Planning Ahead

Congratulations! You are embarking on a life-changing journey in a new culture. With all the changes, excitement, and surprises you will experience while studying off-campus, it is a good idea to prepare ahead of time by considering what you want to get out of this experience and how best to do so given the specifics of your host culture. This preparation will make your initial transition less overwhelming and allow you to get a head start on making the most of your experience.



Planning for your time off-campus

Planning ahead before traveling to a new culture is important as it will allow you not only to learn about aspects of your host culture that may be different from your own, but also to be more emotionally ready for these differences. You can prepare for your time off-campus by studying authentic sources about your host culture before leaving home. Find an authentic newspaper or TV program, a book on the history of the culture, and other books about current social and political issues—travel guidebooks should be reserved for more "touristy" things. It is also a good idea to learn about the topics that interest you so that you can talk confidently with others about these issues. 

You will also be given a number of different orientations--online and on-site, some by Lawrence and some by your program provider. Always be sure to take orientation seriously, rather than merely viewing your off-campus experience as an entitlement.You are more likely to minimize frustration and maximize learning if you treat getting ready as an essential part of the entire travel experience—a type of journey of its own. Remember, patient and attentive preparation will allow you to leave with peace of mind so that, when you arrive in your host culture, you can learn with more focused attention. Though it may seem like a burden or an obstacle to your “real” goal of living and learning in a new culture, putting things in order before leaving for your program actually lightens your load and prepares you to interact with more people and for the many educational moments that you don’t expect (Slimbach).


Setting Goals

Setting personal goals is the first step in having a fulfilling off-campus experience. Don’t let others impose on you what they think you should get out of the experience—everyone has very personal reasons for embarking on off-campus study. In setting your goals, you will need to consider your individual identity and values by observing your own behavior in action. Consider your visions, goals, and values (i.e. the what, how, and why of your life) all together.

Be sure to have a balance between academic and personal goals. Your goals should be explicit, detailed, and have clearly stated educational outcomes. When writing your goals, it can be useful to remember the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound (Smith). It can also be helpful to capture your vision somehow (such as on paper), because you are more likely to do something if it is written down. At the same time, however, be careful not to focus too much on the assessment and outcomes of off-campus study. Be willing to let go of your vision, as the experience may turn out differently than you hope (but remember, this is not necessarily a bad thing!).

In order to follow your inner visions, goals, and values, you will need to be confident in yourself and willing to tune out the voices of those who may get in your way. By taking steps that are line with your values and move you closer to your overall vision, you will empower yourself as a human being (Smith).


LU Considerations

Since you will be off-campus for a period of time, consider how the following LU regulations and procedures may affect your time off-campus and your eventual return. Take the following steps in order to ensure the smoothest possible transition off-campus and back.

Financial Aid and Billing

  • Meet with the Financial Aid office if you haven’t already.
  • Once accepted, most programs require a confirmation deposit. Students pay this directly to the program provider. This cannot be applied to your Lawrence student account.
  • Program tuition and invoiced program fees (not out-of-pocket or optional expenses) will be sent to Lawrence and charged to your LU student account. Your Lawrence account will be charged for the costs billed by the program sponsor.
  • If you or your parents receive a bill directly from the program, please contact Student Accounts.
  • Lawrence adheres to the refund policies of the program sponsor.

Scholarships and Funding

There are many scholarships to support study abroad; the only way to be sure you will not get funding support is to not apply. Check individual scholarship eligibility, application process, and application deadlines, as they will vary.

Commonly applied for scholarships (Please refer to the Lawrence Off-Campus Programs Funding Page as well.)

  • Helen Barr Rudin Study Abroad Grant
  • Reed Award for Off-Campus Study in Francophone Countries (French students)
  • Dorrit Friedlander Scholarship (German students)
  • Program providers (including IES, ISA, SEA, Arcadia, and SFS)
  • Gilman Scholarship (Pell grant recipients)
  • Creative funding (personal fundraising/crowd source funding)

LU Registration

  • You will submit your completed Intention to Accept Placement form from Lawrence acceptance letter to Off-Campus Programs office.
  • The Off-Campus Programs office sends a notification to offices across campus (Housing, Registrar, Student Accounts, Student Academic Services, Financial Aid, Dean of Students, etc.) that you will not be on campus for the term(s) of your program.
  • The registrar’s office removes your registration record from the Appleton ‘campus’ to the ‘campus’ of your particular program.
  • You are assigned to a place holder class for your program. This class will have the minimum number of credits for full time status for the program (15 units for a term program and 21 units for a semester program).
  • The place holder course will appear on your Voyager account until we receive your transcript.
  • When the Registrar gets your transcript, they will record the actual course titles, grades, and amounts of credit as reported by program.

LU Housing

For questions about how housing selection works for off-campus study students, contact the Housing office in Campus Life or Residence Life Committee. Also consider the following:

  • Combination list – email Campus Life with the terms you will need housing (Off-Campus Programs office cannot provide a list of other students studying off-campus).
  • If you will be off-campus in spring term, you will be able to select housing for the following year by proxy – talk to the Housing office for more info.
  • Campus Life Open Office Hours (check Housing Timeline).

For more info about Lawrence housing for off-campus students, please consult Campus Life's page here.

Off-Campus Study Eligibility

To REMAIN eligible for off-campus study you must maintain good academic and disciplinary standing. Students who fall out of eligibility before the start of their off-campus study program will NOT be allowed to participate in the program. The University policies and procedures on off-campus study state that students are ineligible for off-campus study for the following reasons:

  • if she or he will not achieve sophomore status prior to participation on the off-campus program;
  • if she or he is on academic probation the term preceding off-campus study or will not be in good academic standing at the time of participating in off-campus study;
  • if she or he is on disciplinary probation the term preceding off-campus study or will not be in good disciplinary standing at the time of participating in off-campus study; and/or
  • if she or he has a demonstrated history of behavioral issues inappropriate for off-campus study.

Please see here for more information on LU off-campus study policies and procedures.


Travel preparations to consider


If you will be participating in a program abroad, you will need a valid passport. If you need to apply for a passport or need to renew your passport, you should apply for this as soon as possible. If your expired passport was issued before you were 16, you will need to apply for a new passport (you cannot ‘renew’ these).

  • Refer to info about applying for a passport on the US Department of State’s website.
  • Be sure your passport is valid through the end of your program (many countries require passports be valid for a number of months after your planned return to the US).
  • The LU ID office takes/prints passport pictures (cheaper than Walgreen’s or Murray Photo).
  • Make copies of your passport (and visa) – leave one at home and have one or two copies with you.


Depending upon the country of your program, you may need to apply for a visa. Information about visa requirements, application procedure and timeline, and necessary documentation will come directly from the program sponsor. If you will be applying for a visa, you will need a current passport before you make your visa application – applying for a new or renewed passport as soon as possible will avoid delays in the visa process.

You may need to: 

  • Apply in person.
  • Provide bank statements or tax documents.
  • Have a background check.
  • Get copies or signatures notarized.

Visa Tips:

  • The process varies by country (and sometimes by Consulate).
  • Refer to guidance and advice from program provider.
  • Follow the suggested timeline and due date for each stage of the process.
  • Be sure to include original copies of any documentation.
  • Make copies of application materials you send/submit.
  • Putting off the application will only make the process more complicated/stressful/expensive.


Students purchase tickets for most programs (some programs arrange group flights). Follow advice, tips, and safety info from your program.

Getting to the program


  • Pack light ("walk around the block" test)
  • Refer to info from program for packing essentials
  • Don’t pack prize possessions
  • Buy local to save room and have a local experience
  • Consider bringing gifts from home (host family, local friends)

In your carry-on:

  • Passport, immigration materials, documentation
  • Set of clothes in case luggage is delayed
  • Medications
  • Electronics


It is helpful to plan out your budget for your time abroad in advance, keeping in mind fluctuating currency conversions.  This allows you to better plan for expenses out of pocket. 

It is best to have several ways to access your funds in the event one card or account does not work.  Here is a list of credit cards that do not charge international transaction fees. 

Regardless of what bank or credit card company you plan to use to access funds, it is imperative that you contact the bank and/or credit card company to let them know you will be abroad and spending money in a different country.  Without this information, banks and credit card companies may freeze your account due to a foreign transaction with the assumption that your card has been stolen.  Please contact your bank and/or credit card company as soon as possible with information about your travels. 

Other Resources


Additional Resources

Duke, Steven Taylor. Preparing to Study Abroad: Learning to Cross Cultures. Sterling, VA: Stylus, LLC., 2014. Print.

Potts, Rolf. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-term World Travel. New York, NY: Villard, 2003.

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. 

Smith, Alex. Study U Abroad: The 5 Keys to Unlock Your Awesomeness and Transform Your World. 2014. (See esp. pp. 13-132)

Steves, Rick. Travel as a Political Act. New York, NY: Nation, 2009.

Twombly, Susan B., Mark H. Salisbury, Shannon D. Tumanut, and Paul Klute. Study Abroad in a New Global Century: Renewing  the Promise, Refining the Purpose. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Periodicals, 2012.

Williamson, Wendy. Study Abroad 101. Kalamazoo, MI: Agapy Pub., 2004.