised syringes or needles
  • Don't get a tattoo

It is your responsibility to stay safe.

Emotional health:

This really should not come at the end of the list because it is just as important as the previous health issues. New surroundings, new language and new people all affect our means of communicating. Homesickness is another common emotional reaction and should not be dismissed as insignificant - many students feel like a fish out of water at first. Being aware of what is happening to you is the first step towards coping. Talking things through also helps, so keep in contact with friends and family and work hard to create a new support network.

Culture shock:

Living in an environment which is culturally different from what you are used to at home is exciting, but it can also be disorientating and may make you feel emotionally and even physically unwell at times. This experience is called "culture shock". Feelings of culture shock are experienced by many people as they get used to living in a new cultural environment. Some typical causes of culture shock are differences in: personal freedom, privacy, accommodation, relationships between people, the way people dress and act in public, and learning and teaching styles.

Being able to share experiences with friends can help you cope with culture shock so for health reasons make sure you spend at least some time socialising, even if you are very busy with your studies. Your host university can help you find out about social activities during your time abroad where you can have fun and meet like-minded people.  If you think you are experiencing culture shock ask for help.  Your hosts, your Exeter co-ordinator, and the International Office will be able to help you.

If you identify as LGBTQ+ we would recommend you research LGBTQ+ issues at your country of destination, for example (please note that this is not an exhaustive list): homophobic violence, trans rights, gender recognition, and marriage laws.  In some countries the law differs from state to state, as in the United States of America so do be aware of this when conducting your research.

Check if the university you are interested in studying at has an LGBTQ+ society that you can join and/or does the university have suitable support services available that you can self-refer to if required?  

A successful study abroad experience, where you can access the same level of learning that you do at home will depend largely on making preparations and planning ahead so that your disability-related support needs can be met whilst you are abroad.

Seeking support

The information that follows may benefit all students.  Considering these issues and proactive planning will help to ensure a successful time abroad.  For those with a specific disability or health issue it is recommended that you talk to the following people before you make a decision or application about where you study abroad.

AccessAbility

If you haven't already registered with AccessAbility and set up an Individual Learning Plan it is highly recommended that you do so.  You will be able to meet an adviser, discuss and confirm support and AccessAbility can liaise with your department and support service abroad where appropriate.

Study Abroad Coordinator in your College

If you decide to tell your study abroad coordinator at Exeter or at the host University about your issues you may want to discuss how information will be kept confidential, what procedures are in place if information needs to be shared, and what if any information will be shared with the partner institution?

You may wish to discuss your preferences or any arrangements you have in place should you become unwell whilst abroad.  Some people may choose to write an advanced directive - a document that states your personal preferences in a crisis situation.

If you choose not to disclose then it may be helpful to consider if you wish to discuss in more general terms what will happen or any contingency plans or wishes should a crisis occur re. physical health.  Write down your preferences or plans and give them to somebody that you will have contact with whilst abroad e.g. a close family member or friends.

Your health care provider/GP

It is recommended that you inform your health care provider/GP of your plan to study abroad and to discuss your specific disability/health and support needs including medication and strategies for managing your health whilst away from home and in another country.

Specific issues to consider

Support Services

The more you can prepare and find out in advance and the better your support networks are the easier it may feel to settle in.  Here are some ideas about the kinds of questions or issues that you might like to take into account before you go:

  • Consider the support services you have in place in the UK; what support service do you need abroad?
  • Are there any support networks available to you overseas?
  • Are the same support services available to you in the UK available in the country where you might go to study?
  • If not, what support can you access or put in place that will enable you to get your support needs met?
  • Can you manage without the usual support networks?
  • What strategies can you put in place?

Health and medical services

Consider the medical and health services and needs that you have.

  • What services are available in relation to health whilst abroad?
  • Are they the same as the ones at home?
  • If not then what kind or health service can you get?
  • How will you access it?
  • Will your health insurance cover costs of medical treatment, medication, therapy or other health related needs?
  • What specifically will your insurance cover (e.g. only emergency appointments)?
  • If you make a claim on your insurance, how do you recover the money?
  • Do you have to pay for treatment up front?
  • Will you be able to obtain the same medication abroad?
  • How do you get a prescription?
  • Are there any services which speak your language at your study placement?
  • If you want to see your GP at home (when you visit home) how will you access them?
  • Can you make appointments in advance e.g. during holiday times to see your doctor at home?
  • Can you call your GP from abroad?
  • How would this be arranged?
  • How will you get repeat prescriptions whilst on your placement?
  • You may want to think about learning any terminology used to describe your disability/health condition or medication you may require (prior to going abroad) in the country you will be studying.
  • You may want to consider taking a translated letter or medical report that describes your disability/condition and health needs
  • Who could you ask to provide such a letter or report?
  • Are there any health services available in your first language whilst on your placement?
  • If not will there be someone to translate?
  • What about your emotional support needs?  How can these be met e.g. is there any counselling on offer?

Medication

Consider any needs you may have in relation to medication.

  • You need to check if your medication is available abroad and who could prescribe it - your home GP or a GP in the country where you are going?
  • You may need to consult your doctor about the availability of medication abroad or you might want to consider taking enough with you.
  • Do you need a letter for customs regarding any medications you may be carrying back and forth?
  • If the same medication is not available you may need to consider changing your prescription before you go, giving yourself enough time to ensure it is effective and your condition is stable before travelling.
  • Will there be a pharmacy where you can obtain your medication close to where you are living?
  • What happens if you run out of medication or if your medication needs to be changed?
  • How will you pay for medication abroad and what is the cost?
  • Check that there aren't any other medications that you may need to take whilst away e.g. malaria pills that could interfere with your current medication and if so ask you doctor about managing this.  Again leave plenty of time to arrange this.

Accommodation and travel

Consider any needs that you might have in relation to accommodation and travel.

  • Do you have any specific needs regarding accommodation?
  • What are your support needs (if any) in relation to accommodation?
  • Doe the host university provide accommodation?
  • If so what do you need to do to arrange it and what are the deadlines by which you need to apply for it?
  • How will you go about arranging accommodation if it is not available through the university?
  • Will transport be as available and accessible as at home?

Legal issues

Consider if there are any legal issues you need to clarify.

  • What is the policy for staff at your host university regarding confidentiality about your disability?
  • Will specific information regarding your disability be shared only on a 'need-to-know' basis or when it's strictly medically necessary?
  • Who will be able to access your disability information and why?
  • What privacy protections apply abroad?

Academic differences

Consider any needs you may have in relation to your academic studies.

  • Is the physical environment (eg classroom setting) different from what you are used to at home? Eg crowded, noisy, accessible, hearing looped.
  • If so how will you cope with this? What, if anything can your host university do to support you?
  • Are assessments and coursework going to be different and if so in what way? Eg lots of presentations when this is an area you find difficult.
  • How will you prepare for or cope with these differences?
  • Are there general cultural differences that you should be aware of that may impact your disability/condition?
  • How do you go about setting up exams provision?

Support networks

Consider your needs in relation to gaining access to or establishing support networks. Maintaining sources of support will be vital, particularly in the initial stages of your time abroad. It is vital to think about your sources of support in advance, even if you think you won't need it. Most people going to a new country will experience some feelings of stress and isolation.

It may be helpful to contact peers who are already abroad or have now returned and might be able to provide you with information and insights into your time abroad/the place you would like to study. They may also be able to give you insight into cultural differences, available services/support groups locally, and advice to help you prepare for what to expect overseas.

Think about your support structures at home and abroad.  

  • Who are the people you can contact?
  • How will you contact them and stay in touch?
  • Will you have access to a phone and/or email?
  • Will you be able to use your mobile phone abroad?
  • Who can you contact in an emergency?
  • Who can you rely on for support?
  • Who can you talk to if you are worried?
  • Who can you contact in a crisis?
  • Is there any other support you might like and how might you get this?

A risk assessment for your study placement needs to be completed and submitted prior to undertaking any international study placement.  If anything changes whilst you are on placement you must contact the Study Abroad team at outbound@exeter.ac.uk.

Please see guidance for completing the international risk assessment for study placements‌ before submitting your risk assessment.

Check before you leave:

Embassies and Consulates are an excellent source of country-specific information including safety, security, crime medical facilities and traffic safety.

General safety:

It seems obvious, but please remember that not all things are the same as at home. Before you leave you should attend any briefing sessions organised by your College and/or the International Office.

You can overcome most problems with flexibility and common sense. Making yourself aware of your immediate area when you arrive will help you. You should attend orientation sessions at your host institution, which, as well as providing you with important information, are also an excellent way to meet other new students.

Key hazards (something with the power to do harm) are:

  • transport
  • accidental injury (eg from handling heavy items, sharp objects, falls)
  • fire
  • lone-working

Risks (the likelihood of harm occurring) can be reduced by:

  • road and vehicle safety awareness, forward journey planning
  • wearing protective clothing/equipment (eg hand or eye protection)/good quality footwear
  • awareness of procedures for obtaining first aid and calling the emergency services
  • regular communication with your Exeter co-ordinator, colleagues and family (mobile phone calls and texts, email)

Theft:

Be responsible for yourself. Only take essential items with you. Do not keep your valuables on windowsills.  Be careful when considering inviting new acquaintances home. Don't forget your insurance documents.

Alcohol:

You should never feel pressured into drinking. Check the legal drinking age in your host country. Again, be aware of your surroundings and the people you are with and how you are going to get home safely.

Gender issues:

Women travelling alone should always be aware and observant and the following tips may help when faced with an uncomfortable situation:

  • Do not be alone with a stranger. This includes anyone in your residence - ask for their identification if you are unsure.
  • If you find yourself in a difficult situation remove yourself as quickly as possible.
  • Turn the conversation around by asking some questions. Be in control by initiating rather than reacting to events.
  • If this fails, tell the other person very directly to stop whatever is bothering you. Be specific, be calm and be serious.
  • Firmly say "no" to any unwanted invitation and give address information only to people who can be trusted. Be cautious until you can be confident.
  • Stay in public areas.

Sexual Harassment is unacceptable wherever you are. If you find yourself in such a situation please seek help from your host university to determine a course of action.

If there is a serious issue with your placement, if you experience bulling or racism do not be afraid to raise it with your mentor or a representative at your host university.  In addition you can also contact the Outbound Study Abroad Team, a University of Exeter Harassment Adviser or you can also contact the Guild Advice Unit.

It is always better to try and resolve any issues of harassment and bullying informally if possible (although there may be some incidents which are so serious that it would not be appropriate to resolve things informally).  If possible go and talk to the person concerned, tell them that their behaviour is causing offence and ask them to stop.  Often speaking with the person about their behaviour can bring the situation to an end.  Sometimes people do not realise that their behaviour is upsetting and explaining this to them can be enough to make them rethink their actions.  It is best to approach the person at the earliest opportunity to prevent the behaviour escalating.

It may be helpful to have a note of incidents including times and dates so that you can give examples of the behaviour that may have caused offence.

If you will be studying outside of the European Union (including Turkey) you will almost certainly be required to obtain the appropriate visa or permit to allow you to study as an international student.  Please note that the Study Abroad team is not qualified to offer visa advice.  Below you will find links to the relevant embassies, these will form the basis of your visa research.  Please be aware that immigration legislation changes frequently and without warning, so please check the relevant embassy and immigration website for the most up to date information.

You should be aware that taking the necessary steps to acquire your visa is your own responsibility and you may incur costs for example: TB blood tests in order to obtain your visa.  

If your visa is refused you will be responsible for any costs incurred. 

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