Before You Leave

Health Issues

Vaccines, Health Insurance, and Medicine abroad.


Many countries in South America, Asia, and Africa require proof of immunizations in order to enter the country. Some of these immunizations can be done in one day, while others are done as a series over several weeks. The Longest Student Health Center provides vaccinations as well as health care information for the international traveler. If you do not know the requirements of your destination, visit the Center for Disease Control’s travel site for more information.

Health Insurance

Mississippi State University requires that ALL students studying abroad purchase sufficient health insurance for their stay abroad. This inexpensive insurance is designed to assist with specific needs that can develop while in another country. Even if you already have health insurance, additional coverage is important to cover situations that may not be covered by a domestic carrier.

All MSU administered programs, and many external providers include international health insurance as part of the program fees. However, if insurance is not already offered to you, it is important that you purchase international health insurance before you leave the United States. Many insurance policies may reimburse you for medical expenses that accrued abroad but do not cover medical evacuation and repatriation (see definitions below). These two types of coverage are very important to have as they can be the most expensive medical costs accrued abroad.

Mississippi State University requires all students studying abroad to obtain insurance coverage that (at the minimum) meets the following:

  • Accident coverage: This coverage should be at least $50,000
  • Health/Illness coverage: If you have a chronic condition, be sure to check on coverage for pre-existing conditions. Coverage should be sufficient to cover an extended hospital stay. This coverage should be at least $50,000
  • Repatriation: In the event of death, this benefit pays for remains to be transported home. This coverage should be at least $50,000
  • Emergency Evacuation: This benefit pays for you to be airlifted in a medically equipped critical care, helicopter or plane to the closest medical facility that is equipped to handle your care. This coverage should be at least $125,000

The Office of Study Abroad has contracted with Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) which provides comprehensive study abroad insurance coverage to students, including unlimited medical evacuation, and repatriation benefits. Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI), a leader in study abroad insurance. The cost is $47.25/month and provides comprehensive coverage for accidents, sicknesses, emergency medical/security evacuation and 24/7 phone and e-mail assistance while you are abroad. Please see the CISI Insurance section below for more information about CISI and enrollment information.

Remember that your insurance will not help you if you do not have the information with you. While abroad, students should keep names, phone numbers, and policy numbers in a secure place.


If you are traveling with prescription drugs, keep them in their original pharmacy containers and carry copies of prescriptions. Ask your doctor for the generic name of any drug you are taking in case you need to replace a prescription. Do not forget the prescription for your eyeglasses and contacts. Consider taking the entire amount of prescription drugs that you will need while abroad. Pack a one-month supply in your carry-on, and place the remainder in your stowed luggage.

If you are diabetic or need disposable syringes for any other medical condition, you may consider taking a supply that will last you until you return. This may not be necessary or allowed in all countries. Try to review the regulations and norms of your host country before departure.

Many students will experience some form of mild traveler’s diarrhea while abroad. You may want to ask your doctor to recommend an anti-diarrhea medication to take with you until you adjust to your host country’s food and water.

Before you leave, get physical, dental, and vision checkups and make sure your prescriptions are up-to-date.

CISI Insurance

Mississippi State's customized study abroad insurance plan.

Mississippi State University has negotiated a customized study abroad insurance plan and rate for all MSU students, faculty and staff, Policy # GLM N10893124. The plan is through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI), a leader in study abroad insurance. The cost is $47.25/month and provides comprehensive coverage for accidents, sicknesses, emergency medical/security evacuation and 24/7 phone and e-mail assistance while you are abroad. All faculty-led programs include this cost in the program fee. Insurance is purchased by the Office of Study Abroad on behalf of faculty-led program participants through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI).

Other affiliated programs, including exchange and direct-enroll programs, do not include sufficient health insurance in their program fee. Therefore, students studying abroad with these programs may need to purchase additional coverage

CISI's Team Assist

Team Assist is available to assist students when they are traveling abroad and need help accessing health care services. Services include translation, provider referral, emergency medical evacuation, emergency medical reunion services, medical monitoring, guarantee of payments, and prescription drug replacement.

All services must be arranged through the Assistance Provider. Team Assist provides services and expenses are paid up to the amount shown on the Schedule of Benefits. If you require Team Assist assistance, your ID number is your policy number. In the U.S., call (855) 327-1411, worldwide call (01-312) 935-1703 (collect calls accepted) or e-mail

Insurance Enrollment

If you are participating in a non-Faculty Led program and wish to enroll in MSU's coverage through CISI please contact for the CISI Self-Enrollment insurance link. Enrollment with your credit card is quick and easy and your personalized insurance materials are e-mailed directly to you for printing, sharing with parents/advisors/authorities and saving for your future reference! Please contact OSA today for the CISI Self-Enrollment insurance link (Please note: you must enroll at least 7 days before you depart the U.S.).

Money Matters

How to handle your money and finances while abroad.

It is highly recommended to divide your money into several different funds while abroad. It is wise to have a least 2-3 of the following options: cash, debit cards, and credit cards. While you should never carry large sums of cash, it is prudent to have some in case your credit/debit card does not work initially overseas. You can exchange this money in the airport in order to make necessary phone calls, pay for a taxi, etc.

Debit cards are now widely used overseas and you should not have a problem accessing an ATM. Credit cards are widely acceptable in Europe and in most nice restaurants and shopping centers elsewhere. Please consider taking at least one form of plastic. Debit and credit cards can be invaluable during an emergency.

Before leaving, contact your bank to let them know where you will be traveling and for how long. Your bank may assume your card has been stolen and block access if they do not know you are abroad. You may want to have a credit or debit card linked to a separate account that is only to be used for emergencies. Also, consider giving a parent or relative access to your bank account. If something goes wrong with your account, it will be easier for them to sort things out with the bank in person than for you to try to reach your bank by phone or email—especially if you are in a different time zone.

Although a debit card often offers the best exchange rate, cash is very important in many places of the world for day-to-day transactions. You should not expect to be able to use ‘plastic’ for purchases in stores and restaurants everywhere as you can in the United States.

Remember not to keep all of your cash and cards in the same bag. If your bag is lost or stolen, you could lose everything. Consider dispersing your money through your belongings, and you might consider buying a money belt when carrying large amounts of cash. Remember to be sensible and cautious. Traveling abroad is not unsafe or more dangerous than traveling many places within the United States.

In case of emergency and you need money fast, MoneyGram and WesternUnion allow you to transfer money to locations across the globe instantly—for a fee. Since this is normally more expensive, do not do this unless it is absolutely necessary.

Exchange rates

To check the value of the United States Dollar (USD) in any country, you may use an online currency exchange calculator.

Exchange rates change constantly, and you should check the rate often. ATMs usually charge higher fees when used internationally, but they still often offer the best exchange rate. Do not exchange money with unauthorized dealers in the street. Banks and foreign exchange shops will give you a better rate than hotels, restaurants, or shops. If you are going to be abroad for an extended period of time, you may want to consider opening a bank account in that country.

Air Transportation

Finding affordable airfare and other information for air travel.


You should shop around for the best deals on airfare. Students can save a lot of money on airfare if they look for deals early and often. Many airlines reserve a certain number of student tickets on each flight.

Other Popular Search Engines:

Tips on getting a cheap flight:

  1. Book early. Don’t wait until the week before or even two weeks before you leave to get your flight!
  2. Be flexible with your travel dates. If you don’t have a determined date to arrive, check different days.
  3. If you can easily drive to another airport, don’t limit your options. Try seeing if the rate changes by flying out of Atlanta, Memphis, Jackson, or somewhere near your hometown.
  4. Avoid travelling on weekends and holidays. You can usually get a cheaper flight midweek.
  5. It is much cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket than to buy two one-way tickets! If you are not sure when you are returning, invest in an open ticket. It is cheaper than buying two one-way tickets. Furthermore, in order to enter many countries, you must show proof that you have already purchased a return flight or that you will be continuing your travel elsewhere.


For an updated list of prohibited items and travel regulations, it is highly recommended that you visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website "For Travelers".

If you decide to lock your bags, invest in TSA locks that can be opened easily by airport staff with a master key. If you do not use these locks, they may break your lock to gain access to your bags.

Before heading to the airport, call your airline or check their website to confirm your flight time. Allow two hours to check in before domestic flights and three hours for international flights. If you have an e-ticket, take the confirmation number or e-ticket locater with you to the airport.

A few tips for the airport…Don’t leave your baggage unattended. Don’t accept packages from strangers. Have your boarding pass and passport out before you go through security. Wear shoes that can be taken off easily. Don’t wear a belt unless you want to take it on and off repeatedly to pass through security.

All Things Electronic

Using electronics, computers, phones, and making international calls while abroad.


Be aware that the voltage is different in the U.S. than in most places in the world. Example: U.S. 110v, Europe 220v. Other countries have = different outlets and different frequencies. Research the voltage, outlet, and frequency of your host country before you leave.

It is often cheaper to buy adapters and converters online in the U.S. than to buy them in your destination country. Plan to purchase a hairdryer and other similar products in your host country. Keep in mind that adapters do not convert electricity. They only change the plug to fit the foreign wall outlet. A converter is needed in order to convert the electricity.


If you decide to take your laptop abroad, you should know that wireless Internet is not as prevalent and accessible in all parts of the world and your computer may not be as useful as you think. That being said, if you take your laptop abroad, make sure you have the right hardware. Most laptops have built-in converter that will take care of the voltage difference, but some do not! Consult the manufacturer of your laptop before you leave to see if you need a converter. In addition to the converter, most computers will need a basic adapter to change the plug.

Lock it up. If you are going to be using a computer in your dorm, university, or in a neighborhood café, consider purchasing a laptop lock cable. This is an inexpensive way to protect your computer from theft.


Most programs will suggest a phone provider to students that will both rent a phone and provide phone service. Prices vary depending on the country and services provided. Some students may have a cell phone capable of working overseas and may wish to buy or rent a SIM card from an overseas provider instead of renting the complete phone. If you are studying abroad for a very short period, you should ask your U.S. provider the cost of calls while roaming in another country. If your program does not provide any cell phone service, you may decide to rent one from Cellhire or a similar phone rental company.

To make calls home to the United States from your host country, we recommend you look into free online methods such as Skype, iChat, MSN Messenger, etc. With these services, you are able to video chat with your parents and friends free of charge.

If you intend to travel with your U.S. smart phone, there are many free or inexpensive apps that you can use with a WiFi connection to call, text, or voice message friends and family in the U.S. These apps include, but are not limited to, Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat. etc.


To call home from a cell phone or landline, you must know how to dial internationally. The standard code is listed below; however, this code varies in some countries. You should consult for international country codes and exit codes and to learn how to dial out.

00 + 1 + 662 + 325-8929
standard international code + area code + 7-digit phone number


How to pack and what to pack for your trip abroad.


Remember that space is limited and you will be charged if you take too many bags or if they are overweight (check your airline’s website for the weight and size limits). Most airlines now charge to check a second bag. Since you will be hauling your heavy luggage through airports and train stations, it is better to underpack than to overpack.

You can buy shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, and hairdryers in your host country. Besides, by packing light, you will be able to bring back all kinds of treasures that you will find in your host country. Just remember a general rule known by many travelers: "Pack everything you think you will need, then take out fifty percent."

All suitcases should have wheels, and if you are planning to travel extensively through your host country or continent, you should invest in an internal frame hiking pack. Before you leave, mark your bags on the inside and outside with your name and contact information in case your bags make it on the wrong plane. Once you have packed, pick up your luggage and take a walk around the block. If you can’t do that, you need to invest in better luggage or take out some of the weight. YOU will be carrying everything without help.

Your clothes should be machine-washable and should not require a dryer since the accepted practice in many countries is to hang-dry clothing. Also, keep in mind that students in most countries dress more formally than Americans (fewer t-shirts and tennis shoes). Do research on fashion trends in the country that you will be visiting.

Try to fit in, but most importantly, respect the customs of the country that you will be visiting. It is important to respect the customs even if you don't agree with them. If you are visiting a church in Europe, men should not wear shorts, and women should keep their knees and shoulders covered. Women, while you would not consider your shorts to be too short to walk around MSU’s campus, they may send the wrong message in another country.

Women, to make your lives easier, this website was created to help you travel: JourneyWoman.

RESPECT. This is the most important word to remember when traveling abroad. Although the culture may be different than what you are accustomed to, YOU are the visitor in their country, so you must be respectful of their practices. A well-known phrase to keep in mind is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Following these rules (and looking less like a tourist) will help to keep you safe and will prevent unwanted attention.

Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes, a battery-operated alarm clock, a towel, and at least one nice outfit. In your carry-on, pack an extra change of clothes, toiletries (that meet airport guidelines), passport, airline ticket, money (but not everything you have), and all important names and phone numbers—both in the U.S. and in your host country.


Before leaving, make copies of all important documents and leave them with your parents or with a trusted friend. You should leave copies of your passport, birth certificate, visa, plane ticket, rail passes, prescriptions, bank account information, credit card numbers, international health insurance, and overall itinerary. It is recommended that you make electronic copies so that you may also access them from your email in case of an emergency.

You should keep a list of important names and numbers with this information. (MSU Office of Study Abroad, MSU Campus Police, parents’ work and home numbers, etc.) Take your local doctor and dentist’s information in case a medical emergency arises.


Register yourself with the U.S. Department of State's STEP program.

STEP Registration

Register yourself with the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The U.S. Embassy cannot help you during an emergency if they do not know where you are. This free service is for U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad. Benefits of enrolling in STEP:

  • Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
  • Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, of family emergency.
  • Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.