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Planning Your Study Abroad Experience

 
 
Study abroad is one of the most exciting academic opportunities available to students at colleges and universities. We know that most students have little international travel experience. This webpage was created to give you an introduction to what you should consider when planning to study abroad with TnCIS. The information below will give you basic guidance on some of the most important areas of consideration while planning your experience. If at any time you would like to have a conversation with a TnCIS staff member about your application or have specific questions about your program of interest, contact us at 865-539-7279 or tncis@pstcc.edu. We are happy to talk with students in person, via email, or by phone.

 
Your decision on which program type to select will depend on your study abroad goals, but you will have additional considerations based on the availability of programs, program fee cost, and available scholarships/financial aid at your home institution. There are two types of student programs offered by TnCIS described below. Click on the map to go to the online list of all TnCIS student programs.

Click here for program list
  • TnCIS Summer Study Abroad Programs: These are programs that last 3 – 4 weeks in length. They offer mostly general education courses and sometimes special topics courses/humanities electives. The entire course is taught within the dates of the study abroad program. By visiting the program webpage, students can learn more about where the program visits, tentative dates, possible excursions, and any other special considerations you may need to know before applying. All course information is available on the program webpage along with the course syllabus as well.
 
  • Partnership Programs: These are programs that typically last from 7 – 14 days and are offered at spring break or during a shorter amount of time over the summer. They are offered to only one or a limited number of institutions. They may also be tied to a spring semester or summer session course that students enroll in and take at their home campus. 
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For many students, the most important consideration in planning to study abroad is how you will be able to afford the opportunity. TnCIS believes in providing affordable and sustainable programs, while maintaining a safe and academically focused experience. Airlines, hotels and international currencies have a lot of control over the cost for travel abroad. However, TnCIS leverages its many contacts in the US and abroad to offer exceptional value in our programs. Additionally, TnCIS member institutions strive to make study abroad more affordable and most provide a tuition waiver for TnCIS programs. Check with your institutional rep to inquire about tuition for partnership programs and to find out about scholarships and financial aid available to you. Below is some general information to get you started.
 
  • Scholarships: Many TBR colleges offer generous scholarship programs that can help with the cost of the program fee. Eligibility and amount of scholarships vary by institution. Please refer to the TnCIS Scholarships webpage for more information and links to the consortium member applications available online. This webpage will also announce any other scholarship opportunities available specifically for TnCIS programs. Be sure to investigate other local scholarship opportunities in your community (i.e. civic organizations, clubs, community organizations). 
 
  • Financial Aid: Students who have completed a FAFSA can request assistance in seeking additional funds that may be available to them through their Financial Aid Office. All student situations are different, but you may qualify for grants or loans that you can utilize for a study abroad course needed for your degree program. More information on how Financial Aid works with study abroad can be found on our Financial Aid FAQ's webpage. Contact your Financial Aid office for more guidance.

 
Passport and Ticket imageAll participants in a TnCIS program will need to obtain a passport from their country of citizenship in order to travel internationally. Any student considering studying abroad is strongly encouraged to apply for a new or renewed passport as early as possible or immediately after receiving acceptance to a TnCIS program. Once accepted into a program, participants will need to submit a copy of their passport to TnCIS by mid-January for spring programs and mid-March for summer programs. See specific deadlines on the program webpages. TnCIS recommends that passports be valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended date of return from your program, and many countries require this. For example, if your program end date is March 21, 2020, your passport should be valid through at least September 21, 2020. Below is some additional information for students to review depending on their passport citizenship.

 
  1. US Citizens: A US adult passport book is required for international travel by air and valid for 10 years from issuance. It is a worthwhile investment for any person considering international travel. TnCIS recommends that students apply for a passport as soon as they decide to study abroad. We must have a copy of a valid passport book to purchase your airline ticket correctly. Plan to have your valid passport by mid-January for spring programs and mid-March for summer programs. See specific deadlines on the program webpages. Some program countries require that US citizens obtain a tourist visa for entry. Your program director will give you details on how to obtain your tourist visa during the mandatory orientation. You should not apply for a tourist visa until after you receive these instructions. Visit the travel.state.gov website for helpful information regarding passports and visas required for US citizens.  
  • How to get a US Passport
  • Click on the “International Travel Tab” and enter your program country in the “learn about your destination" field to see information on passport and visa requirements. 
  1. Non-US Citizens:  This term covers any student who does not hold or is unable to obtain a US passport. You must read through the Non-US Citizen webpage on the TnCIS website for more instructions on important details regarding your preparations for study abroad. Additionally, you will be required to attend a TnCIS coaching session on how to be prepared to request a tourist visa, if one is required. Follow all directions from TnCIS and complete all steps as early as possible in case of additional requirements by the program country. Below are some additional tips to keep in mind.
  • Permanent Residents, refugees, and holders of other visa categories (F, J, H, L, and others) must also submit a copy of their document or visa once accepted to a TnCIS program. 
  • Consult your home country embassy or consulate to verify passport validity requirements for each program country of interest. Also consult this website for how to apply for a valid passport if you currently do not have one.
  • Meet with your institution’s international student advisor to inform them of your interest to travel abroad and to request advice regarding reentry to the US after completion of the TnCIS program.
 
Important Dates for TnCIS 2020 Student Programs
Important Date/Deadline Event
October 1 TnCIS Student Applications OPEN - Visit our Program List
November 8 Deadline for TnCIS Spring Partnership Programs Applications (Any Partnership Program with dates before May 2020)
December 2 Spring Partnership Program Fee Payment Deadline (Any Partnership Program with dates before May 2020)
December 3 TnCIS Early Application Deadline - Visit our Early Acceptance Guidelines Webpage for details
January 10 Deadline for TnCIS Spring Partnership Program Participants to submit ALL required documents (late fee begins January 11th per acceptance email)
January 24 TnCIS Summer Programs Early Accepted Documents Submission Deadline (any participant with missing documents will lose early acceptance discount per acceptance email)
February 11 TnCIS Summer Programs Regular Application Deadline - Visit our About the Application Webpage for details
March 2 Deadline for all Student Independent Travel Requests (see acceptance email for details)
March 6 TnCIS Summer Programs - Deadline for Program Fee payment at your home institution
March 30 Deadline for TnCIS Summer Program Participants to submit ALL required documents and forms (late fee begins at close of business)
April 4 TnCIS Mandatory Student Orientation for Summer Programs
March 7 - April 6 TnCIS Summer Programs -  $2000 Cancellation Fee Period (see Cost & Payment Webpage for details)
April 7 TnCIS Summer Programs - No Refund Cancellation Policy (see Cost & Payment Webpage for details)
It is very important that all students are fully prepared and oriented prior to participating in a TnCIS program. The application process, communication with the TnCIS office, and mandatory orientation are all part of the formal preparation organized by TnCIS. You must also take the initiative to prepare yourself for the mental, physical, and academic experience of travel and study abroad. The following list is meant to be a start for your personal preparations, it is not all inclusive. Whenever you have questions or are unsure about what you need to do, contact TnCIS for guidance. 

Before You Go

The TnCIS Mandatory Orientation and your program director will prepare you for much of what you need to know. However, expect to do some work yourself to be as prepared as you can for this exciting educational journey. Below are some tips and ideas for where to start.
 

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Research Program Country Take some time to find information on your program country/ies online so you are prepared to take in the many sights, sounds, tastes and experiences ahead of you. The US Department of State has a website for US Students Abroad that can give you some great resources to explore, including country information. While Instagram and Pinterest can get you excited about what you’ll see and do abroad, check out websites that also give you an idea about the history and culture of the location as well. 
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Packing
Most returning students will tell you that you should pack much less than what you think you need. Take a look at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for helpful tips on packing and what you need to know about the screening process at the airport. At the very least, be sure to follow the baggage rules for the airlines. We’ll send them to you when you receive your flight itinerary a few weeks prior to departure. Be sure you have any prescription medications in their original bottle in your carryon bag. Bring enough to last through the program and take them according to the prescribed schedule from your doctor.


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Budgeting
All students must consider additional costs outside of the program fee that they will need to plan for, especially during their time abroad. You will likely have two meals a day provided during your TnCIS program. You must plan for the additional meal and other snacks/drinks/treats you may want to purchase while abroad. Your Program Director should give you details at the mandatory orientation, but ask if you have questions. Additionally, you will want to consider how much you can spend on entertainment and souvenirs. Because every student has a different financial situation and spending habits, it is difficult to put a dollar amount on this category. First, be honest with yourself and set limits on what you will spend. Be reasonable and remember that the bill will come sooner or later. Remember you will also need to get any purchases home and the airlines do limit you on size and weight of checked luggage. Follow the suggestions and guidance of your program director and faculty. They are the experts on this.
 

Time To Travel

The TnCIS Program Fee typically includes a round trip airline ticket for a single economy seat ticket. Most student programs travel in/out of Nashville BNA airport. Some programs may depart from other TN cities. This information will be given to you at the mandatory orientation and the detailed itinerary will be sent out to students 2 – 3 weeks prior to departure. The program dates listed on the website include the day of departure and the day of return for your general planning purposes. Here are a few additional tips to know in advance.
 

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Independent Travel Option
Some students want to plan a travel experience before or after their TnCIS program. It is possible for students to request to travel independently from the group for many TnCIS programs, but not all. You will receive instructions in your acceptance email on how to request individual travel if this is possible for your program. No student can make independent travel arrangements without prior approval of their request from both TnCIS and the home institution. Approval is not guaranteed and not final until sometime after the program fee payment deadline in March. Partnership Programs do not allow individual travel. Contact the TnCIS office if you have questions about this process.

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Departure Day
All students receive a pre-departure email with directions on when to arrive at the airport and how to find the program director for check in. This information will also be covered by your program director at the mandatory orientation and/or via email communication. You MUST check your email regularly for updates and directions up until the day of departure. Because the group is traveling together, it is critical that all students arrive on time and follow all directives on how to navigate group airport travel. Because of the varying degree of student air travel experience, TnCIS faculty and staff will give all students explicit directions and advice during travel days that you must follow. Additionally you will be reminded to maintain your property (especially your passport) in a safe and accessible place at all times. 

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International Arrivals and Customs
After arriving to your international entry airport, you will follow the program faculty through the deplaning process. You must have your passport in an accessible place as you leave the airplane. Each participant will individually walk up to have their passport (and possibly a visa) reviewed by a passport control officer. Ask your program director if you have any questions about this process. Following passport control, you will retrieve your baggage and walk through the customs process. Again, your director and faculty are there to assist if you have any questions, but each individual is responsible for walking through with their own bags. The program director and faculty will work together through this process to make sure assistance is available if at any time a student needs it. 

While You're There

This is the most exciting part of study abroad: living and studying in the place you've worked so hard to see. Of course, we hope this will be an enjoyable and life changing experience for all of our students. However, we often find that students need to be reminded that this is a STUDY abroad experience and that academics must come first. Your program director and faculty have worked very hard for more than a year to be prepared to offer you a once in a lifetime experience that combines both a fun and safe experience in this unique academic setting. We've planned for everything, but our biggest unknown is you. Here are some tips on how YOU can make this experience the best it can be.
 

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TnCIS Rules and Policies
Following your acceptance into a program, you will be required to complete several required forms. Some are related to medical and general data management matters. Others refer to TnCIS policy and our program rules of conduct. Every student must read and sign these forms agreeing to follow our rules and policies. While you are in your program country, you will be expected to follow these rules and policies, all of which are in place to provide participants with a safe experience focused on academic goals. Your program director will remind you of these rules and policies when you arrive on location and will also give you a clean copy of the rules of conduct for your reference. Following TnCIS rules and policies, in addition to program director directives, are a must and is expected of all TnCIS participants.

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Staying Healthy
Each participant must plan for staying healthy according to their own needs and medical profile. Your personal physician should be consulted prior to your departure to assist you with planning. Be aware that change in time zone may affect medication schedules and discuss this with your medical professional in advance. Many students also want to know about health and wellness issues in the program country. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to learn about information relevant to where you are going. For example, some locations will not have potable drinking water available from a sink, so students may need to plan to buy bottled water. Your program director will let you know general conditions for staying healthy, but remember to consult your personal physician for their advice on how to keep you healthy abroad.
books Keeping up with Academics At the end of your program, you will receive a grade for your course. It will be reported to your institution and will appear on your transcript. Make sure you keep up with all class assignments, readings, meetings, and activities during the program. It will be a fast paced course that will be challenging, but it can also be one of the most rewarding and engaging academic experiences you will ever have. Learning in a US classroom has it's limitations. Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to interact with their class material in ways not possible in a traditional classroom. Enjoy, but stay focused on the academics as well.