You’ve arrived! During your time abroad, there are many things to consider – including academics, budgeting, travel, and cultural integration. The following information is here to help you stay safe and make the most of your exchange experience.
- Give yourself time to adapt to a new learning environment
- Be patient when dealing with stress during adjustment periods
- Get to know your professors
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Work with your peers
- Seize opportunities to meet local students and experience new ways of learning and collaborating
- Keep in mind future considerations: Research interests? References?
- Take advantage of clubs and activities that may not be on offer at Queen's
- Get involved beyond the university community
- Volunteer! Discover local NGOs and learn about important issues
- Have a truly integrated exchange experience: develop a community beyond academic circles
Make sure you are aware of any restrictions that may be in place, or any requirements you may have to fulfill in order to be able to work or volunteer abroad.
Plan your trip
- Research destinations and transportation options to make the most of your time
- Make sure you know when any exams are scheduled and papers are due
- Seek out multiple resources: speak to your peers, locals, or see if the university has any resources for students travelling
Be aware: travel smart
- Follow local news (TV, internet, radio) and government warnings
- Choose the safest form of transportation in each country to which you travel
- Avoid night travel in countries with poor safety records and/or mountainous terrain
- Understand local "road culture"
- Be aware of traffic patterns
- Avoid overcrowded buses and mini vans, and ask about which options are safer
- Avoid motorcycle travel
- Avoid hitchhiking
- Make sure you budget and plan your finances so that you don’t run out of funds while on the road
Thanks to the Ethical Traveller for these points.
- Be aware of where your money is going, and patronize locally-owned inns, restaurants, and shops. Try to keep your cash within the local economy, so the people you are visiting can benefit directly from your visit.
- Never give gifts to children, only to their parents or teachers. When giving gifts to local communities—from schoolbooks to balloons, from pens to pharmaceuticals—first find out what’s really needed, and who can best distribute these items. [See: "A Fistful of Rupees: Coping With Begging on Third World Trails"]
- Before visiting any foreign land, take the time to learn basic courtesy phrases: greetings, “please” & “thank you,” and as many numbers as you can handle (those endless hours in airport waiting lounges, or aboard trains and boats, are all opportunities for this). It’s astonishing how far a little language goes toward creating a feeling of goodwill.
- Remember the economic realities of your new currency. A few rupees, baht or pesos one way or another is not going to ruin you. Don’t get all bent out of shape over the fact that a visitor who earns 100 times a local’s salary might be expected to pay a few cents more for a ferry ride, a museum entrance, or an egg.
- Bargain fairly, and with respect for the seller. Again, remember the economic realities of where you are. The final transaction should leave both buyer and seller satisfied and pleased. Haggling for a taxi or carpet is part of many cultures; but it’s not a bargain if either person feels exploited, diminished, or ripped-off.
- Learn and respect the traditions and taboos of your host country. Each culture has its own mores, and they’re often taken very seriously. Never, for example, pat a Thai child on the head, enter a traditional Brahmin’s kitchen, or refuse a cup of kava in Fiji!
- Curb your anger, and cultivate your sense of humour. Anger is a real issue for westerners—even the Dalai Lama remarks on this. It’s perversely satisfying, but it never earns the respect of locals, or defuses a bad situation. A light touch—and a sense of cosmic perspective—are infinitely more useful. As former Merry Prankster Wavy Gravy says: “When you lose your sense of humour, it’s just not funny anymore.”
- It makes an enormous difference if you arrive with a sense of the social, political, and environmental issues faced by the people you are visiting. We recommend you read the political and historic sections of your guidebooks. Many countries offer English-language newspapers, as well.
- Learn to listen. The ability to listen is the essence of diplomacy, on both the personal and international levels. Many of the world’s conflicts arise when people feel marginalized. Wherever you’re from, listen well—and with respect—to all points of view.
- Learn to speak. People from wealthy and powerful countries often express their opinions as if they are the absolute truth. Such preaching invites anger and resentment. We suggest tempering conversations with phrases like “I believe,” or “My view is,” rather than, “Everybody knows….”
- The single most useful phrase any traveller can learn: “Can you please help me?” Rarely, in any country or situation, will another human being refuse a direct request for help. Being of service, and inviting others to reciprocate, is what the phrase global community is all about.
- Leave your preconceptions about the world at home. The inhabitants of planet Earth will continually amaze you with their generosity, hospitality and wisdom. Be open to their friendship, and aware of our common humanity, delights, and hardships.
- Never forget Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s best line: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” In other words: go with the flow, and give free rein to your sense of adventure!
- Contact the local emergency authorities for assistance
- Speak with a contact person at your host institution if applicable
- Contact the local Canadian embassy or consulate (or that of your country of citizenship)
- Contact Queen’s Security using the number on your Emergency Contact Card - (613) 533-6111 (collect calls will be accepted) - to report on the situation and to initiate the Emergency Protocol.