Study Abroad Handbook

Practical Information for Bates Students Studying Abroad

Study abroad is a venture into the known and the unknown. Thorough preparation, flexibility, patience, humor, awareness, well-honed observational skills, and an appreciation that even the most rewarding ventures may include unpleasant episodes are keys to successful and meaningful experiences.

1. Course Load, Course Selection, and Grade Requirements: A Bates-approved year or semester abroad assures you of eight or four course credits, respectively, provided that you satisfy certain conditions.

Course Load:

  • You must complete the normal full course load for undergraduates at your foreign university or your study abroad program as defined by the Off-Campus Study Committee. If the normal full course load is three courses, take three.  If it is seven courses, take seven.  Five courses are generally the norm on programs that award 3 semester hours per course.  The minimum load is not adequate for full credit.
  • No extra credit is awarded.
  • Course load and grade requirements for each university/program are available at 2021-22 course and credit requirements.

Course Selection:

  • Please email your course selections to to confirm their suitability for general credit after reviewing the following information.
  • Your courses must be appropriate to the liberal arts and sciences. Courses may not duplicate other courses applied to your Bates degree.
  • You must take your final exams while abroad at their regularly scheduled times and location.
  • At English-language universities, at least half your coursework must be above the first-year level.
  • Online courses are not eligible for credit.
  • Course Pre-Requisites:
    • You may need to provide descriptions of prerequisite courses or syllabi to assist in enrolling for courses abroad.
    • Students taking university courses in the natural sciences or mathematics should be careful not to enroll in advanced courses unless they are certain they have the necessary background.
  • Internships:  Credit is awarded for an internship if it has an academic content, is assessed by a letter grade that appears on the transcript, and represents no more than 25% of the full course load.
  • Non-English language setting:
    • You must take at least one year-long or semester-long course in your country’s language – modern or ancient.
    • If the language is taught as a major or minor at Bates, a majority of your coursework must be in that language unless an exception was granted because of the academic focus of the program.

Grade Requirements:

  • All courses must be taken for a letter grade.
  • Course load and grade requirements for each university/program are appended to the end of the handbook.
  • You must earn the equivalent of a 3.00 GPA and pass all your courses to receive full credit. These grades are not included in your Bates GPA.


  • Students must live with a family or students from the host country when these housing options are available.
  • Not all housing options are available to Bates students.
  • It is required that you reside in the housing options offered by your institution or program.

It is your responsibility to be certain you satisfy these requirements. If they are not achieved, partial credit may be granted. The Off-Campus Study Committee at Bates makes the final decision as to the award of credit. Individual departments, programs, and Concentration Coordinators are responsible for approving the application of courses toward major, minor, and General Education Concentration requirements. Please ask, if you have any questions.

2. Transcripts: Be sure to arrange for an official transcript to be sent to the Center for Global Education at Bates at the conclusion of your program. It is wise to keep all course related material — detailed course descriptions, syllabi, texts, papers, and exams — if you are looking to receive Bates general education, minor, or major credit.

3. Mail: Please email your US-based forwarding address to Post & Print indicating that you will be studying off-campus. International students without a US-based home address should make arrangements with Post & Print to receive mail while away.

4. Payments and Financial Aid: The Bates Off-Campus Study Registration Fee is 7% of the Bates single fee for the semester.  In most cases, all other payments are directly between your family and your study abroad institution. If you receive financial aid, we have calculated your “cost of attendance” for Student Financial Services. The Student Financial Services office re-calculates your award based upon this information; Ms. Heidi Bisson in Student Financial Services is the contact for study abroad questions.

5. Health Precautions: Depending on your location, you may be exposed to tropical infectious diseases, lower levels of sanitation, and less sophisticated medical care. Contaminated food and water are potential threats at any site. You may have specific medical conditions that you should discuss in detail with your physician.

It is your responsibility to review the U.S. State Department Travel information for your new host country as well as the Centers for Disease Control information. Both are important resources and are accessible online.

Students managing mental health issues need to recognize that studying abroad may generate a new array of pressures, anxieties, and insecurities that can be destabilizing. This problem may be aggravated by the lack of psychological support systems abroad, including the absence or limited availability of psychological counselors in some countries. As a result, students experiencing such problems should evaluate very carefully and discuss with their counselor whether study abroad is appropriate for them at this time in their lives. It is essential that you inform your program in advance of any physical or mental health issues.

6. Health Insurance: It is required that you have comprehensive health insurance while abroad. If you are currently insured under your family’s policy, have your family obtain written confirmation that your health insurance policy provides coverage in your country of study. You should make sure that your international coverage includes mental health counseling and that it does not exclude pre-existing conditions.

If you have the Bates student health insurance policy, it does apply abroad. If you have questions about Bates insurance coverage, please contact Cross Insurance at 1-800-537-6444 or

Should you need additional coverage than what your family/private plan can provide, these companies specialize in student international travel:

Enter your policy number and the company’s address and contact information into your phone. It is important to know how your insurance will work while overseas and who/how to contact before you need it.  You will likely have to pay for your treatment(s) with a credit card or cash and then get reimbursed by your insurance company. In most cases, the cost of care will be far less than in the US. Be sure to keep records of your treatments, costs, dates, hospitals, etc., for your claim(s).

7. Emergency Assistance:

As a Bates College student traveling abroad, you are covered by: CHUBB Travel Assistance program. This is not medical insurance. The Travel Assistance program covers many worst case scenario situations, which you can review online.

The CHUBB emergency center is open 24/7. The Bates plan number is: PDFD38454419 006. Please note that this emergency medical assistance does not eliminate the need for regular health insurance. Download the CHUBB Assistance contact card.

  • If calling from the United States, the number is: 1-800-766-8206.
  • If abroad, the number is: +1-202-659-7777 (call collect).

You should enter the appropriate telephone number into your cell phone so it will be available if needed. You can also download the CHUBB Travel App to your smartphone.

8. Safety and Security: If you are a US citizen – or dress like one – some people will assume you are very wealthy or an advocate of United States foreign policies. This may be true even if you do not consider yourself very wealthy and even if you staunchly oppose US government policies. It is your responsibility to act and dress in ways that minimize your risks and undue/unwanted attention.  Common sense precautions include:

  • Pay attention to the security briefing provided in the orientation by your host university or program, on-site.  Accept your ignorance and vulnerability and follow their advice. Homestay families, if you have one, are also excellent sources of information as to areas of town to avoid or ways to conduct yourself that will minimize unwanted attention.
  • Keep a low profile in demeanor and dress by observing local customs and laws. Get ethnographic! Be observant as to how local people comport themselves, dress, and act. Follow suit.
  • Avoid clothes with U.S. logos, college seals, or explicit US references.
  • Be aware of your surroundings – always. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by your phone.
  • If applicable, speak the local language whenever possible.
  • Use an “under-clothes” money pouch – and be discreet with it – or keep money in a few different places in case you are pick-pocketed. Do not pull out wads of cash in public places. Never put wallets in back pockets.
  • Never leave your backpack, phone, laptop unattended. Do not drape your bag over the back of your chair, even while sitting in it. Your items will be stolen. Guaranteed. It’s not personal – it’s an incredible opportunity that some people cannot resist. Don’t provide the temptation.
  • Carry some cash in reserve – in a few hiding spots – while traveling.
  • Scan your passport, credit cards, and plane tickets and keep them separate from the originals. Store them in an email to yourself – though be cautious with your credit card(s) scans and store these securely – or give them in hard copy to a trusted family member/friend.
  • Remember the 1+1=4 safety math (being with one other person when you socialize, travel, walk in your city, etc. is four times safer than being alone).
  • When you travel independently, email/text your itinerary to a friend or program staff.
  • When staying in a hotel, do not accept a room on the first floor and check all locks right away. Do not leave your items around your room – keep things out-of-sight and locked in your bag/backpack.
  • When necessary, spend extra money if that helps avoid a threatening situation. Just spend it!
  • Do not carry, look after, or take other responsibility for any package or suitcase on behalf of a stranger or “new friend.”  It could contain drugs, contraband or explosives.  Similarly, do not drive somebody else’s car across a national border.
  • Avoid, whenever possible, American hangouts, American embassies, controversial discussion in public places, protests and marches, and areas of religious controversy.
  • Recognize that road accidents are the greatest cause of death and serious injury for U.S. travelers abroad.  Fatalities caused by cars, buses, motorcycles are up to 40 times higher in some countries. Bicyclists and pedestrians are especially vulnerable. Always assume that cars have the right of way, especially at crosswalks. Look first to the right – or left – depending upon traffic patterns. Learn this immediately!
  • Do not make yourself vulnerable through excessive alcohol consumption – in any context. It lowers your awareness and ability to make good judgments, while increasing your vulnerability substantially.
  • Trust and follow your instincts. If you sense a situation or person is unsafe, it, he, or she probably is.

Travel Advice and Advisories:  The U.S. Department of State has a “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” or (STEP) in which you enroll online and receive travel advice and updates, including emergency alerts.

Heightened Hazards for Women:  Safety risks are magnified for women ranging from verbal harassment – common in many countries – to sexual assault. The ways in which women are treated vary, considerably, around the world – you may be in a place that makes the US look positively medieval or, by contrast, you may have to handle daily unwanted comments, verbal assaults, and limits to your freedom. Marriage proposals are common, particularly in developing countries. Dress conservatively, know how local women handle taunting and verbal harassment, do not be afraid to offend if you are uncomfortable in any way – make it known – loudly and firmly!  Men studying abroad should also be aware of these risks and provide assistance and support.

Acknowledge that you are outside your comfort and familiarity zone and act accordingly. Be cautious. Be vigilant. Learn where it is unsafe to walk; recognize that the sexual expectations generated by U.S. media may contribute to the perception that you are an easy target of opportunity; know that without the informal protection systems that exist for host-country women, you are at greater risk for unwanted attention and harassment; know that excessive alcohol impairs your facilities and increases your vulnerability. All of which magnifies the importance of caution, good judgment, and following the safety and security advice provided by your program or university.

Heightened Hazards for Men:   Men, especially large men, may be less careful about their behavior, assuming that their gender and size reduce their risks. While this may be true in some cases, single men – no matter how physically imposing – are easy targets for criminals, particularly at night. The safety precautions discussed during your on-site orientation and here apply to everyone.

For both women and men:  never leave friends alone, especially if they’ve been drinking. Take care of one another.

Sexual Assault, Harassment, Misconduct

If you or a friend experience sexual assault, harassment, or misconduct, you should turn first to the support and resources provided by your program or host university. They have an existing support system, know the local context, and can act quickly to help you.  In addition, Bates has two Title IX Officers who are trained to respond to incidents of sexual discrimination and assault. Gwen Lexow is the Director of Title IX and Civil Rights Compliance and can be reached at or +1-207-786-6445. Erin Foster Zsiga, Associate Dean of Students, is Deputy Title IX Officer and may be reached at or +1-207-786-6215. You may contact them for additional support, if the resources available locally are not meeting your needs, or for any reason.

9. Drugs: Stay away from illegal drugs at all times. Period. Avoid areas where drugs are being used. Avoid those involved in handling drugs (using or dealing). Most countries have much stricter drug laws than the U.S. If arrested, you are not covered by U.S. laws and constitutional rights. Foreign drug laws frequently make no distinction between soft and hard drugs. Bail is not granted in most countries in drug-trafficking cases. You are guilty until proven innocent in many countries. Foreign jails are no nicer, physically or socially, than those in the US. The risks are not worth it.

10. Identities Abroad: Gender, Ethnicity, Race, and Sexual Orientation: These aspects of your identity are viewed, accepted, and supported differently around the world. Overall, white privilege and male privilege patterns of the United States may be more pronounced abroad. Despite the diversity of the United States, the dominant assumption is that Americans are white, Christian, of European descent, and heterosexual. Students outside this stereotype should prepare to have to cope with instances of covert and overt discrimination. Depending upon your location, women may experience gender biases and cultural expectations that may be offensive and restricting. Students may find it helpful to talk with past participants with similar backgrounds about their treatment and responses and to consult some of the websites found on the Bates Off-Campus Study page under Diversity Abroad, You may also meet with Dean Gallant or Mr. Das to discuss any of your identities and being abroad.

11. Travel Information:  There are many online ticket services – sometimes they offer low prices, sometimes not. You know how to navigate these and likely have your favorite sites. If you want to keep things local, Dube Travel (207-784-3376 or toll free 888-598-3823) – 250 Center Street, Auburn – is a nearby source for airline tickets. Student Universe ( specializes in student fares and needs, with over 300 offices around the world, including the United States. They have a “Book Now, Pay Later” program that allows students to make a reservation now, paying only a fraction of the ticket price, and paying in full at a later date. The program is limited to certain dates and destinations. In general, we recommend taking your program’s group flight (if one is available) as it simplifies many logistical issues.

International Student Identification Card (ISIC): The card provides emergency evacuation, travel and accident insurance, access to discount air and rail fares, and proof of student status for lower admission fees. The card costs $28 and is available through the Bates College Store.

12. Money Management: Most students report that they spend more money abroad than they anticipated.  Money management is challenging overseas because there are more opportunities to spend and because you are not familiar with the currency. Expenditures can be reduced by limiting travel outside your country, taking advantage of local field trips and activities subsidized by the program or university, purchasing food in markets, using student passes for local travel, and following the advice of local students. Become familiar with the currency before departure so you can better gauge its value and then itemize your expenditures in the first few weeks to assess the flow rate and create a budget.

TIP: If you track everything you spend during the first week of your program and multiply it by remaining weeks of the program, can you keep to your budget?

It is essential to have a major credit card with a chip and a PIN and a debit card linked to a bank account with a PIN to obtain cash by either method. A debit card makes it very easy to access funds from any ATM while away, but there may be foreign transaction fees for each withdrawal, so check this before you leave and, if so, use it judiciously. Using a credit card for a cash advance is a good backup in an emergency (again, know your PIN before you need it) but has drawbacks, as it’s essentially a loan. Notify your bank and credit card company when and where you will be studying and traveling abroad, otherwise you may not be able to use your cards abroad. Some people prefer to have some cash in hand before arrival (though again, with ATMs, this is not usually necessary). Depending on the currency, this can be obtained before departure in most international airports.

13. What To Take: Pack light. You will not regret this. Most past students report they took far too much with them.  A large backpack, your passport, a money/passport holder that is worn under your clothes, sturdy sneakers/comfortable walking shoes/boots, a major credit and debit card, contact info, a compact language dictionary, extra glasses, small gifts from home, frequently taken and prescription medications (in their original containers), prescriptions for more medications if needed with all their different names, and minimal electronics (with universal adapters) are generally recommended.  The more you buy locally, the more likely you are to blend in. Pack your suitcase, walk it around the block, repack.

14. Familial Care: You have probably discovered that study abroad generates its own set of familial anxieties and concerns. Your program or university has probably already sent them a bill and may provide information specific to your experience.  Families may consult the general health and safety guidelines established by study abroad professionals noted in #8 above.  Here is some general advice:

  • Discuss the information in this handbook with your family.
  • Leave copies of the program brochure/university catalog/website at home or make sure your family knows the contact information for your program.
  • Leave a photocopy/scan of your passport, airplane ticket, credit and debit cards with your family in case they need to be replaced or other problems arise.
  • Tell your family not to expect a call the first day you arrive and then call them anyway.
  • Email home ASAP your local contact information and that of the program director/ international programs office. (The latter to be used in case of an emergency.)
  • Similarly, be sure to provide your family with the dates of any extended travel plans.
  • When problems arise, always try to solve them on-site first. There is little that family can do that you can’t do more effectively yourself and in-person.
  • Family visits are generally lots of fun when scheduled during vacations and awkward after the first several hours if scheduled while the program/university is in session. Please urge any visitors to plan accordingly and visit you during breaks or after your program only.
  • Be sure to contact home if a major event (earthquake, bomb, railway accident) occurs that is likely to be reported in the U.S. media. This is similar to the call on your first day – statistically unnecessary, emotionally much appreciated.
  • Establish a communication plan and expectations with an emphasis on email, text, WhatsApp, or Skype.

15. Digital Connectivity:Your Bates email account remains active and can be accessed online. If you have difficulty accessing it or your Garnet Gateway account, you can email the IT Service Desk.

Ask your cell phone provider whether your phone will function in your study abroad country and whether you will be charged for an international call every time you use it. You may want to purchase a local phone on-site or a SIM card for your phone if it is unlocked and has the correct specs (correct band, etc.). Your host institution or program may have recommendations or requirements for mobile phones while on-site.

Please be aware that past study abroad students report that excessive use of social media and texting to friends and family at home can undermine the study abroad experience. Electronic connections can ease the transition abroad, make it easy to keep up with friends, and provide opportunities for sharing your experience, but they can also distract you from making more and deeper connections in your study abroad setting.

16. Registration and Housing at Bates:

If abroad in the fall, you will enter the Winter Placement Process in November, via an application process on HouseCat; actual placements cannot be made until mid-December when the location of available beds for winter is known. The Office of Residence Life and Health Education provides information on their website for students returning in winter semester including application due dates, filling spaces in blocks and suites, and requesting a single.

If abroad in the winter semester, you will be able to select your room for the following academic year via the Room Selection Process in the HouseCat portal in March. The online selection is done live on Bates local time (Eastern Standard Time). If you will have limited internet access or time zone concerns, you should coordinate selection with a friend or family member prior to your departure. Feel free to contact the Office of Residential Life and Health Education: or (207) 786-6215 before you leave or while abroad.

17. Contacting Bates: As noted above, Bates Security is available 24/7 at +1-207-786-6254 or +1-207-786-6111. The Center for Global Education number is 207-786-6223.  Our email address is or

18. Document the Experience: Blogging or keeping a journal is a wonderful way to record experiences and reactions. Be considerate, careful, and ethical when posting photos or entries on social media. Do you have the permission of others? Are you civil in your comments? Remember, you are not in the US anymore and laws abroad treat online content differently and hold authors accountable in ways that might surprise you.

19. Remember, the Center for Global Education at Bates is here to support you while you are abroad.