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Travel Advisories

Northwest Missouri State University Study Abroad Office is constantly checking the current travel advisories issued by the US Department of State. Here are listed some of the recommendations that we have given to the student during our outgoing orientation:

  • As soon as you arrive to your destination, please contact your family.
  • Register in the nearest US consulate.
  • Constantly check travel advisories.
  • Do not travel to countries listed under travel advisories.
  • Try to communicate with your family and/or the study abroad office regarding any trips that will take more than 2 days.
  • In case of terrorist attack or natural disaster in the city where you will be residing, please contact your family immediately and the study abroad office.
  • In case of crisis please contact the study abroad office as well as read the guildines from the US Department of State on Emergency Services to US Citizens Abroad

Traveling under increased security

After the events of September 11, 2001, airplane travel is noticeably more restricted, and airport personnel are taking more stringent security measures. The following tips should help you have a safer and easier experience flying under increased security. Please be aware the different airports and different airlines have their own security measures that may differ slightly from those mentioned below.

How to pack

  • Some items that you may have packed in the past will no longer pass through security checkpoints: remove items found in manicure sets, pocketknives, or any other item that could be viewed as "threatening." All knives of any sort are unacceptable. You can check the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) list of Permitted and Prohibited Items for the most up to date restrictions.
  • Make sure all suitcases and carry-on bags have completed nametags.
    Anticipate having to open a bag for security inspection. Pack efficiently, placing smaller items together in a clear pouch or clear bag.
  • Avoid over-packing so carry-on luggage and checked suitcases can be opened and closed with ease.
    Allowed baggage weight limits have changed for checked luggage and carry-on luggage. Be sure to check with your airline for the most recent restrictions.
  • You MUST bring a government issued photo identification card or passport. You will not be allowed to check-in without official identification.
  • Put all film in your carry-on luggage. The new security x-ray machines used on all checked luggage will ruin your film.
  • Be prepared to unlock your checked baggage or to have any locks you have placed on it be broken by security. All checked bags are now x-rayed and if there is any item in question, they WILL open your bag.
  • Check the TSA's Travel Preparation tips for further information or other travel websites such as

Before you depart

  • Call your airline to reconfirm whether or not your flight is still scheduled to depart, and if it is departing on time. If you cannot reach the airline through their toll free number, you should try to check their website. (Be sure to reconfirm on your return flight as well.)
  • If you have an electronic ticket (e-ticket), bring your e-ticket locator/confirmation number with you to the airport. If you were issued a paper ticket, double check that you have the ticket with you. If you are unsure if you have an e-ticket or paper ticket, check with the venue from where you purchased your ticket to find out, prior to your day of travel.
  • Allow plenty of time to check in. The recommended minimum is now 2 hours prior to departure for domestic flights, and 3 hours prior to departure for international flights.
  • Expect restricted airport parking. Some airports may require that you park off-site and take a shuttle to your terminal.

Checking in for your flight

  • Curbside check-in is available on an airline-by-airline basis. You should contact your airline to see if it is available at your airport.
  • Do not leave baggage or vehicles unattended. Airport security will be conducting thorough sweeps of airport properties. Anything left unattended will be immediately removed.
  • Never accept packages from strangers.
  • All passengers will need to check-in at the airport ticket counter or at a Self Service E-ticket Kiosk. You now are required to have a boarding pass before you can pass through the security checkpoint.
  • Un-ticketed passengers (e.g. family or friends not traveling with you) will not be allowed beyond the security checkpoint.
  • Have airline tickets, boarding passes, and government photos IDs available to show at the security checkpoint.
  • Be prepared to empty all of your clothing pockets. Be prepared to demonstrate operation of electronic equipment such as cellphones, laptop computers, etc.
  • Expect increased passenger and baggage searches. Wand checks and/or full body searches can be expected.
  • Make it easy to be screened. For example, wear shoes that can be taken off and put back on relatively easily. Or if you know that your shoes have metal in them, take them off and put them through the x-ray machine before attempting to walk through the metal detector.

Upon arrival

  • Proceed promptly through the terminal, beyond the security checkpoint. Meeting parties will be restricted to areas outside the security checkpoint.
  • Have your luggage receipts available for verification when retrieving luggage.

While abroad

  • Keep a low profile
  • Dress to blend in. Do not become a target for thieves by wearing conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry.
  • Stay informed of local as well as international events and reactions through newspapers, television and radio.
  • Speak softly. Do not draw attention to yourself by causing a commotion in public places.
  • Stay away from establishments and facilities that are associated in local people's minds with the United States and avoid displays of patriotism.
  • Avoid demonstrations and other situations that may become unruly or where anti-American sentiments may be expressed.
  • When traveling independently of the group (shopping, sightseeing, etc.), it is advisable to travel in small groups of two to three people rather than large groups of six to eight people.
  • Do not carry excessive amounts of cash or unnecessary credit cards.
  • When you exchange money, deal only with authorized agents to avoid violating local laws.
  • Avoid using illicit drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages and associating with people who do.
  • Use the U.S. Department of State as a resource for additional information.

Cultural awareness

This frustration and confusion is usually called 'culture shock.' Variations of culture shock can affect even experienced travelers and is considered a natural (and perhaps even essential) part of adjusting to a foreign culture. Symptoms can include depression, sleeping difficulties, homesickness, trouble concentrating, an urge to isolate yourself, and irritation with your host culture.

Even if you are used to being away from your family, you may still have problems. After all, you are now away from everything that's familiar. There are numerous ways to combat your feelings of disorientation until they pass (as they usually do):

  • Learn as much as possible from local residents about their culture.
  • Keep in touch with other American students. If you are directly enrolled in a foreign university, find out if there is a local hangout for American students.
  • It can sometimes be helpful to meet with them and share experiences. Avoid letting these become gripe sessions, however.
  • Keep yourself busy doing things you enjoy. When you have free time, visit museums, go to movies, and tour local sites of interest.
  • Keep in touch with your family and friends at home. Letters, phone calls, or e-mail contact will make you feel less isolated.
  • Try to keep your long-range goals in mind. Experiencing a new culture will inevitably involve some frustration and feelings of loneliness as you leave the familiar and incorporate the new, but they don't last forever.
  • Don't overdo any of the preceding suggestions or you risk never making the adjustments to your new environment which are requisite to your purposes for being overseas.

In sum, since there is almost no way to avoid culture shock completely, you should try to accept it as something everyone goes through. Keep in mind that students returning from study abroad often describe working their way through culture shock as a necessary maturing experience, something that provided insight into their own cultural assumptions. You can ease your transition by recognizing the factors that cause culture shock and taking steps to minimize them.

For most students, the symptoms of culture shock wane after the first few weeks or months, as they begin to understand their host culture better. However, if you find that feelings of irritability and depression linger, you may need help from a doctor or counselor. Your program director or the international students office at your host university should be able to direct you to counseling or support organizations.

Fitting in and being accepted

Your study abroad experience will be heightened if you try as much as possible to become part of the local social environment. In the beginning, it is perhaps wise to behave like a guest, as indeed you are. For a while you may even be accorded a special status, that of a well-meaning (but not-quite-with-it!) outsider. But as time goes on, you will want to be able to behave in ways similar to that of the local students and citizens-- and others will begin to expect such behavior of you. This means learning what behavior is and isn't appropriate in this new setting, and acting accordingly. Observe local students in your dormitory, on campus, on the street. If you live with a host family, see how family members dress and interact with one other and others. It's fine to ask questions about local customs and ways of behaving. In fact, people will appreciate that you are trying to learn about their culture and lifestyle, and are likely to help you adjust.

In some countries more than others, there is an unflattering stereotype of an American tourist, one who throws money around, drinks too much, is loud and rude, expects all foreigners to speak English, thinks the United States is better than any other country, and is always in a hurry. There are other countries in which all Americans are seen as happy, cheerful, carefree, and above all rich. Locals in your host country may assume parts or all of this to be true about you, simply because you are from the United States. Remember that their images of what 'Americans' are like are based on the other Americans they have seen, if not in person, then indirectly through our movies and media. Such is the nature of stereotyping. The challenge is to go beyond misleading images and false impressions, so that you and they can be yourselves, and mutual understanding can deepen over time.

Learning and respecting local customs

'When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do' is not legal counsel, but rather seasoned advice to newcomers. Certain ways of acting in a country not your own affront local custom and show ignorance or disrespect, or both to local citizens. In many countries, for example, women traditionally cover certain parts of the body, such as the head, arms, and legs. In others, it is frowned on for couples to hold hands or display other types of physical affection in public. Most countries have customs associated with religion and sacred places. In certain Islamic societies, non-Muslims may not enter sacred sites. In Thailand, Buddhist monks must carry out an elaborate purification ritual if a woman touches them, including sitting next to them on a bus!

Understanding local customs will help you feel a part of the new culture and avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Especially if you are not fluent in the local language, your body language is often what expresses you. Saying hello or goodbye via a simple hand gesture is, for example, done quite differently from place to place, even within Europe. When to shake hands or kiss is signaled between people in different ways from country to country. How close to sit or stand when talking also varies greatly. These are just a few of the many simple habits for you to learn and then follow in order not to give unintended offense.

Brigham Young University's Culture Grams offer many insights on customs and lifestyles of individual countries. Phone 1-800-528-6279, or visit the BYU website at

Women abroad

Appropriate behavior for young women varies from country to country, and even within countries. Some countries have well-defined gender roles. Others restrict certain activities for women, such as driving and meeting with men who are not relatives. You may find that behavior and dress that are acceptable in major cities are inappropriate in rural areas. Sometimes, though, just the opposite is true, and behavior is more relaxed outside of metropolitan areas.

Observe how local women your age act and dress and try to do likewise. In spite of your efforts, however, you may find that you are harassed. In some countries, women are routinely whistled at, pinched, and even grabbed -- especially foreign women. This may be because, in some countries, the cultural stereotype of western women is that they are promiscuous. You can minimize unwanted attention by taking the following steps:

Dress modestly. Avoid sleeveless tops and short skirts, even in hot climates. Try to dress in the same style as the local women. Avoid making eye contact with men in the street. What may seem to you like simple friendliness might be interpreted as flirtation to a man from a country where women keep their eyes down. Watch the local women; see how they avoid and turn away unwanted attention, and mimic their behavior. Take a friend with you when you go out at night or to an unfamiliar area. In some countries, young unmarried women never go out alone. Arrange a public meeting place when you get together with people you don't know well.

Sexual orientation

It is advisable to do some reading before departure regarding culture-specific norms of friendship and dating for relationships between people of any sexual orientation in the country where you are headed. Knowing about the culture-specific norms of friendship and dating for relationships between people of any sexual orientation in the country where you are headed is especially essential. Laws regarding same-sex relationships differ from country to country so you should inform yourself about those before your program begins.

Issues regarding sexual orientation are often included in materials prepared by study abroad offices and program providers. Check to see what information is available regarding GLBT issues from the programs in which you are interested. Travel guides, web resources, and your institutional GLBT office can provide additional valuable information.

For a bibliography regarding sexual orientation issues in countries outside the U.S, check the following website maintained by NAFSA: Association of International Educator's LesBiGay Special Interest Group:

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