Living Abroad

Educational Systems

Difference in Education & Student Services
(© 2006, Council for International Education)

"Most international universities operate under an education philosophy that is different from that of the U.S. Generally, students are expected to be much more independent and more actively involved in the education process. The bulk of the learning process takes place outside the classroom through reading, research, and writing. The class lecture is designed to give you the framework necessary to explore the subject on your own.

While you are expected to do extensive work outside the classroom there are few, if any, of the mechanisms used in the U.S. to ensure that you are doing the work (i.e. required class attendance, quizzes, tests, required homework and/or papers). The professor or faculty member is not expected to 'make' you learn. The assumption is that you are there by free choice and that you will do what is necessary to learn the required materials. Your semester/year grade may be based entirely on a comprehensive final exam with oral and written components, or on a final paper. Be prepared. This system requires self discipline and no one except you will monitor your progress."

This system can lead you to a false sense of security. Students have returned to the U.S. talking about the 'easy' classes only to find that they received grades at or below a 'C'.

Remember that for transfer courses to be accepted and count toward your graduation requirements you must receive the equivalent of a 'C-' or better.

"If you are going on a program that does not have a resident director on site, you must realize that you will need to be very self-sufficient. There may be an International Office and host institution contact person, but the student support services they provide may be more limited, meaning that you are more responsible for yourself than you are on a U.S. campus. You may find yourself running all over campus to register, and it may be more difficult to take course in different subject areas, because the schedules and locations cause logistical difficulties.

Also, campuses abroad may not have a student center, counseling center, trained residence hall staff, a recreation center and often not a health center. If any of these services are available you will likely have to find them on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the host institution and seek their help. Often it is best to begin your search for answers by asking students from the host institution. They have learned the ropes like you have learned there at your home university, and are willing to share their knowledge. Some campuses have staff that is not unhelpful but you must ask questions, since they will not often volunteer information. In some cases, they will respond to your requests with exasperation, as they are not used to working with students who have the expectation level American students have of university staff. Do not take this personally; it is a cultural adjustment you will have to make.

Remember, the idea of a study abroad program is that you must adapt to someone else’s system and culture, not the other way around. It will not be the same as at your home institution. Expect the first few weeks to be challenging. Be patient with yourself and others. If you are studying a new language or trying to communicate in a second language expect your progress to be frustrating at first. Hang in there and avail yourself of any opportunities to practice with native speakers, and others who want to use the language and watch your skills grow and improve."

Housing Abroad

Please correspond with your host program/institution regarding housing placements and secure a situation as soon as they instruct you to apply. Some programs administer an online housing application while others send a housing questionnaire packet. There are a few that simply choose to communicate over email. Consult the CGE, host coordinator or website for details and/or instructions as well as advice on which option to select. Housing deposits may be required.

There are several options that vary by cost from residence halls to shared apartments/flats to host families. Some living arrangements may include some meals.

Some factors to consider when selecting your placement if you have options: Price, location, reputation & safety of neighborhood, distance from school and downtown, old town, or metropolitan area, roommates, language and cultural immersion, autonomy over food, level of independence. Ask yourself, “How will my housing selection affect my overall experience?"

Staying in Touch

  • Cell phones – Find out whether or not your mobile phone will work abroad. In some cases, all you need to do is replace your SIM card with a new one from your host country; however, international roaming charges can be very expensive. A popular alternative is to suspend your domestic account and purchase a mobile abroad. Most mobile companies offer inexpensive domestic and international calling plans.
  • Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) - The most economic way would be to make phone calls over the internet if you have a headset or earphones and microphone. Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Google Voice.
  • Social Networking and Blog Sites- Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Flickr, Blogger, Wix, or Tumblr. 
  • Calling cards – Another economic way to phone home is to purchase pre-paid phone cards or international calling cards. When shopping for the best rates, be sure that you specify where the call will be originating. Make sure you know how to view and pay your bill online from abroad if you choose to buy a pre-paid card.
  • Refer to the list of Important USF Study Abroad contacts in the Handbook. Be sure to obtain your Academic Advisor’s / Chair’s contact information and any other important contacts before you leave.
  • Contact information of Study Abroad Friends - Obtain these from your USF study abroad colleagues before you leave.
  • Check your myUSF email often or forward your USFCA mail to your personal account. This is the only way USF will contact you about billing, registration, housing, and other USF changes and updates.

How to Make Phone Calls Abroad

For persons phoning you from the U.S.: First, dial 011 (the international access code) instead of 1, as you do for a U.S. long distance phone call. For special operator assistance (collect, person-to-person, time and charges, calling cards), dial 01. A higher rate is charged for these services than is charged for direct dial calls. Then dial the country code, city code, and the local number. Note that international numbers will not always be the exact length as in the U.S. Some international numbers will have more digits while other numbers will have fewer.

Example 1

International Access Code + Country Code + City Code + Local Number


The leading 0 used for European calls:

The leading 0 in the city/area code is used only when you are making a local call, so when you are outside of the country, the “0” should most often be dropped when dialing.

A leading 0 will not be included within every number for every country.

Example 2

The number for the Univ. of Lancaster is 0612-66101, but you should dial:

International Access Code + Country Code + City Code + Local Number


Get specific country codes and dialing information

Travel While Abroad

Now is your chance to take advantage of the different countries, cuisines, cultural, historic, and world heritage sites around the world! There are many resources (and deals) to help guide your adventures. Please take caution when selecting your travel destinations. Always travel with a buddy. Travel with an open mind and heart!

Always leave your itinerary and expected return date with someone at your host institution/program. Should an emergency occur, someone needs to know where and how to find you.

When making travel arrangements, always tell the agent you are a student and ask if any discounted fares are available.

Guidebooks and Magazines

There are tons of guidebooks designed for independent and budget travelers, giving advice on travel arrangements, food, lodging, entertainment, and tourist/non-tourist sites.

They can be truly invaluable for finding and reserving accommodations when planning a trip over breaks. A few good ones are Let’s Go!, Lonely Planet, and Rick Steve's.

Eurail Passes

Eurail passes are a great bargain for traveling via train throughout Europe. There are different packages and rate plans available; visit the STA Travel Website or Student Universe for full details and to purchase. NOTE: Eurail passes and Europass can only be mailed to addresses in the U.S., so plan to either purchase one before you go or have a family member send it to you via express mail.

Budget Airlines

In many cases, especially in Europe and Asia, you can fly for less money than taking the train. Flights are usually not from the main airport but are a quick bus ride outside of the city. You can find incredibly cheap flights through the following airlines:


Hostels and guesthouses are often the least expensive lodging options for students. A hostel is a type of budget accommodation that usually involves shared, dormitory-style room and shared bathrooms. Hostelling can be a truly great way to meet other travelers and learn about interesting activities in that city. As a general rule of thumb, you should always lock your belongings in the luggage lockers that are provided. Be sure to book your hostels before you travel to ensure you have a bed for the night! They fill up FAST in the summer!