Things to Consider

Contact Study Abroad

Yvonne Schmidt
Study Abroad Coordinator

Southern & Dobson

Building: 36N Office 705
P: 480-461-7870 | F: 480-461-7139

Once you arrive to a new country, you will soon discover that many elements in the environment may affect or alter your health. Most likely, you will be eating different foods, living in a different climate, and reacting emotionally in some way to this new experience.

Alcohol Use on Study Abroad Trips

Although there may be no minimum drinking age in your host country (or a lower drinking age than in the U.S.), the customs regarding alcohol use in your host country may be very different from those in the U.S. You may be tempted to drink alcohol while in your host country, but alcohol abuse and misuse are not tolerated globally and alcohol consumption abuse will not be tolerated on MCCCD study abroad programs.

Violation of local alcohol laws and/or MCCCD regulations or policies may result in (a) immediate dismissal from the program; (b) academic withdrawal from the college for the semester in progress; and (c) disciplinary action upon return to campus.

Culture Shock & Adjustment

Culture shock is a typical phenomenon that happens to most travelers who venture to a new culture and country for an extended period of time. Many of the experiences and practices you may take for granted in the United States may be perceived and accepted differently in your host country.

There are many emotional effects of facing new values, habits, and lifestyles. You may experience confusing emotional highs and lows during your time abroad. You may also feel impatient, bewildered and depressed at times. These are all initial symptoms of culture shock, and may easily be overcome.

Be aware that a moderate amount of anxiety and stress is a natural part of intercultural transitions. A new language, exotic foods, registration, beginning classes, and even changes in the weather can affect your stress level. This stress is nothing to be afraid of and can easily be dealt with by having a positive attitude and taking good care of yourself emotionally and physically.

Cultural adjustment is a continuous, on-going process. It never stops, and it varies from one individual to another and from one culture to another. Your own situation may require you to confront not only differences in your new culture but it may also force you to take a good look at your own cultural values and practices. The concept of adjustment implies change. In your case, you will be moving from your American culture to one overseas. The nature of your adjustment depends on the nature of the differences between your original culture and the new one and on the objectives you seek to complete in the new culture. The concept of adjustment assumes that you already have well-established sets of behaviors for operating in your own culture.

Remember, you are a representative of Mesa Community College, MCCCD, the state of Arizona, and the United States while participating in a study abroad program!! Your ability to successfully interact with host families, program participants, and foreign nationals is a direct reflection on your fellow travelers and other Americans overseas. Ask questions of your Program Director and other participants to learn as much as possible about your destination.

An exciting world awaits you!

Find Out About Available Resources in Host Country

Learn how to get medical help and how to use your medical insurance BEFORE the need arises.

Is there a 911 equivalent emergency number and, if so, what services does it access? Who will provide routine medical care, and how can you reach that provider? Ask the program director what steps need to be taken in these situations.

If you require regular medical care for any condition you have, tell those in your host country who can be of assistance. Make sure to notify the program director(s) and the host family (if applicable) of any special needs.

For Students with Health, Physical or Learning Difficulties

Students with disabilities that require accommodation are encouraged to study abroad, though advance planning is essential. If you are currently registered with a College’s Disability Resource Service (DRS) office and plan to study abroad, you are encouraged you to take the following steps:

  • PLAN early and communicate with advisors at DRS and the Study Abroad program. You should begin planning at least one year before the date you wish to study abroad.
  • GATHER information from your departmental academic advisor as soon as possible.
  • RESEARCH various study abroad program options. Consider the connections to your educational and personal goals as well as the requirements for acceptance to a study abroad program.
  • IDENTIFY accommodations with DRS that would minimize barriers and enhance your participation and enjoyment while abroad. Keep in mind that due to differing environments, you may need accommodations or assistance abroad that you may not typically need in the United States, or you may find that the accommodation you need is not available overseas.
  • COMPILE information on each program relating to your individual needs (e.g. arranged and public transportation, housing, alternative test taking, course requirements, etc.). Remember to work with DRS because not all locations can accommodate all disabilities.
  • SELECT a study abroad program and apply!

Once accepted into a study abroad program, coordinate with DRS to disclose your need for special accommodation. The sooner you do this, the better our ability to secure such accommodation. NOTE: There is no guarantee that the request can be accommodated.

Traveling with Disabilities

Individual countries have their own standards of accessibility for disabled travelers. Some countries have nondiscrimination laws that help to protect travelers with disabilities, while other countries do not. Preparation before you go can help ensure that your planned destination will be accessible, safe and enjoyable. In addition, travelers with disabilities should consider the following tips:

  • Plan: Consider the level of health care available and whether your health needs and any emergencies can be met. If you take prescription medicine, do your research to make sure your prescription medication is legal to bring into your host country. Be sure you have enough to last the duration of the trip, or that you can fill your prescription in your host country. Make sure any equipment you use is in good working order before you leave.
  • Travel Smart: The additional physical activity undertaken during travel is strenuous, and sudden changes in diet and climate can have serious health consequences for the unprepared traveler. Allow ample personal time, whether to adjust to the current time zone or to enjoy another travel site.

Accommodations and Access: Learn about planned stops and ask questions about services available. Inquire about accessibility and available assistance at the airport, your hotel, on public transportation and at all travel sites. Be sure your needs are clearly understood by those who will assist you, but understand that your needs may not be accommodated in all locations.

Gender Identity Abroad

Whether you’ve traveled before or this is your first time abroad, it’s important to consider your host country’s cultural attitude towards gender identity. Depending on where you are, you may find different gender roles and norms than you’re used to. It’s possible that you may be treated differently or be expected to treat others differently based on these factors. Everyone should consider possible issues, challenges and changes they may face while abroad regarding societal perceptions of gender. When researching potential programs, consider your host country’s cultural differences and how these might impact your everyday life.

For information on issues and resources pertaining to gay, lesbian, and bisexual travel, you may want to consult publications available in some bookstores and libraries. Additional resources and support about LGTBQ issues abroad can be found at the IES Abroad website.

Jet Lag

Depending on where you fly to, you may experience jet lag or traveler's stress.

Some helpful ways to counteract jet lag include: getting plenty of rest, eating healthy food, drinking plenty of fluids (particularly juices and water), getting some moderate exercise and wearing loose, comfortable clothing.

Traveling Abroad with Prescription Medication

If you will need to take medications for a medical/psychiatric condition while traveling abroad, you should check with the embassy of your host country to make sure that you can bring those medications with you, and to determine what additional documentation you may need (original prescription, physician' letter, etc.).

Some countries DO NOT allow certain medications (including both prescription and non-prescription) and/or may require that you obtain a medical provider note or prescription documentation. If you are in possession of illegal medications (even if you obtained them legally in the US) or do not have the proper documentation, your medications may be confiscated and you can get arrested or deported.

The following are some medications that travelers may be taking, but in certain countries they may be illegal or may need additional supporting documentation in order to bring them into the country. This list is not all-inclusive, so if your medication is not on this list, you should still check if it is allowed in the country where you are traveling.

Medication Class

Brand Names

Generic Names

Pain medications

Norco, Vicodin, Demerol, Percocet, OxyContin, MS Contin, Hycodan, Tussin AC, Ultram

hydrocodone, oxycodone, dilaudid, fentanyl, morphine, methadone, codeine, tramadol

ADD/ADHD stimulants

Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Methylin, Metadate

dextroamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine, methylphenidate

Steroids (oral/topical and injectable)



Sedatives/anxiety meds

Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, Buspar

alprazolam, lorazepam, clonazepam, buspirone, diazepam

Injectable medications

Check on country’s policy with bringing ANY injectable medication abroad

Other Miscellaneous

Sudafed decongestants & cold medicines that contain decongestants ("D" versions)

Pseudoephedrine, Medical marijuana/cannabis

Travel Tips

  • Always keep medications in original labeled bottles, and keep with your carry-on luggage to reduce the chances of lost medications. Do not plan on sending medications abroad.
  • Make sure you have a back-up plan in case of lost/stolen medications- many prescription medications are not readily available overseas.


Illegal Drugs

MCCCD has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the possession, use, manufacture, production, sale, exchange, or distribution of illegal drugs by students participating in study abroad programs. The determination of whether or not a drug is illegal is governed by U.S. federal drug laws, the laws of the State of Arizona, and host country laws.

Violation of this policy may result in (a) immediate dismissal from the program; (b) academic withdrawal from the university for the semester in progress; and (c) disciplinary action upon return to campus.

Helpful Information:

Each year, 2,500 U.S. citizens are arrested abroad. One-third of the arrests are on drug-related charges. Many of those arrested assumed that as a U.S. citizen they could not be arrested. From Asia to Africa, Europe to South America, U.S. citizens are finding out the hard way that drug possession or trafficking equals jail in foreign countries.

There is very little that anyone can do to help you if you are caught with drugs. You are operating under the laws of the host country and the regulations of the local institution. Neither the U.S. government nor MCCCD will be able to secure your release should you be caught.

It is your responsibility to know the drug laws of a foreign country before you go, because saying "I didn't know it was illegal" will not get you out of jail. Some laws may be applied more strictly to foreigners than to local citizens; therefore, don't assume that just because local people are using drugs, it's acceptable for you to use drugs.

In recent years, U.S. Americans have been arrested abroad on drug charges for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The risk of being put in jail for just one marijuana cigarette, or for other illegal substances, is not worth it.

If you are purchasing prescription medications in quantities larger than that considered necessary for personal use, you could be arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Once you're arrested, the U.S. consular officer CANNOT get you out of jail!

If you are caught using illegal drugs by MCCCD faculty/staff or other on-site personnel, you may be immediately dismissed from the study abroad program. If you are caught by local authorities buying, selling, carrying, or using drugs - from hashish to heroin, marijuana to mescaline, cocaine to designer drugs like ecstasy - it could mean:

  • interrogation and delays before trial, including mistreatment and solitary confinement for up to one year under very primitive conditions and delays before trial including mistreatment and solitary confinement for up to one year under primitive conditions
  • lengthy trials conducted in a foreign language, with delays and postponements
  • weeks, months, or life in prison (some places include hard labor, heavy fines, and/or lashings), if found guilty
  • the death penalty in a growing number of countries

Although drug laws vary from country to country, it is important to realize before you make the mistake of getting involved with drugs that foreign countries do not react lightly to drug offenders. In some countries, anyone who is caught with even a very small quantity for personal use may be tried and receive the same sentence as the large-scale trafficker.

About Medical Marijuana

According to U.S. Federal law you cannot fly on a commercial airliner with marijuana or marijuana-containing products, even if you have a doctor's written prescription for medical marijuana or an Arizona Medical Marijuana Program ID Card. Possession of marijuana in a U.S airport, in U.S. airspace or on an airplane carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. For each subsequent conviction, the sentences and penalties increase.

In addition, many countries consider marijuana to be illegal. Students with a U.S. prescription for marijuana can be arrested, prosecuted, and/or deported, if in possession of an illegal substance abroad. Never travel internationally with any amount of medical marijuana unless you want to take the risk of being detained, arrested and charged, deported, missing your flight, and having your medicine confiscated.