Do Your Homework Before You Leave Campus

Thinking about studying overseas? Here are a few things to consider:

* Check out on the World Wide Web. It has a wide variety of information including various programs' advertisements and the "Study Abroad Handbook."

* Guidebooks can offer a wealth of advice. Academic Year Abroad (IIE Books, $42.95), for example, describes 2,430 programs in more than 70 countries. It includes specifics on academic credit and scholarships. IIE Books also publishes "Vacation Study Abroad" for durations of one semester or less.

Also look for "Peterson's Study Abroad" (Peterson's, $29.95), which lists accredited semester, summer, and year-abroad programs regularly accepted for undergraduate credit at US colleges and universities. The book also contains helpful articles such as "Paying for Study Abroad: How Much Is It, and How Can I Afford It?"

* Remember that there are numerous ways to get a touch of home if needed when abroad. American embassies often have postings of events that get Americans together, such as Fourth of July parties. If you are not near an embassy, check out the nearest American-style grocery store or health club. The bulletin board will help you network with other Americans nearby.

But remember: You won't experience the culture if you stick in a comfortable enclave of fellow English speakers. Make an effort to talk with the street vendors and taxi drivers you meet. They are a great resource for hearing the word on the street and you'll get to practice your language skills.

* Don't wait till the last minute to make arrangements. You will not be able to leave the country without a valid passport, and you might need a visa. Allow at least three months for obtaining both.

Programs through your home institution will be the easiest to orchestrate, but if you are looking at other programs, allow at least a semester to make sure the credits will transfer as well as your financial aid. If you are looking for grants and scholarships to fund your trip, you'll be best off planing at least a year in advance.

* If you are going to be away for a long time, consider the reverse culture shock you may find when you get back. Don't forget about friends and family while you are plunging through the Amazon.

You'll also want to be sure the details of housing and roommates are established for your return.

The cheapest way to call home is usually by connecting directly through an American long-distance company. You will need to order a phone card before you leave. This will give you an access code so that you will not need to go through an international operator.

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